23 May, 2014

Thinking about missionaries' transitions

I've collected a couple of links to articles with some excellent insights into transition and reentry. 

This article makes some great points. I've personalised some of them here:

This life of living cross-culturally – loving and becoming like those not like you – is a life marked by grief. Oh yes, I've talked
Here are some of my missionary friends. All three of
these ladies have taken home assignments in the last
18 months. Goodbyes and hellos! Yet because we
share this crazy lifestyle we have a strong bond.
about that here before (for example here and here). Imminent goodbyes are weighing heavily on me just now.

Returning starts as soon as you think about leaving.  Yep. So we've been leaving for a while now. We began talking about the right timing for this home assignment since at least the end of 2012!  And we won't really settle fully in Australia, because we'll be thinking about leaving again next June!

The word “home” will be one of the most perplexing words to ever define again. Yep, agreed. Be careful of suggesting that it's good to "be home" when we're in Australia. "Home" is complicated, and even more so for our boys.

Transition comes with ‘odd’ symptoms that are a NORMAL part of loss and change. Yes, for example, I've definitely been making more mistakes recently. The other day I made a basic maths error in an email (3,000 - 500 = 3,500, doesn't it?). Yesterday's blogpost is a good example. I spelt "practise" incorrectly four times and had another autocorrect problem that slipped through. Today I attached the wrong document to an email. Not that these don't ever happen, they're just happening more frequently at present. 

Re-entry is like a dense fog that takes awhile to liftBe warned, if you encounter us early in our time back in Australia, we could be weird and "foggy".  

Returning happens best in the presence of others who are genuinely interested in hearing your story. Oh yes, how we love those who can sit and listen and ask good questions!

And another one which is more about what it's like for missionaries when they leave the field permanently. It is worth a read, if only to get a great understanding of what a tremendous challenge that is. 

How does it relate to the Marshalls? Even though we aren't leaving the field yet, we still feel some of the challenges and misunderstandings that are mentioned. The last section of the article give suggestions of how people on the "home side" can help: Pray, tangible help, and listen. These three are good for helping anyone going through a big transition.

Lastly I read an article recently in New Directions, a newspaper put out by the Presbyterian Church in Australia. It is by an author who is quite well known in missions there, Naomi Reed. I identify with her on several levels, because we have a similar background (Allied Health professionals) and similar family dynamics (three boys) and she's a writer too (though I haven't written a book yet, but she's written several). But we have very different ministry stories. She and her family were in Nepal for a time. They've now returned to Australia. Her article is also about the challenges of re-entry. I particularly like this quote from one of her boys about the tension he felt about being back in Australia:
It's the way that we always had something big to look forward to in Nepal. Everything about our lives was special there sand everything had a purpose. It joined together. We had friends who shared all of that and that made them more real. We don't have that here."
She continues, "It was all about purposefulness. Our years in Nepal were marked by deliberateness of life and ministry. Darren and I knew that God and called us there with a specific purpose in mind. We shared that purpose with the wider mission community and that gave us a unique fellowship."*

That about sums it up. Our life is very purposeful and if that were to be taken away from us, we'd definitely find it difficult. It is challenging enough to go back to Australia and try to fit in with friends who don't have the same sense of overarching purposefulness. We miss that when we're away from Japan.

So there's today's collection of thoughts about missionary transitions. Feel overwhelmed yet? Somehow writing about it like this helps me to feel less overwhelmed.

* New Directions, June/July 2012, page 5.


-J said...

Wholeheartedly agree! The Reed quote puts into words something I've definitely felt. Thanks for sharing it!

Anonymous said...

I loved reading Naomi Reed's book. It came at just the right time for me, the situation with her husband in the book (without giving too much away for those who haven't read it) was almost exactly what we were going through with a family member at the same time. Wendy, when you are back in Australia will you be visiting Victoria at any stage? Specifically the far north west of the state? Would love to hear about your journeys. "Just thinking"

Wendy said...

Which of Naomi's books are you talking about? She's written several now.
I'll probably be coming to Melbourne for a Christian Writer's conference. We did dream of a tenting trip all the way to SA, but I don't know if that's actually going to come about. Otherwise, no, we have almost no supporters in VIC or NSW. Sorry!

Anonymous said...

The first one I read was "My Seventh Monsoon" which is the one I referred to in my previous comment. I have enjoyed the one following that, but I can't remember the title.
Disappointed you aren't coming this way, but will continue to follow you via this blog. There always seems lots of missionaries throughout Queensland- perhaps I should look at a move north???
"Just thinking"

Wendy said...

I'll have to reread it, I can't remember the details of the book!
Lots of missionaries going through Sydney too. Can't say about Victoria. Sorry to miss you anon.