One of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my adult life was to return to The States from the mission field. Reverse culture shock was in full force, and even after being Stateside for four years, it sometimes still is. If you’ve ever lived overseas, or even been on a short-term mission trip, you get what I’m saying. It’s just hard.
The grocery store is hard.
The overabundance of American waste is hard.
Your kids’ complaining is very hard.
Jet lag is real. And hard.
The amount of choices we have as American’s is hard.
In short, when you come back from a third-world country, life is hard. Most of the time your heart is suffering from being ripped apart from leaving the land that you just gave it all to. You did ministry and fell in love with the locals. You formed dear friendships that you wonder if you will ever be able to grow and develop. You left a big piece of yourself in a foreign land. I get it. You want to turn back around, get on a plane and return to the place you just left. But remember, that God has you back here for such a time as this and you are here now for a reason. Whether being Stateside is just a season, or if you are here indefinitely, you have a place.
From my experience, whether it was from a short-term mission trip or a long-term stent, here are some ways to move forward and clear the missional fog you might be in right now.
- When someone asks you how your “trip” was, and they immediately get glassy-eyed when you start to share your experiences, don’t get frustrated. There are people that truly want to hear! Look for opportunities to share with people! (Church small groups, Bible studies, Senior Adult groups, children’s ministries at local churches, and even the grocery store clerk!)
- Don’t think that your missionis over now that you are home. We are to live mission no matter where we are in the world! Look for local missional opportunities to share in the same way you shared overseas. Don’t limit God to a third-world only perspective. The greatest place to be is right where The Lord wants you!
- Don’t forget to continue to pray for those, dear friends you made overseas. They need a steady and strong group of prayer warriors to endure the day-to-day life they are living. Many times, it’s an “out of sight, out of mind” experience, but we have to commit to this place we fell in love with. Pray for these people daily, without fail.
- As hard as this is, don’t fall back into the rut of your life “Pre-Mission”. You are on fire now. Don’t let that fire burn out and return to your old ways. Stoke the fire within you so that you never forget what God revealed to you during your time on the field. Don’t waste what you learned, either about yourself, God, or the country/people you visited. Resist the change.
- Stay connected to your team. Whether your team consisted of five or thirty-five people, continue to do life together on this side. You shared some amazing moments and probably some incredibly funny moments too, so don’t stop that sweet friendship the second the trip ends. Stay connected and create new memories together here.
As you continue to work through and process your short-term trip, remember that everyone will come through the fog at different times. Some people don’t even skip a beat. Some, it might take weeks or months to fully process your time on the field. After 4 ½ years on the field, I can honestly say that it took me over two years of being back here for the fog to begin to lift. Every person is different. Enjoy the process. Even if it’s messy.
~ Allison Clyburn