When a missionary returns from their field of service, they are actually LEAVING home, rather than COMING home, as we often see it. They have given their hearts to the place and the people where God has called them, so leaving it brings mixed emotions. (For a glimpse of how it might feel, read out PART 1!) Many times a return from the field can be unexpected - the result of a negative life situation like illness in their family, financial crisis in their organization, or restricted access in their country. But even under the best of circumstances, the transition is overwhelming! There are a few general ideas for those on the “receiving” end and how to facilitate a healthy transition for their returning missionaries.
1. Maximize the Situation. Get ahead of the situation by staying informed about their arrival and their plans for the early days of transition. Let them know you’ve been thinking of them and anticipating their return. Don’t miss the opportunity to reach out in the very earliest moments of their return.
2. Begin with Affirmation. Acknowledge their ministry, Many are overwhelmed by all there is still left to do and wonder if they even made a difference! So, celebrate their their obedience, their service, and their faithfulness.
3. Be their Directory. Imagine finding a “new” everything -- doctor, plumber, hair stylist, and even school! You can be their first and best resource for help finding a home, setting up utilities, or even securing new employment. Having a “go-to” person for this is so helpful, as they might not even know where to begin.
4. Start a Conversation. Truly “get to know” the worker that has returned. They are NOT the same person as when they left! They have changed. You have changed. Each of you has “imagined” how life has been for the other, but you’d be surprised what you will find if you just open a conversation. People are honored when we really LISTEN to their stories, and ask questions about theirs struggles, successes, etc.
5. Keep an open line of Communication. Ask. Offer. Be specific. Don’t assume they “know” how you feel, or what is available, or even “how to DO” something. Remember, if we are not intentional in our communication, people “fill in their own blanks.” Hearing from you regularly is a must, especially during transition. Stay Connected, especially after the initial “welcome” wears off, that’s when loneliness or disillusion can set in.
6. Offer Reconciliation. If there is any strain in the relationships, perceived or real, give opportunities for both parties to own their faults and offer forgiveness. Admit where you might have “forgotten” or “missed” some events, or needs in their lives. This also gives them a chance to do the same.
7. Acknowledge the “loss.” Many people greet a returning missionary with the phrase “aren’t you glad to be home?” But truly their field has become their home. They left friends, love ones, community, and ministry, so there is grief. And even beyond the people, there are little things they miss that were part of the daily “normal” like shopping at their favorite local market, or certain foods only found in their home country, special cultural or holiday events. Just hearing you say, “I’m sure you miss _______” is so meaningful.
8. Give them time, but not too much time. They will be regrouping, recovering, and even healing during their first weeks and months, so give them time. They may not be ready to “jump” right into ministry in your church right away. You are thinking, “well, they are missionaries, so they obviously wanted to serve,” which is true. But transition takes its toll! However, there will soon be a day when they are “ready” and finding a way for them to use their gifts and experience to serve your local congregation is a great blessing to BOTH of you! It’s a WIN, WIN!
Remember, the hearts and minds of returning missionaries are consumed with processing such a huge life transition. So helping with practical, physical, logistical details can make “brain space” for coping with so much change. Just as it is often said of missionaries, they “give it all away and move to a foreign land,” this is often true upon return as well. It might be leaving their dishes to the national pastor’s wife who hosts 40 people each week in her home, or the contents medicine cabinet to the village clinic,, many will come back with only a few precious pieces from their lives and a suitcase of memories. Many will literally start over, and often with limited resources. That’s where you can help. Here are a few things you can do to be a blessing as you welcome your missionary “home.” And these ideas come, not from the "wishes" or "demands" of disgruntled returning missionaries, but out of the overflow of gratitude from missionaries who have been "welcomed" well!
For hundreds of years, missionaries have been crossing oceans and borders in obedience to the Great Commission.. And for the same years, faithful friends and supporters have been sending and welcoming them home! Thanks to the people who welcomed us home! Well Done!
Have you been a part of WELCOME HOME? The Mission Family needs your ideas! We want to hear from you!!
Are you a goer? Shout out a THANK YOU to those who have blessed you! Share a special memory of when you were blessed as you came "home." Or share a challenge you had when you returned, so we can better learn how to help!
