Last year I posted Carla Williams’ “Silences,” about how missionaries express themselves without using words, “about what faith looks like in the failures. Not in the everyday, stumble-and-move-on failures, but in the ones that knock you to your knees and change the course of the rest of your life.”
Recently, Carla wrote an article for Team Expansion‘s Tell magazine, titled “Coming ‘Home’: When Missionaries Come off the Field.” This time she used the words of former missionaries to share their thoughts on returning to the States. Here is some of what they came up with:
“We tried to change the factors and could not. I had arrived at the point that I cared more about being a missionary than I cared about my family. Ministering at the expense of your family isn’t really what God had in mind.”
“You know yourself, but you don’t know yourself here.”
“It was difficult to hear some people suggest ideas right away. We were numb and not in a good state to make big decisions.”
“I have to figure out I can explain this to someone who’s never done this and they’re just not going to understand the depths of emotion and the heights and lows that come with coming back.”
“In the moment of everything happening, it feels like such a heavy burden. We felt guilty that we weren’t following through with what we told people we would do. We felt like failures. But in the end, we can appreciate everything that we learned and did and can see how much more effective it has made us in the ways we are able to serve now. Coming back to the US wasn’t the end. In a lot of ways, it was just the beginning.”
Read the entire article in the latest Tell for more, including a discussion of why missionaries leave the field and what can be done to help them once they return.
I’m grateful to Carla for inviting Team Expansion repats—including my wife and me—to give their input for the article. And she even included my poem “Back in the States after Being Gone for a Long Time” as part of the issue.
Sometimes I need someone to listen to my silence. Sometimes I need someone to listen to my words.
(Carla Williams, “Coming ‘Home’: When Missionaries Come off the Field,” Tell, Fall 2012, pp 24-27)
[photo: “Make up chyer mind, please,” by Nikki, used under a Creative Commons license]
4 thoughts on “Speaking of “Coming Home””
Thanks so much for posting this! It was truly my honor to write the article – and I feel like I learned so much from the process.
You’re welcome. Hope this sends more people to read the whole article.
We never have the whole picture. When we pray “make me an instrument of Thy will” we rarely get to see the impact we might have. It may be an “aha” moment for someone you spoke with 30 years ago, it may be a kindness to someone who annoyed you almost to death, we often have no idea how we’ve been used, and fear that we haven’t, or that we were flawed instruments :-) We have to trust incremental changes, and that there is a pattern and a meaning.
We do need God’s help to see the “whole picture.” He certainly has the best vantage point.