First Term Tidbits

(reflections from Jenn and Michael Harling, penned by Jenn)

Kibuye team sending us off in prayer. 

We left Burundi for home assignment one month ago. We were with family throughout the holidays and have settled in Greenville, SC where we will spend the next five months. In addition to spending time with family, we attended a debrief at SIM* afterwhich, thanks to grandparents, Micahel and I were able to spend 24 hours alone to have a "mommy daddy date."  While we couldn't discuss everything that was going through our minds, a subject that we both had been mulling over was the fact that we agree that we not only "survived" our first term, but feel like we "thrived."  How did this happen? Short answer, God's grace and mercy.  Long answer, below:

At SIM home office for debrief

1. While the Holy Spirit continues to do work in our lives in identifying sin and refining us daily, a huge lession we learned during our transition from passport country to our host countries (France and Burundi) is this: It is essential to have our identity firmly established in Christ, not work. Before our international move, Michael grappled with this extensively, as he described in this wonderfully-written newsletter.  I highly recommend you click the link and at least skim it. (Bonus, see a picture of little Amelia and Madelyn at the bottom). Michael's difficulty with this and his idolization of work led him to be an irritable and grumpy person a lot of the time (HIS words!) and blinded him from the fact that indeed his identity was not in the right place. We aren't perfect people - God is still doing wonderful work on our hearts, but we are immensely grateful that the Holy Spirit made this evident before we even left Greenville.  

The way I struggled with this issue is that when we arrived to Kibuye, I wanted everyone to think I was super smart. The problem was, I wasn't super smart in many things including malaria diagnosis and treatment, all-things-malnutrition, and many other things not to mention performing in an underdeveloped setting. I'm thankful that this desire to have a good outward identity coincided with our journey through the Mentored Sonship Program (see number 3).  By the work of the Holy Spirit, I saw that I was too concerned about what others thought of me and not fully accepting of my acceptance and identity as a daughter of Christ.  We are sons and daughters of Christ primarily, put on earth to do His will.

2. A second key thing is that, thanks to our great pre-field training we received at SIM and MissionPrep, we were strongly encouraged to walk into our host country with a learning attitude.  This helped us to determine quickly that we needed to have discernment of what is controlable and what is uncontrolable in our context.  Of course there's the caveat that in reality nothing is in our control ultimately.  So I use the word "control" here to mean the things which we can affect due to our efforts. I'll give an example.  There are no ventilators in our hospital except for the anesthesia machines used in the OR. If a patient were to need ventilatory support, it's up to someone to manually compress the bag of air that is connected to the tube going down the trachea to ventilate the lungs. Would it be physically possible for Michael or me to spend all night at the hospital bagging the patient so that hopefully the lungs/body would improve enough so that we could stop in the morning. Yes, we are physically capable of staying awake more than 24 hours. But that's not sustainable by any means. So in that case, it's truly uncontrollable. And as miserably hard as that is to accept, we have to.   

3. Mentored Sonship Program - this is a program that is mandatory for all those who are going to serve with Serge. It is "a one-on-one mentoring program designed to help you truly live out the power of the gospel in your daily life."  We went through this program during our first term, it was truly transformative and it's timing was essential for us. You can learn more about it here

4. Another huge thing we found extremely helpful and key in many interpersonal relationships is that you need to let the small things go.  (That's not to say there isn't a place for conflict, there most certainly is!  In fact one of the Sonship lessions talks about peace making (healthy conflict) vs. peace keeping (unhealthy avoidance).). But, for example, is there something that's done a little different than you would do it but in the light of eternity has no weight? It's probably ok to let it go. This is key for living in a group of ex-pats who have to live together in a little community, see each other and interact together every day, and depend on each other every domain of life all while living under the stress of cross-cultural living, cross-cultural working, and living thousands of miles from friends and family. Grace is huge; Grace is necessary; sometimes it's best to let the small things go. 

5. Happy wife, happy life. Jk. But kinda not.  Being on the same page in marriage is SO important.  By the grace of God, Michael and I have a strong passionate calling to do what we do where we do it. I won't dwell on this issue, but it's something we've seen play out in a great way in our cross-cultural lives. 


I'll say this again, we aren't perfect! Did we have struggles during our first term? Yes. Was it hard to be so far from family and friends in the United States? Yes.  Did we feel a need for this home assignment and some time away from the field? Absolutely.  But by God's grace, we had an excellent first term and we are so grateful for that. We are thankful for this home assignment but also are excited to return to Kibuye to continue the work there. 

*If some weren't aware, we are also using this HA to transition from SIM to Serge.

Merry (late) Christmas from the Harlings ◡̈ 

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