Recognizing Courage in Your Daily Expat Life


Courage is the extolled virtue of the month at my church. It is ever present in the liturgy and the homilies as we approach Lent. As a result, I have been thinking quite a bit about courage and how it manifests in my life.

What Courage Looks Like

Brene Brown writes about courage. She wrote, “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor- the Latin word for heart.” Living a cross-cultural life regularly demands courage. It is not always a flashy, in-your-face type of courage. Not all courage requires heroic feats. Our cross-cultural lives mostly require a quiet, insistent, and persistent brand of courage. It is this type of courage that enables us to persevere and keep moving forward in our cross-cultural lives.

Situational Courage

You manifest courage when you wake up to no electricity, once again, and get the house off and running. Learning to navigate the local markets and barter in a foreign language is another act of courage. Fierce courage is displayed by simply walking in your neighborhood and speaking with your neighbors in a language not your own—realizing that you are probably making mistakes and the potential for being misunderstood is exponentially high. The bureaucracy and officialdom of many countries is daunting. Filing the correct papers and obtaining driver's licenses and proper visas makes us dig deep and muster up our moxie and our courage.

Critter Courage

I haven’t even begun to mention the encounters with many exotic critters inside and outside our homes that call on our courage daily. Geckos have fallen on my head and once a tokay lizard attacked my daughter (yes, I said attacked). There have been numerous snakes in my house, as well as tarantulas and other ginormous spiders. All of which required courage.

Culinary Courage

Sometimes we need courage to eat the beautiful varieties of food available in our host countries. My very first day overseas is as vivid as if it happened yesterday. I was five months pregnant and had just arrived in Puerto Lempira, Honduras. My Spanish was not strong and my Miskito (the local Indian language) was nonexistent. I was sitting in the local pastora’s house and there was a large turtle lying on the floor on its back. I instinctively knew it was to be lunch. Every fiber in my being wanted to set the turtle free, but I knew that it would be a disastrous first act in my new host country. Freeing the turtle would have deeply damaged any future ministry I could hope to have in that community. I would have also harmed my fledgling relationship with the pastora.That first day, in all of my pregnant glory, required all the courage that I could summon from the depths of my being. I was so out of my comfort zone in every way. I needed both the in-your-face, brandish-your-sword type courage, as well as the quiet courage that resides deep in your bones. Moving to La Mosquitia five months pregnant required a certain type of pluck and audacity founded upon great faith. Sitting in the the pastora’s house unable to communicate well, eyeing the poor turtle powerlessness to escape, and resigning myself to the fact that my first meal in my new home in my new life in my new country would be turtle soup all required quiet courage.

Courage Abounds

So many astonishing acts of courage fill our daily lives overseas that we probably take them for granted. What does courage look like where you live? What do you wrestle with? I encourage you to reflect on your current life situation and see, perhaps for the first time, the daily doses of courage that fill your day.There is a proverb that says “Fear and courage are brothers.” Courage is not the absence of fear. It is pressing on in the face of your fear. Deuteronomy 31:6 is often quoted and for good reason. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So, across the globe, as you live your cross-cultural lives, “Be strong and courageous.”Our lives are filled with tiny and enormous acts of courage, which speaks and points to an even greater faith in the One who is with you across the globe.How have you been showing courage lately?  What does courage look like in your context?

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