When missionaries are preparing to leave on a mission trip whether it’s long term or short term, there is a tremendous amount of support in comparison to the others areas of the term. There is excitement when a missionary is getting ready to take on their mission. A “See You Later Party” is planned. They are telling their friends and family and even strangers what they are about to do. Most people see the need to help in the beginning and will donate to the cause whether it’s financially or through prayer. There is much excitement and thrill in the air.
While the missionary is on the field, reports back to loved ones at home sharing stories of experiences, people they have met seem exciting. Depending on how long the missionary is on the field it is as though some of those people who were once excited about their friend or family member leaving start to fade away. They get into their own lives and their missionary on the field becomes a back memory and an occasional thought.
And then something happens when it is time for the missionary to return home. Where is everyone? There is no “Welcome Home Party”. Everyone seems the same. They are caught up in their own lives. They ask questions like, “How was your trip?” “Now what are you going to do?” They don’t get it!!!!
This is how it is.
I know. I have experienced it.
I experienced the “see you later party” where friends and family came over to my parent’s house to send me off. There was excitement in the air for the unknown and the adventure I was about to embark on.
I packed my bag and left for an 11 month journey.
I would talk to some friends mostly through email and Facebook while on the field, and was able to video chat more with my family. It’s all still so exciting getting to share with them all I am doing and the new places I am living in.
As the months go on, something changes. There aren’t as many emails and posts that go out, less comments. You become comfortable with the uncomfortable and have changed tremendously only to return home to the same old.
When I came home there was no “welcome home” party like I had when I left. My family came to the airport which was wonderful, but I was alone walking off the plane instead of the community of 40 people I had been around for almost a year. I was a bittersweet moment seeing and hugging my parents. I was home, but what was home?
I arrived back in the states the night before Thanksgiving. The following day my entire family came over to my parent’s house. I felt like I was in a fog. Almost as though I was in a dream. Could this be happening? Did I really just travel for almost a year? I had those questions asked that no missionary wants to hear. I can’t get upset because they didn't know.
“How was your trip?”
“Now what are you going to do?”
My response… “My trip? I was gone for almost a year! How was your year?”
“I was in Africa YESTERDAY!”
I didn't want to talk much about it because I had no time whatsoever to process my “trip.” I wouldn't know where to begin.
For the next month I felt numb. I didn't know what to do. I was questioning if I had even just traveled to 11 countries in 11 months. My body was shutting down. It wasn't until Christmas I actually felt something. I received a message from a girl I had met in one of the bars in the Philippines. She was a bar girl. She wanted to wish me and my family a Merry Christmas. I messaged her back to wish her the same and asked her what she was doing to celebrate. Her response will stay with me forever. She replied, “I am working. I have to pretend to be happy for the customers.” My heart sank. Tears filled my eyes. Here I was in the comfort of my parent’s beautiful home with family all around me and she was working as a prostitute to provide for her family so they could eat.
As I sat and watched my little cousins tear open their millions of presents, every single person I had met over the course of 11 months flashed before my eyes. All the prostitutes, orphans, street kids, bar girls, the families living in cardboard shelters and trash, I could go on. All the faces of the people I had seen. I was in silence numb to the world I was sitting in and flashing back to the world I had left.
After the family left I went outside and sobbed for the first time since I had been home. I actually don't remember the last time I cried that hard. It all hit me. I did go to 11 different countries in 11 months. It wasn't a dream. It happened. And not only did all of that hit me, but my reality hit me…Now what am I going to do?
The first 3 months back “home” I struggled. I struggled with my identity, my purpose. I felt so alone. I felt like everyone I would talk to did not understand. They didn't get it. Some would barely listen to my 30 second answer to “How was it?” People would ask and I soon learned most people didn't want to hear about it. Their mind quickly went elsewhere when all I wanted to do was pour out my heart. I started shutting down spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
The crazy thing is… I am not alone.
There are many missionaries who feel as I did.
It has been 3 years since I have been home and now I am turning my pain into my passion.
I am a certified life coach and I have a heart for helping missionaries through this whole process. I want to be there for them not only when everyone else is, but especially when everyone is not. I want to help missionaries with the reentry process.
This is my heart, to help missionaries before they get to where I was. I don't want anyone to experience the struggle, the doubt, and the loneliness I felt.
I have the amazing opportunity to work with a ministry called M2B. We help missionaries with re-entry and help them to become all they were meant to be in God's kingdom. Check out the website here m2bministries.org
If you are an alumni World Racer and want to help other racers with their journey and re-entry apply to be a Navigator here http://m2bministries.org/alumni-navigators/
And if you are a future racer and wish to have someone to walk alongside this journey with you, apply to have a Navigator here http://m2bministries.org/returning-missionaries
Please contact me if you need help in this area or if you know someone who does! You can email me here firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the homepage of my website and input your name and email address!
You are not alone.