Debriefing: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? [—at A Life Overseas]


After I wrote about debriefing last month, some people responded with versions of . . . Sounds like a good idea, but where should I go?

That’s a great question, and I’d like to point you to a place where you can find some options. Here at A Life Overseas, click on the Resources link at the top of the page, and you’ll see a list of debriefing opportunities under the heading “Re-entry and Debriefing Resources.” It’s not an exhaustive list, but with the continued help of this community, we can make it more so. Can you give us the names, URLs, and locations of other places you’d recommend? Just comment below or leave your contributions in the comments section at the end of the Resources list.

Of course, Where? isn’t the only question worth asking. So as you think about what might be a good fit for you, here are some more questions to get you started. . . .

. . . finish reading at A Life Overseas

[photo: “Welcome home,” by Stefani Woods, used under a Creative Commons license]


When Debriefing, Leave Your Shoes—and Socks—at the Door [—at A Life Overseas]


When we first moved to Asia, one of the customs we needed to learn was not wearing shoes in someone’s home. It’s one of those cultural things. But starting out, we had our reasons for wanting to leave our shoes on. It’s convenient. What about the holes in my socks? I don’t want you to smell my feet—and I don’t want to smell yours! It just doesn’t feel right.

But It didn’t take long for going shoeless inside to become our habit, and even our preference. Then we’d fly back to the West and upon landing we’d again be in the land of most-people-wear-shoes-in-the-house. Of course, we still could take ours off, and we often did. But sometimes it was easier just to leave them on. Then it was back on the plane (where, a recent headline proclaims, you should never take your shoes off), and we’d start to reset our minds about a whole range of things.

Back and forth. Back and forth. It can all get pretty confusing. Sometimes we need help sorting things out—things much bigger and deeper than clothing choices. A great opportunity for processing on those issues, whether you’re finishing a term, or a lifetime, overseas, is a set-aside time for in-depth, personal debriefing. And for that kind of debriefing, regardless of the location, shoes, and socks, don’t belong.

OK. Now I’ve moved to speaking figuratively, so let me continue in that vein and talk a little about feet. Most of us aren’t that crazy about how ours look. There are crooked toes, calluses, bunions, blisters, unclipped or ingrown toenails, and pasty-white skin. And then there’s that smell. Yes, missionaries may have the beautiful feet of Romans 10:15, but they don’t always seem that way to the ones who own them—thus the socks and shoes. Debriefing, though, should be about openness and trust, showing your feet, so to speak, as they truly are. But that’s not always easy.

To read the rest of this post, head over to A Life Overseas. . . .

[photo: “Shoes,” by Long Road Photography, used under a Creative Commons license]

Member Care: Learning from Each Other


Blogger Maria Foley, at I Was an Expat Wife, writes that her husband’s employer did a great job of easing her family’s transition to life overseas. In fact, she calls the help they got in their move to Singapore “wonderful.” But the return trip was a different story. When they came back to Canada, she says, “the silence was deafening.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In “What the Missionary Sector Can Teach Us about Handling Re-Entry” (May 6, 2013), Maria applauds the work of the Assemblies of God in meeting the needs of their cross-cultural workers. She tells about her friend, Heather, who is a youth coordinator in the International Society of Missionary Kids‘ reentry program, part of the AG’s efforts to help missionaries and MKs adjust to the comings and goings of their cross-cultural lives. Part of Heather’s motivation to help MKs comes from her own experiences as a child in a missionary family. “I wish I’d been able to go through a program like this. It would have been helpful to have those tools,” she says. “That’s why I think it means so much to me to work with these kids, because I had such a difficult re-entry.” (You can read more from Heather at her blog, Adventures in Transition.)

This is a common sentiment among those who work in member care: wanting to serve current cross-cultural workers and their families by providing the kind of help that wasn’t available when they faced similar difficulties in their own lives.

That’s what happened with Lauren and Jo Ann Helveston, who started The Mission Society‘s pastoral-care department in 2007. When the couple were missionaries in Ghana, they weren’t part of “an agency like The Mission Society,” says Jo Ann. “So debriefing, or even training, was not part of our experience.” Now they debrief missionaries who are back in the States.

Jo Ann’s comments come from The Mission Society’s spring 2013 issue of Unfinishedan edition devoted entirely to member care. The article “What Missionaries Don’t Tell You” describes the issue in this way:

The pages of Unfinished typically tell the stories of what God is doing through our missionaries. This issue, however, is more about what God is doing in them, particularly during those difficult seasons that aren’t typically chronicled in their newsletters or blogs. It’s about how missionaries themselves need to be cared for and ministered to.

Other articles include

  • When Hope Begins to Stir
    Missionary care can happen through listening (the source of Jo Ann Helveston’s comments above)
  • How Can We find Our Way?
    What happens to missionaries when disillusionment becomes their constant companion?
  • Top 10 Ways to Care for Your Missionaries
  • Top 10 Items to Include in a Care Package
  • A Different World
    Third culture kids speak about a life only a select population can relate to.

I stumbled upon Unfinished as I was collecting information for my post on African-American missionaries. What a find. Not only does it include great information and insights, it is an encouragement to see that when we participate in member care, we are joining a growing group that has common goals, lives out common experiences, and speaks a common language. It is a group that grows in understanding as we share with and learn from each other.

And the world is our classroom.

[photo: “Geography Lesson in a Grammar Class,” by Boston Public Library, used under a Creative Commons license]