“It’s so good to be with others who ‘get me’ and understand what I’m going through”.
This was a feeling expressed by several people who recently attended the Unreached Network’s Returners Weekend in Kettering. It was an amazing time when God moved powerfully amongst us, bringing the warmth of his love and presence to those who have recently returned from overseas cross-cultural mission. As we worshipped God, prayed together, ate together and shared our experiences, it was a time of close connection with him and with each other. A time of feeling safe and understood. A time of hope and healing for those who are battle-scarred, having served in difficult contexts or who are experiencing the alienating sense of returning to a land and culture that no longer feels familiar.
“Where do I belong?”
This is just one of the questions so often expressed by those who return from overseas mission.
People return to their sending culture for many different reasons: the threat of danger; health and family challenges; the sense of God moving them on, or because things simply did not work out. But what many returners have in common are the painful feelings that can accompany this time of change and upheaval:
- The overwhelming feelings of grief because of multiple losses, such as the perceived loss of identity, loss of purpose, loss of friends and a loss of lifestyle;
- Feelings of failure – that somehow you have let God and others down;
- Feeling that God is no longer with you, perhaps accompanied with anger towards God, because what you thought he had said or promised hasn’t happened;
- Feelings of frustration that people don’t seem to understand what you have been doing or been through overseas – exacerbated by those well-meaning but unhelpful questions and comments such as “How was it?”
What is important, though, is to understand that this is a period of transition. It can be painful, and the time it takes to find equilibrium again will vary for different people and circumstances. But eventually a sense of having arrived at a new “normal” will be reached.
The Returners Weekend provided a safe space for those going through this unsettling time of transition. A time for them to share their stories, to open their hearts, to express frustrations and to experience the greater healing and restoration that comes from being in the presence of Holy Spirit.
“I…found it so helpful to have a framework for the process we’re going through,” said one returner. ‘
’I appreciated being among friends who understood,’’ responded another.
As sending churches, just as we invest time, prayer, finance and care in preparing and supporting people who are going on overseas mission, it is equally important that we give the same level of care and support to those who are returning.
Unreached Network offers information resources, guidance and support to churches whose mission workers are returning, so that they can better care for and support them. It also offers opportunities for mentoring and places of connection to those returning.
If you would like to find out more, contact: email@example.com.
This and other similar topics will be covered at our ‘Sending Churches Forum’ on Wednesday 21st February. Follow this link to register your interest.