When Missionaries Move Back Home {Yes, That Would Be Us}

by Laura on July 1, 2012

This is potentially one of the most difficult posts I’ve had to write in the three years I’ve been blogging.

I don’t know how to communicate in my online life the detours, false-starts, apparent-dead-ends, and surprising corners the journey in our real lives has taken– especially in the past year.

I don’t know how to honestly talk about the next step in our future without perhaps alienating many who’ve come to this space from a million different latitudes, and I have no idea how to paint an authentic picture of the bitter and the sweet our family is about to get very well-acquainted with.

So maybe sometimes just ripping off the band-aid is best:  We are moving back to the United States.

Shocker, I know. It is for me in some ways, too.

We’ve been in Asia now for about 2 and a half years, and there’s been much that has transpired behind-the-scenes of this blog. While we came to direct a Girls Home initially, we have for the past year and a half been working specifically in the counter-trafficking community. We’ve had quite the on-the-job-education as Matt has networked, served on committees, and witnessed firsthand the dark realities of the sex industry here in SE Asia. We’ve brainstormed possible solutions to a social justice issue that is by far the most complicated puzzle I’ve ever come close to, and we’ve cried under the weight of knowing that a 15-year-old several miles away was being abused behind a locked door, while we were watching Netflix in the safety of our home.

It’s been the heaviest year of our lives, no question.

And through meeting with many of the key-players in the humanitarian sector fighting sexual slavery here, we began recognizing a glaring hole in the attempts to fight it. While the three major areas of counter -trafficking work roughly fall into either prevention, intervention, or after-care, we saw that little was being effectively done here {especially by the Western community, and even more especially by the Christian community} in the intervention arena– the gathering of evidence, the actual raid of brothels and rescue of victims, and the prosecution of criminals within the laws of the local government.  And it wasn’t hard to see why–  the practical, physical, and moral dangers of the work rank fairly high.

Then, about ten months ago, my friend Kelley from Ezekiel Rain Ministries told me about a book we needed to read called God in a Brothel, written by an undercover investigator in the sex-industry. Matt and I both read it that month, and it changed things for us. We promptly wrote the author, Daniel Walker, when we found that he was launching an organization called Nvader that specifically specialized in targeted interventions, namely, using men with professional investigative training backgrounds to gather undercover evidence of trafficking for the purpose of prosecutions within the local legal system. From where we were sitting at the time, it seemed like exactly a piece of the puzzle that was getting the least attention. {Though, yes, there are a few other organizations that focus on targeted interventions, as well.}

Over the past few months, we have been in Skype conversations and face-to-face meetings with the team from Nvader, including Daniel Walker. We’ve talked about their needs, and we’ve become more and more convinced of the unique, necessary niche they fit in the fight against sex slavery today in Asia. And over the last several months,

we’ve begun to realize that the best way we can serve the cause of this mission field is to leave it.

After lots of prayer and in that peace which dwarfs everything else, Matt and I will both be taking partnering roles with Nvader. We will be relocating at the end of the summer back to the town that sent us out– Woodland Park, Colorado. We’ll be raising funds and awareness, writing blogs and Facebook posts, developing systems and vision for connecting churches and communities to counter-trafficking, and praying-like-mad that the machine selling women and children for profit becomes greatly less-profitable. Our niche will continue to be the gritty, but effective, work of gathering evidence, empowering raids, and working within local legal systems, with a specific focus on enabling national investigators. My husband will be traveling back and forth from Asia to the States on a semi-regular basis, as well. We’ve discovered that for safety concerns, this might be a better fit for our family, anyway. Initially, the positions will still be fully-supported ones.

And while we are convinced that this is our best-shot at using our giftings to rescue girls in brothels, I’d be lying to say there isn’t a deep sadness that comes with the decision. Because in many ways, it’s been thrilling to be on the front-lines. It’s been raw and dramatic and exotic. I can finally manage the language and have friends I could call if my car won’t start. I’ve learned to love scooter rides and roadside food stands and a slower pace of life. And living here has given me lots to write about, too– about missions, about the church, about faith. But, when I honestly look at what Matt and I can practically do to fight trafficking, when I look at the opportunities that have landed before us, and when I look at the hearts of my kids and our schooling options for the future, there is a certainty of the next step that has slowly become more bedrock.

And I’d be lying to say I wasn’t nervous about the transition. I’m scared we won’t have the money to get back and set up a life stateside, nervous that my kids won’t find their place, scared that these two years will have put a bigger gulf in my Community and culture than I think.

And I’m deeply sad to be closing a chapter I’ve wanted to live ever since I was a teenager.

Yet, yet. Somehow in the same breath, I can hardly wait to go back home.

To the mountains, to the language of my heart, to bread and not rice.  Mostly, though, I am excited to be re-entering a community that gave us a car, that embraced us in a season of youth trips and babies, that sent us but hasn’t left us these past few years. I’m thrilled to be a much shorter plane ride away from my family in North Carolina, and

I’m hopeful for a chance to use our experiences here to connect funding from the West to the rescue of girls in the East, as undramatic as that role will probably feel.

************

I’ll be writing much more in the coming days, about the transition from one mission field to another. I’ll continue being honest about our journey and will at some point speak more clearly about our story from the past year, as well. But, for now, I’d appreciate your prayers for our family as we push through another international move, hopefully in time for school starting in August.

If you’d like to financially donate to our moving expenses back home {namely, airline tickets that make me want to hyperventilate}, well, we’d consider that a real gift, as well. {We will continue using the same accounting agency as before. The link to give online is here. The operating project on the drop-down menu has now changed to EXODUS ROAD— our project title until Nvader gets set up officially  stateside. All funds previously donated to our education fund will go right to our moving expenses.}

I can’t thank you all enough, honestly, for walking with me virtually through this life overseas. I am so humbled and grateful for the gift of community you have given me in this space. Truly, I can’t thank you enough. If I could buy each of you one of those cool wooden carvings of an Asian elephant or some intricate tapestry from the hill tribe villages or even just a plate of authentic pad thai as a thank-you gift, well, I so would.

 

  • Ryan

    Great job describing your thoughts. I stumbled upon your website from alifeoverseas.com and am trying to write a similar post on our website (http://ryanandmelissaalberts.com) as we are heading back to the U.S. after being in Haiti for the last few years.

  • A Massey

    I just discovered your blog and I love it! There is so much that I resonate with! We lived in South America for 2 1/2 years and came back stateside to work in the home office of our mission. We loved what we were doing there, being on the “front lines” as you said. It was so hard to come back, but we know we are playing an important role here, even if it is significantly less dramatic. Thank you for sharing your heart. I appreciate your honesty. (I also really liked the posts on the reasons not to become a missionary and the 5 mistakes in the first year – right on girl!)

  • Gail Powers

    I have enjoyed reading your blogs post, but I must say, to me this one would have been the hardest. Blessings to you as you work to end Child Trafficking from where your at. However, Lord willing, I want to do it from here, “ONE CHILD AT A TIME.” Any advice you might have is welcomed! We are still praying about where we fit in in this battle. I have shared some of your post on both my organization Facebook page as well as my personal page.

    “We serve an AWESOME GOD”

    Gail Powers
    Founder of Asia’s Child
    http://www.facebook.com/asiaschild

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