Unexpected Sacrifices - When sacrifice has a new meaning

Unexpected Sacrifices

When I think of the word sacrifice, I picture many different things.

I see Abraham with his knife raised obediently over his son. I can picture a long line of people waiting for a priest as he makes preparations to offer the next lamb on their behalf. I see Elijah who called down fire from heaven to consume a very wet altar.

Then, if I dig deeper, I think of God and the sacrifice he made for us by sending his son to die in our place. I think of Easter and a miraculously empty tomb. I’m reminded of communion cups and chunks of bread.

But if I look inward and make my definition of sacrifice more personal, I think of powerful sermons with equally powerful altar calls. I feel challenged to say no to worldly things and say yes to the disciplines of faith. I think of phrases like “lay it all down” and “all in” and “with everything.”

I think of giving up coffee or Instagram for a month at a time in an effort to grow in my relationship with Jesus.

Those are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think about sacrifice.

Unexpected Sacrifices - When sacrifice has a new meaning

The word sacrifice probably conjures up a lot of pictures and stories, moments and feelings for you as well.

For me, the word sacrifice took on a whole new meaning when we began our overseas journey. Our journey started with the process of selling things, giving stuff away, leaving friends, saying goodbye to family, letting go of stateside life, walking away from our house and beginning a whole new way of living.

We were working towards life in Africa and I just knew the sacrifice was going to be huge.

There would be changes in our lifestyle, bugs, snakes, different foods, sand, heat, humidity, new smells, interesting sights, culture shock, transition, danger. And life away from American comforts—that spelled sacrifice in bright, bold letters for this comfort-loving girl.

And it was. It is. Sacrifice is all of those things.

But I was prepared for those kinds of sacrifices.

I’d wrapped my brain around sacrificing perfectly blow-dried hair for humidity inspired, frizzy up-dos. I’d already come to terms with cooking from scratch, soaking my vegetables in bleach water, and washing my feet numerous times a day. I knew there would be no ice at restaurants or quick trips to Starbucks or even holidays with family. I knew those things and had my heart ready for those sacrifices.

Days without power or water? Yep.

Mosquitoes everywhere? Yep.

Lacking quality medical care? Yep.

Bars on windows and doors? Yep.

No automatic minivan at my disposal? Yep.

All of those expected sacrifices, and many others, had already crossed my mind as our new normal.

The clash arrived between the things I knew I would sacrifice and the things I was being forced to sacrifice. It was a clash that tipped my world and made me reconsider my willingness to live out the sacrifice. This new overseas journey was requiring me to truly let go.

It was asking me to sacrifice for real in ways that I was unprepared to sacrifice.

Unexpected Sacrifices - When sacrifice has a new meaning

This clash is the unexpected sacrifices. The things you can’t plan for or understand until you are walking through them. They are unexpected, earth-shaking and at times, overwhelming.

Things like:

Arriving on the field after years of full-time ministry in the states and then realizing quickly that “ministry” as we knew it has changed now that we live and work overseas. We can’t do things like we used to. Churches are different. Ministry is different. Styles are different. Plus being new to it all, needing more language and culture, and— realizing it will be years before “ministry” feels the same as it did just a few years ago.

We unexpectedly sacrificed our experience and years in ministry for something completely new. We unexpectedly sacrificed our definition of ministry and are now in the process of allowing God to redefine it… sacrifice.

Unexpected Sacrifices - When sacrifice has a new meaning

For those of us who love to talk and communicate, we find out how much speaking in our heart language plays a role in our daily life. We find out how long it takes to learn a language well enough to laugh, joke, teach, tell stories, or have fun in this new language. We realize that communicating like a two year old leaves a lot to be desired in our ability to get to know another adult. We hurt for lack of words and missed opportunities.

The loss of communication skills is an unexpected sacrifice that tears me up every single day. I want to talk and communicate but I can’t. In fact, we are here to communicate and the mighty wall of language learning is quite high. My talkative personality is muted and stilted… sacrifice.

Sacrifice comes when Sunday after Sunday we attend church. Yet, it doesn’t really feel like church at all. The sermon is in multiple languages, the worship is to the beat of one drum, and the temperature is above hot… sacrifice.

