Preparing for Reentry

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Re-entry…. Going “home”…

I suppose we all dream about it from time to time—no matter how much we may love our work in the mission field. There’s just something special about the thought of “going home”.

Given that basic reality, it is quite surprising that so many people find “re- entry” (returning to ones homeland after an extended absence) to be so painful and problematic. All indications are that this is true for people from all countries.

Everyone Faces Adjustments

Many multi-national corporations have gathered statistics for the workers returning to Asian, South American, and European countries as well as to North America. The responses are similar—everyone faces serious adjustments when they are repatriated.

So, the question we face is not whether we as missionaries will face certain challenges when we return to our homelands, but how we will face them. In the following paragraphs I will outline a few simple steps to follow. 

We know that families, teens, children and singles will benefit from taking these suggestions seriously.

In fact, teens and pre-teens are the most vulnerable in this area—simply because no matter where they live, they will face major identity issues as they move from childhood to adulthood. Coping with re-entry only intensifies that challenge.

Build a RAFT

The following suggestions will guide you in building a RAFT to help you and your family cross these troubled waters:

R: Reconcile with those with whom there may have been misunderstandings, disagreements, etc. Don’t leave unfinished business to fester over the years.

A: Affirm those who have been special in your lives by consciously saying “thank you” to them in appropriate ways.

F: Farewells: Say proper “good bye’s to: People, Places, Pets, Possessions.

Remember you are leaving these “forever” (in most cases) and especially for teens and children, they are leaving all (or most) of their life behind and need to officially farewell these parts of their life.

T: Think and Plan ahead.

This includes talking openly and realistically, letting everyone in the family have input into the anticipated move.

Remember: Children do not have “veto power”, but their ideas and feelings need to be heard and validated. And they need to be prepared for the new life they’ll be facing—a new life that can be very scary to a kid.

Last suggestion

By all means plan to attend a re-entry seminar!

Re-entry seminars provide time and space to be refreshed, renewed, connect with other cross-cultural workers, and to process the experiences related with the re-entry transition.

By Pat Gustin

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