Short Term Missions Re-Entry Stress

This is the process that you may experience upon returning home. Re-entry stress or reverse culture shock, generally is experienced to a greater degree the longer one has been in another country.

Disillusionment with America and American Christianity play a part in any re-entry stress that is experienced.

Initial Reactions

If this is your first trip outside your home country you will be exposed to things you have never experienced first hand before, such as the plight and poverty of many in developing countries. It is not uncommon upon returning home to become disturbed and even bitter toward America’s opulence and waste.

When you return you will be excited to eat the “Big Mac and large fries” you have been craving. Your family and friends will be proud and excited to see you an you will experience a “high”. You have just conquered the unknown, been used greatly by God and you will be the center of attention.

Soon, however, this “high” drops and re-entry shock may begin.

Following are a few examples of possible reactions you may experience. Be prepared to deal with life back home inlight of your new experience. All short-term ministry/missions workers will experience some degree of re-entry stress.

1. Self-concept – Any life-changing experience can cause you to re-evaluate who you are in light of the experience.

Questions about the meaning of life and its direction may be a part of the re-entry process.

You may decide never to go outside the United States again or you may discover that there is a call on your life to ministry outside the United States.

Questioning life can be good, but the uncertainty of the answers may cause some stress.

2. Value Change and Choice – Clashes between you and those to whom you return may occur in several different area, such as material possessions, family life, racial prejudice, national priorities in ecology and politics, and Christian community conflicts.

Some workers develop a “holier than Thou” attitude towards those who did not go.

This can lead to you becoming disillusioned with Christians at home and cause you to consider them more tolerant of sin and not as committed as the Christians you met while outside the United States.

One missionary worker returning home, from the Far East, shared:

“Everybody looks rich. We stayed with good friends in a Western state who complained about the high cost of living. Yet, they are overweight and live like royalty. Many of them were talking about inflation and how they were having to cut corners…but most were wasteful and kept on buying. Why is air-conditioning kept so low? We freeze everywhere we go.”

You may face the problem of integrating what you have just seen with what you see around you at home.

Your eyes may be opened to the shallowness of Western Materialism and you may want to react by telling others they are wrong to own so many “things”, eat so much food and waste so much.

3. Expectations – You will have had many expectations for your trip about the culture and language differences, the new and exotic country and God’s purpose for you making the trip.

However, you may not have expected the reactions you may encounter when you return home. You may find that you feel like a stranger now in your own country.

You may have expected your family and friends to be as excited as you are about your experience and become hurt if they show little or no real interest about something that has made a tremendous impact on your life.

Realize that many will just not be able to understand what you have been through.

This seemingly lack of interest can reinforce in you an opinion that American Christians are just not interested in the rest of the world and are simply lovers and pleasers of self.

You must guard yourself from becoming resentful toward family, friends and American Christians.

4. Sense of Loss – You may experience a sense of loss over newfound friends and places or from being disconnected from the rest of the team. Your recent experience is not the nitty-gritty reality of everyday life.

Being in a strange country, away from all familiar cues and the security of familiar faces and places can facilitate a tendency to become extremely close to fellow team members an when you return home you may experience a sense of void.

It may take sometime to readjust to your life as it was before your trip. You may also feel a loss of purpose and self-importance.

God has just used you greatly to minister to the needs of others in a different country and when you return this purpose may seem somewhat lessened.

STAGES OF RE-ENTRY

1. Initial Euphoria — You are pleased to be home and everyone is glad to see you.

2. Irritability and Hostility – After the initial euphoria you may become irritated and hostile towards others for any number of reasons.

3. Gradual Adjustment – It may take time for you to readjust to the way your life was before your trip.

4. Adaptation – You have been changed. Life went on when you were gone and it may take time for you to catch up.

RESPONSES TO REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK

To minimize the effects of re-entry stress find methods of “closure”.

One example is to stay in touch with other team members after returning home.

Be sure you should share things about the present with them and not just the memories of your trip.

See your experience realistically and allow God to show you how to use this use it.

Have a right perspective of God’s total plan.

POINTS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER:

1. Be aware that you may experience some depression, loneliness, fatigue and illness as re-entry symptoms of stress. You can be stressed by either happy or sad events. You may go through a grief process.

2. Be alert to your own expectations and the expectations of others. Value conflicts may occur.

3. Allow for rest, reflection and rejoicing in what you have seen God do. Go over your experiences and ask the Lord to show you the various aspects of your trip and grow from them Evaluate what you have been through.

4. Take your time to readjust. Be patient with others who do not understand what you have experienced.

Source: Global Awakening

Last, but not least, don’t make any life altering decisions when you are going through this normal re-entry process.

This is a great time to keep your devotional life with God strong and pray for wisdom on how to process your experiences the right way.

JL

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