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A Daily Choice: A REACH Update

By Kara, REACH Indochina team leader

Right before we flew out of the U.S. we had a session that looked briefly at the phases of culture shock. The first three months are commonly referred to as the “honeymoon phase,” where everything is exciting and rather rose-tinted. Three to six months marks the “frustration phase” when one can easily become irritated and emotionally exhausted. Six months to a year is the “recovery phase,” where one gains understanding and starts knowing how to better adapt to the culture. Since I’d already spent six months in this country last year, I was curious to see where I would fall on the cross-cultural wavelength, especially since I had never really dealt with the frustration phase, at least not in the cultural sense. Would I start the whole process at the honeymoon stage again? Would it feel like coming home? I’d spent most of my time back in the states daydreaming about returning to this country, so I was completely unprepared for what actually hit me.

All I could do that first month was keep asking, “Father, give me enough joy for the day.”Homesickness. It was awful, immediate, and utterly foreign. Perhaps it came from being here a second time with things not being as new or exciting, or just from going through another season of holidays away from my family. I arrived wanting to be a strong, positive, and encouraging leader, but instead found myself a soggy, pitiful mess more often than not. The emotional exhaustion was a perpetual pressure. All I could do that first month was keep asking, “Father, give me enough joy for the day.”

Through that simple, desperate-hearted prayer, I began to realize that even the yuckiest days come bespeckled with gold-coated moments that just require a deliberate attitude to recognize them. Deliberate joy sounds fake, but really it’s the start to a mindset and a lifestyle. Joy is one of the most difficult emotions to truly feel, and my new thought is that joy isn’t actually even an emotion!

Joy is a choice. Happiness is the emotion that follows.

I’m convinced that joy is first and foremost a decision – a conscious choice to worship the Father, completely independent from situations or circumstances. Recognizing all the more that emotions don’t justify my actions, I’ve found it so much easier to be reminded on grumpy days that my bad attitudes stem from self-focus and that the focus needs to be changed. My mind is learning to daily choose joy, and I’ve never been so full of gratitude, worship, and awe as I have the past month!

Time has passed away, so has the homesickness, and my heart remembers why I love this country and these people. Our team has been blessed over and over again with open doors of opportunity. Not only have we received work that provides purpose here, but it’s also work that utilizes our various passions, interests, or giftings. Through teaching, playing sports, going to the gym, reading aloud to kids, learning how to cook locally, or sitting and talking with a friend at the sauna, I’ve seen the strengths of my teammates enhanced as they pour out generous and abundant love. I’ve watched them choose to be intentional in moments where being intentional wasn’t the most exciting option. Sometimes it takes deliberately pushing past emotional barriers in order to become aware of the favor being displayed all around us. Right now it may not be all that difficult to choose joy, but as life becomes more routine, complacency threatens to set in. With complacency comes a lack of diligence and discipline, and before you know it, attitudes and loss of focus can slip back in. So as we press into month three here, please continue to think of us. As Henri Nouwen put it, “joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”


Please pray that Kara and her team would continue to choose joy – inviting those around them to see and know the giver of that joy.

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