Hannah and Colleen share all about the six things you can start doing NOW to get prepared for living overseas. Some of these may seem a bit obvious, others may seem like too much work, but each of these skills we found immensely helpful in our life abroad.


To learn more about how you can join us in Iraq check out our Iraq Page.

Here’s a list of videos and links to help you on your way in some of these skills:

  1. Cooking
  2. Toilets
  3. Electrical
  4. Cleaning

If you have questions or comments email us at hannah@servantgroup.org.

Here’s the transcript! If you’d like to help out by editing future transcripts, please let us know. We could use the help!

Hannah: Hey Colleen.

Colleen: Hey Hannah.

Hannah: So this is “Between Iraq and a Hard Place.” Although it kinda looks like a storage closet.

Colleen: Seriously we are here to talk about life in Iraq.

Hannah: Right. We talk to a lot of people about life overseas. I mean we do have a whole podcast about it. And we get a lot of people asking yeah how to get how to get ready for that. And I think sometimes we give weird advice. Sometimes I think we get very good practical advice.

Colleen: Well I feel like most of our advice is practical.

Hannah: So that’s what we’re going to be talking about today is how to how to be ready to serve internationally. I would submit that this would also work for like living in America. Even if you’re not in like full time ministry of some kind. I think a lot of this is just really good life skills maybe. So we’re going to cover I think six things, six areas to be prepared.

Colleen: It’s certainly not an exhaustive list. There’s always more you could do.

Skill #1 – Feeding Yourself

Hannah: Probably the number one. I mean it’s number one on my list is knowing how to feed yourself. And I mean that literally.

Colleen: Like literally bring the fork to your mouth?

Hannah: Well know how to have food and food that you like and how to make it. I think we’ve talked about being impressed with one of our teammates in particular, Teresa, who seemed seems to be able to like make magnificent meals out of like nothing.

Colleen: Yes, she can take the most basic and simple ingredients and turn them into a masterpiece.

Hannah: Yeah and it’s it’s kind of like how did you learn to do that? And her answer almost always is lots and lots of practice.

Colleen: Like trying new things…

Hannah: …and substituting She’s also lived internationally for 17 years. So she has lots of skill but I think there are some basic things that you can begin with. For example you can’t buy pre-cut vegetables in Iraq. So knowing how to deal with vegetables in their natural state

Colleen: Their fully raw state.

Hannah: Yes. And and meat as well because sometimes you can buy a whole chicken but not boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs. And so right the basic knowledge of that is probably good.

Colleen: Have someone show you how to cut up a chicken learn, dicing and chopping and slicing.

Hannah: And generally deal with veggies.

Colleen: Means how to cook them and like how also to stay clean with those things.

Hannah: Those are things that I would consider pretty basic kitchen skills. I mean I eventually also learned stuff like how to make my own chicken stock and some rather crazy baking adventures that I got on to that were more for my own sanity than anything else.

Colleen: And that’s one of the bonuses of cooking. I mean because I did that too I eventually made my own bagels and other things that other foods we couldn’t get there because it was a joy to have them and share them but also as a joy to learn new skills and make interesting and cool things.

Hannah: Yeah. And a lot of that was Google and YouTube.

Colleen: You can learn so much on YouTube.

Hannah: Yeah. So if you don’t have someone in your life that’s a good cook. There are plenty of good YouTube channels. Yeah. So you can find find those things. And I guess the general recommendation is have three meals that you can prepare from scratch with ingredients that you will be able to find. Because it is not going to do you any good. If like your best meal is macaroni and cheese with ham when you can’t get macaroni or cheese or ham. Know where you’re going and what is likely to be available

Colleen: Practice up on some of those things; it’ll have a lot of benefits.

Hannah: Yeah. Another part of that going back to the vegetables is knowing how to wash veggies, because most of the time I can recall getting potatoes that still had a lot of dirt on them. Obviously you need to wash that. Do you know how to wash lettuce without bleach. Some people do the bleach method.

Colleen: Some people do bleach water.

Hannah: I don’t like that. We could get into all the details of that but this would be a very long podcast if we did. And so like I said to you I like to know why things need to be done a certain way. And so why why is it important that you need to know how to cook. Obviously you need to eat.

Colleen: Yeah, food is necessary for life.

Hannah: And while there are restaurants and stuff. You’re much more likely to get a parasite or food poisoning if you go out to eat than if you appear in your own home.

Colleen: Those are the places I always got sick.

