Lessons Learned Through Living and Working Overseas Expat Life

5 Life Lessons Learned From Expat Life

Looking over the past years, I see all the lessons learned.

There are moments when I look at myself in the mirror and think, “Who is this person?”

Oh, tell me you’ve been there, realizing that growth has happened in ways you never imagined and then wondering what on earth DID happen.

The life lessons are endless and the teaching continues non-stop.

In these lessons learned, I am still the same. Yet so very different.

Missionary life turns a great many, many things into fun, adventurously harsh lessons. Honestly, there are times I feel quite bruised from the learning and raw from the deep, soul-searching, digging that goes on to discover heart motives and inner attitudes.

I can’t walk this journey and not have an attitude of learning. I can’t survive each day without the humble knowing that this lesson will catapult me further on my faith journey. I truly can’t grow without a willing bend of self will to the greater Heavenly will.

The life lessons become beneficial when I choose to follow, choose to grow. Choose to be weary in the learning.

Every day literally in every single way, this wild and crazy life teaches me great life lessons that are growing me far outside myself in huge ways.

And starting our next term, I’m feeling stronger than before.

I’m sure walking a missionary journey either on the mission field yourself or as a support team back home, you are learning lessons right along with us.

Lessons Learned Through Living and Working Overseas Expat Life

Following along with our lessons learned will help you see that missionary life has taught me more than any other venture of my years and I’m sure it holds many more life lessons to come.

And these lessons learned, if embraced, are life changing and story altering.

1} Lesson 1: Choose Contentment

This is learned in letting go of home comforts. No dishwasher or ice maker. No constant AC. Plenty of mosquitoes. Selling nearly everything. Flying away to a new place with a few bins for each person. Landing a new country with seemingly little to replace what was lost. Choosing contentment in a minimalist way of living. Keeping little to move quickly with less stress and being truly content with what you have right at this moment. Enjoying each day with just a few loved things.

2} Lesson 2: Slow Down

Life on the mission field slows way down. Days are doable only when you keep a realistic view of what could and should be done in a day. Low, healthy expectations for yourself and others. Time to wait and breathe and listen to Holy Spirit whispers. An acceptance of the afternoon pause, the slow pace of life, the odd business hours and the great amount of time it takes to accomplish just 1 thing. Learning to patiently build relationships and let go of the intense push to finish a task quickly. Change your view of time in a way that makes time for people, life and conversations. Knowing you are loved by Him regardless of daily performance and production. Knowing you are valuable when all visible markers of worth and success are stripped away.

3} Lesson 3: Deep Dependence

The entire process of missions forces you into a new, deeper, beautiful dependence on God. Learning to depend on Him for every single minute of the day, every provision, every relationship, every trial, every hour of sleep and a million other things you might not have noticed before. This incredible dependence on God dives you to an entirely new layer and drives you into the shelter of His wings in a way that brings greater relationship and trust with Jesus. God’s Word comes alive in moments of pure dependence on Him. Your way is no longer viable. His way, His plan, His purpose for your heart is vitally necessary to survive. Dependence even when you wonder how you got on this life path and how God plans to work everything out for good.

Learning to choose dependence on God when it is a fight just to arise… let alone allow Him to help you stand.

4} Lesson 4: Always Learn

Every single day you must learn something new. You must learn new skills, new languages, new processes, new ways of doing things… even new ways to learn those new things. Life is one big lesson of learning. Embrace the learning. Humble yourself to be taught something new. Laugh when you don’t get it or repeatedly do it wrong. Choose joy when everyone already knows it or has already learned it. Believe you can keep learning even when it is terribly hard and frustrating. Always be in a mindset of learning and give yourself the space, time and vision to see things completely differently than you ever have before.

5} Lesson 5: Accept Adventure

Missions greatly increases your sense of adventure. Every new experience, new place and new person will enhance your desire to do something you never dreamed you would do. You will walk exciting paths, traverse wild journeys, cross rivers and mountains and find yourself looking around and thinking, “How did I get here!?!” The adventure will find you every day so grab ahold of it, jump in and grow… take pictures, meet someone new, experience the things around you and accept the great adventure… because you never know what God has in store when you follow His amazing adventure for your life. You might even find yourself asking for a new adventure one day and wonder where the normal loving person went! You must accept the challenge of adventure and let God give you the ability to thrive in an everyday roller coaster ride of faith.

life lessons learned in missionary life

And I must add in a #6 – Face Fear

After doing the above 5 things, facing fear becomes a definite part of life. Face it head on. Walk towards it. Be brave, battle courageously and know Whose you are. Remember the crown you wear and the Hand you hold. Recite scripture in quiet whispers and great shouts. Pray without ceasing and face each fear that comes your way. They will come. Stand firm in your faith and fight the good fight. Real lessons learned only by real life circumstances and opportunities to put on the full armor of God.

These are some of our lessons learned… smelling the salty, tang of the ocean, feeling the sand beneath my feet, sensing the coming of rainy season all while hanging in here for the long term.

Life lessons learned. Chances to grow and life out bold relationship with Jesus. All lessons learned in missionary life.

What life lessons are you learning as you walk a journey through missionary life?

Either for yourself or watching someone else? What is God teaching you through the process? Through the lessons learned?

And if these lessons stand out, would you share them with someone today to continue the conversation?


  1. Thank you for this Jenilee! Even as a non-traditionally religious type of person, I got so much out of reading your lessons learned from missionary life. I think we are all searching for the same thing – and these lessons apply to all of us!

    1. I’m so glad you found it helpful and encouraging! Yes, I believe these are life lessons we can all benefit from in our life journeys. So fun getting to know you!

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