Growing Up in a Foreign Land


I (Derran) started writing this story a few weeks ago but didn’t get to finish it. I finally returned to it today and thought I would post it for you to read. It might be a bit random, but it’s a picture of life here.

It was one of those moments that catch you by surprise. I was standing outside the play area at the new mall in Chiang Rai, watching Brynn go down slides and jump into the ball pit. I began to look around and noticed a huge crowd of people (the movie theater is nearby and Transformers 3 was premiering). And it hit me that, of the 500 or so people in that common space, my daughter was the only person without black hair that I could see. I got a little chuckle out the fact that my blonde, curly-haired, blue-eyed daughter stood out in that place like a Democrat on the set of Fox News (or a Republican at MSNBC—whichever metaphor you prefer). I smiled because I am thankful that she will grow up in a place where not everyone looks like her—a gift of immeasurable value.

However, my moralistic visions quickly faded as I watched the reality that she faces living in this place. My oldest is a social butterfly who loves to meet and talk with new people and play with good friends. But, sadly, that beautiful trait has run into a barrier of language for two years now. She has done a great job adjusting, but I know it is hard for her at times. Well, this day, I truly noticed the sacrifice she has made by our family moving here.

After my momentary chuckle at her distinctness in that place, I saw her watching this 6 or 7 year-old girl stacking blocks in the corner. This little girl was on a mission to construct a masterpiece and was enjoying every minute of it. I watched as Brynn sensed the fun that obviously resulted from designing this work of architecture. She inched closer in an effort to contribute her skills and energy to this all-important task. And when she reached down and picked up her first block, constrained by the silence that results from being a 5 year-old sojourner, the girl snatched it away in an attempt to halt this unwanted intrusion. And despite this unwelcoming reception, my daughter’s only response was a smile, accompanied by a second brick offering to her new “friend.”

And this was the moment that caught me by surprise. All the loneliness, pain, confusion, longing that has been brewing inside me, as one in a strange land, I could now see in the eyes of my daughter. Though she smiled, in an altruistic attempt to ease the discomfort of this girl who is so different, and yet so similar, I could sense the hurt that came with the loss of another friend at the hands of Different. And as she mustered the strength to keep smiling and handing over bricks, tears were my only offering.

And in that moment, when I would have surrendered to the powers of rejection, silence, and difference, my daughter stood her ground and smiled through the pain. While I tried to regain my composure, Brynn offered another brick, despite the ungrateful manner in which the little girl snatched it out of her hand. And then another. And another. Until the unlikely happened. This little girl, who, a moment before, had declared that Different would win the day, offered a brick to Brynn. And with a clarity that can only be communicated outside of spoken language, she invited Brynn to join her in completing the elaborate masterpiece she had begun. The smile that was once an attempt to disarm was now a smile of pure bliss.

And through cloudy vision and muffled sniffles, I declared under my breath, “The kingdom of God has drawn near.”

For, though it might sound like an odd statement to make in this seemingly trivial moment of parenting, I saw that “he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… his purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace.” I said it because I witnessed it in the life of my daughter, this daughter who so beautifully seeks to “destroy the barrier” and “make the two groups one, “ whether at school, at the grocery store, or at mall playgrounds. And she does this in the midst of constant confusion and rejection. She does it with a smile on her face. Now, I have no idea if I am any good at this mission work thing, but I am confident that the reign of God is breaking in here because of the love, perseverance, and hospitality of my daughters. And, for that, I am thankful.

Well, I would love to conclude by reporting that Brynn and that girl became the best of friends and meet at the playground every Saturday. I mean, that would preach. But, the reality is that, after about 10 minutes, the little girl saw a group of kids she knew and left Brynn standing alone in the ball pit. With that, the pain and confusion returned—in me, at least. And, my daughter will search for another to whom she can offer a brick. And so, while I declared with confidence that the kingdom of God is here “now” a short time before, I am also fully aware that the kingdom of God is also “not yet.”

Thus, whether in the face of oppressive empires or disorienting injustices or immeasurable suffering—or standing outside of mall playgrounds—we hear him say, “Yes, I am coming soon, “ and we pray, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”



  1. beautiful words, Derran.

  2. well, ann, i sat and cried through your writing….if we believe He is truly our peace, we must walk on in obedience to His calling. thank you for sharing this story and insight. thank you for all that your hands and feet are doing, i know God will make peace out of it!! we love you!!

