If I could give advice to myself just before we came on our first term of service to Rwanda, here is what I would say!
1. PACK LESS, this is a touchy subject sure to divide expat workers in developing nations. I don’t have a hatred for things that make life more simple (where that is possible, because often more things complicates life!), and allow us to focus more on our work. Nor do I simply enjoy punishing myself for no apparent reason. Nevertheless, I still would encourage younger me, bring less stuff. One, you can figure out how to live on whats locally available and two, hauling a load of stuff is going to stress you out, and do nothing to help you connect with people.
2. PRAY MORE, you can’t do this on your own, don’t try. Assume from the onset, that all your systems of spiritual, and emotional support that you enjoyed in your home country are going to be turn upside down. You are going to need new habits, new routines, and a new commitment to pray and find yourself refreshed and renewed in the Lord. You have an amazing opportunity to lean on the Lord like never before.
3. PRACTICE YOUR LANGUAGE, don’t hold back! Get your flash cards, and bang those first thousand words as soon as you can into your head. Miss no opportunity to chat with native speakers of the language, every day, as much as possible. The quicker you learn, the better life will get on every level in a new country. Make sure you break down your learning to manageable goals, you have each week, that build up to bigger ends. You can learn to share your faith, and explain the gospel in your new language within 6 months.
4. PURSUE YOUR FAMILY, outside of pursing Christ, which is the only source of hope, and power to do the rest, if you come with your family, pursue your family! I thank God so much how this first term has forced me to learn all kinds of new ways to love and pursue my family. There is a new sense of loyalty that you need to appreciate as a missionary family, churches will change, fields change, extended family are there to support, but can’t be there for every moment of life, and friends come and go. But your immediate family is given by God, and will outlast just about every other relationship. Make it as rich as possible.