How to Welcome Her Back {The Grove: Re-entry}

Your loved one is coming back! After time in a place you couldn’t pinpoint on a map before she fell in love with it, she’s coming home.

You will pick her up at the airport, feed her good home cookin’, take her shopping to update that…ummm…wardrobe. Man, is it going to be great to have her back!

Is she happy to be home? Absolutely! She is so glad to be back with you.

And honestly? No, she’s also not glad to be back. The problem is, her “normal” changed.

Here’s what you need to know.

Your loved one changed in ways she has difficulty articulating. The depth and breadth of the shift is still unknown to her.

For you, her reentry is an event you’ve been waiting for. It’s here. It’s over. It’s time to continue your daily rhythms of life. For her, it’s a marathon and she’s barely at the halfway mark. She is staggering in intense, complex, conflicting emotions. Exhausted by the logistical and emotional fatigue of farewells and deluge of decisions, her life is in upheaval.

You might think she’s finally crossed the finish line. But she is still in the in-between with questions about who she is, where she will belong, how she is going to live in this oh-so-familiar-yet-unfamiliar place. An undercurrent of grief is pushing and pulling, tugging away at her energy and focus. She is in a fog of longings and confusion and doubts and concerns. And all of this is perfectly normal.

The waves of transition will ebb and flow for months, probably years. It’s an intensely personal experience, far more like a rickety roller coaster in a country with no safety laws, than a lovely stroll in a park.

So, here’s how to help her.

Give her space.

Two basic needs for wellbeing are threatened when a global worker returns to her home country: a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging and connectedness.

She’s come back to very nice things: safety, comfort, love of family and friends, communicating in her native language, conveniences she’s been dreaming of, ease of living.

No visa kerfuffles, no quandaries about how to communicate with only gestures, no navigating corruption vs. getting things done, nothing demanding she courageously give her all just to get through today.

I know it seems crazy, but she is going to miss those. A lot. Being a square peg in a round hole is hard. It sure enough is. But it’s also invigorating and life-giving. We humans aren’t created for ease. We are created for challenge, for purpose, for living beyond ourselves. Humans thrive in hardship when focused on a purpose bigger than ourselves. We wilt where we are unnecessary.

She contributed, added value to a community, brought light to dark places. Though often overwhelmed by the immensity and scope of needs, that abundance of needs also affirmed in every moment, “This is a place I am needed and whatever small difference I can make, well, it matters.” She mattered. That’s hard to give up.

Be curious.

Ask questions. Help her unpack her stories. When a trusted listener opens the door, stories may come like a flood. If you are comfortable with paradox, other stories will bubble to the surface as you create a safe place for them to land.

She won’t be offended by your ignorance and “dumb questions” born out of genuine interest in her. Apathy is what hurts. The key is to be respectful of the place she served and sensitive to her experience.

This chapter in her life closed, but it is not over. She’s taken off the badge but being a global worker is still a primary source of identity. She hasn’t completed her leaving yet.

Extend grace.

She is working hard at adjusting back to “civilian life.” She will say insensitive things as she processes aloud. For a while, she’s probably going to dread going to church, attending social functions, engaging in regular life. She might even feel a little judgmental of the excess and complacency in her home country. Don’t worry. That’s normal. She is in the midst of processing how she fits.

She needs permission and space to grieve her deep and varied losses. Not only teammates and friends, but she’s also lost a lifestyle, a role, a way of being and being known.

Grieving is messy. She may need extended time alone for reflection, time with other returnees, space and resources to think through how this past season shaped and impacted her.

Encourage her connections with other returned global workers.

Don’t make her feel guilty for leaving you for a week of reunion with a former teammate or a long road trip to see a friend from her place of service. Her global tribe hasn’t taken your place. They created a whole new category of relationships vital to her wellbeing.

The communal nature of living interdependently in a foreign place creates an intense social bond and connection. She lived among a band of brothers and sisters who take responsibility for and suffer on behalf of one another, sharing their collective treasures and efforts.

