Coming home

Meredith Flynn —  August 26, 2013
Kids in Haiti crowd around to see themselves in a camera’s tiny screen.

Kids in Haiti crowd around to see themselves in a camera’s tiny screen.

HEARTLAND | Meredith Flynn

Re-entering my everyday life American life after a week in Haiti, I was reminded of

something Mark Emerson said: “We’re pretty good at going away on mission. We may not do as well with coming home.”

Emerson, who leads IBSA’s missions team, said we need a how-to about coming back from a short-term mission trip. Because the emotions run so high during a week in Haiti or inner city Chicago or Bulgaria or East St. Louis, it’s inevitably an adjustment to come back to our normal houses, routines and lives.

It’s not just mission trip participants that are prone to a letdown. Any spiritual mountaintop experience is wonderful when you’re in the middle of it, but it’s hard to come back down to earth. On our last night in Haiti, our team leader Bob Elmore talked about how to come home well. He and others who had been on previous international mission trips cautioned us newbies about the challenges we might run into, and how to counteract a bumpy re-entry. Their counsel focused mostly on how we should interact with people who weren’t on the trip.

One volunteer laughingly told the team about a message she’d received from her parents, gently reminding her that they were going on family vacation the day after she returned to the States and that they would like her to be in a better frame of mind than last year – when she got back, walked into the house, and promptly burst into tears.

The lesson is that others who weren’t on your particular mountaintop may not full grasp the emotional connections you formed with a place and a people in just a week or two. We ought to be patient, speak well, and remember God gives us unique experiences so that we can magnify how great and creative He is.

When we come down from the mountaintop, we also have to be responsible in the stories we tell. It’s tempting to focus on the spider you saw, or how hot it was, or how delicious soda is when it’s made with cane sugar. Say those things – details help people remember and pray – but say them quickly. Get them out of the way so you can talk more about how God worked to transform you and your team, and how He’s at work in parts of the world you rarely or never thought about before.

Make Him the main character in your stories – after all, He’s the one who took you to the mountaintop.

Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.