Years ago, we moved to Odessa, Ukraine, to pioneer a Bible school. We then picked up the family after three years in Ukraine and relocated to Budapest, Hungary, to do the same. As newcomers to Hungary, we found Budapest very appealing with a wonderful mix of quaint, old-world charm yet slick Western pizzazz. These circumstances completely charged my comfort batteries as a weary third-world global worker. Some days, though, I felt almost guilty as I lived in Hungary. As each day passed, I realized the challenges for global working women on the field in any country are very much the same, no matter what the standard of living. The challenge of working out relationships with other global workers, in love, is paramount to success in any country. Sometimes, the difficulties of language, culture, and presenting salvation’s message pale compared to the misunderstandings and unfulfilled expectations that can occur among colleagues or fellow-global workers laboring toward the same eternal goals abroad. Working relationships out with fellow global workers is probably the number one challenge on the field.
Jealousy is an ugly attitude that appears on the field among global workers. Questions of what global workers have and don’t have financially, where they live and who they know, who supports them and who visits them bombard all of us from time to time. Jealousy causes pain and mistrust. It eats like a cancer and inhibits the flow of Christ’s love on all levels.
In fact, global worker misunderstandings can come from many different venues. Below are five observations that have really aided my husband and me as we have endeavored to be real in our calling to cross-cultural work and to work lovingly with others.
1) BELIEVE THE BEST. This simple advice will circumvent the hottest would-be misunderstandings among friends or colleagues on the field. I remember a global working friend once asking me in the heat of a battle, why I hadn’t believed the best of her. I was guilty of believing the worst. I felt so ashamed, and her question stopped me dead in my tracks. Believing the best during conflict diffuses anger until the facts are known.
2) BE THE FIRST TO MAKE STEPS TOWARD RECONCILIATION. I wish we had more facts about the episodes of Jesus’ relationships. I am certain He never let Peter or John make the first moves toward patching things up when they disagreed. Jesus’ humility always shone through. Making the first move toward reconciliation says the relationship is important.
3) REFUSE TO BE RIGHT. If you go into a situation with reconciliation in mind, you will be defeated if you must be right. Die to the right to be right. Listen with an ear to change what is wrong with you. Ask for forgiveness even if you are right. Salvaging the relationship is far more important than who is right or wrong.
4) ASK GOD WHY IT HAPPENED. If you don’t work it out with God, you’ll have lost the eternal purpose of the whole trial. Being conformed into our Lord’s image is our goal. Realizing we must hear from God with openness to change, relieves the pressure of who was right or wrong. The real question is what is God saying through this misunderstanding.
5) GIVE TO OR DO SOMETHING EXTRAVAGANT FOR THE PERSON WHO HURT YOU. Gifts or special attention can go a long way in bridging the gap of relational misunderstandings. God gave to us, who ignored and hurt His Son, with unbelievable selflessness and generosity. A gift blesses and begins to heal the deepest wounds.
I realized through several wounding controversies among global working colleagues that my influence and effectiveness among nationals or nations could be greatly impaired by faltering relationships. This is another reason to strive to keep our global work relationships untarnished on the field. We want the nations to recognize us by our love for one another. I also know that sometimes these hurts can run so deep it seems nothing could heal them; even talking seems a drop in the bucket compared to the hurt. Five simple things to do really does not minimize the depth of pain one suffers through misunderstanding, yet knowing God will use your suffering for good, lessens the pain. Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered. Receive the trials that come on the field among fellow-servants as God’s tool of perfection. The nationals on the field are dying to see your love and unity as the Scripture tells us. Embracing the suffering will ensure our unity as believers.
Although my husband and I are currently on furlough in the States, we are still working out relationships. This calling to be rightly related in love will never leave until Jesus returns. I think the suffering of cold showers and no heat in Ukraine to be less than the suffering of working out hard relationships. I am still flinching over recent failings in this area. Yet I am so grateful God is faithful to show me my pride and selfishness and to deal with it as a compassionate Father. I know God loves me too much to allow me to “slip by” in the arena of global working relationships. I want to be untarnished on the field for the sake of His lovely Name.
This article is a classic originally published in our early print magazines.