So often when one returns from working overseas, the question is asked, “So, what did you do while you were away?” For us, that was the wrong question. The better question is, “What did you see God doing while you were away?”
Many Partners serving in Central Asia face a significant educational challenge for their children, as there are few, if any, schools in the region that offer a boarding opportunity for students. Consequently, some long-term workers have taken steps to address this need by starting a boarding house offering a ‘home away from home’ experience.
In 2021, we were asked to step in as house parents for two months while the regular house parents took leave during summer break. We accepted the invitation to support these long-term workers, enabling them to reconnect with family and supporters back in their passport countries. Our task was to look after the house and the five young women living there.
What was going to fill up our days?
A friend who had previously travelled with us jumped at the opportunity to join us and use her gifts in TESOL training. Initially, the plan was to upskill local schoolteachers in their delivery of English lessons; however, God had other plans.
Teachers at a local language school became the beneficiaries instead. Through a conversation with a local worker, we became aware of the need for teachers at the language school to be trained in best-practice TESOL delivery. It was God’s perfect timing in using our friend’s training skills to meet the need of the teachers.
We explored other opportunities for service: English conversation club, English classes, dance for the disabled. But nearly all of them ended up a non-event. So, what was God saying?
It became clear that God didn’t want us to ‘do’; he just wanted us to ‘be’. At times we think we must be doing ‘big’ things for God, only to discover that in the small things we find his greatest pleasure.
God simply wanted us to be there for the five young women in the boarding house: to cook for them, hear their stories, encourage them in their faith and support them through job interviews. We listened as they worked through options for the future, such as where to live and how to budget, and celebrated with them as they started full-time work.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” This verse so clearly describes our experience working as house parents in Central Asia.
Because the girls were our focus, the relationships we formed were deep and rich. We learned so much about culture and life in Central Asia—and the cost of following Jesus. Their stories gave us insights into how God used ordinary people to sow seeds of the Gospel, then used dreams and miracles as his harvesting tools. The fruit from this faithful service is visible through the generations.
An unexpected and uncomfortable outcome of less hurrying to do for God was allowing God to do some soul surgery in us. Our thought patterns and motivations became exposed to the Holy Spirit’s scrutiny during simple tasks. A long-term worker shared how it took her first three years on the field for God to prepare her heart for the work he had for her. That work of caring for marginalized, and often abused, women is slowly starting to emerge several years later.
On a personal level, we are open to what God wants us to do next, even in our advancing years. Being involved in global mission, albeit in small and unexpected ways, has reignited our determination. We want to spur on friends in our local church to understand the importance of being involved in the continuing mission of Jesus to the world.
Amelia and David are Interserve Partners in Central Asia.