One of the most difficult aspects of any mission trip is returning home. After an intense experience with a team of people, we return home to people who have not had this experience and do not understand how wonderful our team was, and who sometimes don’t seem to be too anxious to listen to us.
So what can we do? How do we readjust to normal living?
The following suggestions are intended to help you re-adjust. The process of debriefing is Important if our teams are going to leave good memories in our minds, so please read carefully:
- Don’t expect your family and friends to be as excited about your trip as you are. Remember that they have been having a series of experiences that are totally different from yours. If we keep our expectation level low, we are less likely to be disappointed.
- Meet with your team shortly within a month after your return if possible, to have another debriefing, to see how other members have been settling in, look at photos, what God has done In your life since the missions, etc.
- Make a few practical applications for yourself after your trip. The excitement of a mission’s trip can sometimes lead people to make unreasonable demands on themselves when they return home, If your excitement leads you to say, “I’m going to pray for every person I met overseas every day and I am going to memorize every verse in the Bible on missions,” you are probably headed for failure, Make some realistic applications on how you intend to build your interest In and knowledge of missions.
- Try to stay in touch with one or two of the people that you met and got to know on your trip. Receiving a letter from the place where you served often helps you to remember the good experiences you had.
- Be cautious about negative reporting about your trip. Sometimes there are problems on our team and these stick in our minds when we first return home. If we report about these problems right away, the people who did not go on the team may think that the whole trip was bad.
- You should realize that your family probably missed you more than you missed them. When you get home after a trip and they say. “Did you miss us’?” it is hard to be honest with them If you did not. Be gentle; don’t alienate your family by belittling their love for you.
- Go over your journal. This will help you readjust in two ways. First, it will help you remember all of the growth you experienced. Second, it will bring specific instances to mind that you can tell your friends when they ask you about the trip. (Most people stop asking questions if all you give them are generalized answers; try to give specific examples and stories.)
- Contact your prayer partners; ask them to keep praying for you as you re-adjust to daily living. Thank them for their prayers, tell them about the trip.
Debriefing triggers the re-entry process, but it can also be seen as an end and a beginning…
- An end to a foreign experience, but the beginning to feeling foreign.
- An end of a trip, but the beginning of another journey.
- An end to being/feeling special, but the beginning of being ordinary with a special heart for God and for people.
- An end to being stared at, but the beginning of looking at people and the world through different eyes.
- An end to simple living, but the beginning of a different lifestyle.
- An end to crowded housing, but the beginning of having space for God and for people.
- An end to eating foreign food, but the beginning of friendships with foreign people.
Lisa Espineli Chinn
Interaction, Inc.. Used by permission
Returning Home is Like Being in Two Worlds
Dr. Miriam Adeney, a Christian anthropologist, tells her students that they “will never be able to go home again, they will probably always leave part of themselves behind and thereafter will be split … and home may be in more than one place. But that is the price they pay for the richness of having experienced more than one culture.”
Some Practical Suggestions:
- Find some other returnees with whom you can share and have fellowship.
- Give yourself time to re-adjust; be patient with yourself and with others.
- Recognize and accept which transition stage you are going through and remember that reverse culture shock” or “re-entry shock” is a normal part of the process of returning home.
- Have a good sense of humor.
- Let your re-entry work for you; use it as a growing process to continue to learn about yourself as a bicultural or multi-cultural person.
- Appreciate the opportunity you had to go abroad and the commitment to return home.
- Find someone who can give you a current briefing about your community, church, culture, country, job situation and people you know.
- Review the most significant changes you have undergone while in the U.S. and the implications of those changes.
- Review your great expectations in returning home … how relevant and realistic are they?
- Keep a clear perspective and remember that God is there with you!
Guidelines for an After-Trip Letter
Alter you return from your ministry overseas, your supporters will want to hear from you. Please be faithful to communicate with them soon after you return. Below are some guidelines regarding what to include in this “Report Letter”.
- Send it as soon after your trip as possible.
- Doing the “Looking Ahead” sheet will help you put some of your thoughts down on paper before you start writing.
- Thank them again for supporting your ministry with prayer and finances.
- Share at least 2-3 specific answers to prayer, especially if you gave them specific requests to pray about. Sharing specifically will not only remind you of how you saw God provide will encourage those who prayed for you.
- Share one or more things that God taught you on this trip. (Examples might be: flexibility, Gods sovereignty, the unity of the world-wide body of Christ, the sufficiency of Christ in difficult times, the power o! prayer, etc.) Again be specific and personal.
- Share about one or two people who were impacted by the ministry, maybe someone who came to Christ or changed their attitude toward God. Share about someone you’re praying for and ask them to join you in prayer.
- Include pictures in your letter, if possible.
- Whatever you choose to share, BE PERSONAL, BE SPECIFIC, and BE POSITIVE!