Have you recently returned home from a mission assignment and now feel a sense of loss and disorientation?
You are experiencing a certain level of re-entry adjustment. What used to be your home culture doesn’t feel like it anymore. It’s a kind of culture shock all over again.
But the issue goes deeper:
You are trying to make sense of your past experience, your identity, and your purpose for the future.
There are moments of doubt, remorse, identity crisis…you name it.
Let’s Begin Considering a Viable Solution
At the Institute of World Mission (IWM), we understand how you feel.
IWM staff members have gone through the entire missionary life cycle. Many of us have done it several times.
Our experience and the experience of many missionaries who have returned tells us that there is a special way to handle the crisis you’re in.
It sounds simple: Staying in touch.
It amounts to you keeping a live connection to:
- Adventist missions
- The mission field you served
- The cross-cultural missions community
What follows are 4 reasons why you would want to invest intentional effort in doing just that — staying in touch.
Reason 1: A Connection with missions will affirm your identity
There is an old adage: once a missionary, always a missionary.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. Yet it speaks to the essence of the crisis that we experience as returning missionaries.
It can feel like we are losing an important part of our identity.
We used to be missionaries. And it meant the world to us. But now, upon return, who are we? If not missionaries, then who?
Think about it:
It’s possible to retain that treasured and distinguished sense of life and meaning. You’re a missionary. You’ve been called by the Lord to become one. You have every right to continue to be one.
A real, continual and practical connection to cross-cultural missions will deeply affirm your missionary identity.
Reason 2: It will make bearable the pain of transition
Re-entry is often painful because there is a sudden mismatch between our expectations and our reality.
When you entered your mission field for the first time, you knew the culture of your local hosts would be drastically different. You were prepared to adjust, to make considerable changes.
Now that you’ve come home, your expectations are very different. The world at home should be just as you left it. Adjusting to your home culture is the last thing on your mind.
But you are quickly faced with a painful reality. It’s almost unavoidable.
On the flipside:
What if you continued to embrace a missionary mindset?
You know that your home and all the people and things in it don’t belong to you. They’ve changed, and so have you.
A missionary mindset ready to adjust to different cultural realities for the sake of the people and for the sake of making a positive impact on their journey towards Christ — this will relieve a lot of pain.
Reason 3: Your kids — now TCKs — will have a foundation to build on
You’ve probably heard that your kids are now Third Culture Kids (TCKs). In short, this means they probably don’t have that dear-to-your-heart idea of “home.”
Their home is what they have with their parents, their family. Anything outside of this is just another culture to adapt to, including your old “home” — the country and town you are returning to.
The greatest need the TCKs in your family have is to firmly root their identity in Christ and his mission. It’s the best way for them to hold on to a sense of purpose.
How you build that continual connection to missions will impact the future of the TCKs who are near and dear to you.
Reason 4: A live connection to missions will create opportunities in the future
Whatever are the circumstances of your return, even if you consider them negative and traumatic, God might be planning future missionary assignments he wants to accomplish together with you.
An ongoing live connection to Adventist missions will make that work on God’s part so much easier, don’t you think?
You will continue to see the needs out there. You will also know exactly where your gifts and talents could be best applied.
When the moment comes, you will be off the “bench” and back on the field.
A question that rings on your mind
You might be asking at this point:
But how do I create an ongoing connection to Adventist missions?
Fair question. One that deserves a solid answer. This will be the topic of another post on the IWM blog. We’ll link to it here as soon as it goes live.
Question for you:
What reasons do you have for wanting to stay in touch with missions? OR why don’t you?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.