15
Feb
13

Downsides of intercultural families

It’s a cold and quiet Friday morning in Copenhagen. I had tears in my eyes as I was walking through the streets trying to keep the insisting winter-cold out. I feel sad. Sad because of consequences of a choice that I made many years ago that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. How is that for an oxymoron?

This Sunday I have to tell my parents that our family are leaving Denmark again in July to move back to the States. It’s the right thing to do. It’s what we want to do. We sense that’s what God’s inviting us to do. I’m called to pour my life out in full-time ministry in the Body of Christ, and right now God has somewhere in America as the place where he wants me to do that. I’m excited about the prospect of getting back into devoting all my time to counsel, teach, train, lead, and through all of it point to life, liberty and hope in Jesus Christ. I’ve missed doing that dearly these last 8 months where I’ve been studying Communication and English at Roskilde University. It’s not my thing to study and look at theories and do academic projects. I’m a practical guy. Does it make a real difference in everyday life? If it doesn’t, I’m not very interested.

So I’m excited to move back to the States and continue in ministry in whatever capacity that’s gonna be. I’m excited for my dear wife and son to have other stay-at-home moms and kids to hang out with, unlike here in Copenhagen where those are extremely hard to come by.

Lots more to look forward to, but what makes my heart heavy today is the loss of leaving Denmark. The emotional loss for our family of not being able to spend a lot of quality time with our Danish family. It was tough for my family when I left Denmark to pursue God and his will for my life outside of Denmark’s borders 10 years ago. It got tougher when I had a lovely wife with me on my journeys that they would love to spend more time with as well. And since we got Marcus, the reality of missing us and us missing them has increased. And will increase with every child God will be kind enough to give us as a family. It sucks. It’s not fair. It’s not right that my parents, Marcus’ farmor and farfar, and the rest of my family, in particular my younger sister, Merete, who has been Marcus’ regular and excited babysitter during our stay here in Denmark, won’t get to see us very often. It’s not how it should be. It hurts us. It hurts them. And Marcus will be missing out on many fun and important experiences because he won’t get to be around his Danish family very much these coming years.

August 20, 2005 I said “I DO” with all my heart when Pastor Shawn Wallace asked me if I wanted to take Jeannette Lynn Thomas to be my lawfully wedded wife. Of course I wanted to do that! What a great choice I made. But I and we also made some choices on behalf of our respective families. Georgia and Ohio in the United States of America, and Herning, Stubbekøbing, and Copenhagen in Denmark are never gonna be very close to each other geographically. “The world has gotten so small”, the airlines tell us, but it still takes 8-10 hours to fly across the big ocean, and it still costs a fortune. That’s the raw reality. One set or both sets of families will miss out on as much contact with our family as they would prefer. And we will miss out of being with them. It will be different on the new earth someday. And I so look forward to that. But as far as 2013 goes, the reality is that we’re leaving Denmark this summer, and it hurts. I don’t know how to tell this piece of news to my parents. There are no clever words to say. It just sucks. They love us, and they love and adore our sweet little boy. And they won’t get to see him grow up. They won’t be nearby for his first day of school. They won’t go to grandparent day at his school. They won’t…..And tears come into my eyes again.

I love being married to my American wife. I love the craziness of being part of an international and intercultural family. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s a ton of fun, and a huge challenge. And I love it all. And yet, there are real downsides to the choice we made in 2005. We made the choice for our respective families as well. We had to. They have had to live with that. And now, my Danish family will have to work through these realities that I will present to them this weekend. It is not easy. But all I and we can do is share the reality of what’s going to happen. Share that it’s tough for us too. And then entrust my family to Jesus, and ask him to help them in the grief and surrender process that they have to go through to be able to let go of their hopes and desires and submit to what Jesus is calling our family to do. Not an easy thing to do. Real surrender is never easy. But it does make a difference. It does make letting go possible. If you love somebody, set them free, Sting sings. And he is right. It’s the only way to live.

This day is a day of contemplation and reflection for me (plus I have to write a newsletter that’s wayyyyy overdue). And this morning these were my reflections.

Blessings, Torben

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2 Responses to “Downsides of intercultural families”


  1. February 15, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Torben, I will be praying for you and Jeannette. I understand the difficulty of your decision, having made a similar (even though smaller) decision about 12 years ago. Even though there isn’t an ocean separating me from the rest of my family and my birthplace, there is a distance none the less. I totally agree with you that there isn’t satisfaction in life until we are fully in His will, wherever that may be. I will pray for God’s grace to flood your family as they hear the news, and His wisdom and love to empower your words as you tell them. I also will be praying for God to lead you to the ministry He has purposed for you to fulfill. Love to you and all your family….Donna

  2. February 22, 2013 at 2:28 am

    We love you. You give me hope many days and you don’t even know it -because of some little thing you said, because of who you (two) are. I have a crazy thought running through my head right now – I’ll email you, but I have lots of crazy thoughts. So many, in fact, that I’ve decided that I might just be crazy for thinking at all. 🙂 But I’ll email anyway. Big hugs. Know this: serving with fewer miles or countries or oceans between doesn’t always afford easy access to family, either.


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