Loneliness and alienation are common to those who reenter their home culture. Not because they don’t have people who love them dearly, but because they need people who can relate to the wildly different life they have been living. She is disconnected from the people she was in the foxhole with, the community she learned to rely on and the ones who relied on her.

Pardon the comparison, but when a lab rat is traumatized and put in a cage by itself, the trauma symptoms can be perpetuated indefinitely. But when in a cage with other lab rats, the effects of trauma dissipate over a matter of weeks. She needs room to heal among people who understand that intensity of relational dependence. She needs space to reconcile unresolved issues and unfulfilled dreams. She might not know how to tell you that. She may not even know she needs that right away.

Encourage your person to go to a retreat or a debriefing program designed for global workers. Better yet, pay for her to go! Give her the gift of working with a transition coach. Buy her a reentry workbook or a helpful book on transition.

Be a culture bridge.

Competencies gained over there were hard won treasures. It takes moxie to move from clueless to competent, from ignorant to expert. She earned her chops and proved her worth as a member of the community.

Navigating cultural intricacies, reading what first looked like squiggles, and traversing streams overflowing with crocodiles aren’t skills that easily translate into figuring out how to use the self checkout or order coffee with 53 possible add-ons. This incredibly resourceful, creative, competent, determined woman is reduced again to “inept foreigner.”

Approaching her home culture as she would a brand new culture means she’s going to need your time, resources, and information. She needs people who will take responsibility for her needs in gentle, unobtrusive ways.

Embrace the tension.

Go to fun places. Do enriching things. Enjoy her giddy elation of relishing in all her favorite things. And be ready for tears at inconvenient times and awkward misunderstandings over silly things. She’s finding her way.

This period of transition is fertile soil for growth. Growth takes fertilizer and fertilizer can be, well, unpleasant. As she processes, she is going to discover riches in hidden places, a strengthening for the next season, knowledge about who she is in this new place. Her sense of awe will grow as she explores the sacredness of her story and healing will come. All in time.

Feel the tension. The good, the bad, the ugly. The joy, the tears, the unknowns. Embrace all of it with her.

She’s going be alright. Thank you for welcoming back our sister. You will both be richer and fuller as you walk together.

What else would you share with those who are on the other side of reentry, waiting to welcome back those who are returning?


 This is The Grove.  It’s where we gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art.  So join us in the comments.  Show us your art work by adding an image. And link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt.  Click here for details and instructions


  1. Michele Womble May 26, 2016

    The linky isn’t working. 🙁

    I have two posts to link up –

    I did write that poem, Amy,  on why I haven’t unpacked my toiletries bag since I’ve been back in the State.  (or – ever). (Called “Why I Haven’t Unpacked My Toiletries Bag).  Here is the link to it.

    and I have a poem on ReEntry that I wrote a year ago that I wanted to link-up as well.


  2. Danielle Wheeler May 26, 2016

    Oh my. SO much wisdom and insight rolled into this. You nailed it, Amy. I’m thinking of all the hurt and misunderstanding that will be prevented or softened because loved ones read this and catch a glimpse of what is going on in the hearts of their daughter/sister/friend. So powerful to have someone say what you don’t yet know how to articulate yourself.

    1. Amy Young May 26, 2016

      Thank you Danielle . . . only problem is in the name of hurt and misunderstanding, I didn’t write this, Patty did!!!

      But she surely nailed it, didn’t she!

      1. Michele Womble May 26, 2016

        It did list Amy as the author when it first posted, so it was an innocent mistake – but also there was a problem with the  linky button and the comments – (I tried both)!  When I came back all had been cleared up – and the author properly named 🙂

        Patty – it is beautiful!

        1. Michele Womble May 26, 2016

          btw – my first attempt at a comment is still “waiting moderation” – you can erase it.  🙂

    2. Patty Stallings May 26, 2016

      That is my hope!  To soften the landing and shine a little light on the path of those returning.

