February 10, 2012

Not quite home: the re-entry challenge

My internal thermometer seems broken after our brief stay in the humid biosphere of northern Guatemala. Here in Missouri (USA) the furnace roars and a chill slowly creeps into my aching joints. Time to grab another cup of coffee, not because I need a caffeine hit but because I cherish the opportunity to cling to its warmth.
Just last Saturday I awoke in the clammy, heat-blanketed rainforest to the cascading call of roosters competitively crowing up and down the shores of Lake Petén-Itza. The thunder of motorcycles and scooters -- zipping past bony, untethered horses grazing at whatever patch of green they found along the roadside -- was a welcomed excuse to crawl out from between sticky sheets and into my damp clothes.
The metal grates of local shops clanked and screeched as they opened for the start of business in this small town located on the way to somewhere else. Children laughing. A baby crying. Another round of crowing.
Wood smoke from a nearby outdoor cook fire drifted through the cabana screen, and my stomach responded with a hungry growl. Time for some bananas, scrambled eggs, black bean puree, toasted bread and that delectable grainy soft cheese --homemade by the farmer just down the road.

Guatemala 2012
Neighboring homesGuatemala 161

rural Guatemala

That was then.

Today I am home, but my thoughts and my heart haven’t quite arrived. The faces … the physical and spiritual needs of the people I met override the mental images of the construction projects yet to be done at the site where we worked.

Re-entry into the daily routine of “home” is an uncomfortable little time warp that still challenges me even after multiple short-term mission trips. I admit it’s my least favorite part of going… having to fully return.

Maybe that’s because it’s not what God has in mind. How can we “fully return” when there is so much God has for us wherever we gowherever we are?

What good is it to go and to see and to do… if I fail to return changed and empowered with new vision and determination to engage more fully in God’s invitation to join Him in what He is doing … everyday… all the time… whether here or there?

Curious eyes

Ahhhh…. the challenge. Getting back to normal.

Lord, I pray that never really happens.


Tips for re-entry adjustment after a short-term mission trip.

Debrief. Journal any remaining thoughts about your trip.
  • What did God speak to you? What action steps is He indicating? How will you respond?
  • If you’re not into journaling, then think about the most significant moment of the trip and how God spoke to you through it.
  • Summarize your thoughts so you are ready to concisely share the experiences with others in a way that helps them catch the vision of God’s heart for the area you visited.
Prayer. Word. Worship. Fellowship. Right after an outreach or ministry involvement you are even more spiritually vulnerable than before. Give time to your spiritual relationship with God, and don’t let the days slip by without investing yourself in prayer, bible reading, and getting lost in worship.

Expect a let down. You’ve been in high gear with a cram-packed schedule. Whether it’s your first trip or your fifty-hundredth veteran outreach, you’re not exempt from the natural let down that occurs from a sudden change in pace and purpose.
  • Guard against disappointment, discouragement and doubt
  • by expecting this physical, spiritual and emotional dip.
  • Counter the dive with … Prayer. Word. Worship … and a healthy dose of rest.
  • Talk with your prayer partners if you are struggling with the slump.
Health. Diet. Rest. Activity. These areas are surprisingly overlooked on re-entry but definitely have a bearing on the degree of post-trip let-down you may experience.
  • Avoid the temptation to dive into heavy meals and fast food especially if your diet abroad was considerably different. That McD triple stack can really H-A-U-N-T you... just sayin'...
  • Remain active.  If possible, schedule activities of a similar physical challenge to what you were doing on the field. 
  • Defeat exhaustion with rest.

What tips can you share to help with re-entry adjustments after a short-term mission trip?


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