About one year ago, I was fighting yet another wave of panic about my upcoming relocation from Asia to America.
I’d been living overseas for 14 years, basically my whole adult life, but had decided that it was time to relocate. Anyone who has lived overseas knows that these decisions often do not come easy. And when it is time to relocate, the decisions regarding where to go next and what to do are just as difficult. On top of all that, I’d spent my “formative” adult years overseas, so I had “family” and roots and identity that were firmly planted in my host culture.
Hence, waves of panic, turmoil, lost sleep and countless tears flooded as I navigated the upcoming changes. Each time a new wave came, I spent time seeking Him, meeting with trusted advisers, and scouring the internet for resources. It was during one of those internet rabbit trails that I discovered Velvet Ashes. I found blog posts, suggested readings, podcasts, and social media accounts. It was life to my parched soul. I felt understood, and I wanted a deeper connection.
I kept exploring the Velvet Ashes website and found two particular resources that really interested me. One was a mailing list (find our Returning Home series here). I entered my departure date (the date I’d be leaving my host culture to return to my passport culture) and I received weekly emails for two weeks before and 4-6 weeks after. Each email was timely, giving words to the emotions I was feeling and providing a reminder that I was not alone in this transition. The other resource was Connection Groups, which were closed for registration until the fall.
When I saw the announcement for Fall Connection Group registration, I set a reminder in my phone. I read the descriptions of the different groups and knew which one would fit my schedule best. On registration day, I signed up within minutes.
My Connection Group was a Facebook chat group. It was a crazy whirlwind of well-timed discussion questions, followed by each member’s comment response, followed by everyone commenting on everyone else’s comments…and responding…and responding…and so on. Then another discussion question, and the entire flurry began again. But that weekly flood of question-comment-respond turned out to be a safe haven in the upheaval of re-entry. The members of my group lived all over the US. Our former host cultures and terms of service overseas all varied. But I often felt like we’d all lived in Asia together and were just having a weekly chat to catch up.
Each week, the discussions centered on a topic. We, of course, started by checking in and letting each other know how our week had been. Then a few questions related to the topic of the week in the Velvet Ashes community. Many times, the topics happened to overlap with discussions I had participated in, or simply listened to, in-person with family and friends. It was sometimes difficult to relate to those around me on the topics because my experiences overseas had been so different. However, the conversation in my Connection Group offered perspectives of people who had served in a wide variety of settings. It was also a safe place to share the struggles I faced in relating to others and to glean wisdom from others who were also in the midst of re-entry.
You know that feeling when you’ve had a really productive team meeting, or when a nagging problem finally gets resolved, or that sense of fullness after a fun outing with friends? At the close of each week’s session, I had that feeling. I’d been heard, understood, validated… I wasn’t crazy after all! I’d been able to engage in a conversation, share my perspective, experiences, and opinions honestly and learn from others who shared their own.
My Connection Group was not my only re-entry resource. I am so grateful for all the people, books, blog posts, podcasts, and other resources that helped me in the first days, weeks and months of my re-entry (I’ve only been back for a little over 6 months, so I’m still in the midst of re-entry). It was a small pocket of intentional community that offered me a sense of belonging and connectedness when my whole world had been turned upside down.
Have you found ways to find connection and community in specific seasons of your journey?
Want to connect with others who are walking through re-entry, heading to the field, or in your region? Would you like to chat with other singles, women who have little ones, or homeschooling moms? We have Connection Groups for you, and also lots of groups open to anyone serving on the field! Head over to our Connection Group page to learn more and register!