Hannah: Yes. So that’s a big one. Also it can make you feel less homesick

Colleen: Because you can make foods that have some sort of familiar flavors.

Hannah: Yeah, I think we talked about that in one of our previous episodes that I love chocolate chip cookies and those always helped me feel better. And so that is one of the few baking recipes that I actually have memorized exactly how to do each step of. It can also save you money. Oh yeah. Eating out is expensive no matter where you live. And it’s a good way to serve other people. I mean I think we would both agree that some of our best times with our teammates was sitting around a table eating and laughing and sharing.

Colleen: Or even some of our really good times with students or fellow teachers were having people over to either cook something or even if it was just a Christmas party being able to have those chocolate chip cookies to share with your international friends that maybe have never had that before and are able to experience something new out of your culture.

Hannah: Yeah. And I think most cultures that I’ve experienced do you expect to eat in your home at some point in in your friendship with them. In the U.S. I feel like we’ve really gotten into you. Let’s meet for coffee. Let’s go out for lunch to the point where it’s weird to invite someone to your house. Where almost every other culture it’s more like, “Of course come to my house.” You know it’s a sign of I want to be friends with you I want you to be part of my family. And so to be able to do that for other people like to be able to reciprocate that is important. And it can be a source of joy. That’s where my baking experiments got me to. Not always joy but sometimes very much frustration. It’s that idea of being able to create something with your own hands and see the final result and get some satisfaction out of that especially if you’re in a place where you don’t you work and where you can work and don’t see a lot of results from your job or your relationships with other people. Sometimes it’s just satisfying to be like, “I may not have made any progress at work today but I cooked an entire chicken and it is delicious.”

Skill #2 – Basic Home Repair

Colleen: The accomplishments. It’s funny that you got that sense of accomplishment out of cooking. I feel like sometimes I did. Maybe not quite to the extent you did but sometimes the times where I felt the most accomplished were actually for our point number two: learning basic home maintenance skills. Being able to take something that’s not working in your home and either make it work or make it so that it’s not imminently dangerous while you find someone else who can make it work. I think that the main key here.

Hannah: It seems like a low standard, but I mean it is Iraq. And so not imminently dangerous is important.

Colleen: Right, soo things like knowing basic plumbing. Learn how a toilet functions like the whys of it not just the pieces because international toilets aren’t going to look exactly like American toilets. But the concept of how they work is generally the same. So learn also where you turn off water and what water turn-offs look like when you have something absolutely flooding all over your house. Know to look for pipes and shut-offs and things like that. So have someone walk through basic home plumbing.

Hannah: Again YouTube.

Colleen: Or YouTube. Maybe we’ll should find some videos that we can link to this one. Also basic electrical skills. This is where the imminently dangerous part comes in.

Hannah: Yeah, buddy!

Colleen: Like how to turn off a breaker, like if there’s live electrical wiring somewhere in your house or something is smoking or any of those things you need to know like this is how electricity works. And like this is where my breaker box is and this is how to shut it off.

Hannah: Yeah I would say even protection from electricity because I think you and I have both experienced that we’ve turned the breaker off and it hasn’t turned off the electricity.

Colleen: Right. Because wiring is weird.

Hannah: Yeah. So rubber soled shoes are your friends.

Colleen: And rubber gloves, but also learn the basics of how to rewire a light switch or an outlet. Those things break often. And having the idea and the understanding about positive and negative and how all those things go together even if you don’t have exactly the same switch or exactly the same outlet, if you can understand how those things work, you can apply those.

Hannah: And what a ground is and what you ground to…

Colleen: … and that you should not ground it to. So if you ground it to your water pipe and then…

Hannah: …it’s a bad plan my friend.

Colleen: So there’s lots of things that you can also then diagnose well. And help find the right person to help you with or in some cases having that little bit of understanding will keep you from getting scammed by some unscrupulous repairman who wants to leave something in a half done or a dangerous state.

Colleen: I think also with this home maintenance is knowing how to properly clean house. Especially if you live in a Middle Eastern culture where cleanliness is considered next to godliness.

Hannah: Yes, super important!

Colleen: Your very status as a human being could be called into question by how dirty you might be. So things like, know how often to wash your sheets and towels know how to clean different kinds of flooring right. Basic stain removal..

Hannah: Because a wood floor and a tile floor and a carpet floor are all going to be very different.

