Rachel Kerney, Advance Volunteer Network
Big changes ahead! That is what David and I both felt in Argentina in 2011, but at that fork in the road, we weren’t exactly sure where God was taking us. God directed our journey to serve with the Bolivia missionary team. Now, in 2015, He has guided us through an open door to minister in the United States as a pastor and director of international missions for Refuge Ministries in Copperas Cove, Texas. Those changes have had many layers of transition. Some of the recent ones have been adapting to the status of Advance Volunteer Network after 24 years as career missionaries, adapting to the culture of Texas, adjusting to an empty nest, and living in a home remodeling project.
The funny thing about transition is that you see it coming and you think you know what to expect. Life as missionaries has conditioned us for many changes and made us pretty flexible. Even though we may think that we are ready for the changes, there is something somewhere that catches us by surprise and throws us off balance. Then we are in the spinning mode, sort of out of orbit. That trigger can be as simple as getting a fine for not sorting trash correctly, trying to figure out your new banking system, or undefined expectations.
Transitions are charged with emotion. There is the sadness of what has been left—ministry and friendships. There is the frustration of the hundreds of little changes along with the big ones. There are great opportunities of seeing God touch peoples’ lives and experiencing personal growth. It is exciting to think of the possibility of going back to school to learn a skill. All these emotions seem to be magnified in transition, and they change quickly from day to day. So how do you get through this very bumpy season of life’s journey?
- God’s Word! I joined a Bible study at one of the Refuge Ministry locations. I wanted to get to know some people, but God knew exactly what I needed. The study has taken me deeper into God’s Word and is equipping and strengthening me for the challenges.
- Finding good activities is important. I have been trying to learn some things about American football, since they tell me there is more to it than guys wrestling over an oval ball. This is Texas! I have learned quite a bit, thanks to the patience of my family to explain things to me.
- Let people know that the changes you are going through are a big challenge. You will find they reach out to encourage you in your turbulence. One friend invited us to his garden for “poppers.” I imagined some kind of microwave pop in, pop out food. Texan poppers are jalapeño peppers cleaned and filled with cream cheese and onion. They are wrapped in bacon and grilled. Texas food is great! The steaks remind me of Argentina!
I understand better now that transitions are a part of life; all people in all cultures experience them, not just missionaries. I believe that God wants me to use these lessons to help others slow down and recognize transition as the emotional upheaval that it is. I can help them see how God can turn it around for good in their lives just like He is doing in my life.