- Love the people. Each woman reflected on the need to have most if not all their social relationships with local women. One woman commented, “Workers who hang out with other workers worry about their identity, the cost of furniture and where to buy a pumpkin pie for the holidays. Their focus is on themselves. Locals can tell if we are in love with Turks, or Turkey.” Each of these expat woman has fostered deep relationships with local women. As a result, some have come to faith or are studying the Bible. As verbal communication is so important to women, they noted that language fluency is essential for loving the people.
- Language fluency. Each pointed out the number one reason they have been thriving in their life, family and ministry was their ability to communicate on most any topic with their local friends. When her eldest was born, one woman started a “baby group” with 8 other expecting mothers. That was 17 years ago, and 7 of these women still meet every month. She pointed out, “Women love to talk. My language fluency has enabled me to follow most conversations and has given me a deep trust with these women.” It comes as no surprise the some of her friends have come to faith and that she’s discipling several MBBs. When I asked, “What’s the key to developing language fluency?” I was surprised to learn that the answer had nothing to do with how they learned the language.
- Put your children into a local school. Each mother felt that their key to learning the language was putting their children into a local school. All had sent their kids to a local school through 6th grade, a few all the way through high school. One mother clarified, “When the kids get the language, they have friends. It’s natural for their friend’s mother’s to want to get to know me. By meeting with these other women my language went from average to very good. Relationships lead to better language, which leads to more relationships.” One added, “It was hard for me to make friends. I just did not know how to do it. I did not have the energy, nor did I feel I had the time. But my kids forced me to meet people and then it just snowballed.” Because their children have the language they are involved in all kinds of activities; sports, music, drama with other local children. This results in the women having more touch points with other mothers than most of them can handle. This led to several women pointing out the importance of their husband having a real job.
- Be supportive of your husband’s work. Many discussed how their husbands worked 60 to 80 hours a week. Yet no wife complained about these hours; rather they believed their husbands work enhanced their own ministry. The wives stated that their husband’s business gave them a solid basis for building relationships. A couple of women shared how their local friends told them they were suspicious of other foreigners they knew as they believed were really missionaries. The local women confided in them saying, “We know this as those other men do not seem to have a real job.” (They were right.) They reflected on the need for our identity to be real and righteous so that our testimony comes across as real and righteous.
Ladies, as you serve overseas, consider these points and the value of building them into your own life and work.
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.