Thankfulness, Beauty and Struggle ~ In a Foreign Land

fearIn my first two days in the midst of the foreign land that I struggled to move to, and as I began to wear my “cloak of invisibility” each time I left the compound ~ I met a family that had lived outside of Paris for a few years.  (That is a destination I would have preferred!)  The mother of this family shared how much more thinking and planning she had to do to get her two children around while they were there with no car.  Planning transportation routes, figuring out how much time it would take, preparing snacks before they would get on the trains, having to go to multiple stores to grocery shop.

Countries and flags

Wow, what a perspective change! 

Immediately I felt a wave of thankfulness for all the things that are easy about my new world.

  • I can either ride a bus that is provided by the compound to shop, or hire a driver that will take me wherever I need to go.
  • Most places have signs in the native language of the area AND in English, making it easier to get around and much easier to shop.
  • And in spite of my fear about living in a brown dusty desert – the compound I live in has grass, trees, and flowers.

What a powerful reminder that so many times the change we fear is not as hard or as bad as we imagined and that if we focus on “what is” instead of “what is not” – how much easier it is to find things to be thankful for! 

My treasured moments so far have included:

  • Opportunities to meet the women that I connected to virtually before my move that offered advice and encouragement.
  • Opportunities to attend brunches and exercise classes with women from all over the world – I am enjoying both the beautiful bouquet that we make together and soaking in the conversation that is filled with different accents, and different experiences, and a genuine desire to help each other navigate this place together!

The toughest part of my experience so far:  

When I arrived here I was told that if I ever witnessed an accident or saw someone get hurt, I should never help them but instead wait for the authorities to arrive.  This lesson was echoed again in a documentary, and then again from a woman that has lived here for a decade.  (Such a horrible reality to consider…   How do you not help someone in need?)

Last week as I shopped, several local children gathered in one of the rooms of the shop to watch television.  As I entered the room to look at some of the merchandise, one of the children tripped over a shoe on the floor and started crying.  My immediate reaction was to ask if she was okay.   As soon as I asked the question I saw fear in the faces of the children, eyes widened, they gasped and one child got up and helped move the child that had tripped away from me.  I had an immediate mental flash of the reminder and wondered if that rule even applied to this situation and at the same time felt the stab of pain because of their fear.  (My head was not covered, I clearly spoke another language, my eye color is different and I need a much better tan to look like I belong here – were those the reasons for the fear I saw in their eyes?  Or was it deeper?)

As I’ve pondered that experience –

  • I don’t want to assume anything.
  • I know that I want to be very respectful of the people, the culture and the traditions here.
  • I can’t help but wonder how to show my humanness in a way that demonstrates my desire to understand and connect and care.

Most of all, I am thankful for the opportunity to experience a small fraction of what others have felt for generations.

How about you?   Will you share your stories about challenges and opportunities you have faced in the midst of change to help others?  

Image credit:

President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. ...Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God's grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari's, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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18 thoughts on “Thankfulness, Beauty and Struggle ~ In a Foreign Land

  1. Hi Chery,

    Have not seen you in awhile then find out you are on a “mission” in the desert. I associate living in the desert as a time of testing. People who embrace change and testing, rather than fighting it, leave the desert a transformed person.

    No doubt you will complete your mission with bold confidence wrapped in sincere humility. Others will benefit from your experience.

    By the way, your writing style is truly magnificent. You are an exceptional in your ability to paint a picture of words.

    Let’s stay in touch.

    Kevin Kennemer
    The People Group

    • Kevin – Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for your encouragement it is great to hear from you! It is interesting to me that you picked up on the desert being a time of testing, have you ever read the book The Dream Giver? If so you’ll know that I’m looking for the diamonds in the desert! Hopefully I can find that humility diamond! 🙂

  2. Chery,

    I am quickly coming to treasure these “reports from the other side of the world” – keep them coming! I agree with Kevin that you are marvelously talented in the way you can “show” us with your words all the beautiful things this adventure is teaching you . . .and by extension, us!