  3. Becca Zuch May 26, 2016

    Thank you for this lovely and very REAL discription of what OUR friend is facing.  I am thankful that she has such friend and excellent support.

    1. Amy Young May 26, 2016

      Thank you Becca, and I should let you know that it was the thoughtful Patty Stallings who wrote this (not me!) 🙂

    2. Patty Stallings May 26, 2016

      Becca, your friend is blessed to have you in her corner!

  4. Beth Everett May 26, 2016

    Excellent, Amy!  Just excellent!

    1. Amy Young May 26, 2016

      If only I could take credit on this . . . it was the amazing Patty Stallings who wrote this!

      1. Beth Everett May 26, 2016

        Thank you Patty for your thoughtful wisdom! 🙂

      2. Patty Stallings May 26, 2016

        Thanks, Beth and Amy.  I’m so grateful we have a sisterhood where we can support one another on the journey “home”.

  5. Kimberly Todd May 26, 2016

    Well, I cried all the way through this one. It helps so much. Thank you, Amy.

    1. Amy Young May 26, 2016

      Well you wasted your tears on me 🙂 . . . they should be shed in Patty’s direction!

    2. Patty Stallings May 26, 2016

      Kim, your authentic sharing of your reentry experience has helped all of us at Velvet Ashes incresase our understanding of the impact of leaving places that deeply shape who we become.  I hope those who are welcoming others back will search “reentry” on Velvet Ashes and also read this week’s posts to grow in their understanding and desire to come alongside.

      And Amy, you crack me up!

      1. Kimberly Todd May 27, 2016

        I must have been too bleary eyed to figure out whose voice I was hearing. Patty, this post was deeply comforting to me as is your encouragement. Love.

  6. Joyce Stauffer May 26, 2016

    Surely one in Re-Entry would be blessed to have a friend (or several??!!) like this!  My heart was saying… YES, YES!!  Thanks, Patty!

    1. Patty Stallings May 26, 2016

      Thanks, Joyce.  My hope is that every person on the road back to their home country will have people who willingly take responsibility for their wellbeing and enfold them in grace, love, and kindness.

  7. Emily Smith May 26, 2016

    “This chapter in her life is closed, but not over” That right there puts so much into perspective.

    Tears over here as well. Thank you, Patty.

    1. Patty Stallings May 26, 2016

      I once heard that phrase used to describe someone who was in the military and was now a civilian.  At the time, I thought it was a perfect descriptor of those who return after serving in our line of work.  Blessings to you, Emily!

  8. Leslie Verner May 26, 2016

    “This chapter in her life closed, but it is not over.”  AMEN. I’m 6 years out and this is still the case.  China is a permanent part of me now.  It’s one of my layers.  Just yesterday, my 3 year old son was making his toy cars talk in a weird voice and when I asked him what he was doing, he said they were speaking “Car Chinese”! (He has never been to China and has only heard me speak Chinese a handful of times–which TERRIFIED him!)  I loved all that you wrote here, Patty, and would only further encourage anyone returning to either go to a conference or find a mentor or counselor to walk them through the transition.  I think that would have helped me immensely.  And I would also advise grace.  Grace for yourself.  Grace for your family and friends who have no clue what you’re going through.  And looking for God’s grace in the little things in your new life.  He is there, too.  And the greatest grace?  Even though our location, vocation and everything else may change, HE NEVER WILL.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

    1. Patty Stallings May 26, 2016

      Leslie, such a good word about grace!  And thanks for linking up your 31 Days of Reentry posts.  (I didn’t see a place to comment on your site.) I encourage others to go and read your insightful series.

      1. Leslie Verner May 26, 2016

        Oops!  I think I fixed that!  It was writing that series that brought me healing and helped me to finally take the next steps in adapting in America.  I hope others can know they’re not alone in the journey.

