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The Hardest Part of Living in a Foreign Country

Moving across the ocean is hard and much more difficult than any of us expected. It’s one thing to get rid of everything you own. Trying to relocate your family to a different nation in a completely different context, is something different all together.  

I’ve always tried to focus my life on pouring myself into the things God really cares about. If you are trying to serve the things most on God’s heart – make sure you are caring for the widow, the stranger (a foreigner), and the orphan. Anyone who knows me is well aware that I poured myself into serving orphans for almost 20 years.

I wrote two books about this called, Fields of the Fatherless and Red Letters. They are books designed to help people see how much God cares for the least of these – and how we are His hands and feet to them. It’s one thing to write about it, another to experience it.

What I didn’t know, is that one day, I would be a foreigner in a foreign land and that is one of the hardest parts of living abroad. It’s been hard for our entire family. Why? Well, you have little to no community. No friends, no family around you, and no one you have any history with whatsoever. After living our entire lives in the U.S., surrounded by friends and family, we are now surrounded by Spanish people we barely know. We knew 1 person when we moved to Barcelona – that’s it. 

Our kids are in Spanish schools and you would think that learning Spanish is a big enough challenge. No, no. It’s more difficult than that. They speak Spanish but in the classroom, but the teachers teach in Catalan. An entirely different language. Can you imagine trying to learn 2 languages at once?

Being new, it’s extremely difficult for our kids to make friends in this context. I think for the Spanish kids, it’s just easier for them to befriend the people who speak the same language. They don’t mean to make the English speaking kids feel rejected, but they do.

I would say it’s the same for Emily and I. We have met some really nice Catalan people and we’ve done a few things with them. But for the most part, everyone else is speaking in a different language and when they make plans, we are often left out. Again, I don’t think they mean to, it’s just a part of being a foreigner. You are away from home, you don’t understand the customs, you don’t know what people do, and it’s difficult to connect with others.

On the flip side, I would say this is one of the best things that have happened to our kids. We made their lives easy in the U.S. because we thought making them comfortable was important. But one of the things they don’t learn from being comfortable is how to fail. In Spain, they are having to fail most days and learn from those failures. It’s stretching them and opening them up to new possibilities.

The results? We are seeing our kids learn that failure is ok. In fact, you can learn a ton from failure and it can be a springboard to success. Second, since we live in a much smaller place, we are always crammed together in the same room. Although that may sound like a nightmare to some, it has proven to be a valuable time for us to be able to disciple our kids. It provides quality time to talk about their feelings, how difficult it is being a foreigner, how that impacts their faith, how to learn from failure, how to live, and what God wants from them during this time.

I wouldn’t trade this time for the world. We are all are learning too much about life, each other, ourselves and our visions. It really has been a gift. And, God is doing so much in each of our lives because we don’t have the distractions we use to have – our sole focus is on what we are called to do in Spain and our relationship with Him.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him…Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” – Psalm 62

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Lots of love to you. We really do miss all of you in the U.S.! Please let us know how you are doing and how we can pray for you. You can always reach me on email: charlesthomasdavis@gmail.com and Emily – emmajanedavis@gmail.com