  3. Chery,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I have a friend who is teaching in Jeddah (

    We talk about Culture in our organizations – sometimes, as if we know what we’re saying or as if we have an understanding. Then I read about your experience…we have so much to learn. The change you are facing is dramatic, but perhaps when people come into an organization the impact can feel like you did when you automatically went to help that child.

    I’ve got some thinking to do…..thank you!


    • Scott – Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! I love that you looked at this lesson and immediately applied it to organizations. What a powerful point about the opportunities to help people bridge the cultural divide within organizaitons!

  4. Chery,
    How can something be so scary and so exciting at the same time?! I don’t know whether to worry about you or be totally jealous of you! I know it’s already been a fantastic journey, and will continue to be one. The encouragement I offer is one that I know you’re already doing… BE A SPONGE… Soak up everything you can in the short time you’ll be abroad. But remember, if all a sponge ever does is soak up, it’s only fulfilled half of it’s potential. You have so much to offer others in the way of insight, encouragement and faith. I know that you’re so very open to those opportunities to grow while you’re on this adventure… but because I’m passionate about this world becoming a better place, I want to challenge you to continue to pursue opportunities to invest in others like you did in my life.

    Have a ball my dear friend. I want to pray for safety for you, but I’m reminded of that quote from the Chronicles of Narnia… Lucy asks Mr. Beaver about Aslan, about whether the great Lion is safe… “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” Rest in the King. Blessings to you and your husband!

    • Page – Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! There is no doubt that I am on a learning curve! No need to worry, I am surrounded by angel armies! Thank you for the encouragement to invest in others and for the beautiful lines from Narnia!

  5. Thanks for the great post. I echo everyone else. Your writing and your experience are helping each of us understand something we might never have otherwise. We’re grateful for your service and challenged by your attitude. Thanks! Mike…

  6. This morning’s sermon fit in, I think, with your situation. When Jesus’ parents found him in the temple and admonished him for worrying them, he went with them…”became submissive to them” because his time was not yet. At Cana, he told his mother that it was not yet his time. In Mark 1: 15, he says “The time is fulfilled…” and his ministry began. Pastor reminded us that Jesus, as in the temple, submitted to the authority of his parents at that time, because it was not his time. There were undoubtedly other times when he could have shown his God-head, but did not, because it was not his time. Pastor also said that Luther often had to bide his time, bite his tongue, because the time was not right. Your time for helping/healing will come. We just don’t know when or where yet. Wait… your time will come.

    • Lee – Thank you for the words of wisdom. You kow I’m not naturally good at waiting so I am extra thankful for the coaching!

  7. Chery, I love reading all your posts. As the reader, I get to be right where you are for a few moments.

    You asked about experiences when our conscience said respond with compassion, but the culture or rules drew a line in the sand and to act would cross it. I worked at a place where there were a few employees in wheel chairs. One gentleman was particularly crippled and I would always rush ahead to a door to open it for him … which was OK. But I was told he didn’t want help with anything that isn’t something I would normally do for another person. We had a snow storm and it pained me to watch him laboriously cleaning his car off and slowly, with great effort folding his wheel chair and putting it in his back door. Everything in me wanted to go out there with a snow brush and do it all for him. I saw a few skeptical employees looking at me to see what I would do. I guess they knew my inner engine was revved up to go help but my knowledge of his preference constrained me.

    Touch choices, pitting conscience with culture.

    • Jane – Thank you for your encouragement and your wisdom! Your story about your co-worker helps to bridge the gap between what I know, and where I am!

  8. I think we should consider our freedom(s) as a ratio, with the common denominator being responsibility.I guess it’s always a shock when a “free” person feels that the weighted value of responsibility increases exponentially….and our freedom, which as a young person we value
    so much seems to be diminished. Then, we remember who we are, and how highly-favored we are. The “equation” is justified. Peace be with you!

    • John – Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Interesting that you used the line “…Remember who we are…” That has been on my mind lately too!

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