I love airports.
The hustle and bustle. People of every nationality streaming past me. The endless possibilities of flights to every corner of the world.
As an adult now, I can admit that in trying to get my family from one country to another, an airport can be a stressful place; endless lines, tight timelines, lost luggage, too much opportunity for things to go wrong.
But, as a Third-Culture Kid (TCK), and specifically a Missionary Kid (MK), the airport glitters like a yellow-brick road into the unknown, and it excites me, especially that hustle and bustle, that busyness of international travel.
A Busy Life
Airports are synonymous with the word “busy”. This word, busy, seems also to be the first word used by people to describe life where I now live, Southwestern Ontario. If you have a casual conversation with just about anyone older than 20, they describe life as busy. How is your family? How are things at work? How are things with your church? How was your summer, fall...year? The answer is almost always, “Busy!”.
Maybe that word is overused and misused, but let’s put it into the context of the life of a former MK. My life really is busy (forgive me if this sounds like bragging, but really, it is a cry for help!): I run a business and manage a family with four children who are into team sports, volunteering, youth groups, social gatherings, and family events. I serve at my church as an elder, small group leader, greeter, and mentor. I run outreach ministries for men including retreats, Bible studies, and even a pick-up hockey league (yup, I’m the guy on the ice who still can’t figure out how to stop…I blame it on growing up in a part of the world where ice didn’t exist except to get you sick in a beverage).
Life is busy ... but why? I can’t speak about your particular situation, but I can tell you about my situation: there are just so many things to do.
MKs and Busyness
What does this have to do with my MK upbringing? As I was brainstorming my article idea with Paul Dyck, he touched on something significant, “It is definitely an MK trait ... wanting to give of our time, abilities, and resources to what we see, seeing the need for help that we have the ability to help with, and being overwhelmed with the volume of service opportunities.”
There are so many needs around me, and so many ‘good’ things to be involved in.
If not me, then who?
If I don’t help with these good things, who is going to?
MKs develop a lot of great skills and abilities such as leadership, adaptability, perseverance, and resilience. If there is a need, we have probably watched our parents or others step into filling that need, and we have learned many of the skills and abilities to do so as well. And, these opportunities can be enticing. Like an airport offers the opportunity to travel on an adventure to somewhere exotic, these opportunities offer the chance to experience something new and allow us to feel good about helping others. They can be enticing yellow-brick roads.
It isn’t easy to find your place in the world as a TCK. You don’t always feel like your passport country is your home. Yet, that is where God has planted you, for now. You have skills and abilities that many around you don’t seem to have, and you often have an adventurous heart, ready to jump into new challenges and new experiences.
How do you figure out what God is specifically calling you to do when there are so many ‘good’ things that need someone to do them?
Is this busy life healthy?
Is this what God expects or demands of us?
We have skills and abilities, shouldn’t we put them to ‘good’ use? We all know the dangers of being too busy: emotional and mental burn-out; physical exhaustion; and strained relationships, especially with our spouses and kids.
“Good” Things vs. “God” Things
So, what is the coaching for an MK who sees needs that demand to be filled? I have begun, slowly, to unpack this and to start to understand the difference between ‘good’ things and ‘God’ things; those opportunities that would be good to do, versus those opportunities that God has specifically appointed and invited me into doing.
What’s the solution for busyness?
I don’t think there is a formula, but God certainly promises us wisdom. The first ingredient is to seek time with Him in prayer, and in His Word.
“Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands (Psalm 119:73)
I have found for many Christians, they need to learn to say “yes” to more opportunities to serve others, but perhaps for MKs, it needs to be “no” until they have a very clear invitation from God.
- We need to recognize that God doesn’t need us, but He does invite us into His plans.
- We need to be aware that sometimes we might be getting in the way of someone else being invited in to serve.
- We need to trust that God has got it, and He loves and cares for others far more than we ever could.
This might be another whole topic, but we also need to learn more about the contentment that God promises; being content in who we are in Christ, not what we do, as we step towards His will to do, and to not do.
Jon Mark Davis lives in the London Ontario area, is married with 4 children, and spent much of his formative years in Singapore as a son of OMF missionaries. He is a brother through marriage to Mike Fietje (Interim National Director of MORE Network). Jon Mark is a Financial Planner with Primerica Financial Services.