Traffic Lights and the Transient Life

The other day while in town with a friend, we came up to a traffic light that was both red and green. Fortunately, we could see that the opposing light was green, so we stopped. But it got me  thinking about how symbolic that situation was for mission life in general. Living in a different culture can be a bit confusing and we often only have context clues to figure out what to do. But in a more literal sense, it seems we are always coming and going, and sometimes we don’t know which. In fact, in a few days I am traveling for several weeks to the US for some training and meetings while my husband stays here in Mozambique. Right now my mind is busy trying to sort out my packing and shopping lists for the US from the list of things that must be done here before I go. Some family in the US would say it is so nice I get to come “home” while my husband will be eagerly waiting for me to come “home” to Nampula. It is like sitting at the duplicitous traffic light with my foot on the gas and the brake at the same time.

The ambiguous traffic light. Photo by Jill Holmes.

I’ve found the missionary/expat life to be a transient one. Everyone lives in a state of transition. New folks arrive while others depart for good. And then there are furloughs, when missionaries return to their passport country for an extended period That means friends, who become like family, up and leave for months at a time. Right now Dave and I are really feeling the effects of that as the bulk of our team is on furlough. It makes us appreciate all the gifts and strengths of our teammates as we are stretched to do things outside of our normal tasks; it also makes it difficult to find a sense of normalcy. For the nomad expat, transition is normal. But thankfully, we serve an unchangeable God!


  • Bob Payton says:

    Jill – thanks for keeping it real and helping us understand (and know how to pray for you) what every day struggles you face.

  • Jim Manley says:

    Jill, you speak the truth. During our time in Ecuador, change and transient-ness proved to be normal, casting an anxiety pall over everything. Fortunately, as you say, we learned to stand on the unchangeable Rock. Thanks for sharing.

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