Intentionality is the the only way to build deep, meaningful, missional relationships.
Recently we moved to another city in another country. Again.
If you follow me on Twitter you probably have noticed the move, along with the hashtag #first30daze. A couple years ago my wife, Susan, and I wrote a book called First 30 Daze: Practical Encouragement for Living Abroad Intentionally. Now we’re getting to live out the book. Again.
We have lived in this city before, so a great danger for us has been to assume we know everything, to pretend we’re locals. So much has changed over the last few years, even though most things initially appear the same. The key to arriving well has been intentionality—in where we live, play and work.
Intentionality in Where We Live
With our day jobs being in the consulting sector, we have to make special efforts to meet our new neighbors. Since we do not have a car (nor plan on having one), we pretty much have to walk or take public transit everywhere. When it comes to shopping, we can only buy what we can carry. That means we had to choose to live where we could easily access these things.
A temptation for us is to just order things online and have them delivered to our apartment. But we want to be out among the people. Each time we go out we try to intentionally engage in conversations with people. That means we have found different places around our apartment to buy:
It may seem self-explanatory, but without daily intentionality relationships won’t be established.
Intentionality in Where We Play
We enjoy recreation. We think having hobbies is important for our souls and physical well-being. Certain popular activities here like rock climbing, cycling and soccer aren’t natural fits for us. But there are other things that we love to do. The key has been finding where those things align within this culture.
For example, We love to run, work out, drink coffee, eat, appreciate art and explore history. So we have been working to join the appropriate spaces where our neighbors do these things. When we find such spaces and jump in, our souls are refreshed even while we are naturally connecting with our neighbors. This simply wouldn’t happen without intentionality.
Intentionality in Where We Work
My wife and I both work in the marketplace. Our work involves travel, so we are out of town some. We both have training events that we put together. We also do a lot of online meetings, and of course, email. Lots of email. This keeps our days full. But we also want to be involved in the work environments of our city.
We actually could do our jobs solely from our apartment. In some ways, that would be much easier. However, we try to work in communal office spaces as much as possible. That means we are literally on the lookout for good co-working spaces so we can be around others and participate in the business community. Most often that basically means frequenting many of the same coffee shops to do our work.
Most of our time overseas we have been full-time vocational missionaries. This hasn’t been a bad thing at all. But it has certainly carried limitations in terms of meeting and relating to our neighbors. We often found ourselves observing people without many pathways to natural connections. We had to rely on connections provided mainly by consumerism—the butcher, the taxi driver, the landlord. But consumerism alone couldn’t get us into the heartbeat of the culture. At the end of the day, our interactions were mostly transactional. And that meant our evangelism was mostly transactional.
Upon reflection, a consumeristic, transactional approach doesn’t seem like the most effective strategy for living on mission. For that matter, it doesn’t seem like the most effective strategy for being human. Today, as we intentionally contribute and participate in people’s lives where we live, play and work, it seems so normal and relatable. And we love it.
Maybe you would too.
This article originally appeared on TheUpstreamCollective.org.