Serving in Short-term Missions: Coming Home

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Written by Carol Sybenga

Now what?

Your mission trip is coming to an end…you’ve packed your bags to return home and are looking forward to seeing family and friends again. But what will that be like? How will they understand the experiences you’ve encountered? You are now looking at people and the world through different eyes than you were a short time ago. Be prepared for sensory bombardment – choices of foods, goods, etc. Perhaps you feel guilty over a $100 pair of jeans. Perhaps you feel helpless or maybe even angry. Spiritually some of you may find you have a deeper walk with God, while others may feel you're on rocky ground. There are those who may even sense a desire to sell all their belongings and others who dive right back into “life” and chalk it up as a good experience. Each of you will reflect differently on your mission trip, but a challenge for all of you relates to now what?

How does your time in missions connect with your life back home?

God is the God of all. He was before you, with you and will be here after you. With God as Creator, Christ as Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as mediator, it doesn’t matter where you are, you are in His grip. Your time in missions might be over, but it is not a closed chapter, rather it was one more step on your journey. God had a reason for sending you out. What did you learn about or from Him? What is God doing where you are located now? You may feel very content in the Lord right now, or you might be completely disturbed. Focus on one or two things that you will do differently. You may now return as a teacher with a different sensitivity to your students. You may even plan on learning a new language or pay more attention to local, national and international laws that are unjust. Maybe you will befriend immigrants in your area or find new ways to support the work of CRC ministries. The list is endless. We encourage you to think ahead for the near future, as well as 5 to 10 years down the road - perhaps write a mission statement for your life. Pray. Whatever it is, remember “...that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” ( Philippians 1:6)
(parts taken from the Nicaragua Team Manual)

Re-entry

Whether you are going on a mission trip for a few weeks or for a few months or even of know someone who did, you might want to learn more about “re-entry”—what happens upon returning to one’s home culture. People experiencing cultural re-entry can be tired, confused or discouraged, and are often critical of their own home culture. Re-entry adjustment can be major, but it’s important to work through in order to function well once back home again.
Read more: Home again

Check out this resource:
Getting Ready to Come Back – Advocacy Guide for Mission Teams” – Bread for the World

Debriefing

Following up after your volunteer engagement is as important as your pre-trip preparation! Some professionals even say that you should spend twice as much time debriefing as in orientation. Therefore volunteers who have served with CRC ministries will be invited to debrief their mission trip with agency and ServiceLink staff upon return home. Time will be spent reflecting on your experiences and looking at how applications can be made to your own life situation. A volunteer placement is so much more than the time spent in ministry – it’s what you do afterwards that really makes the lasting impact.

Continuing the engagement

Have you experienced the high that comes from being involved in short-term missions only to have it disappear after you get home? What can you do to keep that flame alive – to maintain enthusiasm for ministry and missions? Instead of seeing this as the end of a journey for you, consider it the beginning of something new and look for other ways to stay involved. By spending time reflecting on how you will remain engaged, you will be able to live a changed life, one that will help you remain focused on the work of Christ in your own life and the lives of people around the world. Some ways of keeping engaged could be keeping in touch with missionaries, reading about ministries that you worked with, and/or meeting regularly with your team members to pray for and encourage the field staff and each other. 

Read this article: Keeping the Flame Alive

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