Rhythms of Grace: An Update from the Field

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A year ago, our family arrived to training with the International Mission Board. After selling or giving away many of our things and packing up our tattered suitcases, we were giddy with excitement for the upcoming season. We were also fully aware that much difficulty was ahead of us.

During that time, we received the news that our visas were going to take longer than expected. This visa wait turned into visa problems. The December field arrival date we greatly anticipated passed by, along with January, February and well into March. Mid-March, we finally received the blessed phone call that our visas were approved. On March 18th, we landed on Belgian soil and began our long-awaited new normal. We landed, tired from the trip and already feeling somewhat defeated from our delayed departure.

“The only way we’ve made it through these challenges is by praying and trusting in God, His Word, and His goodness.”

Within these first 6 months, we have experienced—just as we anticipated—many personal, spiritual and physical trials. We’ve dropped off our kids at school and picked them up with a bloody nose or bruised stomach from school bullies. We’ve had awkward language mistakes. We’ve felt the sting of local believers telling us that we don’t belong here, that only Belgians can really reach Belgians. We’ve had moments of sickness, feeling helpless and confused trying to navigate a new healthcare system. We’ve had loved ones an ocean away hurting and needing our help. We’ve faced the daily exhaustion of learning another language and barely seeing results. We’ve experienced an unexpected hospital stay and semi-emergency operation.

These are some of the greatest and most difficult stresses we’ve faced, though we and other workers around the world could fill books of the more simple everyday difficulties. Someone recently asked “How have you made it through these first months?”

To be sure, the simple and honest answer is by the grace of God. The only way we’ve made it through these challenges is by praying and trusting in God, His Word, and His goodness.

Practically, though, what does it look like to make it on the field, sustained by the grace of God? Over the years, our family has practiced disciplines that we continue to do today. We have found that these rhythms are not only healthy for us individually and as a family, but also help us endure well in the face of trials. Here are a few:

Practice a Sabbath

Sabbath is a time for intentional rest. We’ve found that Sundays do not produce a Sabbath rest for us. We serve and attend 2 churches and found ourselves prepping for the next week with lists, lunchbox meals and language study. We were not able to truly rest in a way that glorified God. So now, we take a Sabbath from Friday dinner to Saturday dinner.

There are so many great resources on Sabbath, but we’d encourage you not to get bogged down in all the specifics. Look at Scripture, your life and the culture you’re in. Find out what works for you and what most glorifies God.


We practice a weekly meal fast together. Mondays at lunch we set aside time and pray for our children and our family. Right now, we have been praying through 5 Things to Pray for Your Kids. It’s easy, yet purposeful and meaningful. It’s been a blessing to our marriage as well.

We also practice a monthly full day fast. The first Friday of each month we fast from meals and spend time praying together, individually, and prayer walking where we live.

Nightly Prayer

Before we watch something at night after the kids are asleep, we make it a point to pray out loud together. During this stage of life, we found we needed to be reminded to pray. So, we put those smartphones to good use and added prayer reminders to our calendar. At 8:30 pm, both of our phones “ding” and we are reminded of our need to pray.

Family Meals & Rhythms

We make it a point to eat a meal together each evening. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re in the kitchen prepping a Food Network meal every night. Sometimes it’s deli meat, cheese, crackers and fruit, but we’re together as a family, enjoying fellowship.

Breakfast Bible Reading has become a natural rhythm for our family. We don’t do anything flashy. We simply read a few verses or a longer story passage from the Bible. Questions are asked, distractions abound, and there’s usually some form of discipline. It’s a fight for sure, but the fight is worth it.

For our kids, the past two years have brought so much change and transition. A friend recommended establishing something that the kids could count on every week. We’ve grown to love watching movies together as a family. We love to sit and cuddle together and stuff popcorn in our mouths. Over time, “Movie Night” was born. Because schools in Belgium have half-days on Wednesdays, it became a good day to have something like this that allows the kids to relax their brain and know that mama and daddy would be sitting beside them.

Grab some frozen pizzas, pick out a movie and sit. Sitting will prove the hardest part I bet. Oh, and phones are away. Just sit and be with the family.

Worth It

These are just a few of the ways we’ve learned to create margin and space in the midst of trying circumstances. We are fully aware that the trials won’t stop anytime soon; anything that is worth something is hard. And the gospel is worth it all, so of course it’s going to be hard. It will be hard if you live in a dominant Atheistic country or a city with so many churches you can’t keep track. Nevertheless, push on friends. Place solid practices in your life and trust Him to use you where you are.

*Photo courtesy of IMB

Laura Ashley and her husband, Lee, live in Gent, Belgium with their 2 children, Holland Grace & James. “Lord, we’ll go wherever you tell us to go, and we’ll do whatever you ask us to do” has been their daily prayer for the past 10 years. Living it out has taken them on exciting adventures, scary circumstances and joyful moments. Yet it is their love and trust in the Lord that has deepened and been most satisfying in each obedient step forward and sometimes back. You’ll most likely find LA biking along cobblestone streets, studying Dutch and staying warm with a cup of tea. Get to know her more on Instagram: @lauraharper

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