You are excited about going “home” to the country and church that sent you to another culture as a missionary. Of course, you will miss the people you have been ministering to while you have been in your host country, but you begin to daydream about what it will be like to be greeted by friends and family when you arrive home.
This is usual for everyone who has been away from home a while. However, many times missionaries’ expectations are so high that they experience high re-entry stress. When you get “home,” you may find yourself feeling lonely, isolated, disillusioned, misunderstood, depressed and irritated with people back home as well as with your own culture. Let us look at how you can prevent some of these feelings by leaving well, entering well, and being aware of some of the pitfalls in going home.
One of the things that may increase your re-entry stress is not leaving your mission field correctly. The last part of Acts 20 gives us a good example of missionaries leaving well. Paul had spent three years in Ephesus and was headed back to his passport country and headquarters in Jerusalem. Dave Pollock is fond of saying that to leave well you should build a “RAFT,” so let us see how Paul fulfilled that acronym.
- Reconciliation. When leaving, you may try to deal with tensions in relationships by ignoring them, hoping they will just disappear. However, they do not. We carry them inside, and they interfere with new relationships. If we ever spend time with the other party again, the tensions will still be there and even harder to settle. Paul reminded the Ephesian elders how he had lived among them the whole time he was there and that he never even took support from them but was always giving.
- Affirmation. Let others know how you respect and appreciate them by telling them how important their friendship has been and how you enjoyed working with them. As you acknowledge how people have blessed you, you will become aware of what you have gained. Paul commits the Ephesians to God’s grace and warns them of potential difficulties.
- Farewells. Say good-bye to people, pets, places, and possessions. Take pictures and small reminders of the good things that have happened to you. After Paul was done speaking, they all prayed, wept, embraced, kissed, went to the ship, and tore themselves away.
- Think destination. While saying your good-byes, begin thinking realistically about where you are going. Think of it as a visit to the place you used to call home and imagine realistically what it will be like there. Paul wanted to be in Jerusalem by the day of Pentecost, but he also realized that there were hardships facing him there.