  9. Michelle Sessoms May 26, 2016

    I may have cried a few times when I read this. Of course, I also cried today when I saw a sign in my neighborhood from a child who lost her pet cat. Maybe it’s the whole thing of being able to come “home.” The part about the visa kerfuffles, communicating with gestures, navigating corruption…”I know it seems crazy, but she is going to miss those.” Because we were created for challenge. YES. And then the whole connecting with other returned global workers, also YES! It’s like I make a beeline to all global workers I’ve come across potentially scaring them with “I don’t know you, but let’s be Best Friends!” Seriously, Patty- thanks for saying this so well :).

    1. Patty Stallings May 27, 2016

      Thank you, Michelle.  Your comment about chasing down other global workers made me laugh.  The instant affinity with anyone who has lived our kind of life – yes!

  10. Michele Womble May 26, 2016

    “Humans thrive in hardship when focused on a purpose bigger than ourselves. We wilt where we are unnecessary.”  oh, so good…one of the hard parts of transition is how is your (my) life going to matter HERE – or is it?  Of course it is, but…sometime it doesn’t feel like it

    Also LOVED how you ended it, Patty: “she’s going to be all right.”

    Yes.  She is.

    1. Patty Stallings May 27, 2016

      In my experience on home assignments, it has been the sense of loss of purpose – and connections with the people who know you in that purpose – that have been difficult to navigate.  Such a rich time to dig deeper in Christ as our source of identity and purpose, but it’s a journey to get there!

  11. Lyndi May 27, 2016

    I couldn’t believe the timing of this… today was my repatriation day after 2 years in the DR. I’m going to share this with my mom and my other close ones, because right now as I’m sitting in my parents’ guest room, aching and quivering both inside and out after a very long travel day that started with a lot of goodbyes, I identify with the things you’ve shared so strongly! The affirmation is so helpful… as well as being able to offer this encouragement to the ones around me– my mom, for example, who is already doing so many of these things just because she’s perceptive like that.

    Wrote this blog article yesterday about my own transition; how I’ve changed as I’ve become cross-cultural, and struggled to define it as I’m coming “home.” Hope something in it resonates with others as they come to the conclusion that they, too, will be alright as the change becomes reality!

    1. Lyndi May 27, 2016

      Whoops, just now discovered how to put up the link– it’s above in the comments. Or just click here!

      1. Jodie May 27, 2016

        Lyndi, somehow I couldn’t comment on your blog. So I’m adding it in here: I am so amazed that you’ve already processed this much when you’ve just arrived in the States! You have such a beautiful way of expressing what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown and changed. Broken and reassembled, hurt and healed, trying to figure out how far to put your roots down. It hasn’t been a trip, it’s been your life. May the people around you be blessed by your stories and embrace the new you. May God reveal His purposes for your life here in your home country that doesn’t feel as much like home anymore.

    2. Patty Stallings May 27, 2016

      Oh, Lyndi, such a hard day!  The quick transition from heart rendering goodbyes to the stressors of travel to being welcomed by people who are thrilled you’ve arrived – THAT is a roller coaster of emotions!  I’m thankful to you have a mom and others who are there for you in a compassionate, caring way.  May the Comforter surround you with all peace and grace in this season!

  12. Julie May 27, 2016

    “Apathy is what hurts.”  Well said, Patty.  Great article with practical suggestions on how friends can help provide “soft landing places” for those who are in re-entry.  Praying that dear ones who are leaving this part of the Middle East to return long-term to the States next week have many people who live out the words you write!

    1. Patty Stallings May 27, 2016

      Thank you, Julie.  I hope this for your friends as well.  They are blessed to have you help them in the leaving process.

  13. Cheyenne May 27, 2016

    This article brought me to tears. I move from Mongolia back to the states in two and half weeks and this articulated so many things I’ve already been trying to brace my family and friends about. I’ll definitely be sharing this with my family and friends. Thank you so much for writing this!!

    1. Cheyenne May 27, 2016

      Oops! Definitely didn’t mean to attach a huge picture of part of my face. Not sure how to delete it either. So embarrassed!

