Unplanned return

Orange lightThe other pages in this guide have all emphasised the need for careful and timely planning to make sure that your transition to life in your  sending country goes as well as possible.  Sadly we recognise that for some people this is completely impossible as their return is very sudden, necessitated by a family emergency, personal health, visa cancellation or deteriorating security in the host country.

For these people, the situation is immeasurably worse than for others, since not only do they have to cope with a more abrupt re-entry than is ideal, but also the trauma of their departure, which has more of a feeling of bereavement than of farewells.  There will be beloved friends they couldn’t say goodbye to, precious belongings left behind, and jobs left undone.  There may be fear for the lives of those left behind, compounded by guilt over the fact that we can escape and they can’t.  There may even be a sense of frustration and disempowerment about being pulled out of a situation by a church or agency when the mission worker would gladly have stayed on and risked the danger.

The issues that we have outlined for managing a more planned re-entry still apply, only the need for debrief and counselling becomes much more acute.  These people will need a far higher level of emotional, and possibly even psychiatric support, and should be given it at the earliest opportunity.  Professionals need to be brought in to take care of this at the highest level.  If there is a group of people who were evacuated together, they should be brought together to discuss their feelings as soon as possible.

We cannot exaggerate the risk of long-term psychological damage or even loss of faith that can be done by failing to provide adequate debriefing and counselling in the event of unplanned return.  Contact us at info@syzygy.org.uk if you need further information on this.  Our good friend Dr Debbie Hawker provides an excellent service in such situations and you can contact her through her website.  L Ron Kotesky has also produced a helpful free ebook on this subject which is available on his Missionary Care website.