rebelling against low expectations

This is What Working for God in the Middle East Looks Like


We call ourselves “workers.”

That’s a code word for people who have left their own culture to share Jesus in a foreign setting. I’m a worker in the Middle East. I’m not in danger by being here, but I do have to be careful about what I say online and how I present myself in person.

It’s Just Normal Life

Before I walk out my door, I put a black dress over my clothes. The long sleeves cover my wrists and the skirt goes down to the floor. Then I wrap a scarf around my hair and shoulders. Although it’s hot and humid outside, this is the outfit I wear in public every day.

As I walk down the stairs of my apartment building, I’m careful not to touch, or even look at, the men I pass. I smile at the women, though. Most of them smile back with their eyes, which is the only part of them that’s visible.

I drive down the street behind a pickup truck loaded with men who have been hired for a day of manual labor. Traffic stops occasionally to let herds of goats or camels cross the road. Usually there’s a nice view of the mountains bordering my little town, but today a breeze kicks up sand that obscures the horizon completely.

Most days, I just go through my usual routine and I don’t even think about the fact that I live in a foreign country. I buy groceries and cook food. I pay bills and save for big purchases. I make friends, tell stories, travel, call my family, and procrastinate the chores I’m not fond of.

My life isn’t always the glamorous, epic adventure my friends at home think it is. But it can be pretty hilarious.

Don’t Forget To Laugh

There are so many funny things that happen when intelligent, capable people suddenly find themselves bumbling around in a new culture. I’ve learned not to take myself too seriously and to just laugh.

I remember visiting a local friend’s home for the first time and meeting her elderly mother. The older woman gestured emphatically to her head when I greeted her, pulling my head down. I didn’t understand the language well enough to know what she was saying, so I very bewilderingly leaned down to tap my forehead against hers.

I learned afterward that it’s customary to greet elderly people with a kiss on the head. My friend’s mother got her head bopped instead because I was clueless!

Another time a fellow expat friend and I were practicing how to order food. She wanted to ask for apples and strawberries. Instead, she asked for babies and toilets because the words sound vaguely similar. Our language tutor couldn’t stop laughing for the rest of the class.

It’s Really Hard…

As workers, we talk about life “on the frontline.” In the spiritual battle for this region of the world, we are right in the thick of it. The weight of that responsibility is heavy. I often feel like I am under the fire of the enemy’s troops as I try to build a life here.

It’s a daily sacrifice to be on the opposite side of the world from my home culture.

I miss going to church, having the freedoms I enjoy in America, and being involved in the lives of my family and friends. The transition here was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

…But So Worth It!

Being a worker is such a privileged calling. I am what Jesus told his followers to pray for in Luke 10:2 — “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” (NLT). What an amazing way to spend my life!

If my story stirs something in your spirit, maybe God is inviting you into his harvest fields as well.

My advice is to find a repatriated worker in your community and ask them to mentor you. As you take steps towards moving overseas, keep your relationship with Jesus your main focus. And, don’t give up!

The reality is, this is a painful and sometimes discouraging calling. But, it is worth it in ways we won’t see this side of eternity. And there is a lot of joy along the way as well.

I look forward to being coworkers with some of you in the future.

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Photo courtesy of Ellie Montgomery.


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About the author

Ellie Montgomery

(name changed to protect identity) is 25 years old and loves anything involving the outdoors and adrenaline. She sees now that growing up as a pastor’s kid, with six younger siblings, in the desert heat of Arizona prepared her for life in the Middle East. Ellie dreams of seeing previously unreached communities of people trusting in Jesus.


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  • This is an amazing story that paints a realistic picture of what the mundane (and hilarious) aspects of life can be like in another country. What kind of work can people do over there to make a living? There are a lot of workers that are also missionaries and I am just wondering what kinds of jobs can be done. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks so much! A lot of expats here have started their own businesses in English teaching, tourism, market research, and import/export. TEFL and business degrees/experience can go a long way!

  • Lol! I can so relate to the culture probs. Last time I went to visit friends out-of-country I told them “my Dad is really pregnant because he can’t speak Spanish”.

    • Thanks, Anne! I’m so happy to hear that you were blessed by this. I’m praying for your own journey in missions–don’t give up doing good!!

  • Thanks for sharing your story @EllieMontegomery! May God bless you and keep you on your amazing journey!

  • Thanks Ellie for sharing your story! Its so inspiring and I will be praying that God will put his guardian angels around you to protect you and keep you safe. Keep up the good work and never stop believing that you are making a difference… Because you are!
    God Bless!

    • Thanks for the encouragement and prayers, Bekah. The prayer covering of the Body of Jesus is so powerful!

  • We all wonder about you on the “front lines”- it is so good to hear from you! We back here continue to pray for all of you.

  • Thanks Ellie! I love to hear about missionaries ‘normal’ lives. I’ll be praying for you and your family. I’m sure they miss you. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Haven! I appreciate your prayers for my family–we do miss each other a lot!

  • Ellie! Thank you for sharing this! And for sharing you everyday life! It is nice to know what you battle and enjoy every single day! Will be praying for you!

  • Thanks so much for sharing how God is working! :). What an encouragment to hear from a fellow worker in another part of the world. I’m in East Asia. May God continue to show Himself strong and faithful to you each day as you lean on Him!

  • That’s so cool! Your story is very inspiring. I read in your bio that “Ellie dreams of seeing previously unreached communities of people trusting in Jesus.” That’s something I’ve always wanted to do, too.

    • Beth, so sorry I didn’t notice your comment sooner! I’m glad you were encouraged by my story. God will guide you in some unexpected and amazing ways as you walk with him! Blessings!

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →