Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Review: Re-Entry by Peter Jordan

Rather than write a review of this book, which is written for missionaries returning to their home country after short or long-term trips, I will just share some of the quotes/lessons that impacted me the most and I have found the most helpful in readjusting. Or rereading and repeating to myself as I struggle with something and I just force myself to say, "This is NORMAL. You are NOT crazy. It will be ok. Just be patient." When I first got back I felt ok (though physically I was really confused and my body was reacting in all kinds of crazy ways), but then over time I have had a few days where I have felt completely overwhelmed, frustrated, out of place in my own country, and like I'm reacting in strange ways. So, again, I keep going back to these notes and reminding myself that eventually it will all be ok.

The whole book is reasonably good (though some of the references are outdated and/or a bit cheesy), but these were some of the highlights for me:

~   Prepare for reverse culture shock- Some of the difficulties experienced by returning missionaries during re-entry is a result of their success on the mission field. Unfortunately that success must be reversed when they return home. And what is their success? Cross-cultural adaptation. They have adapted so well to the culture in which they have been serving that they must undergo a reverse cultural adaptation back to their home culture (p77). Never presume that no changes have occurred, even if you have only been away on a one-month outreach. Nothing stays the same, neither you nor the people you left at home. Humans exist in a state of constant change in which they are seeing and learning new things and adjusting to them (p42).

~  Social changes- One change you will probably notice is a much greater understanding and acceptance of people from other races and ethnic groups. You have become less “ethnocentric.” This means that the dogmas and practices of your culture are not as central or absolute to you as they used to be; now you can easily embrace other culture perspectives and ways of doing things (p45). This may cause conflict with others, so watch out for it. Or you could be ridiculed for your openness and acceptance, but it's important to respond with grace and kindness.

~   Emotional changes- Your emotional attachments will have changed, and so will those of the people with whom you were once close. You may be close to them still, but maybe not. This is perfectly normal, but many people aren’t prepared for these changes when returning home. As a result, misunderstandings and hurts can occur. People may think you are snubbing or ignoring them. It may take some time for them to realize that both of you have changed and to adjust into a new routine and relationship, so be patient (p46).

 ~  Many returning missionaries fail to make a clear distinction between the function of the mission organization and the function of the local church.  The mission org takes a small number of committed Christians and trains them to focus on a specific goal of sharing the Gospel. In contrast, the local church is a broad, diverse, multifaceted entity, with many tasks it is called to undertake. There are weak and mature Christians in churches, and the church must respond to all kinds of needs, etc. So don’t get upset that the church isn’t focusing “enough” on missions or evangelism or something YOU think it needs to be (though the church certainly should be missional).

 ~   Don’t be critical- Come home humble, not haughty. Resist the urge to compare and criticize, especially when you feel people don’t understand you or what you have been through. Mature people are patient with immature people. If your experience on the mission field has matured you, it should work itself out in your life through more patience and less criticism. If that is not the case, as yourself if you are as mature as you think you are (p87).

~   On understanding apathy- People's perceived apathy can be a result of information overload, or compassion burnout. If you don’t get asked a lot of questions about what it was like serving on the mission field, it can also be because many people already think they know; they’ve seen it on TV. It can also be from difficulty relating to missionaries- few Christians, must less non-Christians, really understand what motivates missionaries or how to relate to them. So don't be offended, just work to share how and when appropriate.     

~   A Return on God’s Investment- For the rest of your life, you will carry with you the sights, sounds, and impressions you experienced on the mission field. While there, you will also have developed an awareness of the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of other missionaries, and of the people you were seeking to reach with the Gospel. When you arrive home you become a link between two unknowns in a very real sense: the people group among whom you served and your church congregation (p126). Be an advocate, be informed, continue to take an interest in the people with whom you worked among on the mission field. Be an intercessor, be a giver, be supportive, be part of a missions board, be a recruiter, stay linked to your missions agency. Let the experiences of the mission field change the way you live now back at home in positive and God-honoring ways.

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