Mission: Return Home
In August 2016, I had recently come home from a two-month mission trip to New York City. We all (overseas missionaries and domestic missionaries alike) had to return to the organization we went through before they would let us return home. The organization warned me of the reverse culture shock that I would experience when I returned home. I looked around me at all the people who had gone overseas for the summer and thought, “They can’t be talking about me, since I stayed in America this summer.”
Boy, was I wrong.
I couldn’t sleep without all the horns, alarms, and sirens of the city. The silence in my rural Georgia town I had always loved so much was now deafening to me. I had literal pain in my ears when I sat in silence.
I used to get in my car and drive to relax. After my trip, where I rode public transportation the entire summer, I would get so nervous while driving that I would shake. I had to clinch the steering wheel with all my might to keep the car straight.
It was so thoroughly exhausting pretending to be “normal”– meaning the person my parents had watched drive away two months earlier towards my training and my trip.
“Aren’t you glad to be home?” everyone would ask me. I started answering them, “It’s very different.” They would laugh awkwardly, agree, and move on.
When you come back from a mission trip, you are changed. You have seen God show up in situations, in people’s lives, and even in your own life up close and personal. You are not the same person you were when you left.
You are not the same person your family remembers. They have waited for that person to come home, and they don’t understand that the person you used to be will never come back.
It is perfectly normal to want to sell everything you have and go back to your mission field. It's normal to come home and feel as if you don’t belong anymore. Just remember that when your family doesn’t quite understand you or doesn’t understand that you can’t just jump back into your old life right away, have grace with them. It’s normal for them not to get it. That doesn’t give us the right to be angry or bitter against them.
The way we react to our reverse culture shock is what will really show our family that we’re different. Our love is what shows everyone we are different from every other religion in the world (John 13:35); this situation is no exception. Love others, because God loves us. Show grace and forgiveness to others, because when you fully understand God’s grace and forgiveness for us, you can’t help but show it to everyone.
Reverse culture shock is only one aspect of returning home, though.
Thankfully, Jesus sent out 72 people to tell surrounding towns about Himself in Luke 10. We can learn so much from what happened on their return back to Jesus,
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (17-24)
Jesus gave the 72 missionaries instructions once they returned back to him. They had seen such amazing things! They were joyful to find that even the demons were subject to them. Jesus stated that, yes, of course they had that power, because He had already told them He gave it to them. It’s almost as if they were shocked and awed to find out Jesus was telling the truth. Of course He was–He’s Jesus!
In verse 20, Jesus reminds them that they should not be joyful when using this power, because that misses the point. He sent them out to show what He could do and to glorify Him, not themselves. They should instead rejoice in what Jesus had done for them by writing their names in heaven. This is the first important message in this passage for those coming back from mission trips: Remember when telling others about your trip and experiences that it was God through you that did all those amazing things. It’s not about you; it’s about Him.
The second important message comes from Jesus’ prayer in verses 21 to 22: Thank God for revealing Himself to you through your trip. Whether He showed up for you in a big way (for example, an incredible revival broke out) or in the little things (maybe in honing a skill you had never tried, like teaching the Word to a large group), He was there and cheering you on by working through you, all for His glory. Praise Him for working through you and letting you be a small part of His plan for those you ministered to.
In verses 23 to 24, Jesus turns His attention from the returning missionaries and from His prayers to the Father. He turns to His disciples and reminds them just how blessed they are to have had this experience. You, my friend, are blessed to have had the experience you did on your mission trip. There are many Christians that don’t get to have those experiences, whether because of financial, medical, or many other reasons. We are blessed to serve Him. Let that sink in for a minute. Because we are blessed, we should be willing to share that blessing with others by telling them how God glorified Himself through your trip and/or how He revealed Himself to you in a very personal way.
Never go back to the person you were. Let go of the person you were before your trip, embrace the reverse culture shock, and you’ll be amazed at the way God can change you from the inside out. Remember, though, it’s not about you. It will always be about Him.
What can you do to serve God and bring Him glory in your life today?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lacey Rae recently moved to Mt. Zion, Georgia after graduating from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master's degree in Biblical Counseling. Her passion is biblically counseling young women to help them grow closer to Christ. She loves attempting to bake, bingeing shows on Netflix and Hulu, and supporting her six nieces and nephews as often as possible.