Are you a receiver? Share with us ideas that you've used or seen that have been a blessing to those who are returning! And share how you've been blessed as you have given
Believe it or not, I'm a kind of a perfectionist, but you'd never know it! TRULY, I have a visual image in my head of THE WAY I want EVERYTHING to go, and if it doesn't go just like that....then just forget it! I'm a "start a diet only on Mondays" kind of girl! But when I give in to temptation at lunch-time, then I just abort the whole plan and wait til next Monday to start again because starting on Tuesday just won't work! (Thus the weigh loss dream not realized...but that's for a different post.) So imagine the pressure I've put on myself on New Years! I mean....It's January 1 - the first day of the year, and of the rest of my life. This is my chance to get EVERYTHING perfect! And by everything I mean my diet, my bible reading plan, my goal setting, my closets, my meal planning, my finances, my pantry, my book list, my vehicle maintenance, my chore charts, my ministry, my writing, my big ideas, my husband, my kids, my EVERYTHING!!! TODAY IS THE DAY!!!! And if I don't get it all arranged perfectly TODAY, then I guess I'll just have to wait until NEXT YEAR! Maybe that's why I'm panicking right now, as it's already 10;00 am on January 1st and I"m in still in my pajamas with a hangover (not literally) from last night's New Year's Eve bash that kept me up til the wee hours of the morning, (ok, so it was just a movie marathon with the kids and "drinks" at midnight from ........ our 24 hour McDonalds! But still, it was exhausting!) Thus my perfect 2016 is already a little off kilter!
So, I'm cutting myself a little slack -- I know, it's too soon in the year, but I'm trying to be realistic. I'm giving myself the WHOLE MONTH of JANUARY to setup the perfect 2016! (Go head and laugh!) TODAY, January 1, we are just going to focus on ONE THING -- the WORD of God! What I really want to do is start barking out orders, dragging stuff out of closets, and making mile-long lists for everyone in my family to do TODAY so we'll have a perfect year! But instead, our whole goal for today is....to get a plan for EVERYONE to be in the WORD regularly in 2016. (Of course, my diabolical plan is to count on the notion that if everyone is in the Word, then everything else WILL BE PERFECT .....their attitudes, their servant hearts, their sibling love, their work ethic, their obedience, and of course, their cleanliness - cause we all know that's next to godliness!)
But for real....by the end of the day, we will ALL have a plan for being in the Word of God. I'm over my original dream of us all having the same perfectly synchronized plan, and this year we are shooting for a personalized plan that fits the personalities and habits of each of us! After all, the goal is to get it done, not to get it done like MOM wants! (but I can dream though!) Some of our family is much better at it than others --and I personally, am not on the GOOD list! So, let's start with the one who's got this Bible reading thing down pat, then we'll work our way through the family album.
The husband......honestly, he's the least organized one in this family, but he's got THIS down! Having lived with him for 23+years, there's been lots of craziness in this family with schooling, and schedules, shuffling across continents, but ONE THING has stayed the same -- you can find him somewhere each EVERYDAY with his bible, and his highlighters, and his pens pouring over the WORDS OF OUR LORD! I know his secret -- it comes from HIS DAD. He has very vivid memories of seeing his father read the bible with his red pencil underlining truths, and our kids will have similar memories. I'll have to admit that sometimes I've been mad a him for the way he can close out the world around him and focus on the WORD. I'm like...."oh, if only I could sit and bask in the word of God quietly reading and meditating. I'm sorry, I've got a 5 kids to care for, and guests coming and going, and a to-do list a thousand miles long...and here you sit just reading your bible!" But that was the YOUNG me. As the years have gone by and I've had the privilege of daily enjoying the the fruit of the Spirit that comes from him being so deeply rooted in the truths of Scripture, I see it different now. And I long for it. And I learn from it. And THIS year....I'm going to get it!
Right now, his plan is usually to read 5+ chapters a day, making notes for our 16 year old son as it will be his gift some day -- his own personal copy of Scriptures that his dad has read three or four times through with personal messages just for him. See why I love this man? He knows the Word IN and OUT. He has found his groove, and he gets it done. EVERY.DAY.