Colleen: All going to be different. And also know what kinds of cleaning supplies you can use that are general so you know you may have the thing that you grew up with your mom using to clean bathrooms and that particular product may not be available in a foreign country. So what do you use instead?So learning some of those universally available, vinegar, ammonia, what you can do with water in those kinds of things really helps.

Hannah: And I would add to that knowing which of those things not to mix together. Because chemistry chemistry will get you.

Colleen: It’s kind of like those universal laws of like gravity right. You can’t just ignore them and have them not happen.

Hannah: And if you don’t know if something should be mixed together don’t mix it

Colleen: Don’t mix it; look those up. I mean these, so these also have a good why. Like they help you if you’re an emergency maintenance situation. If like you said if you’ve got water flooding all over. You can use that to help your teammates and other people around you and especially local people who maybe also have never been taught how to rewire their light switch.

Hannah: I had a teammate install new light fixtures in my house and it like revolutionized my life. It was so amazing and I was like, “I I do not have the skills to know how to do this and I’m so grateful that you do.”

Colleen: I did a lot of different plumbing stuff, rewired some light switches because well partly because in my house one of them was an upside down. And when you don’t have electricity and you’re trying to like shut off all the lights so you can go to bed and not wake up with the lights coming on in middle of the night then it really helps to have all the lights which is go in the same direction.

Hannah: Yes.

Colleen: I did some repairs on things like our dryer door broke. And so it wasn’t running and I was able to pull it to pieces and figure out how to put it back together and add some weird little metal bits to make it work and that was the kind of thing that even a repair man there, because it was brought from Europe, wouldn’t have known how to fix anyway. And then also you can know what you don’t know. So that when you do come across a problem that you can’t fix you know you can’t fix it and say you don’t Oh electrocute yourself or do something weird.

Hannah: And it makes you aware of maybe that there’s a bigger problem that you’re like oh this isn’t just that this socket keeps going out. It’s that like some kind of wiring is weird and somebody else needs to come and deal with this

Colleen: Or like the water coming out of my kitchen think it’s electric. I don’t know how to solve that problem. I think maybe we need help.

Hannah: Yeah. Yeah. When you combine water and electricity you need someone that knows how to deal with one or both of those things.

Colleen: We washed a lot of dishes wearing rubber gloves in those days.

Hannah: Yeah. That’s a wise move.

Intermission

Hannah: I like stickers, Colleen.

Colleen: So do I.

Hannah: And we’re not just talking about things we like on this podcast.

Colleen: Although mostly.

Hannah: Yeah but we want to share some cool stickers with you guys. So here’s what you need to do.

Colleen: Go to this post for this episode on Facebook or Instagram.

Hannah: This episode not other episodes.

Colleen: And tag somebody you love.

Hannah: And then you’ll get a sweet Facebook message or Instagram message from me or Colleen. We’ll get your address and we will send you, “Between Iraq and a Hard Place” sticker and an awesome note autographed by us that you can sell on eBay for no money.

Skill #3 – Budget/Have Less Stuff

Colleen: Also the ability to repair your own things means you don’t have to hire someone else to do it. Which is one of the ways you can live economically.

Hannah: Yes.

Colleen: So even before you move overseas or anything like that you need to practice living economically. Learn to budget and start saving. You never know what kind of stuff is going to come up. It’s expensive to move to a foreign country. It’s a challenge to come across things that you need that you didn’t expect because you can’t expect everything. So learn to budget. Start saving; shop wisely.

Hannah: Yeah like if something is cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best thing for you to buy. Also we tend to buy a lot of stuff that we don’t actually need.

Colleen: Narrow down the things that you need and buy decent quality items that are going to last so that you don’t have to shop all the time for new things to replace the low quality ones that you bought before.

Hannah: And just knowing how to do without something, knowing what things are necessities and what things are luxuries or like near necessities. I feel like there’s a gap between necessary and luxury that’s like useful. You don’t necessarily need it but it will make your life easier. I don’t want to say don’t buy those things because sometimes it’s worth it.

Colleen: Yeah. But give it a second evaluation, especially because the next part of this is really just to stop accumulating stuff. Especially if you’re planning on moving to a foreign country. You cannot take the stuff with you.

Hannah: Right. You can’t take the majority of the stuff with you.

Colleen: You will have at most two large suitcases.

Hannah: For example cast iron pans are a great investment.

Colleen: Yes.

Hannah: They’re a wonderful piece of equipment. You cannot pack a cast iron pan in your suitcases and pack everything else that you might need.