      1. Patty Stallings May 27, 2016

        Cheyenne, you are lovely!

      2. Michele Womble May 29, 2016

        The picture is beautiful!  And it looks familiar, too!  I’m assuming it’s Mongolia, but it looks a lot like some places in Russia (which isn’t a big surprise…)  So I’m glad you posted the picture, I like it. Embrace it!  😀

      3. Jane Broman May 30, 2016

        I liked the photo. I felt it symbolized the split feelings you have. ..caught between two places you love and call home!

    2. Patty Stallings May 27, 2016

      Cheyenne, in the midst of all the goodbyes and chaos of moving, thank you for taking time to read and comment!  May your family and friends surround you and care for you!

    3. katie July 11, 2016

      I move back to the states on Saturday after 4.5 years in Haiti! This article was perfect! I hope you have a good transition!

      1. Patty Stallings July 13, 2016

        Katie, thanks for stopping by Velvet Ashes on your journey back. May your re-entry be covered with grace and kindness!

  14. Monica F May 27, 2016

    This was amazing… I’m sharing this post with all of our family!


    1. Patty Stallings May 27, 2016

      So glad you found it helpful, Monica!

  15. Ashley Felder May 27, 2016

    Is this too long to print out on a 3×5 and hand out to everyone we see when we return? Better yet, get a tat of it, say…on my neck where it’s highly visible? Ok, no. But I am saving this and tucking it away to read every time we go back, and most definitely for when we transition back.

    1. Patty Stallings May 27, 2016

      Ashley, you make me smile!  For a lot of reasons.

      I hope you are always treated with kindness and generosity – even without the tat!

    2. Michele Womble May 29, 2016

      If you get a tat we want you to  post a picture of it here. 🙂

  16. Ellen May 27, 2016

    So good. I’ve been wondering if I’m going crazy… We’ve been back for five months, why am I still pounding over the same circular paths of thinking? Why do I still cry so often? When will the low-grade, constant headaches go away? Yes. Yes. and Yes to this post. Thank you for validating how hard transition can be.

    1. Patty Stallings May 27, 2016

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Ellen. There are surely others who will find comfort in knowing they aren’t alone from your comment.

      Father, would you surround Ellen with an abundance of grace and kindness as she continues to move through this transition?  Would you send her a companion who will commit to helping her plow new paths of thinking and plant seeds of hope for a coming season of renewal and refreshment?

      Your sisters here at Velvet Ashes love you, Ellen!

  17. Janice May 27, 2016

    Thanks for this article, Patty! You nailed it! Helpful for returning overseas workers themselves, as well as those receiving us. There seemed a striking similarity to the needs/perspectives of those who have returned from serving in the military.  (Btw, the reason ppl are responding to Amy Young as author of the post is that the email version states it that way.)

    1. Patty Stallings May 27, 2016

      Thanks, Janice, for your encouragement.  I think you are right in thinking there are similarities for all who have left their home country for a greater cause and return to family and friends who have no idea how deeply impactful that experience was. It’s not that they don’t want to support and love the returnee – they just have no hooks to hang his/her experience on.  I think this is one of the reasons we all need each other here at Velvet Ashes!

  18. Kim May 27, 2016

    This was so wonderful and I can’t stop crying even now because it’s so true. I miss so much about my former life that I once thought was a terrible inconvenience when we were there. I miss India, and I never thought I’d say that, but I miss who I became there and all the funny little things I did on a daily basis to survive and that feeling of really feeling things, of nothing being easy. Only no one here gets that person and it’s been so hard. So, so hard. So yes, will be passing this along to others. Great writing and perspective.

    1. Patty Stallings May 27, 2016

      So hard. We hear you, Kim! The sense of being known is such an important piece of returning.  My hope is you will find ways to introduce this resilient, creative, resourceful, persevering aspect of who you are to those around you, and that the same skills you learned to overcome cultural challenges in India will serve you well where you are now.  We’re in your corner!

