Tuesday, July 5, 2016

what your missionaries really need when they come home

I’ve wanted to write a post like this for a long time, but it always felt weird. I’ve always thought about it right before a trip to the states, but I never wanted to post it then, because that seemed… I don’t know, bossy or annoying or demanding. But I’m thinking about the topic this week in particular because our partners, the Suells, are about to fly out for their first trip to the states. So I’m just going to borrow some inspiration from our friends’ upcoming US visit to share what I’ve always wanted to share about what missionaries really need when we come “home.”  

For your information, entertainment and revelation, I give you THE NEEDS (in no particular order):

Acknowledgement that home is now ambiguous
            After a time, we started calling Zambia home, and yet America is home too, and that can be confusing and weird and put our stomach in knots as we are both glad to be home and miss home and don’t want to leave home and can’t wait to go home all at the same time. Be patient. This is hard.

emoting the hard

Cultural latitude to be weird
            In the mean while, we’ve gotten too used to the fun(ny) Zam hand shake and awkwardly giggling and dancing at (in)appropriate times. These habits are hard to shake and so if we invade your personal bubble or forget that time is important to some people or don’t know what’s going on with Game of Thrones, forgive us. We will be henceforth be weird and hope you will love us anyway.

Time reserved for immediate family
            No one – even our most beloved, faithful, supporters – misses us as much as our families. Or, at the very least, Grandma and Grandpa miss their babies and once they have us in their arms, they never ever want to let us go. The schedule of a church-visiting trip can be quite demanding and while we want to see everyone, we need to reserve time for the mom and dad who raised us to be the missionaries we are today and without whose support, work on the field would be so very hard.

the last time they were together, that "baby" was  10 weeks old

            Despite all of the dreaming we do about chocolate chip cookies and chicken casserole and mmmm… just… all the delicious things… if you eat “special” (ie, rich, delicious, spoil me and I don’t care about the consequences food) three meals a day for weeks on end, it actually starts to sit pretty heavy. Too much of a good thing is still too much and sometimes a nice full bowl of ruffage is exactly what the body needs. So thank you for the sixteenth bowl of ice cream this week… we’ll get to that right after this heap of spinach.

Early bed times
            Whether it be jet lag or travel fatigue or talking to people all day every day, trips home are crazy exhausting. And with kids? Multiply that cranky-tired by about a thousand. We clearly want to laugh and talk late into the night, but please kick us out at 8pm and tell us to go sleep. Somewhere in the world it is 2am and our bodies hate us and our children are on the verge of one massive come-apart lest we put them to bed at a decent hour. Please and thank you.

more tired than a college student is apparently a thing

Opportunities to talk about work
            Since these trips to the states are largely about connecting with those supporting the ministry, we want to share absolutely everything that God is doing in this place. We want to share in large groups and small groups and up front and out back. Setting up these meetings and audiences can be more work thank climbing Kilimanjaro for lack of a personal secretary and the need to coordinate approximately 60 other people’s schedules. Be merciful. Schedule early and schedule often.

To talk about something other than work
            While we never actually tire of talking about our work (because it’s clearly awesome), we do like to know what’s going on in other people’s lives! What’s new in your family? WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON IN AMERICA! Mama needs her girl-friends and Dad needs man-time and after 748 consecutive days of being the fish in the fish bowl, its important to just let your hair down and fit in and hang out for a while… which is easier to do when you are not the center of attention in a presentation context. Games, movies, feeding the ducks… these things feed souls.

geese are scary, but ducks are the best

            Consider stepping off of a plane into another country with only that which fits in a suitcase. You don’t have a car… or a hair dryer… or really anything useful. It is a gift straight from heaven for individuals to loan out these items.

Marriage Counseling
            Life on the mission field is hard on marriages. It just is. Not all people are qualified to be actual marriage counselors, but those who are older and closer to the couple, please ask the question, “How are YOU TWO as a couple doing.” The strength of the marriage is vital to longevity on the field.

we tend to display our best selves professionally. this is not always the truth. 

Alone Time
            Jeremy and I were apart from our daughter for the first time ever when she was TWO AND A HALF. Bless Grandma’s heart for watching her so we could have our first real date in literally forever. As much fun as it is schlepping kids around to different cities and different churches and different homes… its not. Sometimes we need to get rid of our offspring so we can talk about something other than how much we need to get rid of them. If you are good with littles, bless your soul.

Show extra love/grace/kindness to the kids
            While little kids are extremely resilient, going “home” can be very stressful. Bronwyn had no experience with church nurseries and she had no indoor voice and she was used to spitting things on the ground. I got enough side-eye’s from strangers that I wanted to cry. Bless the angels who loved on my girl and gave her a little extra attention and took pictures of her for us and told her she was just beautiful and loveable and fine. Bless.

the aunties that came out of no where while we were holding microphones were in fact angels

            The third goal of any home visit, after visiting family and communicating the mission, is to raise financial support. This probably goes without saying, but if you want to lift a burden off of your missionaries’ shoulders, you’ll write them checks and set up those recurring paypal and give verbal promise of more to come. All missionaries know that finances and hearts go together – and so when God’s people come forth with the financial support, we are encouraged, knowing we’re taking your love with us as well.

Words of Affirmation
            When all is said and done, “Well done, good and faithful,” is the ultimate affirmation we all long to hear. If that sounds too end times Jesus-like, equally encouraging sentiments are, 

“You guys are doing a good job.” 
“We are proud of you.” 
“It’s our honor to be a part of this work.” 
“Keep it up.”  
“Thank you for your faithfulness to your call.” “
Bless you both.” 
"We pray for you every day.”

            Verbal affirmation is a gift from the Lord. Get all sappy and don’t hold back. We’ll treasure those words for the next 836 days.

Missionaries who are well cared for at home are more effective while on the field,  and I just have to say thank you to everyone who has helped sustain us and advance us to where we are today.

Missionaries: anything I've forgotten?

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