We sat around the room, chatting away; a mixture of laughter and tears. Each of us remembering a different place, different people, but each with the very same feelings!
Nothing delights my heart more than sitting in a group of missionaries women. Kindred spirits. This time we were all "home" from our fields, Some young, some old. but all sitting together in one place, longing to be in another. Some were retired veteran missionaries, some home due to illness, others grounded for fundraising purposes. some who's countries closed their doors. But all "home." I say "home" with quotation marks. It's true what they say, "Home is where your heart is." But I've found that your heart can be in more than one place. Since that day, through our discussions about transitioning back to our passport countries, I've been convinced that we need to talk more about what it is like to "come home."
It's hard, ya'll!! And it's hard for a LONG time!!
Being the FIXER that I am, I decided to come up with a plan.....10 ways to help your missionary "come home." I sat down at my computer screen to write down practical tips to help families, and especially churches know how to help their missionaries.
1. . . . . . . nothing
I was stuck! I couldn't come up with one word! And then, this flood of words just came tumbling out! You'll find it below. Yes, I did go on to make a nice neat list with tips and practical advice. But this came first. And, though, I don't speak for all of the returning missionaries everywhere, it goes something like this. . . . .
Standing at the back of the church, you take a deep breathe as your mind is flooded with the years that have passed. You can remember it like it was yesterday, the day of your commissioning, the church full of friends and loved ones who were standing with you and cheering you on! You were charging the gates of Hell together for the sake of the Gospel! And it was glorious. You exhale; today you stand at the back of the sanctuary straining to find a familiar face -- some have passed on, some have moved on, some couples are now singles, some families are now separated, and the place where you sat is filled with new faces that have only heard of you in prayer, or seen your face on the missionary bulletin board. Where do you sit?
Your heart flips as you catch the eye of an old friend - she remembers! And she’s been waiting for you! She saved you a seat. You belong here. You sit side by side. If only she could know ALL that is in your heart and mind about what has transpired over the last 30 years - the good and the bad, the joys and the pain, the lives changed, and the lives still searching. And she wonders if you know how the world has changed while you’ve been away, how much “home” has gone on without you. You wish they could just “know.” Where do you start?
The worship leaders begins playing softly, and the spirit washes comfort over you. English lyrics are a change for you, and the song is unfamiliar; but the words penetrate as you sing about the Savior. And the new young pastor asks the congregation to turn to Matthew….the familiar “GO” and your heart stirs and a tear comes as you think of your friends back “home” in the Far East who still don’t know know...and you want to go….again. But you can’t - age, illness, finances, family issues, or God says it’s just “time.” What do you do?
You remember the words Philippians 1:5-6
“in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus”
And then you rest. So many firsts. So many lasts. And so much more to come.
Know someone who has?
Comment below or share with a friend!
*UPDATE: I did finally make out that plan! Check out specific ideas for welcoming your missionary home. Check out..."So Your Missionary is Coming "Home" - Part 2!
mom to five kiddos and wife to the only man who could put up with her; lover of God, the church, missions, and all things community and culture.
dad, husband, theologian, global leadership guy, professor, and author of countless words hidden in stacks of journals that sit in our bedroom whose wife is making him put his writings here for others to read. :-)!