Home > Spirituality > Learning to live locally

Learning to live locally

Image“Bigger is better.” “Faster is better.” “You deserve to be unlimited.”

While these make great and perhaps entertaining commercials, they mask the reality that most of us are very ordinary and all of us are limited.

We are “merely human and only local.” We forget, says Zack Eswine, that only “Jesus is human, but not merely. Jesus is local, but not only” (Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being). What exactly is Eswine saying? Two things. I must not forget that I am human; I do so to my own peril. And second, I must live locally. I resist both of these truths.  To understand what it means to live locally, let me quote more from Eswine.

In the Garden, Eswine writes that God gave us three things,

  • We were to love God.
  • We were to love each other
  • We were to recognize the goodness and sacredness of the place, the creatures, and the things that God had created and to watch over these good things.

And Eswine highlights three core truths that he states are necessary for us to enjoy God,

  • God has given you himself to surrender to and love. 
  • God has given you a handful of persons that you are meant to love. 
  • God will give you a place to inhabit, which means that you get to become attentive to what is there where you are. 

In both of these, the last line about living locally stands out to me.

ImageI have been a missionary for twenty-six years.  It has been a good life.  I continue to be a missionary but my location will soon be based in the United States, in Texas, in College Station, at Parkway Terrace, at 3514. Why do I find this so hard?  I miss my friends and the ministry I had in the Philippines over all these years.  But I think it is hard because it has been a long time since I lived locally.  Yes, even in the Philippines. I have been coming or going somewhere for most of my life.  And now, I find that I must learn to trust God to be present somewhere.

I expect that most missionaries will tell you that the first question people ask him/her when they arrive in their home country is, “When did you arrive?” The second question, “When are you leaving?” Well, I am not leaving anymore. I am struggling

  • With a loss of uniqueness, a loss of celebrity that comes with being a foreign missionary
  • To understand how someone could attend an aerobics class for ten years
  • To build a history with a tennis group that has been together for many years.
  • With the loneliness I feel after attending church and I know no one around me and no one speaks to me
  • To discover what it means to live in community with a home group
  • As I seek to learn how to be a neighbor in our community


I guess I am saying that I have been so globally focused that I do not know how to live locally.  I have lived so long with my identity as a missionary that I am afraid of what will happen when people get to know me as a person, apart from my role.

Eswine suggests that in order to make a global difference, we must be present in the local place to which God has called us.

“No matter how great or gifted we are, God invites us to himself for the sake of local people in a local place with the long learning of local knowledge in Jesus until he comes. This means that if you are wearing yourselves out trying to be and do more than this, Jesus is calling you to stop all of this tramping about and come finally home. The great work to be done is right in front of you with the persons and places that his providence has granted you.

Here is where he has called me. Here is where he is working. Here is my post, my place, my life, his glory.”

I need to live by faith as much now as when we lived overseas. Trusting God as I open myself up to others and become a friend to them and allow them to be a friend to me. Trusting God as we build traditions. Trusting God as I learn to care and nourish the roses in our garden and maybe even a tomato or two.  Trusting God in the mundane and ordinary. Living life with Him and others in a local place.  

Maybe I will even buy a pair of cowboy boots.





  1. May 15, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    Hi – I posted this on my friend’s FB timeline. Clark Cowden is the Executive Presbyter of our San Diego (California) Presbytery, PCUSA. We are attempting to remain faithful to our Lord and our high calling, despite denominational “stuff.” Clark has been leading us in missional awareness, in conjunction with several well-known leaders (Ken Blanchard, Alan Roxburg, and others). We have a lot to teach each other – “foreign” missionaries and “missional” missionaries. Keep in touch and God Bless.

    • May 16, 2013 at 10:01 am

      Well, I think we should all be missional, no matter where we are. I think in this post I was wrestling with some of those issues. Think locally and act globally is what people sometimes say but I am not sure that is correct. Think locally and act locally and globally may be better. Appreciate the visit!

      • May 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm

        I agree with you whole heartedly. If we are not acting in our local context, we are missing the boat. Excellent wrestling, by the way. in my experience, God honors and loves wrestling even when we are temporarily not certain of our actual choice. (learned this in a Presidential election some time ago.) You know how it is, as a teacher. One good question is much better than ten “good” answers. Answers shut down conversation; questions open them up!

      • May 16, 2013 at 9:02 pm

        And it is hard to listen when we are providing the answers!

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