ME- Well, I've tried EVERYTHING, of course -- the One Year Bible, printouts, inbox reminders, NT only, OT only, devos, bible studies, and in every version imaginable. But NEVER as successfully and regularly as needed. Not for perfection (well, okay, for perfection) but even for just daily growth and strength. My to do list ALWAYS gets in the way. I always start out great -- I think I've read the first 15 chapters of Genesis EVERY YEAR for the past 30! And after week two,,,,it's hit or miss for the rest of the year! If I miss ONE day, it just throws me completely off kilter. So, this year I've chosen not a plan, but a checklist. It will allow me to check off what I have read, which keeps me from freaking out if I get "off" plan a bit. I can customize it, and start where I want -- this year I'm starting in Job, followed by Psalms, Prov., Ecc, and Song of songs. It may seem random, but it IS thought to be the OLDEST BOOK (so it's kind of "in order) and I didn't want start in Genesis or Matthew (been there, done that) but truthfully, it's because I printed out this cool color coded checklist and those 5 books are all lumped together in the BLUE section! I'm usinig my ESV -- and strangely it's a kids bible as I like it's layout and lettering and spacing! And I'm also listening to the ESV audio version as I read along. If i just read...my mind wanders. If i just listen...my mind wanders. So I'm doubling up. And it WORKED! And so it's done. Day one. January 1. Job 1! Done! And may I be blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil! (Job 1:1)
Our Big baby boy, our firstborn -- really, there were moments my hopes were for him to just stay out of jail....then then he turned 4. and then 5, then 12, and my minimalistic prayers were the same. And then he turned 16 and it started to "click." and now he's 20. And the Word of God is deep in him, and part of his EVERYDAY. It wasn't me, or even his dad, or even our pastor whom he adores...it was the Holy Spirit grabbing his heart. And the personality that God gave him...that strong willed tenacious "jail bound" toddler is turning out to be a very disciplined young man, turning his strong will into determination to follow hard after God. His plan for the past year was 3 chapters a day, and 5 on Sundays. I dont' know his plan for this year, but you can be sure he has one, and he has it written on the daily notecard in his pocket like Pastor Rob suggested, and the way his dad models. Beyond reading it, he's memorizing major portions and sometimes shares them with us. (Check out some from Titus, starting at 17:15)
And my heart rejoices. And I cry. Let it be even more in 2016.
Our Curly Redhead -- in perfect first-born daughterness, she's figured it out - on her own! Of course we encouraged, and modeled, but in her independent spirit, she did it "by herself." I remember vividly, a few weeks after our unexpected return from living overseas, I saw her laying on her bed reading along in her purple engraved bible we'd given her years before, As I cracked up her door, she looked up and said..."Dang, mom, this Bible's got some GOOD STUFF in it!" Yes, it does. Sure she'd read it before, but this time it was her choice. I think she went to it for comfort, and and answers as to why God had shaken up her life, and taken her away some of her jr. high dreams. And each night as I passed by her room, she was laying there again, and again, night after night. And it stuck. She's midway through her Freshman year in college, and this Word has sustained her. This year, she's following a plan that has a NT reading, and OT reading, and a psalm or Proverb. She' also gets a devo on her phone app. And the Word of Life is driving her thoughts on life, love, career, politics, and every day grace.
The Middle - 16 and boy. Need I say more? Life is about hearts, and hurts, and hard work, and habits that don't come easily. He's a thinker, and a writer, and a reader. He can read a 400 page book in two days, and write 5,000 words in the same. However, reading a chapter of Scripture a day has been a challenge. But, he recently spent the weekend with his Big Brother, and came back with a plan -- Reading 3 chapters a day and 5 on Sundays. (Sound familiar?) And a chosen "incentive" that he has to run a mile if he misses a day -- thanks D-port, and Big Bro, and pastor Rob, and Dad, and the grandpas, of course. The TEAM that God has sent to shape this Middle one -- it is LEGEND! And I can't wait to see what a year in the Word will do to conform him further into the Image of the Invisible One.
#4 - I guess God led us to name him after a theologian because He knew Schaeffer would need all the extra "mojo" he could get to keep him on the straight and narrow. We are still waiting for all all the theological goodness of the name to kick in. But we celebrate his baptism in 2015. and we continue to wait. His (parent-directed) plan for 2016 is to read a Proverb a day, and a chapter from the NT a day, starting with Matthew. He'll read from the Apologetics Bible we got him last year that is signed by Sean McDowell. Yeah, I know, I also think autographing bibles is kinda weird, but we jumped at the chance when at a conference for our teens, Schaeffer (our middle schooler who is obsessed with his dream of playing in the NBA) said, "Mom, just in case my NBA career doesn't work out, I think I might like to do what Sean does and go around giving apologetics lectures." Boom. Signed. Gifted. and we wait.
