Got a missions trip in store for this summer? Here’s some advice (Part II) for the coming home after your trip from from Christine Jeske, veteran missionary and author of Into the Mud: Inspiration for Everyday Activists: True Stories of Africa.
RETURNING HOME FROM YOUR MISSIONS TRIP:
1. Affirm. As you leave, stress that your work is not because of you, but because God has always cared for them and works through them. Pray together, and ask them to pray for you. Don’t miss out on the great gift of being sent by Christians in the developing world back to North America, which is also full of spiritual needs.
2. Consider a long-term relationship. Ideally, everything you participated in overseas is already firmly in others’ hands. Consider carefully what roles you can play now. Be hesitant about mentioning promises you can’t keep, but do carefully assess how God might be leading you and others to a longer-term tie to the place or issue you have seen.
3. Keep up the spiritual discipline. When you return, keep journaling, praying, studying scriptures, and meeting with others. The real work begins now.
4. Ride the wave of reverse culture shock. You will likely experience symptoms of what is called reverse culture shock: feeling judgmental, overly nostalgic, restless, or angry amidst aisles of plastic junk. In a month it will be easy to not care anymore. Use this time to examine yourself, set goals, and set things in motion. However, don’t let yourself make judgmental comments that you will later regret, or make dramatic decisions (like quitting your job) without wise counsel.
5. Love others even if they don’t care. You may have a newfound passion about the sex trade in Thailand, but your travel has not brought you to some new level of sainthood that others can never achieve in the paltry lives. Remember that your friends are on their own spiritual journeys. If the opportunity to share arises, speak, but with care and humility. Just as you did overseas, listen and pay attention here to how God is working in others’ lives already.
Christine Jeske has worked in microfinance, refugee resettlement, community development, and teaching while living in Nicaragua, China, and South Africa. She and her husband Adam and their two children live in Madison, WI, where she tries to figure out how to live well now as a plain old North American. She also teaches and writes for publications including Relevant Magazine. Her first book, Into the Mud, shares stories of lives in South Africa being changed into something new, something holy, right in the midst of the muck of life.