Wednesday, April 3, 2013

One Thing You Need to Survive Overseas

My hair was standing on end, I had no makeup on, and I was dressed in ragged jeans, an old sweater and a bare face with no makeup when the doorbell rang. I was feverishly trying to finish cooking for our house church, so I could go get dressed.

“It must be one of my daughter’s friends,” I thought.  “I’ll let her answer it. “ But when the doorbell kept ringing, I went to the door.  It was Nesrin, a woman I’d invited to visit our fellowship for the first time.  One and a half hours early.

I breathed in deep before I opened the door.  The last thing I needed was a guest one and a half hours early. I was already a bit nervous because we’d accidentally scheduled a skype interview with someone back home for the same hour as our meeting.

I invited Nesrin to pull up a chair at the kitchen table and tried to focus on talking to her while I finished cooking.  (I’ve never been good at talking while cooking.) Then I disappeared a few minutes to slide on some makeup, brush my hair and change clothes. 

At 5:00 a friend came in with a big pot of soupy beans, so I quickly got out bowls in additions to the plates I’d already set out. 

“We need bread to serve with this, but I don’t have any change,” my friend said.  “Can someone go out and buy bread?”

So my husband ran out to buy bread, and for the next half hour chaos reigned as I tried to open the door for guests, set up a skype call that wasn’t connecting, and serve food at the same time!

Do you ever have days like this? I’d like to say that I was peaceful and cool as a cucumber, but I wasn’t.  Maybe on the outside I seemed calm, but on the inside, I was tense and uptight. (Okay, I probably didn’t look so calm on the outside either.)

One of the most important qualities a cross-cultural worker needs is FLEXIBILITY. 

Somehow life back home is a lot more predictable and planned.  In the Middle East, life is unplanned and full of surprises: guests who come early, guests who come late, people who cancel on you, people who wait to the last minute to plan, and friends who drop by for a surprise visit.  You never know what might happen, and even the best laid plans can change!

Being Flexible Means:


  • Being open to Interruptions 

Why not look at them as serendipities instead? Especially if they involved an unexpected guest.


  • Maintaining a peaceful, joyful attitude when things don’t go as planned.

I’m grateful for many Turkish friends who are gracious models of flexibility.  Ready to change plans at a moment’s notice, willing to go out of their way to help someone, and open to receiving a last minute guest in their home, Turks are people I can learn from.

When was the last time you had an experience that required you to be flexible?

8 comments:

Creatively Content said...

Olive, I would totally agree that Turks can be a great example of flexablity. Isn't true that plans set a week in advance can chang e every hour. :) thanks for the relevant post... Enjoy your day.

us5 said...

yes, this sounds like where i live! :D it's been fertile ground for learning flexibility. almost every day something comes up that shifts all my well-laid plans - just this week: a graduation that started an hour late and ran way past my bedtime, a friend who was robbed needed help, a text asking if two women can stop by in 5 minutes to view a project i'm working on, unexpected water outages right at meal times and undeniable invitations that interrupt our schooling. (but cases like yours, involving the serving of food, i find especially disconcerting!!) i am slowly learning that my life is not my own...

OliveTree said...

Wow, Barbara! You DO need to be flexible!! I draw that line at interruptions during homeschool. All of my neighbors know that I'm occupied until 2:30 in the afternoon, and I hardly even pick up the phone. During school hours I basically only answer to my closest Turkish friend, because she understands I'm in school, and she's calling due to an emergency or very quick question.

Otherwise, I couldn't cope and couldn't get it done!!

Michele said...

Homeschool and family life is rough on the foreign field. Flexibility is definitely a needed thing for all missionary women!

Choate Family said...

I love how you put my feelings into words. Flexibility has been my main lesson while living overseas!

Jamie Jo said...

Mostly I wanted to pop in and see how you are doing. I've been in a pseudo-funk for a while and haven't read or written blogs for ages. With that said, I miss you!

Reading this post makes me thankful we no longer have services at our house, but also reminds me to remain flexible. This afternoon I thought I had a lazy day to myself, and found drop in guests with me "a natural" (no makeup)

Hugs to you, Olive. :)

OliveTree said...

Thanks, Jamie Jo. I miss you too. I've had those drop in visitors see the "real"--no makeup--me too!

OliveTree said...

Thanks, Jamie Jo. I miss you too. I've had those drop in visitors see the "real"--no makeup--me too!