Colleen: Because weight limits.

Hannah: Right. So it might be a wise investment. It might be something that you would use. That would be very useful but it may not be practical to carry halfway around the world. That being said I did bring back a cast iron pan from Iraq, but it was a tiny one. So it felt justified. I still use it every day.

Colleen: I know that minimalism is a really popular concept lately and I think there are some values to some of those things when you are living internationally and you know trying to live economically and trying to use your funds to their fullest and best extent. So that I mean there are a lot of benefits to this. It allows you to be more generous. You can give more freely if you’re not spending as much on yourself or your house or stuff that you’re not actually going to use or keep. I think a lot of it is just taking an extra moment to evaluate what it is you’re actually going to use, what you’re actually going to get the most out of.

Hannah: And it makes it easier to let things go because I know for me it was harder moving back to the U.S. because I had accumulated all of this stuff there. That it was like, “These are the things that are in my life and I have to… (I got four suitcases because I had somebody else come with me.

Colleen: Oh that’s nice!

Hannah: So that was pretty smart.) But it was still like I bought this furniture, I needed the furniture…

Colleen: I still miss my table.

Hannah: It was beautiful furniture. I loved that furniture. There was no way I was going to get it back to the US.

Colleen: Right.

Hannah: So having that mindset even when I bought that furniture and being like I need this, I like it, but it is not mine forever.

Colleen: It’s temporary. And honestly again no matter whether you’re moving overseas or not. Everything we have is temporary.

Hannah: Right.

Colleen: It’s all just stuff. We’re not going to take it with us when we die. So I think that’s part of it is I feel like moving back and forth overseas has given me a better perspective on having less to the point where I actually enjoy it sometimes more at this point. We have a lot of stuff in our house and I’m a little bit like we should throw everything out. Give it all. Give it all away I’ll just throw it away. But I think also it has allowed us to practice contentment when we don’t have the easiest tool to use or do something or we have to find a work around for something else.

Hannah: And it adds value to the things that you already have. Like my tiny little cast iron skillet. I was like This is something that is valuable to me not only because it is practical and useful but because every time I use it I’m going to think about my mornings in Iraq. Those are habits that I wanted to continue in the US. So bringing that back. Every time I see it it’s like remember take your morning slow. Enjoy your day. This is a thing, a habit you started in Iraq, that you want to remember here. I think minimalism tends to get rid of even the sentimental things in your life. And I don’t think that’s necessary. Sentimental things are okay and it’s okay to take them with you but you need to think very carefully about them and I think that’s also true when it comes to your health.

Skill #4 – Physical and Mental Health

Colleen: Number Four!

Hannah: It’s important to have healthy habits before you I mean just in life generally

Colleen: But especially if you’re going to live overseas and where your life and your schedule are not necessarily going to fit in the same expected patterns as they are in the US.

Hannah: Yeah and so I think this is both physical and mental health. So for me it was having a routine as much as I could. I couldn’t have the same routine every day. Having these expectations of this is the time I’m going to get up every morning and this is my target window for going to bed. I didn’t always hit the earliest, but I got in there somewhere. I found that if I could do that those two ends of my day, how my day starts and how my day ends, I generally had control over that and that was really important for my health. Some people need to have an exercise routine every day. I think everyone should have some form of exercise every day. Knowing that you need that is important and making a point of making sure that it happens while you’re there. Having people that will keep you accountable for it.

Colleen: Yeah and that can be a really big challenge. That’s why this kind of thing needs to become a priority in the US when it’s not as challenging in some ways as it is living overseas, especially as a single woman where exercising in public is not always allowed or you know it’s kind of taboo. And so being purposeful with that in ways that build a foundation for you to be able to be purposeful for it in the future.

Hannah: That includes what you eat. It can be really tricky to find healthy things. Traditionally American healthy things, in Iraq. There’s no keen war. There’s rarely if ever kale they’re not big into superfoods. But if you know basically I need to eat vegetables and fruit and these are some good starches and these are the proteins that I can get and that I can eat. And also knowing your your triggers for I know when I get really stressed out all I want to do is sit down and eat chocolate or chips or popcorn or you know whatever. I don’t think it’s necessarily like to be healthy. You have to give those things up but to know what your tendency is and when you tend to go to food for comfort rather than rather than to God or to having a conversation with someone else that will help you work through that.

Colleen: Not using unhealthy habits as coping mechanisms for stress or frustration or pain.

