SUPPORTING MISSIONARIES ON HOME VISITS:
Help your missionaries to feel welcome as they come back to church. They may have lost touch with old friends while they were away. Even with the best of intentions, many folks in America have a hard time finding the time to keep in contact, and frequently out-of-sight can quickly turn to out-of-mind. Help your missionaries to organize times that they can become re-acquainted with the congregation, possibly providing the church hall as a venue, perhaps organizing a bring-and-share meal or a reception after church service or one evening. At the same time, remember that they will need time on their own to be refreshed, so be sensitive to the balance.
Provide your missionaries with the opportunity to be debriefed, either by you or a member of your staff if they are trained or by a trained debriefer. See the Counseling / Debriefing / Retreats page for providers in your area. Pay for the family to go to a debriefing retreat if possible.
Home visits can be most difficult for the missionary children who may hardly remember the church they are returning to. Ask for a family, preferably with children of similar ages to the children of the missionaries, to volunteer to help the kids to feel at home in their Sunday school classes and introduce them around. Perhaps the kids can even get in touch in advance of their visit to start to build a friendship by email or Skype. But be sure not to put undue pressure on the kids to stand up front of their class and give a report on their parents' mission work. The kids will almost surely want to just try to fit in. But do keep in mind that they may not know about the latest Disney shows or other pop culture. Their accents may be a bit different and they may use unconventional words or phrases depending on where they live and how often they use English on their mission field, or even what type of English they use on their mission field (British English is actually very different from American English). A toddler may need to have their nappy changed (diaper) and an older child may ask for a fizzy drink (soda). Make sure that their Sunday school teachers are aware of who they are and where they have been so that they can be sensitive to avoid confusion and embarrassment.
ACCOMMODATION AND TRANSPORTATION:
Help your missionaries to find a place to stay and a vehicle that they can use when they are visiting. Maintain a list of people in your church who can host visiting missionaries. Consider purchasing and maintaining a vehicle that can be loaned out to missionaries on home visit. You can also find options for accommodation and vehicles on the pages linked: Accommodation Vehicles. In addition, provide them with a map of the local area. If they have been away for several years, they may need a reminder of where things are. Bring their attention to any road changes or new developments. Provide them with gas gift cards to help with travel expenses and grocery gift cards. Stock their fridge and cabinets before they arrive. Also leave some toys and games in their temporary home to help keep the kids occupied and happy.
Provide mobile phones that the missionaries can borrow. Allow them use of the church phones to make calls back to their mission field if need be. Allow them to use computers, internet, printers, copiers at the church as well. Though most will probably be travelling with a laptop, wifi can be spotty depending on where they are staying, and they will almost certainly not have brought a printer with them. They could, of course, trek to an office supply store to use a printer or copier, but would welcome saving the time and money. In addition, make them aware of any new technology that has become common in America since their last visit but may not have made it to their part of the world.
MEDICAL AND DENTAL:
Have a list of doctors and dentists who will give check-ups for free or reduced rate for missionaries. If this is not possible, at least have a list of doctors and dentists who will make time for a last minute appointment, particularly for those missionaries who are only in town for a few weeks.
The missionaries may be coming from a climate very different from that of their home church, and may not have a lot of appropriate clothing. The church could either take a collection of hand-me-downs (in excellent condition!) or even better, give gift cards to a local clothing store to help the missionaries to replenish their wardrobes.
Provide someone who can give educational testing for those who need it for their children. If your state requires assessments or testing, then provide this as well. Give the missionaries the opportunity to talk to someone who can help guide them through decisions about their child's education. Consider having someone at your church go through the training to become an educational consultant. Read more about this training here.
REST AND RELAXATION:
Encourage your missionaries to get some time away as a family. They want to see everyone at church, but they also need to spend some time relaxing and resting as a family. If someone in your church owns a vacation home, perhaps they can 'loan' it to your missionaries for a long weekend. You could also maintain a list of fun things to do for days out in your area, particularly activities with low costs, or provide gift cards to a local zoo or amusement park.
Make your missionaries aware of any changes that have occurred since their last visit. Remember, they have been out of the country and are most likely completely out of touch with many new developments in your local area and in America in general. They will frequently feel foolish as they go about daily life having to re-learn how to do things, especially in this day and age when technology can cause major changes in a relatively short period of time. Help them know how to renew a driver's license or make a bank deposit at the ATM machine, the cheapest option for mobile phone service and what company offers the best coverage in your area, what shops will carry the items that they need at the best prices. When I returned to Florida after several years away, someone had to explain the SunPass system (that replaced regular tolls on the roads) because it didn't even exist when I had last been in the state. Make sure they have your mobile number or that of someone in your missions support team that they can call with any questions that come up.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Barnabas International has an excellent article called "Caring for Missionaries on Home Assignment," which can be accessed by clicking on the Member Care Basics tab on their Member Care Downloads page.
You can also find good blog posts at the links below:
Paracletos - Ways to Help Returning Missionaries Physically
Paracletos - Ways to Help Returning Missionaries Emotionally
Paracletos - Ways to Help Returning Missionaries Spiritually
Mission Resource Network - Making the Most of Missionary Visits