This post is especially for those of our friends and family who are curious to know details about our upcoming transition that would just be boring overkill on facebook. Don’t feel bad if that’s not you but if it is . . . thanks for wanting to know more (we like you more than all of the others).
We are moving to China . . . again. Let’s start there.
So far we have experienced every reaction to that sentence from disbelief — “Phuaww! Really?!” to sarcasm — “ooooh, big shocker there.” And when I say “we have experienced every reaction” I mean we have both heard it from those whom we have told and felt it ourselves.
We are completely surprised and fully not . . . all at the same time.
Here is what has brought us to this spot.
1. Our hearts are in China
Let me be clear about this one. My wife and I are very different people and while this statement is true of both of us it actually means radically different things. I have longed to be in China since we left two years ago. I’ve been waiting to see if that is just the result of transition but it has not gone away. In fact it has grown in intensity. I miss the daily challenges of being a bumbling foreigner and faking Chinese. I long for mystery dishes and awkward conversations about diarrhea. I genuinely miss my kids having the TCK experience. And the community . . . don’t get me started.
My wife’s China heart centers primarily around people — friends from China, Australia, America and all over the world whom she grew to love deeply and misses every single day. While people are also at the top of my list, she does not share my affection for being a bumbling outsider.
We’re good with that. It has taken some time but we’ve learned to love being on different pages and still in the same beautiful story.
2. Our hearts are also in America
Weird reason to move to China right?
We have realized that we love two places. We love the people in two places. We love the culture in two places. We love the food, the schools, the experiences and the life in two places. The past two years have been rich and good. We have been so blessed to do life at a whole new level with old friends and go relatively deep, quickly with a number of new ones. Love it.
However, being back in China as a family last fall made us realize how rare of an opportunity that trip would be. Our budget will never support a full family trip to China on a regular basis and pulling our kids out of school for three weeks is something that flies once when administrators are generous. Partnered with the fact that our China community changes freakishly fast means the next time that my family would be able to go back, they would be going back to a completely different place.
It is a reality though to be able to live in China and come home as a family every summer. That is our plan.
3. My job is better in China
I have my dream job. I get to spend quality time with quality people who are on the cusp of moving their lives and their families to China. I get to train them but more than that I get to know them . . . each personally. We talk about China and I try to pull their expectations a little closer to reality. Then I get to visit them . . . each personally, twice a year. I travel to their new cities, see them in their new context and process their new normal with them. I get to laugh with them, cry with them, pray with them and talk them off the ledge (figuratively speaking) on occasion. I also get to think strategically about how we, as an organization, can help our members thrive and ultimately impact students and families from all over the world.
It’s awesome. I love it.
I could also do it from anywhere as long as I have access to Skype and airplanes.
BUT — There is a noticeable credibility difference between saying, “trust me, I live in China” and “trust me, I used to live in China.”
Don’t hear me wrong — there are great trainers whose best opportunity to serve is realized by working remotely and traveling to and from . . . but for me and for now I think I could do this better and with more relevance in China.
I’m also writing this on the tail end of a 3.5 week trip away from my family. That is too long. When we are in China I will only travel for days at a time and when I travel for weeks my family will be with me.
4. My wife gets to express her amazingness
The details are not finalized but LaWanda will be stepping into a role where her gifts and strengths will be used in some really cool ways to love on and encourage the people on our team. She has always been crazy creative and incredibly nurturing. She loves to think strategically about how to care for people and when she digs into a project she doesn’t stop until it is perfect. All of this has been channeled into her role as Mom for the past decade but now that our kids are all grown up (Judah will be 6 in September) she has the time and space to share the love. She’s excited to explore that.
I’m excited too. Excited for our team. Excited for her — but also excited for the way her new role will intersect with mine. There are some very natural connections between what she will be doing and what I will be doing. We have longed for that for a long time. I have always had my thing and she has been very good about finding hers . . . but we’ve never been able to say this is “OUR thing”.
This could be fun. We may also need counseling in the near future.
5. We belong in China
We are so thankful for two wonderful years in America. That was no mistake. We have no sense of “oops, we just should have stayed.” We feel like God has blessed us with two years of uber quality time with some of our best friends. We also can’t imagine not knowing the people we have grown to love deeply.
All of that makes leaving . . . again . . . hard. But I am reminded to pay attention to all of the stuff that I try to get other people to consider as they face transition . . .
“It is hard because it is good.”
We are convinced that for this next very hard and very good chapter — we belong in China.
Some Q’s & A’s
So that’s our story. Here are a few more details and we’ll be happy to field any more questions if you have them. Looking forward to many more bumbling foreigner stories soon.
Q: When will we be leaving?
A: This summer — probably late July
Q: Where will we be going?
A: Back to Qingdao — Same city we lived in before. Likely the same apartment complex.
Q: What will we be doing?
A: We will be working with Leadership Development International. You can learn more about them by clicking here.
Q: Isn’t that a boatload of transition in a short period of time?
A: Yes. Yes it is. Definitely something we have considered. We are hoping that some of that is offset by the fact that we are returning to a familiar place (same city, same community, same school and many of the same people) however we are braced for the impact of another move. Your prayers and encouragement are much appreciated.