Grace Global Outreach:
Artists in Christian Testimony
It’s my job to listen to people.
This is one of the things I love most about my work as a journalist. I listen not only to the words people speak or write, but also to how they say them. Sometimes this even means hearing what they don’t say.
I do a lot of my listening work internationally, and along the way I’ve had to try to learn when to set aside my American lenses and assumptions about how the world works in order to hear what’s really being communicated.
For example, when I spent some time in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa back in 2007, one of my first lengthy jaunts outside the U.S., it wasn’t unusual in interviews for someone to mention family members. Being the precise journalist I am, I would inquire about how these relatives were related. Sometimes the answers seemed unclear, but I chalked this up to the fact that English wasn’t the first language this person learned.
Later, a Zimbabwean friend told me that if she didn’t refer to her closely-tied aunt as “mom,” this aunt would feel slighted. She explained that it was normal for minimal distinction to be made between cousins and sisters and brothers. They were all sisters and brothers. She even called me her sister, and not just in the “sisters in Christ” form of the term. The familial distinctions we’d make clear in American culture aren’t so important in her cultural. Family is family. Until I met these African friends, I never thought to question these relational terms.
This leaning in to listen to what’s really being said, and the willingness to try to see beyond just what my American lenses show me, is about more than my journalism work. It’s also how I get to love people. I genuinely want to know them. This love that the Lord has birthed and grown in me is foundational to my current work.
I grew up at GFC, singing Psalty the Singing Songbook songs in the little white house beside the quaint church building on Virginia Street. It was with GFC’s youth group that I made my first long-dreamed-of trip outside the U.S. My 16-year-old self loved connecting across language barriers with youth from the church we visited in northwestern Brazil, and I stayed in touch with some of them after we left, back when snail mail letters were the only option.
But the Lord didn’t open the way for long-term international life until after he’d first shown me my calling as a writer. My four-month trip in 2007 to several African countries was a turning point in identifying a calling to combine journalism with relational ministry. GFC was among the partners who made that trip possible.
So I’ve been thankful to join forces again with GFC as a partner in my current work that is an outgrowth of all that went before. Since 2012, I’ve been based in France, serving through Artists in Christian Testimony in work that takes me all over the world. Because I sometimes visit Christian workers in “closed” countries, I’m identified on GFC site’s as the Nomadic Tentmaker, rather than using my full name.
The Lord has given me a lot of freedom to serve and follow wherever he leads, often saying yes to late-breaking opportunities, resulting in work that’s notoriously hard to summarize. But one of my advisory team members summarized my work so well recently, calling me a storyteller for stories that need to be told; a bridge builder to help unite the church in areas where we’re fragmented; and a mentor and friend who gives the gospel in the flesh to people who need to hear and be known.
“In all of that, she demonstrates the reality of the Kingdom now on the earth in expectation of the final coming of Jesus. It’s a multi-faceted, multi-colored vocation that continues to unfold and to surprise us as we’ve followed along over these past several years with the Nomadic Tentmaker as the Holy Spirit has led her.”
But all this multi-faceted saying yes to the Lord admittedly isn’t easy. Yet it’s made possible in part through partnered sisters and brothers all over the world who live alongside me in this calling, supporting me as the best of families do.
I love that it’s my job to listen to people, and I also love that it’s my job to live in partnership with God’s beautiful multi-faceted family.
K.R., The Nomadic Tentmaker
GFC is hosting a meet and greet with K.R. this Sunday. Make plans to stop by. She would love to meet you!
When: Sunday, June 6, between services
Where: Introducing Grace Room (across from cafe & New Here desk)