Ten years ago when we started out on this adventure called Choshen Farm, we had no idea what was ahead of us… or how much we would be changed by the journey. There is something about reaching the milestone of a DECADE overseas that has turned us reflective. I’ve been nostalgically scrolling through pictures, remembering when… and being so very thankful for all that has happened in our time here.
As I scroll, these pictures make me just swoon with happiness. Look at those faces! They were so little! Gosh they’ve grown so much! … And my immediate thought response is, and so have we.
We came as babies and now we have babies of our own. Once ambitious kids, we’ve since grown our confidence and skill, having toned down our arrogance and grown our dependence on God. The act of reflection is the seed of wisdom, as we consider what God has done around, in and through us, we are shaped for the future – and for the better.
As I share with you all these precious shots of our favorite people growing up, I want to also share some of the favorite lessons that have grown up in us in the last ten years.
1. Without relationship, there is no change.
Early on, we would set up programs designed to lead people towards change, only to be disappointed when our products were consumed and people walked away no different than they were before. We started to observe a correlation between the depth of our friendships and our influence in people’s lives. That old saying, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is spot on. The closer the relationship, the more fruitful the discipleship. Every. Single. Time.
2. Relationships don’t happen over night.
A wise person once told us, the hardest part of relationships is simply showing up… again, and again and again. However, cross-cultural relationships are hard, and often feel so inefficient. But barriers of language and trust and understanding don’t disappear in an afternoon. Sometimes, it takes years to build up the bonds of friendship. Side-by-side working, all the nshima meals, messing up and asking for forgiveness – year, after year, after year. It’s good, and hard, and necessary.
3. All people are fallen. Including me.
It has been said, “the greatest challenge to moving overseas is that you take your sin with you.” Despite all of our best intentions, we are still fallen creatures – selfish, greedy, self-centered. Sometimes – too often – I am easily frustrated and unwilling to give any more of myself. I’ve withheld grace from people who have sinned against me because I feel somehow justified in my own self-righteousness. Without fail, the Lord has found ways to humble me, reminding me that I am no less sinful than anyone else. A right view of self is necessary for loving others well.
4. Growing pains and grace must be embraced.
Along the road of learning language and culture and figuring out “best-practice,” it is pretty easy to feel like a constant failure, even if everyone back home says you are doing great. Even when we feel like nothing is going as planned, its important to remember that God is always doing more in and through us than what we can perceive. We are loved and accepted apart from our performance. Only when we embrace that truth do we truly proclaim the gospel.
5. Lasting change doesn’t happen overnight.
The proof of love is TIME. Over the years, the comment has switched from “we’re so glad you came!” to, “we’re so glad you stayed!” Back in 2007, visiting NGO’s were constantly telling the community “don’t depend on Choshen… they won’t always be here…” But now that we’ve outlived multiple USAID grant cycles, it’s the community that speaks up, “don’t depend on the NGOs – they won’t always be here, BUT JEREMY AND BETHANY WILL!”
6. It is so very worth it.