  3. I have told you before and will tell you again, you have the gift of writing. Keep doing it and keep letting us be blessed through your words. Thanks.

  4. I love you, Ann. Praying every day for all of you and thanking God for your ministry. You are cherished … by me and by God.

  5. Well, you succeded in bring tears to my eyes too, and that says a lot since I’ve held it together the entire morning of Tyler’s first day of kindergarten! That Byrnn is special isn’t she? We can learn so much from our children’s acceptance of others and their honestly and perserverance. What a gift. I just loved seeing her animated face and hearing her sweet voice the other night on skype. Love you guys.

  6. my computer says leave a comment………..what comment can a mother and grandmother make. I cry tears with you and for you.
    And your words touch the need for acceptance where ever we find ourselves.
    love you…..

  7. Derran, you have one amazing girl! thank you~ we live our lives as Christians but are we LIVING as Christians and disciples? Whether we are here or in a foreign country, God has said that once we declare HIM Lord Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit, we are to go out and share the glory and wonder of what eternal life truly means. Our pastor spoke so clearly of this on Sunday, so profoundly that with lights out& horrific sounds, he wanted us to feel just for a minute what it would be like to live in darkness. It is our ‘job’, ‘duty’, & should be our ‘every second of the day feeling’, to spread the joy of what eternal life can be. Brynn is doing that. In her child-like ways, she is doing that far beyond what so many of us are doing. She is given that blessing by the Spirit. She is a disciple and we can all learn from her sweet smile. I am so proud to be her Aunt and so proud of your incredible sacrifice to share the story of Jesus to people in Thailand. I know that this will touch many peoples hearts and I encourage you to continue to write as many stories as you can! It truly inspires me and hopefully many others too! love you & kiss your precious girls & the belly:)

  8. Derran, my heart aches reading your post and I’m not even sure how to express how I feel about it. What I want to say more than anything is how amazed I am at the strength of character Brynn already has. What a strong and amazing 5 year old daughter you have. If she is able to persevere through rejection at this age, I cannot wait to see what the Lord does through her as she continues to grow. Give her a big hug for me and know we all love you 5 so much.

  9. derran, wow. like pretty much everyone else has said…i’m sitting here with tears down my face. honestly, it’s because from the moment you began to describe Brynn’s natural personality and character that fights against that language barrier, i thought of our daughter, Cailyn(4yrs). she, too, is often the one standing there waiting for the invitation (only with Peruvian kids in her midst), and…oh my goodness, your words just completely described the ache and the tears i have also experienced as i’ve sat and watched her inch her way into play time with a peruvian. but…i am humbled by the lesson you’ve taken from this, and it has definitely reminded me of the Hope we have in Christ Jesus for our diverse world. thanks for your thoughts!

  10. […] beautiful reflection on the already/not yet here kingdom of God. Share this:TwitterEmailFacebookDiggLike this:LikeBe […]

    • You can always tell an expert! Thanks for contributing.

      • Dear Landrus Family: Just a note with a sad heart. we would like express our desepet sympthy to all of you. in the loss of chuck. he was a wonderful person he will be missed dearly by family and friends. We will be making a donation in charlies name at St Jude. so please except our sorry and express our sympthy to you all. because of health reasons we won’t be able to come. so i hope you will be ok with this. i don’t get up and down steps to much any more. Friends Ron & Sharon Vining

    • Isn’t it amazing how happy the peploe in Africa are even though they have so much less in material ways? They understand what true joy is. Thanks for sharing their beautiful, smiling faces!

  11. I was that little girl in South America, and I was that mother with three children in Africa. You describe it so well! There is pain… but, oh, the blessings. Never forget the blessings! May the Lord continue to use each of you to spread the message of peace and joy in a lost world. Love you so much… and am keeping you in my prayers. Thanks for sharing your lives with us.

  12. umm, wow. i have no words after reading that. i admire all of you. especially sweet brynn. i love how the Lord speaks through our children. thanks for sharing this story and your emotions, derran. beautiful.
    leslie mayo

  13. D, thank you for writing this. For being willing to open your lives to those of us on the other side of the world. To give us a true glimpse of your life there. I praise God for the depth you are experiencing and pray there are more shiny days than dreary. And…is it strange that this post makes me want to get on a plane and go to Thailand?? love you guys SO MUCH!

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