SUPPORTING MISSIONARIES UPON RE-ENTRY:
Please note that all of the information on the Supporting Missionaries on Home Visit page will be helpful during re-entry as well.
The Reentry Team: Caring for Your Returning Missionaries by Neal Pirolo
The Reentry Team, an essential guide for receiving missionaries well, is divided into three sections. Pirolo begins by explaining the need for a cooperative relationship between a sending church and the missions agency, describing the scriptural foundation for a church to receive its missionaries well, and delineating the main areas of concern that can complicate the re-entry process. The bulk of the book contains the re-entry stories of missionaries, which are examined in light of the issues of re-entry that had been described in section one. The final section contains a series of articles and a list of resources on re-entry.
Receiving Them Well: A Guide on How to Support Your Loved One Returning From Humanitarian Aid or Missionary Work by Lisa Ennis and Lori Bryan is an excellent, short book that helps folks back 'home' understand a bit of what overseas workers are going through when they return to the US. It gives lots of practical ideas of ways to help, questions to ask, and things not to do or say.
These books should be on the bookshelf of every sender as they provide invaluable insight into the experiences of those who have returned and felt supported and those who didn't.
Be aware of the emotional issues specific to re-entry and resources that will help missionaries through the transition. The Re-entry Resources section of the website provides information on recommended books, websites, debriefing centers and more. Your missionaries will need to walk through a difficult path of grief and loss. Make sure that someone in your church is familiar with these issues and is available to support them through the tough times. The website Returning Well has webinars to train individuals to become re-entry companions in order to aid missionaries in their re-entry process, using the book Returning Well by Melissa Chaplin as a guide. The church could even pay for returning missionaries to go to a re-entry retreat if possible. Information about re-entry retreats around the U.S. can be found on the Debriefing page.
HIDDEN IMMIGRANT ISSUES:
Be aware that moving back to the U.S. after a prolonged absence not only involves feelings of grief and loss mixed with excitement for the future, but also involves quite a bit of stress, as figuring out life in America can be extremely humbling, especially if they have been gone for a while. Technology has advanced tremendously in the past ten years, and these advances have caused normal, every-day life activities to change immensely, something that most people who have lived through the changes gradually will not even think about. But for someone who has been living in a very different culture, even simple activities and decisions can be overwelming. It may seem incomprehensible to an American who gets a new mobile phone every time Apple comes out with an upgrade, but many missionaries have never even owned a smartphone. Their children may be completely unfamiliar with Playstation and Wii beyond possibly using a friend's when they were on a home visit several years previous. The enormity of change can be overwhelming, particularly when they are in a country where they clearly speak the language and appear to 'fit in'. This state of being a 'hidden immigrant' can be stressful and upsetting as the newly returned missionary must learn how to do life even though to those they meet they appear to be fully American. Be aware of this and be available, or have someone in your church be available, to answer questions and help through the day-to-day activities that must be dealt with in re-establishing a life in America.
GENERAL PRACTICAL ASSISTANCE:
As a church, you can assist your returning missionaries in finding long-term solutions for accommodation, employment, and transportation. Be available to advise regarding areas to consider as they look for a new home. Recommend a reliable real estate agent or rental agent as well as a trustworthy auto salesperson. Help them figure out what type of vehicle would best suit them and their budget. Makes and models of cars are completely different in other parts of the world, and if they have been gone for a while, they may not even know what to be looking for. A vehicle that was reliable ten years ago may not have such a good reputation today.
Help them sort out educational options for their children. What are the local public schools like? Are there any private schools that might better suit them? If they choose to homeschool, introduce them to other homeschoolers at your church who can let them know about activities, clubs and classes they can become involved in.
Help them to become reoriented in the local area. Walk with them through the maze of choosing a mobile phone company, internet and cable companies, auto insurance options, and utility companies.