I recently took a teaching trip to the United States. These journeys become times when I reflect on life as a missionary. Being away from the field gives you pause to evaluate, both with positive elements as well as areas of stress.
There are several factors of missionary stress which are apart of everyday life. Stepping out from under these pressures can reveal their impact.
Here are two stresses I feel relief from when temporarily stepping away from the foreign field.
1. The pressure of doing things in a different way than comes naturally. You are able to relax more without worrying about simple things you normally take for granted like wording or offense
2. The greatest “relief” I feel is not thinking about crime and safety constantly. Living under this causes you to realize you live in a persistent state of tension.
While there are hard parts to missions, there are countless positive benefits.
Being away also shows me three lessons which the mission field is teaching me:
1. I now view news from my home country in a different way. I see my nation from a less ethnocentric way since moving overseas. I feel my perspective is richer and broader by living amongst multiple schools of thought and culture.
2. The foreign field shows me that relationships are what is important. When I return home, I am less concerned with eating food or visiting my favorite places and more concerned with connecting with people. Africa has highlighted this value to me even more.
3. There is pain all over the world. This might seem a strange one. The mission field has shown me hardship at new depths, but it remains the human condition, not merely the plight of those in other nations. I have spent entire trips home having one conversation after another with people who were hurting. Caring for people does not need to involve a passport, it can happen in your hometown.
The bottom line:
Home is wonderful, but the longer I live on the field, the more I love it. I am richer for the lessons it is teaching me and the struggles are worth overcoming. It is becoming a home away from home.
What has your experience been when returning home for a visit, or permanently?