This month I rediscovered a book on my shelf, Re-Entry by Peter Jordan. Ten years ago I wrote an article on Re-Entry dealing with the stages in the process of re-entry to your home culture. This article has more to do with the changes that have occurred during overseas service and how that effects returning home.
Peter Jordan writes, “Things have not been stagnant during your time away. It is imperative before you leave the mission field to take time to properly assess how much you have changed, and how much things have changed back home.
“Never presume that no changes have occurred, even if you have only been away on a one-month outreach. Nothing stays the same, neither you nor the people you left at home. Humans exist in a state of constant change in which they are seeing and learning new things and adjusting to them.
“If you could put the process of change on hold while you are away, the re-entry process would be simple. But you cannot, and because of the changes that take place during your absence, the re-entry process becomes a potential mine field through which you must navigate.
“Are you the same person you were back then? How have you changed? Are there any specific experiences that have caused your life to change? What are those experiences? Was their impact on your life positive or negative? How do you think people back home are going to react to these changes in you? Ask such questions of yourself, noting in your journal any insights you come up with in the process.”
Changes While You Were Away:
Have you changed physically? Have you gained or lost a significant amount of weight? Has your hairstyle or hair color changed while you’ve been gone? You need to come to terms with these changes and know that they will be noticed by your friends and family back home. If you are touchy about their comments, it will make re-entry harder.
How have your relationships changed? Your experiences overseas will have affected your emotional attachments and your social relationships. Time will have also changed your friends and family back home. Has anyone married or had children? Has a significant person in your life died? Take stock of the changes so that you are not shocked by how different some of your relationships are when you return.
How has your time overseas affected your political views? You should consider your changed attitudes towards other races, other types of governments, and wealth/poverty. Assess how your new views will affect others who may still be quite ethnocentric or prejudiced. How has the political scene or laws changed in your home country? You may be returning to a very different political climate.
How have your views of the church changed? You may have experienced a much broader segment of the church while you were abroad. Your formerly strongly held theological perspectives may no longer seem like the only way to worship. If you go home thinking you will change the convictions of people in your church, you are likely to meet hostile reactions. Be wise about what you share about these changes.
What financial changes have taken place? Financially your family and friends may be much wealthier than before. Their homes and cars may be bigger and better. While they had pay raises, you lived on a shoestring. You need to prepare for these changes so envy doesn’t raise its ugly head when you get home.
Peter Jordan lists other changes that happen as you return from the field.” You will be moving:
- From being primarily concerned with the spiritual to being primarily concerned with practical matters.
- From being daily surrounded with Christian encouragement and fellowship to deriving your fellowship and encouragement from Wednesday evening and Sunday morning church services.
- From having a fixed and measurable goal to perhaps having none at all.
- From seeing abject poverty firsthand to perhaps experiencing seemingly overwhelming wealth.
- From a high degree of self-motivation to searching for new motivation.
- From being somebody special in the culture in which you were serving to being a nobody special.
- From serving with people who have a world perspective to being with people who, in many cases, do not care much for those outside their own circle.
“With the knowledge of the changes that have occurred in you, the changes that have occurred at home, and some of the changes you will experience after your return home, you are in a better place to understand the elements that interplay to create re-entry stress.
“Re-entry stress can take the form of feeling disoriented and out of place; feeling disillusioned; feeling irritated with others and with certain aspects of your culture; or feeling lonely, isolated, depressed, and misunderstood.”
If you would like to see the Personal Assessment Checklist that Peter Jordan includes in his book, you may go to: A Personal Assessment
This is a summary of just one chapter in Peter’s book, Re-Entry (YWAM Publishing,1992) which is still available on Amazon.com If you will be returning to your home culture in the next year, I encourage you to order the book to help you make the best possible return home.