We need to recognise that leaving your host country and returning to your ‘home’ country is as much about leaving home as it is about going home. You are leaving a place you have lived for a long time, and while it might have its frustrations, it may also a place you’ve loved. You’re laying down a ministry you’ve have for many years and which you care passionately about, and you’re saying goodbye to dear friends, many of whom you will never see again. So although there may be joy over being reunited with relatives and friends, there may also be grief and guilt over the ones you are leaving behind.
So it’s appropriate to take time and energy to do this departure well. Try, if at all possible, to lay down your work or church responsibilities in good time for you to be able to say your goodbyes without any hurry. Reflecting on the value of the relationships you have had is part of the parting process so it shouldn’t be hurried. You will have many practical arrangements to make as you leave, so give yourself plenty of time to say thorough goodbyes.
Make the effort to have a farewell meal individually with as many people as you can. It gives you an opportunity for you to appreciate them and vice versa. Each church or work group you have been involved with should also be given a chance to have a farewell service or meal with you. It might be a little embarrassing to have a queue of people saying nice things about you, but it gives them a valuable opportunity to express their appreciation, and in some cultures it’s very important to be able to honour people. It also allows you to reflect on a job well done.
Spend time visiting places where you have lived or holidayed, reviewing their significance to you. Say goodbye to places as well as people. If you are a family, do these things together and share how you feel. You had the experiences together, so review them together. As you pack up your belongings, think what each one means to you and remember where you bought it or who gave it to you. If you have to make the tough decision not to take things with you, reflect on who might be a suitable person to give something to. Look through photographs and relive experiences.
Much energy and effort can be spent on the arrival aspect of going home, but doing the departure well can make the transition a lot easier.