Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in another culture, especially one contrasting your own in almost every way? Ever imagined the new sights, sounds, tastes and ways of relating you would encounter on a daily basis? Does it sound fulfilling and adventurous, or more like a life-altering sacrifice and cross to bear?
Lily is an artist in her early 20s. She made the decision to follow God’s heart of love for the lost all the way to Central Asia. She recently wrote about an experience she had at a local wedding.
“Chris, an American living in Central Asia, held out a slimy orb. ‘If you eat it you can tell all your friends.’ A glistening sheep’s eye stared back at me. Chris was a groomsman, and I was a guest at our Central-Asian friend’s wedding. Sheep’s heads are delicacies, and he had the whole thing sitting on a platter in front of him at the head table. ‘You’re right, that would make an awesome Facebook status.’ I bit through the chewy outside and felt the eyeball squish unknown goo into my mouth.”
That scene alone is enough to make most of us gag a little bit and say, “No thanks, if that’s embracing the culture, that’s not for me!” Sounds pretty sacrificial, huh? But Lily goes on to explain the reality of her transition.
“My ventures into cultural experiences aren’t always so nasty. In fact, most of the time I enjoy the customs, people, sights and smells of my new home. I love living in Central Asia; I think God was preparing me for this from the time I was born. So many things about living here just ‘fit’ me. I love the focus on family and relationships. I love that I never have to be on time for anything. (Except team meetings!) We talk so much about the sacrifice of moving to a different country, leaving friends and family, giving up our comforts. All of these are true.
“But at the same time, I feel so privileged! I get to live out the kind of story I read about in books! Hiking in the mountains, meeting a shepherd with a day-old lamb, seeing farming done by hand and giving it a swing myself. Making friends, cooking the evening meal from scratch together with my host mom, painting with the neighbor girls. There are little joys every day. I wouldn’t trade this time for anything. I’m on adventure with God, and it’s quite the ride.”
What many of us would consider a sacrifice has become a joy in Lily’s life. God is faithful to take our initial letting go of the familiar and comfortable, and turn it into a life of deep fulfillment and privilege. Lily caught God’s heart for this people, so much so that she ends her note with one final thought.
“Pass the eyeballs, please.”
Lily received her training with YWAM Strategic Frontiers in Colorado Springs and she currently lives with a Central Asian family as she studies language. She plans to live in the country long-term.