5 Tips for Coping with Reentry

August 10, 2015

PLANE

By Matt Morrison
Matt is the Content Editor for e3 Partners and participates in short-term missions to Europe.


After ten days in Romania, I was settling into my final leg of the journey home – an eleven hour flight from Frankfurt to Dallas.  Our team had an amazing week offering medical clinics to the community and planting churches in several unreached villages.  It was the longest I had ever been away from my family and I couldn’t wait to wrap them in my arms.

I also badly needed to shave.

As I laid my head back and surfed through the in-flight entertainment, I began to hear something familiar – Texas accents.  After a week of being a minority in Romania, I was surrounded by people from my home state.  But I didn’t find that very exciting.  Instead, as the complete stranger next to me cuddled against my shoulder, I thought to myself, “I’m not ready for this.”

Something happened in Romania – something that happened on my last trip too.  I fell in love.  With the people.  With the culture.  With the mission.  All of it.  While I couldn’t wait to see my family and sleep in my own bed, I was already planning how and when I’d return.

A mission trip is an incredible experience that you will never forget.  It’s hard work but it’s also an adventure.  You think you’re just visiting but you always leave a part of yourself there.  And that makes the return home a bit confusing.  You’re not ready to go back to normal life, or any of the complexities that come with it.  After many trips, both domestic and abroad, I’ve learned a few things about how to cope with the reentry.

1. Choose just one top story you’ll share.
After my latest trip, I came home exhausted and excited.  I was so thrilled to share stories with my wife and sometimes felt dismayed when she didn’t understand.  But how could she?  While I was 8,000 miles away in a Romanian village, she was taking care of our toddler by herself.

Your loved ones will be excited for you but your passion may be more than they can handle.  And that’s okay.  Honestly, how could they fully understand what you experienced without seeing it themselves?  In order not to overwhelm your friends or become discouraged, choose a top story that you can quickly share with others that best encapsulates your trip.

2. Let the emotions run their course.
Reentry is almost like grieving.  It’s a process.  In the first few days, you’re exhausted and excited.  Later, you realize how much you miss your new friends and feel lonely.  If you saw extreme poverty firsthand, next will come a sense of guilt or shame.  Some even deal with unexplained anger.

Don’t just bury these emotions.  Connect with others from your team or discuss the experience with a close friend.  Surrender them to Christ and find ways to channel them into something constructive.  Let them spur you to action instead of complacency or hopelessness.

3. Look for changes you can make in your life.
Did you learn how to share the Gospel for the first time on your trip?  Great!  You can do that same thing here.  Did you develop a heart for a specific culture?  There are likely opportunities to serve them within your own city.  Seek out opportunities to continue what you were doing overseas in your own backyard.  Short term mission trips can be a training ground for a new missional lifestyle.

4. Stay connected with your church or sending organization.
Your church or sending organization is likely still working in the country you served.  They may be supporting pastors or caring for orphans.  For example, e3 Partners has been working with the pastors I met in Romania for over a decade.  Consider supporting those efforts through monthly donations.  It’s a great way to remain a part of what God is doing in other parts of the world.  If you went with e3 Partners, you can support our Capacity Fund, a specific country, initiative, or field staffer!

5. Keep up the relationships.
Before I landed from my last trip, I already had a dozen new Facebook friends whose posts I couldn’t understand because they were all in Romanian!  Say what you will about social media but it’s a great tool for building relationships with people in other parts of the world.  Use it to continue those friendships you now miss so much.

Reentry is a vital and necessary part of the mission trip experience but it can create friction.  It turns your one week overseas into a radical lifestyle change.  Navigating it well can change dramatically alter the trajectory of your life.

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