Hannah: And I mean if you want to get super practical take first aid class. It was shocking to me how very little first aid Kurds were aware of more aid. It is just not part of their their cultural training. People who deal with medicine are doctors and nurses and…

Colleen: …only the very very smartest of the culture can comprehend those things.

Hannah: Right. And so if you have a headache it’s not just like, “Here take two Panadol or Tylenol or whatever and you’ll feel better.” I have to go to the pharmacist and tell him what my symptoms are and he should give me a prescription. Or you know my favorite. I fell down on the playground and I broke my arm. Now you scraped little bit of skin off your elbow. You’re going to be OK. And again first aid kind of like electricity and plumbing lets you know. Oh, you fell down and hit your head.You should go to a doctor. Versus you fell down and scraped your elbow. You’re bleeding a little. You’ll be fine.

Colleen: How about a Band-Aid.

Hannah: Right. So first aid based basics and things like what to do with a fever. When is a fever dangerous.

Colleen: Or even slightly more extreme things. This kid fell down and is now gushing blood from the side of their head. You might be the only person who has any idea what to do with that, even if it’s not remotely life threatening. The idea that you could clean it up and you know, keep it from continuing to bleed profusely in the time it takes to get them to the doctor. Those kinds of things can be just so so helpful. Been there done that.

Hannah: And again, I think that’s something that we kind of take for granted that our parents growing up if we had a scrape or a bruise, wash it out put a Band-Aid on it pat us on our butts and send us on our way. And that’s not really the way most people are raised in Kurdistan. And I think part of all of this part of the reason we’re talking about health is that you’re going to get sick. You get sick in America. You’re going to get sick anywhere else you go. I think…

Colleen: Maybe more because the germs are different?

Hannah: Right. And especially, being a teacher, if you haven’t been around a plethora of children..

Colleen: Who all bring all of their all unhygienic habits to school!

Hannah: You’re going to get sick. And so knowing how to take care of yourself in those situations, and like you said in emergency situations knowing how to deal with things is important.

Colleen: And also, I mean I saw those earlier things knowing how to take care of yourself to keep from getting sick and to deal with stress and pressure in healthy ways.

Skill #5 – Good Communication

Colleen: Number five.

Hannah: Number five. This is a little bit of a different tack and that is that it’s important to know how to communicate well. Again this is a skill for life. Do you know how to write a good e-mail. Do you have good speaking skills. If you’re going to serve internationally someone is going to want you to talk about it at some point. You should know how to do that even if you don’t feel like you’re great at it

Colleen: Even if it terrifies you down to your bones.

Hannah: Right. It’s still one of those things that like, you can practice it you can get better at it. It may still terrify you a but you’re going overseas. That’s a terrifying thing. Like, you can handle speaking in front of a crowd.

Colleen: Courage, courage, my friends!

Hannah: That’s kind of like the baseline for it is be able to do those things. In addition to that, if you want to go like the next level down is make sure that you have people that you communicate about how you are as a person and where you are in your thought process. And I mean the buzzword of accountability – people that will keep you in check for things. I think that’s really important. I think that’s something that I lacked in the early years of my time in Iraq and it was something I was able to build through SGI with people at SGI and I did have close friends in the US who would check in on me. But I don’t think I did a good job of having someone that I was like, “Hey, every week you and me email, phone call, something.”

Colleen: Having someone that you can communicate with openly about how you’re doing, when you’re doing bad and when you’re doing good. And when you really just want to curl up and cry.

Hannah: Part of that is knowing how to deal with conflict. Theoretically if you’re an excellent communicator you would never have conflict if everyone in the whole world communicated clearly. But everyone in the whole world does not communicate clearly means you’re going to have conflict.

Colleen: We are broken people.

Hannah: Yeah. And so having a plan in place for how you will deal with that when it comes up, a plan that is not a checklist, necessarily, but a general like, I am going to treat people this way. If I have a you know if I have a problem with you I’m going to come to you and talk about it before I talk to anyone else about it. And if you and I can’t resolve that problem this is the person that I’m going to go to next or this is the type of person I’m going to go to next.

Colleen: Right.

Hannah: You know I mean I find a neutral party that’s friends with both of us that can help both of us deal with this, knowing if you’re going with an organization knowing what their structure is for dealing with conflict.

Colleen: Right.

Hannah: It’s really important so that you can act within that. And also just if you want practice interacting with people go out and interact with all the different kinds of people you can think of to interact with.

