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A couple of years ago, I invited a friend from our people group to come with my kids and me to a park very popular for exercise. I told her to bring a stroller for her son and pack a lunch.

In my mind I had set aside about 2.5 hours of my day for the outing—a fast paced walk around the park’s lake followed by some sandwiches, then returning home to get on to other things. When I arrived to pick up my friend and her son, I found out she would be driving herself because her parents were coming as well.

At that moment I realized the excursion would be a little longer than anticipated.

When we arrived at the park, I quickly unloaded my kids, their bikes, and the baby stroller. Then I waited. My friend and her parents had a lot to unload. As I tried to manage my kids while waiting for them, they explained they were going to make soup. I tried to hide my surprise.

We eventually crossed the street and set our rather large load down at the edge of the trail I thought we would be walking. Then my friend’s father returned to their van with their stroller and came back with a gas tank and portable grill in it. This was for the soup. When I saw the contents of the stroller, I tried to, again, hide my surprise as well as my concern that this was probably not allowed in a city park.

The end result was that I did not get my hoped-for exercise that day. The kids rode their bikes up and down the path in front of our picnic location while we adults sat for four hours. We ate some delicious soup, but all the while I was worried we would be fined for our makeshift kitchen in the heart of our bustling, urban city.

This story illustrates the two very different worlds we live as missionaries to our Middle Eastern people group in North America.

In one world, I have kids’ school and sports activities, doctors’ appointments, and social outings on tight schedules. In the other world, only one activity can be planned in a day because that activity very well may take the whole day, and, as you’ve just read, there is a good chance it will not go as expected.

In one world, if I am responsible for something, I do it, and it’s done. In the other world, if I am responsible for something, several other people might change or even undo what I have done and may or may not tell me about it later.

In one world, I can go months without talking to a friend without threat to the relationship. In the other world, if I am not in contact with the people in my circle on a weekly basis or less, there is something wrong.

In one world, all our friends’ children are in bed by 8:00 p.m. In the other world, Bible studies and dinners may start at 9:00 p.m.

And the list goes on.

I now see the shuffling between two worlds as a privilege because I see the unique beauty of each in the midst of physical and mental exhaustion. 

Please pray we, and especially our children, can operate in each sphere with grace.