Half a World Away

Posted on: March 11, 2014 Written by
Half a World Away
Photography by: scyther5 from iStock          

Four years ago I stepped onto a plane, found my seat, and settled in for a long trip. As Pittsburgh became smaller and smaller from the window of the plane, I did not fully realize that such would be my view of “home” for the next few years. From my new life halfway around the globe, I would catch only glimpses of the world I had left.

Not surprisingly, life in Pittsburgh went on without me. I was not there as friends got engaged, got married, and had kids. Family friends started school; some graduated. Some won soccer tournaments or basketball championships. Some changed jobs or even careers. Friends moved several states away. Some died. To the extent that they remembered or thought it would seem relevant to me from so far away, family and friends shared these experiences with me through emails, photos, and updates.

Meanwhile, half a world away, I made new friends in my new environment. I was there as these new friends got engaged, got married, and had kids. Friends’ families started school; some graduated. I coached soccer and watched basketball championships. Some friends changed jobs or even careers. New friends who felt like old friends moved several countries away. Some died. I shared these experiences with a community that lived, worked, celebrated, hurt, and prayed together.

Back “home,” family and friends had snowstorms and heat waves; I had earthquakes and tropical downpours. Friends got new cars; I learned to drive on the left side of the road, mostly in cars that were older than I was. Sunday-school kids who had not known their alphabet when I left wrote cards to encourage me. Friends who could not type when I left learned to use email and then used it to encourage me.

Technology got smaller, faster, and less expensive, as it usually does. Meanwhile, I progressively fell out of touch not only with new technology, but also with current events, politics, entertainment, and other elements of pop culture. Due to my time overseas as part of an international community, I find I can answer game-show questions about other countries and languages with ease, but I am clueless on the “easy” questions that reference American television.

I learned to do without—for varying lengths of time—internet, television, refrigeration, fast food, electricity, hot water, and inner-spring mattresses. On a positive note, I did not mind leaving behind telemarketers, freezing rain, junk mail, and the long commute. I became accustomed to having fresh fruits and vegetables, beautiful views, meaningful work, and friends’ houses just a few minutes’ walk away. I even got used to early mornings, dust, downpours, bugs, and cooking from scratch.

Four years later I stepped on a plane, found my seat, and settled in for a long trip. As Pittsburgh drew closer and closer, I tried to prepare myself for all these changes, for sudden immersion in a world which had seemed so distant for so long.

Before I even disembarked from my final flight, I had already registered jet lag, reverse culture shock, and a profound awareness of the Lord’s blessing on my return trip. Friends—new and old—from around the world had been praying, and I could feel it.

With some difficulty I found my way through the once-familiar airport. At the bottom of a short escalator, a small crowd of family and friends waited to greet me. They could not know how much my world had changed or how much it had changed me. For a brief moment, though, hardly any of that mattered as they opened their arms and said, “Welcome home!”


©2014 Thrive.


Question to consider:  As you serve cross-culturally, how has your world changed and how has it changed you?

About the author

Krista is an accountant, a cross-cultural worker, a poet, and an aunt. She works in Bible translation and lives in Papua New Guinea, or 7,686 miles from the niece who has inspired some of her favorite poems.

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  • Debbie

    This so eloquently states what I went through and have felt. After 25 years on a fourth world mission field, I came back a different “me” than when I went. Fortunately we were able to make yearly trips to the US for 2 months ( and usually 8,000 miles) as we visited supporters and churches. We were able to keep up to date in a very general, surface sense. Of everyone we visited, it was my family who didn’t know what to do with the new “me”. I was an outsider looking into a window on my own family. One particular visit was very surreal. My 3 sisters and I gathered at a restaurant. In the span of that hour or so I learned that one sister’s husband had found out he had an inoperable brain tumor, the single sister was told by our very conservative mother (who was about to go in for major surgery and was convinced that she was going to die – she didn’t by the way) that she didn’t want her miss out on anything in life, so she told her that it was perfectly ok with her for my sister to sleep with her boyfriend and the 3rd sister’s 17 year old daughter had a 1 in a million kind of cancer in her esophogus. Not a peep of any of these earth shaking event had been shared with me while I was on the field. And not a question was asked about what was happening in my life. I was watching a soap opera, one in which I was not involved in. I was only there as an observer. I ached to tell them that my son’s arm was finally going to be ok after the bad break he’d had in a country where there were no orthopedic docs. Or that the last hurricane turned at the last minute and spared us a direct hit. Or that the ministry was growing and lives were being transformed. Or the time I had to feed 50 people for a week – which had gone very well. It’s been 8 years since coming back from the field. I’m finally being accepted back into the fold as a full-fledged member of the family, and looked to as the eldest to handle things. But I’m still not the same me that I was. And they’re just figuring out who I am.

  • reading about your journey, Krista, makes me so thankful again that though we change, God doesn’t change. (James 1:17) so thankful that He’s never left or forsaken you through each one of the changes, and that He is familiar with all your ways! (Ps. 139) may His nearness comfort and encourage you, even as you miss the ones you love who are so far away…

  • Sue Thomson

    Krista and Debbie, I sure can relate. After thirteen years in Brazil, I struggled for at least five years to feel comfortable in my passport country. It’s incredible how we change and how the rest of the world changes over time!

    Thanks for an article that resonated deep within me.

  • Wendy

    K- It was certainly a sacrifice to stay so long there. The changes/growth in the children had to be so dramatic after 4 years away. Some of us get that strangeness feeling when we don’t recognize ourselves in old pictures !!! Or, it’s strange to see the wires and parts which we have no idea what they are used for, at the front counter of the drugstore.

    You are an example to have stepped out in faith, leaving a lucrative career along with your likely, unmatched resume. Also, through the serious sacrifice of facing physical problems, you are an example in this mission of this machinery of the business of translating. God will reward your discipline in His work. May He keep you strong to tell the story.
    It’s losing a part of us to see you go. Our prayers are with you and your family. May you see the great blessing and God’s love especially, this round.

  • Roberta Harper

    We enjoyed having you speak to our Ladies Missionary Workshop at Malvern Bible Chapel in Pa, Please keep us informed with what and how you are doing. We will continue to pray for you! Roberta Harper