Colleen: Yeah. Expand widen your social circles.

Hannah: Right. Don’t stay just in your little church group. I mean not there’s anything wrong with having a good core of friends but expand beyond that. Try something different.

Colleen: Take a buddy with you to do those things. You don’t have to do it on your own. You will learn so much about your patterns of communication and the things that you assume about how people interpret what you mean or how you assume you’re being understood. That isn’t necessarily accurate right outside of the communication patterns within that little group of people.

Hannah: I think we experienced that to some extent in other ways too not just internationally. The more you can experience people not understanding you or dealing with a new situation, the better you get to know yourself and how you communicate and how you come across to other people and you can adjust that.

Colleen: Also be aware of who you are on social media. This is something I spend a lot of time talking to our candidates about. The way we normally communicate on social media often does not take into account all of the ways that that communication could be received by people who think differently than us. And so to be really aware of who you are on social media and ask the question if this is all someone knew about Jesus, if this is all someone knew about me, if this is all someone knew about my organization, what would they think? How would they define that. And to realize that there are aspects so that that you are not going to be aware of things that you post that you’re not going to interpret that way. For someone going to the Middle East, it’s their strapless prom dress that is perfectly modest and considered perfectly normal in American context but to a Middle Easterner is gonna look like you might be a lady of the night.

Hannah: Or a picture of you with your arm around your brother. They don’t know that that’s your brother. Unless you explicitly say somewhere. “Look at me and my brother.” Like it’s not necessarily that that’s a bad picture or needs to be taken down.You may need to explain it more.

Colleen: Right, so that they don’t think that you’re a loose woman, hanging out with men.

Hannah: Right. So communicating clearly through your social media. Yeah I think a lot of times we kind of mindlessly post things.

Colleen: Because we assume that all of our friends are the ones who are going to see it and they all think like we do, when especially if you’re preparing to go overseas. You’re going into an environment where people do not think like you do and do not communicate like you do. And so, you need to start planning now. Don’t wait till you get there and have a whole bunch of conflicts and problems. Start planning now and curating your your news feed to be an appropriate representation of who and what you really want it to be.

Hannah: The point of all of that is that you need people in your life. God doesn’t call us to be lone wolves. He calls us to be in community. You are partly responsible for that community and how you build that community around you. And if you are not already building… I mean that’s one thing that I as a recruiter look at when I talk to people is what is your community now where you are?

Colleen: Because how well you can build a good community where you are is also going to determine how skilled you are at building a community in a foreign culture.

Hannah: As we’ve talked about before the problems that you have here don’t go away when you leave. You take them with you.

Colleen: And they just get bigger.

Hannah: And so the good habits you have here also go with you. And people want to know how to pray for you. They want to know how to communicate well with you. They want to know how they can help you. And so if you are not communicating that to them then they’re not going to do it.

Colleen: They’re not going to be able to help you even if they want to.

Hannah: Right. So far in my life I have yet to meet a mind reader.

Colleen: Neither have I..

Hannah: And so I don’t believe they exist. Therefore I must communicate well in order for people to know the things that I want and the things that I need.

Hannah: But I think the number one thing which we left for number six because you’ve got to end with a bang right?

Colleen: Right. Most important for last.

Skill #6 – Good Spiritual Habits

Hannah: Is when you really really need to have good spiritual habits.

Colleen: I don’t know how to emphasize this enough.

Hannah: Right. This is one of those things that it can feel like you are a crazy person when you talk about how dark it can be to be in ministry. People don’t like to hear that.

Colleen: Everybody wants things to be sunshine and daisies and optimism and…

Hannah: …and you know, how much the Lord is blessing you because you are dedicating your life to to serving him and while it is true that God blesses you when you serve him…

Colleen: Sometimes he blesses you through suffering.

Hannah: Right. Yes sometimes. Sometimes you gotta learn a lesson and going outside of your comfort zone is part of that lesson. But again if you don’t have the structure and the foundation to communicate well with God and have him communicate with you. If you’re not holding those pathways open in the US where it is very easy, It is still very easy to be a follower of Christ in America. It’s not so easy in other parts of the world.

