By Kim Frolander, Vineyard Missions Blogger
Coming home from a missions trip on a mountain-top “high” can be an exhilarating experience. Even more surprising can be the depressing aftermath, an unexpected crash back into normal life in your own culture. From science to experience, we discuss the varying symptoms of “normal” re-entry, what to watch for, how to prepare yourself and your team to ease into the transition, and how you can help friends returning from the field make their adjustments to living in a new normal.
Part 5: Practices that contribute to a positive re-entry
The prescription for a good re-entry is, of course, multi-dose and multi-medicine. You will get out what you put into yourself.
First grace, grace, and then more grace. Take the first dose of grace yourself, give your family the second dose, and your workmates the third dose. This is a daily dose, maybe hourly, but definitely can be taken “as needed”!
Give yourself the grace to sleep when you need it, to be imperfect, to come back slower than you think maybe you should. Take the time to debrief well and share your heart and emotions, to exercise and stretch, to detox from foods you don’t normally consume, to make decisions, to adjust to changes at home that took place in your absence, and to adjust to changes that took place in your heart while you were away. These things take time, self-assessment, and sharing in order to do it well.
Finish your re-entry process before you make any big decisions. Even small decisions can occasionally throw people for a loop when they are in re-entry. For short-termers this might mean asking someone else make the restaurant choice this week or waiting a while before you start a new ministry; for long-termers, you might want moral support on the toothpaste aisle in Wal-mart. Seriously! Also, be very careful when making big decisions and do it in the context of community whenever possible. When in doubt, this is a perfectly legitimate opportunity to practice procrastination!
When you come home from a long trip, due to the constant cultural adjustment and all the excitement of new friends and exciting ministry, you will feel tired (even you extroverts who experience people as energy). This is because your adrenal system has been running on “full-open” for the weeks leading up to your trip in all that you had to do to prepare to leave work, the shopping and packing, and then the entire time you were traveling and gone. You probably skipped a normal weekly Sabbath rest (or three!) and it’s time to catch up on that rest.
There are a couple of options on how to survive when you’ve taxed your adrenal system
- coffee/tea/energy drinks/sugar
- physical exercise instead of the “fake energy” of #1
- a rest season to support adrenal recovery
You get one body and you are the one responsible to care for it. Life is not a competition to see who has the best body for recovering from travel. Take the time to know what your body needs each time, and then care for it well.
Feed your body healthy foods to nourish all your systems, but concentrate on your digestive system, adrenal system, and brain function. I’m not saying there is no place for coffee (this is a Vineyard publication after all, and we do coffee well!), but when that afternoon exhaustion kicks in, if you are tossing your adrenal system more caffeine to get through the end of the day, you are just over-stimulating those depleted systems that are already tired. A more healthy option is to stimulate those glands to produce the adrenaline hormone on their own by going for a brisk walk of at least 20 minutes. (This is not a meander, but fast enough to get your heart pumping in its cardio range) (heart-rate calculator can be found here) (1). The best option for those days right after returning might be taking that nap your body is craving. You could try a combination of these different options over a number of days and see what works best for caring for your body in this re-entry period.
Beyond the body, your soul will probably feel tired and need replenishing. For that we go back to our source of life: the Father. Do the things you know to do. Don’t neglect time in the Word during your busy time of trying to catch up on sleep and work. Keep the worship music pouring into you. Spend time in nature to nurture your soul. Catch up on hugs with your family and friends (without over-scheduling yourself). Use the Daily Examen to process the events of your day. (Check out Dan Wilt’s Blog (2) that provides an easy-to-use example.) Also it is good to just sit with Jesus and do nothing. He loves being our friend in the frenzy and in the coming down from the frenzy.
And that is just what re-entry is - it is a “coming down” from the spiritual high that we get when we minister abroad. For a lay person, especially one on his or her first trip, just returning to the “normal” they were used to before going might feel a bit depressing. Hosting a good debrief is a perfect time for team members to discuss what their re-entry has been like - how they are struggling and excelling - and to encourage one another.
In parts 6 and 7 of our re-entry series, we will hear first from some Vineyard short-term missionaries and then long-term missionaries about their experiences with re-entry. This conversation may be helpful for planning purposes for both the missionaries coming home and the church congregations that will receive them.
- Fitness calculator retrieved from https://www.active.com/fitness/calculators/heartrate
- Wilt, Dan. (2017). The daily examen: A reorienting rhythm for a distracted age. DanWilt.com. retrieved from https://www.danwilt.com/the-daily-examen/?utm_content=buffer3827b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=plus.google.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Going With the Return in Mind: Re-Entry Resource Guide
- Part 1: Jet-Lag
- Part 2: Re-Entry is More Than Jet-Lag
- Part 3: What Contributes to a Rough Re-Entry?
- Part 4: Processing Changes at Home
- Part 5: Practices that contribute to a positive re-entry
- Part 6: The Short-Term Missionary Re-Entry Experience
- Part 7: The Long-Term Missionary Re-Entry Experience
Kim Frolander started attending Inverness Vineyard Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1994. She spent two years as a volunteer/missionary in Jerusalem, Israel, and upon coming home, she trained with Bubba Justice and led missions at IVC for 3.5 years. Now she uses her experience and degrees in research and writing, (formally known as English and History) for curating resources for Vineyard Missions. She has authored eight books and recently founded a non-profit ministry, the Ruth Israel Initiative.