  19. Spring May 27, 2016

    Thank you so much for this post! I am trying to think of a subtle way to share it with my friends without appearing “wanting”  It was a good read for myself as well.

    1. Patty Stallings May 27, 2016

      Hi Spring.  The dilemna – how to ask for help while appearing to not need it!  🙂  May your friends surround you with abundant grace and love, even if they don’t read this post!  🙂

      1. Spring May 28, 2016

        You captured the dilemma perfectly 🙂  Perhaps also with implying I need to just share it and allow them to decide if they will read it.

        1. Michele Womble May 29, 2016

          share it to facebook.  🙂 and just say, “I really loved/appreciated this article/post” or these thoughts  or something like that.

          Many will appreciate some ideas of ways to support you – as Patty said in an earlier comment, most people WANT to help but don’t even know where to begin…

  20. Danielle May 27, 2016

    Oh wow. SO good and so perfectly describes everything I wish I could’ve said to friends on my return without me even realising it! I couldn’t even pull out one quote that particularly spoke to me or I would’ve just reposted it all! Thank you for knowing and speaking the heart of the returning global worker well enough to put it down on paper (or the screen!), I know this will be a valuable tool for many of us!

    1. Patty Stallings May 27, 2016

      Thank you, Danielle.  Gentle landing places, increased understanding and grace, streams of refreshment – these are my hopes for those returning.  And if this post helps even a little in making that a reality, I’m a happy messenger!

  21. Christine May 29, 2016

    This article put into words what I’ve been feeling and thinking in the past 5 months of being “home” in my passport country. Re-entry has and continues to be infinitely harder than culture shock that comes from leaving/entering a new place. There’s so many people that I wish would read this to increase their understanding and actions. But, for now, I’m going to sit and share in this and know that I am not alone. Thank you for your words and encouragement, Patty!

    1. Patty Stallings May 29, 2016

      Christine, you are definitely not alone.  We love you here at Velvet Ashes.

      Our prayer is that you will be comforted by the Comforter and encouraged with the kindness and love of those around you.  May you find community and freshness of purpose in your current place.  You matter there!  And you matter here!

  22. Jillian May 29, 2016

    Thanks for sharing. This doesn’t necessarily apply to my current season. My return date to the States is still unknown. Still both my husband and I feel the tug to return home soon and raise our children with extended family. Although I’m more than excited, I am also terrified. It’s a weird balance of emotions to manage- excitement/terror. Being an “overseas worker” in Haiti has been my entire identity for years. Now who will I be? Who will my husband be? How will our marriage change? I feel slightly bi-polar most days about the whole thing and this really helped. Thanks again for your words.

    1. Patty Stallings May 29, 2016

      Hi Jillian.  I’ve read the transition begins the moment you decide to leave. (Maybe in Amy’s helpful book Looming Transitions?)  The paradoxes embedded in our thinking and emotions sure do create a swirl, don’t they?  May you find trust in the Unchanging One to be your anchor!

  23. Sarah B May 29, 2016

    Thank you for writing this! My hUsband and I came back from SE Asia a year and a half ago because my mom unexpectedly/suddenly passed away. One day we were living life there and the next morning we were packing bags and leaving….all within 15hrs. We needed up feeling like the Lord was asking us to stay in the States. I felt all these emotions described in this post in addition to grieving the loss of one of the closest people in the world to me, as well as the loss of my family as I knew it. It was the most confusing, wrecking time. I’m so thankful for friends who had made the re-entry and cried and shared in our experience. I’m thankful for the friends that’s who though they didn’t understand, loved us with graces and never lost site of who we truly are. I’m thankful that our Abba keeps us close even when we don’t feel Him and that Jesus understands all our thoughts and emotions. I’m thankful the Holy Spirit keeps our faith kindled despite my doubts during all the loss. I’m thankful that there is this community called velvet ashes and there are women all over the world who at the end of the day praise our Good God no matter what because He is faithful and He is worthy of it all.

    Thank you again for writing this.

