I struggled with knowing whether I should share this post here, because I wrote it for missionaries. To anyone else, it might sound whiny or cynical. But if you're friends with missionaries (or any overseas worker), this might be helpful for you. It may sound strange, but coming home can be just as difficult as adjusting to a new country. I hope this may give you a glimpse into what it can be like.
Visiting Home Might Not Be Everything You Dreamed
When I’m overseas, I dream about Target. Everything I need, all in one place, at reasonable prices! So when our furlough started a month ago, I visited Target the day after I arrived.
We’ve been missionaries for 13 years, so I should know better by now. Target’s awesomeness can be a little too much to take in just 48 hours after leaving East Africa. I was instantly bombarded with hordes of conflicting emotions. Wow, it’s all so amazing! Look at all this stuff! Yeah, what’s wrong with Americans? Why are they so materialistic? That one pair of shoes could feed a family for a week in Tanzania. And in just a couple of years, all these clothes will be cast off and end up in some market in Africa. So why should I even bother shopping for them now? Oooohhh….but I really like that blouse.
Emotional whiplash. I couldn’t keep up.
And then when I finally did finish shopping, I felt like an idiot as the clerk tried to help me use the chip card machine. Shoot, I thought I was doing well by just remembering how to use a credit card, and then they go and change all the rules on me! “Sorry,” I mumbled to her. “I’ve been living overseas a really long time.”
Ah, going home. We dream about it. We long for it. We count the days until take off. But when it finally arrives, the reality just doesn’t match up. And we find ourselves in the midst of adjusting, all over again, to a place that we thought would feel like home. We find ourselves struggling with disillusionment and discouragement.
So why can visiting home feel so hard? Here are some thoughts.
People move on. When you leave home for a just a few weeks or months, it’s easy to slip back into the same routines of life. Friends, social events, and jobs all come back together just as they were before—just with more stories to tell. But when you leave for years, life goes on without you. In your mind, time stood still back at home, but in reality, your friends have gone through hard stuff and happy stuff, and you were not there to experience with them. And all those people who sent you overseas with much fanfare? They are a lot busier now, and might forget to roll out that red carpet you expected.
You are a different person. Spending years in a different country changes you. You’ve adapted to new ways of speaking, interacting, shopping, sleeping, and raising kids. There are literally new pathways in your brain. It’s not so easy to just drop all of that on a 14 hour flight and expect to become the same person you once were when you get back home. You are not going to see the world the same way ever again.
Read the rest here at A Life Overseas.