Did you know only 36% of Americans hold a current passport. Compare that to 60% of Canadians and 75% of Brits and Aussies. This means one thing:
Most Americans aren’t regular international travelers. No judgement, just math.
It also means when you return home from serving overseas, people, especially American people, usually don’t have a reliable framework for asking about your overseas service, which is why they ask questions like this:
How was your trip?
Where were you again?
Do they have lions there?
Is there electricity?
In case you haven’t experienced it yet, get ready. How was your trip is the question most likely to make you tear your hair out, and ascribe terrible motives and character defects to otherwise nice people who don’t know as much about the world as you do.
do you sense the opportunity?
But what if you haven’t really left the mission field after all? What if you’ve just joined a new one, and your job is to help people understand some things?
Could the folks back home use some awareness of global economic injustice and healthcare disparity? Who better than you, someone who’s been on the front line, to educate them?
“Oh that’s cute Erin,” I hear you saying. “Newsflash: Nobody cares, especially if The Bachelorette is on.”
I hear you, but I submit that you have more power than you think.
Be Kind. Be Quick. Be Compelling.
There’s a technique we teach at Intermissionary called Elevator Speeches in the Kingdom of God. It’s part ventilation and part preparation. Here’s how to do it. It’s also fun to do with a friend from the field.
Fold a piece of paper in half.
At the top write a question like: How was your trip?
On the left side of the page write all the ways you would LOVE to answer that question and don’t censor yourself. Be verbose. Be snarky. Be disdainful. Be proud. Be long-winded and convoluted or go full Simon Cowell and answer it exactly as you like.
ie: Seriously dude? I was gone for five years. That’s not a trip.
Then read it over and imagine how fun it would be if you actually said those things.
Then, don’t say those things.
Instead, on the other side of the paper, take all that truth and write out bright, educational, measured, compelling little soundbites that you can say in two minutes or less. Think of every good storyteller you’ve ever heard and copy them.
Well, there are no lions roaming around Dakar, because the city was established in the 15th century and now about 2.5 million people live in the metropolitan area, but I saw some lions in a game preserve in Kenya once, which is on the other side of the African continent 5,000 miles away.
Then just smile as they process that mind-blowing data.
When they ask another question, queue up another soundbite and blow their minds with that.
There’s this monument on a beach in Benin. It’s called the door of no return. It’s estimated one million people over two centuries were captured and shipped from that beach to Europe and the Americas. It was one of the busiest slave ports in all of Africa.
When they say, “whoa, that’s heavy,” you can say “yah.”
By the way, this is the monument. I took the picture.
The point is never to make people feel bad or stupid, but nor should you tuck it in and pretend your experience is irrelevant. How many of you sat in church as a kid and listened with rapture at some missionary talking about their work.
Some of you are on the field because of that. Your words matter. So craft them.
Does this help?
This is the kind of practical stuff we teach at Intermissionary. Our goal is to help you global workers return home well. We do this by putting you together at events where you don’t have to work so hard to explain yourself because everybody there already gets it. That’s the Intermissionary Gathering.
We’re also developing tools and trainings to help you prepare mentally, emotionally, financially, spiritually and socially before you even return back “home.”
Click here to purchase your tickets for the Gathering in Nashville, TN Oct 11-14. Don’t wait, prices go up September 1.