    1. Patty Stallings May 29, 2016

      Sarah, so much loss. All rolled into each other. I am so thankful for your friends who loved you well.  I’m thankful you leaned hard into our God and found Him faithful.  And I’m thankful you shared your story here.  May you continue to be met with grace!

  24. Rachel May 30, 2016

    I am home from the field for about a month and this is exactly how I wish to be treated by everyone!!  This is such a confusing process.  One day I think I’m going to be fine.  The next day I feel like a total wreck.  Now I’ve been hit hard with insomnia and anxiety “up to here” and I feel so out of control (we came home sooner than planned from a pretty rough time on the field).  I am just thankful, as I skim through the comments, that I am not the only one out there!  And the new me?  Whew!  I wish people would understand who it is!

    Thank you for helping to “normalize” this process and I wish we could all get together and feel “normal” together.  But since when was normal the good thing?!

    1. Patty Stallings May 30, 2016

      I’m so glad reading this helped normalize what you’ve been experiencing, Rachel.  You are loved here in this place!

      I’m curious if you’ve had a chance to think through how you would describe the new you? That takes time and work, but it’s holy work.

      May our Father surround you with kind and grace-filled companions on this journey, Rachel! I’m asking Him right now to connect you with at least one other woman going through reentry in your area.

  25. Bob P June 2, 2016

    I wish I had read this article 12 years ago when we made re-entry in Canada from Madagascar.  Being there for 7 years made the shift back home a bit hard especially that my wife was quite ill and I was on my way to a burnout unbeknownst to me and we had 3 teenagers.  I think I have figured out a lot of those things now but would have made our re-entry adjustments a bit easier.  Thank you for writing this article.

    1. Patty Stallings June 2, 2016

      Thanks for your note, Bob.  Re-entry + illness + teens + burnout is a lot for a family to navigate and process!  I’m so curious about how moving through that season 12 years ago  impacted you (in retrospect) and your current endeavors?

  26. Bob P June 3, 2016

    And I went to seminary with a 96 credit program as well.  If I had known I was on my way to burn out I probably would have hunkered down for 3 months or so but had not way of knowing and just felt doomed with a sense that I had no choice but keep going.

    As I look back (after going to counselling, opening up, sharing my journey with other students etc) is has made me definitely more understanding of other people’s struggles and since I have re-entered ministry after my studies (8 yrs ago) I have had numerous occasion to relate, encourage, and help people who have been in need to guidance and encouragement.

    I’m still on a healing journey.  I don’t think I’ll ever be the same as before.  There is a weight I carry (partly related to burnout partly the weight of pastoral ministry) but it has served me well in growing in grace and a deeper understanding of the Gospel for me personally… to let myself be loved by Jesus for who I am with all my brokenness and limitations.  It’s liberating and encouraging to learn to be okay with myself because Jesus is okay with me AS I’m hidden in Him.  And so I use what I’m learning personally to pass it on to others and through my preaching ministry here at my church.

    1. Patty Stallings June 11, 2016

      Thanks for sharing the impact of your re-entry experience, Bob.  I can relate to that sense of having no choice but to keep going.

      And I agree there is something in the experience of discovering our brokenness and limitations that is both liberating and weighty. Walking a path of suffering grows our understanding of being loved deeply and completely by the One who fully understands our limitations.  It puts us in the posture of clinging to His sustaining grace and mercy.

      Those who sit under your care are blessed to have a shepherd who understands grace and His unending love and compassion.

  27. Bob June 11, 2016

    Thanks you for your encouraging words Patty.