I could write much more out for you, so many more unexpected ways we are called to sacrifice in this overseas life. I know you have a sweet pile of them in your heart that Jesus is speaking to right now; some you’ve given over, and some you are holding tightly to for many reasons.

Read: The Resolve of Staying

All of those things add up to the sacrifice of our pride, our accomplishments, our desires, our plans, our hopes, our schedules, our abilities—all of it, laid down on the altar of God as a precious, valuable gift.

I’m learning to lay down my words, my personality, my needs, my wants, my wishes, my abilities and let them go. Freeing them to be used by God in His way, in His time and in His plan.

Freeing my heart to learn and grow and feel God in brand new ways.

Freeing my soul to soar as God intended, without the strain of my own agenda pulling me back.

I can let go, sacrifice and see God work deep inside my heart, both in the expected ways of overseas life and the very difficult, world-tilting unexpected ways this new life asks us to sacrifice.

What are some ways that you have been unexpectedly asked to sacrifice?

What is something that you are struggling to release to Him as a sacrifice?

*originally published at Velvet Ashes


  1. We are currently in a season of sacrifice as a family. It’s been a long, hard last 18 months as a family. We have experienced strange and reoccurring unexplained illnesses, broken bones, multiple thefts, our dogs poisoned, ongoing lies, ongoing deception and corruption. This is just a small, partial list of what we’ve “sacrificed”. We are currently dealing with deceit, lies, corruption and theft from someone we’ve done ministry with for close to 4 years, whom we considered a close family friend. In addition, we are currently in another foreign country because my husband requires emergency back surgery. The country we minister in doesn’t have the capacity to perform the surgery he requires and we can’t go back to our home country for surgery because we have international insurance that doesn’t cover anything in our passport country. So we sit in yet another foreign country with our family. I’ve been listing to the pineapple series (check it out if you’ve never heard, SO SO good! A former missionary tells about his time with head hunters in Papua New Guinea). I have been challenged and encouraged in so many ways to let go of my “rights” listening to those podcasts. Right to things, time, reputation, etc. We’ve had to sit through meetings where we say nothing and just take the verbal belittling and accusations from those we came to serve, all the while praying “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. I experienced deep, deep pain prior to the mission field, but nothing compares to the sacrifices we have had to make on the field. Loving and serving people you know are lying to you and stealing from you, surrendering your time daily because there is always someone in need/at the gate, etc. I can totally relate to the whole communication sacrifice. Not being able to dig deeper with locals because of the language and cultural barriers…it’s beyond hard and frustrating. But also, not really being able to communicate with those back home either because they can’t grasp what you’re even talking about (not their fault). In this season, God has lovingly and graciously reminded me of the blessing it is to serve Him in adversity and difficulties. That to “count it all joy” is a gift despite the pain. Dying to self is never easy, especially in a foreign culture. Our season isn’t over, we know this, but we cry out to the Lord, trusting Him for His guidance and peace amidst the current sacrifice and storm. God bless and thanks for sharing.

    1. Wow, Becky, thank you for sharing your story with us. I will check out those podcasts! I love hearing the stories that encourage us to keep walking in obedience and trusting his guidance. Praying for health, wisdom and protection for your family!

    2. Have you ever read the book Have We No Rights? by Mabel Williamson? There’s much in there to think about when serving on a foreign field. Definitely worth a read… and reread.

  2. Something that I realized a few years ago was that my view of ministry had been boxed in by my experiences of ministry within the confines of the AG-USA. I often felt unfulfilled and discontent with the limited perspective I was trying to work with. How freeing it was to learn that ministry can take on so many different forms and that I was created to serve others in a VERY different way from how I had been taught. Was it hard to adjust? Yes. Did it cost me relationships? Absolutely! Have I had to make difficult sacrifices? For sure. But do I find greater purpose and fulfillment? Undoubtedly!

    I am so glad to read that your experiences have been similar. It is hard. That cannot and should not be dismissed. But when you are serving in the capacity intended for you by the creator… I don’t know that there is any greater type of fulfillment!

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