The Roomate - As always, there's an international flare to the Outlaw family and right now it is Daniel Park, our Korean "son" who has been with us for 2 years. As stereotypically expected of a good, christian, asian young man -- he's polite, kind, hardworking, studious, devoted to the reading of God's word.....AND.....he's #4's Roomate!! Last year he read a chapter of Proverbs daily, and a chapter of the New Testament daily. (Sound familiar? minus the Korean part.) This year, his goals are The Old Testament in English and the New Testament in Korean. I can't take credit for that devotion...he came to us this way! But I'm thankful for it. because each morning by the time Schaeffer wakes up, Daniel is already up reading the Word by his lamp. And each night you can hear him praying loudly when his Roomate turns out the light..... and we wait.
My energizer baby girl - It's settled -- mornings before she even gets out of bed. IPAD. You Version. New Testament. Listen and read along. And a listening to christian music or audio bible at night to settle her as she goes to sleep. It's not a fancy plan, but it's perfect for the highly-distractable, mind-whirling one who's so much like her momma. And if the rest of us get it done this year, this girly has the best chance of the getting the MOST WORD in her heart and mind by adulthood than any of us! That's just ONE of the perks of being the Baby. We MIGHT get it right by the 5th one! Or more likely, we'll just be better at expecting God and his Grace to step in.
And that's the plan. It's 2:30pm on January 1, 2016. And we've had an impromptu family breakfast made by the kiddos that brought us all to the table. And we each hammered out our plan for the Word for 2016. And I've added a post to the blog today, which was also on my list for 2016 - so I actually accomplished two things! now to get out of these Pajamas. Don't judge...it's only day one. And in reflection from my Day One Bible reading of Job...... in 2016, May I do this continually! (Job 1;5b)
So, what about you? What you and your family doing this year about digging into the Word of God? If it's 5 minutes, 5 verses, 5 chapters, or whatever? We want to hear what has worked for you. And NEXT year, we'll let you know if this has worked for us! :-)!
#Blessed. The most overused hashtag ever! It's become so cliche and most frequently posted along with a journal, a Bible, and pumpkin spice latte! These days you even get the "eyeroll" from people if you do ACTUALLY feel blessed and mention it or tweet about it!
But seriously, the idea of BLESSING has been all over my mind lately! And it all started in my study and conversations with David about the genesis of missions. Check out what Scripture says is God's plan to evangelize every family for every age in every corner of the world. It's a part, or rather the grand finale, to God's covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12.
"....and through YOU , ALL the families of the earth will be BLESSED."
fWell, my theologian hubby could write a whole discourse on the Abrahamic Covenant and it's missiological implications, but for me it's simple. God's plan to bless the world is YOU! It's you, and your family, your kids, your small group, your church! And it's ME, too! He wants to BLESS the entire world - every family on the earth - through US! He wants to use regular families, like ours and yours, to bless all the other families of the earth!
American Families. Kazakh families. Single-parent families, Neighborhood families. Refugee families. Racially "different from you" families. Atheist families. Muslim families. Rich families. Poor families. Marginalized families. Chinese families. Hopeless families. Homeless families. ALL the FAMILIES of the EARTH!
We started this blog to help families find their place in the Mission of God. We see families every day - including our own - that get so side-tracked from God's plan for their lives! We end up grumpy and discontent and seek to fix it with busyness, or success, or stuff! Just last week I noticed a friend in the choir at church crying during the worship. She's a wonderful mom, with a great family, home, and job, When I poked a little for the reason for her tears she said, "You know, I"m just tired of spending my days on stuff that doesn't matter in eternity."
I hear ya, sister! I feel the same way!
