This post became the inspiration for: Dear Church: Extended Collaboration. We hope that you enjoy the content.
Identities have been changed for privacy.
As many of you are aware, our time away is rapidly drawing to a close and we will soon be returning to England.
I know many you will be excited to see us and to hear about our time away but I’m also aware of how massive and exhausting the transition back to life in the UK will be. Here are some practical suggestions which will help you to care for us as a family as we return.
We want to share some of the joys and some of the difficult things we have been through, to help frame where we are and how our lives have been while we have been away.
We have had the pleasure of living in a collective culture, which means your house is always full. You can easily fit 20 people in a room if you all sit on the floor with knees touching. We have loved eating food with people, this could be planned or unplanned but the rice is always on and dhal is steaming away throughout the day.
We have loved being part of a team of 160+ people who, despite difficult situations, smile, laugh and understand that each day is a gift as life is so fragile here.
We have loved our work, which has meant supporting a team of 50+ staff to develop education, also supporting 8 EPIC centres (pre schools) with education training and being with the office team, encouraging and loving them and helping to smooth out some pretty big cracks in the team, developing projects to bring in funding in and supporting everyone we meet.
There have been some difficult times too, we had a really sad loss of life from a staff member. We witnessed multiple animal deaths. There are numerous stories we hear every day about disturbing and difficult things, and we have all witnessed illness sweeping through communities. This has taught us all (including the kids) to pray more. We pray if we find someone sick, we pray if we hear about a tragedy, we pray if we feel like we can’t cope. We pray for protection for the day.
Asking Questions Please try not to as ‘How was your time away?’ Although this feels like a natural question to ask, it is impossible to answer as it feels like we should be able to answer in a sentence. We end up just saying “oh amazing” as we don’t feel we can share the challenges in a short amount of time.
What is helpful is asking specific questions like “what was your house like?” or “What was your day-to-day food?” “What was your daily routine like?” These questions help to ground us when answering as we can imagine the answers. Rather than trying to summarise our whole time away in a sentence.
We want to hear about you We are not used to being so isolated from our normal communities. We so want to know how everyone is. So please do share about yourself and the big or small things that have been happening in your life. This is just what we need, and will bring a sense of normality to us. Sometimes people think ‘you have been away on an adventure we want to hear all about it’ but we have been away and want to hear all about your lives too.
Culture shock Reverse culture shock is very real. There have been times I have had mini breakdowns and had to leave Asda in tears because I see so much food all sat there, after seeing so many hungry people. Being back in a clean and safe environment makes you feel very strange and we have to come off living on adrenaline. Where are the snakes? What is under the bed? Are the ants in the playroom again? Are there any rats in the toilet before one of the children uses it?
We will be able to turn on the tap and get clean water which will be strange. We will be in a house where we can lock the door and feel safe. We will not hear the sounds of animals, the trains rattling by and the constant fans. It will all be surreal for a couple of weeks.
So, don’t worry if we randomly burst into tears for what may feel like no reason, don’t worry if we cancel the request to come out to the pub, and don’t worry if we don’t respond. Sometimes it just takes a while to adjust to what feels to us the huge unfairness in lifestyles to those we have been living with.
Making time Please bear with us, sometimes we will want to talk about our time away and other times we won’t. We are so excited to connect with everyone again, but in group settings, with loads of kids around, where half conversations are the norm, we probably won’t feel able to share. However, come to our home, or invite us to yours and we would love to be able to have time to really talk.
Pray As we say goodbyes and prepare to head back to the UK, dealing with the mixture of sadness and excitement that brings. It can feel like we are living a dual life, which is costly as our hearts are in two places at the same time.