Colleen: If you’ve only known the US you may not have the concept of what that difference really does look like. But yeah I would say the number one habit is prayer and making it a habit, habit, habit. Scheduled times of prayer. Making sure that when you say you’re going to pray for someone you don’t just forget about it but actually following through on those things. Praying for your ministry, for yourself. Sometimes praying in the midst of whatever it is that’s going on. I mean I can’t tell you the number of classes I stood up in front of where things were not going well and I prayed while I taught. And sure it’s not out loud, it’s, “God help me know how to engage these students well. God help me know how to control this classroom keep me from flipping out these student and losing my temper and bursting into tears.” Or “help me see what it is that’s really going on in this kid’s life.” Because He helps.

Hannah: And not just praying on your own either. Like having people that pray with you and I think there’s a difference between having people pray for you and having people pray with you. It’s important to pray with someone in the moment that they share something with you. And that’s not always easy to do especially, internationally.

Colleen: Yes, and there are appropriate times for that and not.

Hannah: Yeah absolutely. You know that goes back to having that accountability for all the other things, you also need someone who will pray with you in the moment. Because I love to be prayed over. I feel like that’s a weird thing to be like super excited about. But whenever somebody is like can I pray for you about that right now I’m like, “Yes please do. Yes please, I would love that.”

Colleen: I’ve never had someone respond badly to that.

Hannah: It’s true. It can be one of the most rejuvenating things to have someone pray over you or pray with you through something. And that could be a teammate or a roommate or someone in the US or you know you may have a really good relationship with a national believer and it might be that person to make a habit of doing that. If it gets less awkward the more that you do it.

Colleen: Practice habits, good habits. Also find access to good teaching whether that’s at a local church. Sometimes there are churches in places around the world but sometimes there’s not really good teaching even if there’s a good fellowship group or Bible study group. A lot of the people who live overseas are not there as a pastor and so they may not have that skill set. So maybe some of the good teaching you find is a good book series or personal Bible study or a podcast of sermons or something else that also continues to feed you truth.

Hannah: Again know your own weaknesses your own areas where you are likely to fall into sin. And have accountability for those again because you bring your problems with you. They don’t just cease to exist once you get out and start serving they get worse. And so knowing what those are. And having safeguards in place.

Colleen: Your weaknesses are where you’re going to be attacked spiritually. Spiritual warfare is real. There are seasons of spiritual drought all of these things are things that you will go through no matter where you are in life. I guarantee you will happen living overseas. And so you need to be prepared for those and prepared to deal with that by going to the Lord in prayer and by going to the Word to hear from him having that community of people that keep you accountable and help you deal with the stress and the pressure.

Hannah: The only other thing I would add to that is knowing the word of God. I don’t necessarily mean like you have to memorize the entire book of Matthew. You know sometimes having scripture prayed over you or having it brought to mind in those moments you feel like I’m going to murder everyone. You can only do that if that scripture is constantly in your life in some way.

Colleen: Yeah it can’t come out unless it’s been put in right.

Hannah: Whether that’s a time of reading your Bible devotionally every day or you do decide that you’re going to memorize the first eight chapters of Romans. Or I mean, for me, I was felt like it was easier to memorize the Psalms and those applied to my life quite frequently. But knowing the word of God and reminding yourself of it frequently. Tile walls are great to write scripture.

Colleen: We wrote a ton of scripture on our tiles.

Hannah: Having those things is important and everyone needs that. It doesn’t make you less of a person or less of a good Christian because you need it. It makes you if anything more of a good Christian because you’re aware of how much you need.

Colleen: Yeah because we all need it.

Hannah: So as we think about these things and as you prepare I guess our challenge to you is to pick one or two things from this podcast. I know you were definitely taking notes through all of it. We can tell you to take notes so don’t feel bad if you didn’t. You can always re-listen to it. Pick one area from each thing that we’ve talked about maybe from a few.

Colleen: Maybe just start with one.

Hannah: Maybe just start with one. Yeah to start with and say you know this is an area I want to improve on and this is how I’m going to do it.

Colleen: And this month I’m going to learn to cook one meal from scratch really well for this month I’m going to watch or learn from some person how plumbing works.

Hannah: Yeah I’m gonna start establishing an accountability relationship and if you need advice on any of that we can help you. We would love to help you improve your life in that way. We’re not a life improvement podcast.

Colleen: We’re not life coaches, but we can help you get started.

Hannah: Let us know what you’re doing!

Colleen: You can find Servant Group International on Facebook or Instagram or on our Website at servantgroup.org.

Hannah: Yeah, and if you have a question that we haven’t answered yet send us an email or Facebook message. We’d love to hear from you! Thanks for listening!