It was easy when we lived in the middle of a Muslim country with 40% unemployment and very little access to the gospel! There, our family's mission was obvious -- it was everywhere we looked, every person we talked to! But here, in the suburbs of the Bible Belt. - it's easier to take our eyes off our mission. The truth is...even here, it's everywhere and with everyone we meet! People need Jesus. People need love. People need you, and your family, and the blessings of the gospel that your bring in His name! We've just got to reboot our lives, and get focused on the Mission of God. Many times we dont' know where to start or it seems overwhelming! Sometimes we feel inadequate. But really, if we just get up everyday and say...."It's our mission today to be a blessing to all the families of the earth"....well, that's pretty simple. You never know WHICH family of the earth God wants your to bless today! It might be just your own family and the little ones, or the teenagers, or the spouse that needs your blessing. Tomorrow it might be your new neighbor, or the single mom on your kid's ball team, or the homeless guy on your way to work.
Just ask God to show you who and how he wants your family be a blessing! He WILL bring them to you! And through YOU and your family - and me and my family - all the families of the earth will be blessed.
My husband always says, " With a last name like OUTLAW, you might not want to look very far into your family tree!" With a name like ours, you expect that your family might have a reputation! When our kids were little, strange looks were the norm when we'd holler "lets go Outlaws" trying to wrangle our five kids ages 10 and under out of a MickeyD's playland! Most people thought we were talking about our family's character -- wild and rowdy - rather than our actual given name! We'd just smile and say, "Yep, that's who we REALLY are -- The Outlaws!"
Over the years we've gotten a reputation for more than our last name -- some good things, and some not so much! But when people run into THAT family whose name they can't remember just heard was crazy enough to take their 5 little kids across the ocean, they say, "Oh, you're... THAT MISSION FAMILY." To some that might be a compliment, and others just might mean we are weird. There are a few other ways we know we're THAT MISSION FAMILY like when....
Okay, so maybe we ARE just weird! Or maybe we got a jumpstart by living overseas. But truthfully, wouldn't it be great if the world would see ALL christian families as THOSE MISSION FAMILIES! They would see how much we LOVE the WORLD and the people in it! They would see that we live with purpose and mission for our lives. That's really the purpose of every family no matter our vocation or our location!! In Genesis 12:3, God tells Abraham that through his family, all the families of the earth will be blessed! And truthfully, that covenant continues today. We are all Mission Families with a mission from God to bless all the other families of the earth -- Kazakh families, Syrian families, Chinese families, immigrant families, neighborhood families, poor families, your soccer team families -- all the families of the earth!
JUMPSTART your Mission Family today by doing this ONE thing! But be careful, you might be get the reputation for being "THAT MISSION FAMILY."
(David wrote these thoughts after finishing his Ph.D. in Theology keeping all those hours of study in perspective. These words were written when our kids were ages 1 to 11! No wonder I love this man! --AO)
Our world needs scholars, but scholars must live a life of particular discipline. A scholar’s life demands long hours of uninterrupted research. Loneliness often results from the time dedicated to library and office. Friendships are limited to those that will enhance the life of the mind. Scholars find their friends in the pages of Homer, Plato, and Augustine. Worth and prestige are intimately connected to publication in scholarly journals and books written for consumption to a select group of like-minded readers.
I am not a scholar. Though much of my training leads me toward scholarly endeavors, and many of my acquaintances are top-shelf scholastics, I am not. Perhaps I do not possess the mental acumen for such a life, but this is not the primary cause of my realization. I read as much as I possibly can, but my life is different from that of a scholar.
When I read, my time is likely to be shredded by demands for a sippee cup of milk, a change of diaper, or to observe the most recently perfected stunt. A sleepy two-year old, crawling into my lap instead of her bed will, inevitably interrupt moments of mental debate with the works of Bertrand Russell. It is likely that as I sit and write doctrinal essays someone will ask when I will finish so that the internet can be more adequately explored. My notebooks and papers, prepared for lectures or sermons may be adorned with scribbling, x’s and o’s, hearts, or other artwork common among the preschool set. Scholars do not tolerate such blasphemy upon the sacred ground of their study, but I am not a scholar, I am a father.
Indeed the world needs scholars, but it must look beyond my door, because I am busy tying shoes, zipping coats, changing diapers, and tickling unsuspecting members of my family. I doubt that the academic world is suffering an insurmountable gap due to my altered course. There are moments when the smell of old books, the clicking of the computer, and the hallowed loneliness of the study beckon. I rarely have trouble dismissing these overtures because the fulfillment granted by the academy is far too small to compare the kiss of a two-year-old. When asked, I would love to respond that I am indeed a scholar, but when the evidence is examined and the verdict given, I am but a father. -WDO, 2009
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. :-)!