Why is it hard?
Well, no, it’s not as simple as that. First of all, the country where you were born and brought up, and which you’ve thought of home for the last several decades, may not actually be home any more. If you’ve spent decades in another country, and learned to love its culture and lifestyle, you may find your ‘home’ country oddly unfamiliar. Quite apart from the fact that it’s changed while you’ve been away, the culture, the language, the food, the technology, may all leave you feeling a little bewildered.
And you’ve changed too. You can’t live abroad for long without absorbing different attitudes and values, so there might be some things about your sending country that you used to like, but which now really annoy you. You find it so materialistic and secular. So rich and profligate. So self-obsessed and unaware of the issues facing much poorer countries. And you might end up feeling a little bit disillusioned about being back. And missing the country you’ve left.
Research shows that many people struggle emotionally during the transition back to their sending country. They find it hard to get to grips with the new culture, feel misunderstood, miss their community back ‘home’. In fact, it’s just like it was when you first went out, only it’s actually worse, because you didn’t expect it to be. You haven’t trained for it, and you don’t have the support of experienced people around you who know what you’re going through.
Being ready for it is half the battle. So these pages have been prepared specifically to help returning mission workers anticipate and prepare for the problems. These are no substitute for the support of a caring and experienced church community and an organised support team, but they will help anyone prepare for the challenges of what the missions community call ‘re-entry’.
Books you can read which will also help you prepare for re-entry include Peter Jordan’s Re-entry, Marion Knell’s Burn Up or Splash Down and Neal Pirolo’s The Re-Entry Team, which is aimed at telling churches how they can effectively support their returning mission partners through the transition. All are available from online book stores.