So you're headed "home" after serving overseas for a few years? Congratulations! I'll bet you're excited, aaanndddd....terrified, thrilled, grieving, overjoyed, nauseous, stunned, confused and a little hysterical about that.
That's because you rarely say hello and excuse me in your own language anymore. You go full-speed from dawn until dusk and someone always needs you for something. You walk everywhere, and out your back door is your favorite fruit vendor. The life you have now is relentless, meaningful, frustrating, glorious and heartbreaking, and...it's ending.
You're preparing a new life, in your old land, where perhaps people throw food out, drive everywhere, book coffee dates three weeks out and never look strangers in the face. It's perfectly normal to be nervous about how that will feel for you....now.
Here are a few tips for the transitioning global servant:
1. You can trust God with your future AND make plans.
Making plans for your reentry - even very specific ones - does not mean you are necessarily "running ahead of God." It means you are casting vision together for your next season, and it's a smart move. Reentry is hard enough without blank-canvas uncertainty in every single area.
Making smart plans and trusting God are not mutually exclusive propositions - though I hear this a lot from people who are paralyzed by making "wrong" choice. If you're afraid of your reentry challenges AND afraid of disappointing God, let's unstick that wheel, shall we?
Imagine you're a parent (or maybe you are one) and you've just arrived at the playground with your little girl. Immediately, that hilarious, precocious, brilliant, beloved girl-child runs for the monkey bars, climbs too high and falls.
What do you do?
Do you scold her for running out ahead of you? Do you spank her for trying something big and new? Do you tell her that failure is always a possibility and maybe she should avoid climbing all together? Play it safe maybe?
Or do you smile at her extraordinary gumption, gather her up, kiss the boo-boo and guide her to something on the playground that's a little better suited?
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him? - Jesus
Oh yes. Right.
As a professional run-out-ahead-of-God-girl, I understand the admonition, but I think we've swung too far the other way. Lots of people now won't move a muscle, until the the fleece is wet and then dry, then the bush is on fire and Charlton Heston has spoken from the mountain, but God rarely gives us the full layout ahead of time, he wants us to get out there and try. Walk on and trust him. There's no shortage of biblical precedent for that model. It's scary though.
2. Sooo...Your anxiety about it is normal.
Think about how nervous you were going into the mission field - all those unknowns!! Now you're going back to a nation/culture you haven't been part of in years, do you know what you'll find there?
People underestimate how hard reentry is, and can accidentally dismiss your anxiety over it. Don't listen to those people. Listen to me. It's hard, but having a few action steps in place before, during and after your transition, can ease that tension. Here are some ideas.
- Give your loved ones a copy of Looming Transitions. Or tell them to read this.
- Ask for letters of recommendation from your manager before you leave.
- Do some job research. Chances are you will need one of those, so talk to Dr. Google about what's cooking around your possible landing strip.
- Set a few coffee dates for the weeks after your arrival. As much as you feel like chilling out alone for a year, you don't. Trust me on this one. When everybody but you is super busy, your mind acts up.
- Plan silent retreats every month before you leave the field - just you and the Lord. Four hours is preferable. It's amazing what clarity can be found in a long slow convo with God.
3. Sign up for a debrief like Intermissionary.
Someone emailed me the other day and said, I'm not bitter and bent out of shape, should I still sign up for Intermissionary? This betrays a misconception about what reentry debriefing is for.
When you get "home" well-meaning people who love you will say:
- How was your trip?
- You must be so relieved to finally be home!
- You are so amazing to serve those poor poor people. How sad.
They will say these things because they don't know any better, and you can view it as a wonderful teaching opportunity or an indication that you will never fit in anywhere, ever again.
It's a critically important choice, with lots of ramifications. Who's standing by to help you?
A good debriefing will help you see that your global service is like a beautiful meadow filled with both treasures and landmines. They will help you dig up the buried treasure, so you can dust it off and use it for whatever kingdom-advancing plan God has next. They will also help you explode the hidden landmines, so you don't accidentally blow everybody's legs off when you get home.
In short, you're not alone, even if it feels that way. Reach out and get some support in your process. We're standing by to serve you.