  28. Carrieann wach July 24, 2016

    This is beautiful and helpful to those of us waiting to welcome someone home. The only thing I would like to see is the other side as well. There is a grieving and tee try process for those at home as well. We are so proud and worked hard to provide to opportunity for our loved one to have this experience . When they come home we aren’t enough for them weather we remember to give space or not. The very things we worked so hard to provide them with over the years, experiences and things they needed so how becomes example of out frivolousness and greed. It is s very isolated experience to be subcounciously judged for the life we live and provide them. I guess that to make the experience healing both the family and the traveler must remember each other as the renter

    1. Patty Stallings July 24, 2016

      Thanks for your comment, Carrieann. You’ve highlighted an important aspect of re-entry as the go-ers and the senders re-unite and grow together in grace. Almost all the cross cultural workers I know are dependent on the generosity and faithfulness of their supporters and are deeply grateful for their sacrifices, not only for finances but also for their encouragement and care. But that doesn’t mean we are all good at expressing that well. We all could do better in demonstrating how very grateful we are!
      My prayer for you and your returnee is for grace and understanding to cover your relationship as you rediscover ways to appreciate one another’s perspective. Blessings to you!

  29. Kim August 14, 2016

    Thank you! This is beautifully written. I’ve appreciated the comment thread, too. Thank you, Patty!

    I am not in transition to my home culture, but have recently returned from a home assignment, where I traveled almost nonstop for 6 months to meet everyone in all of my churches, to be involved in conferences, etc. It was nonstop transition there, too!

    I love the way this article describes how our time overseas has shaped and molded us. So accurate!

    1. Patty Stallings July 8, 2017

      Kim, I just noticed I didn’t reply to your comment from long ago. So sorry! I hope you were able to experience some rest once you returned to your place of service. We are on the back end of our home assignment and you are right – there is a lot of transition in a home assignment. Be blessed, friend!

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  33. Christa sterken June 7, 2017

    I really, really appreciate this detailed article. Especially since our family moved across country a month before she left. She has not one friend or connection at “home” yet, She’ll have to develop that and is a little nervous. c

    1. Patty Stallings June 7, 2017

      Christa, I am glad this is helpful. She is blessed to have you investing in understanding what returning will mean for her, and she will no doubt especially will appreciate your support!

  34. Kim June 7, 2017

    Thank you, Patty. Your thoughts are so eloquently worded! Some day I’ll make that transition back to my home country, and I’ll want – actually, desperately need – these types of friends to walk me through the reentry, grief and loss braided with joys and comforts.
    I’m about to start a 3-6 month sabbatical in my home country. You first after over 20 years on the field. I wonder how many of these things will strike me. I imagine “loss of role and relevance” will big ones.

    1. Patty Stallings July 8, 2017

      Hi Kim. I am wondering how your sabbatical is going. Did you find similar themes with those who are returning to their home country? Praying for you right now.

  35. Elisabeth June 9, 2017

    This article was excellent to read, as I am living in a foreign land and “re-enter ” occasionally for visits. I don’t know if I will ever re enter permanently, as I am married to a local where I came to serve. I now hold dual nationality and the feelings of not truly belonging in either place have compounded the longer I am here. It gives new meaning to being a citizen of heaven and this world is really not my home, just passing through. I know that in my head but my heart hurts sometimes and longs for what was as an American.
    This article also stirred up memories, emotions and thoughts I had long since forgotten as I had once left home for a year right out of college for a challenging amd adventurous time in Africa. While away my parents had moved states and I returned not only to the challenge of re-entry, but the loss of my childhood home, family far away (I chose to stay in my home state) SO thankful for the body of Christ and my church family that helped me through. Oh gosh, I was so young and flexible and resilient. But now, I grieve for those losses as I am so much more aware of them and my inability to truly feel like I belong in either of my countries. My prayer is that all those who experience re-“entry find the support, love and understanding they need. God is able, HE is your help.

  36. Patty Stallings July 8, 2017

    Elisabeth, I imagine there are layers to your re-entry process when you visit. And I think it’s wise to recount those losses you experienced long ago and both grieve the losses and find places of gratitude for those who walked with you. Blessings to you, dear one!

  37. Jodie March 4, 2018

    Oh dear, this make my eyes leak and put a lump in my throat, as our family are in the last months of our seven and a half year service in West and Central Africa with Mercy Ships International. We have lived in a tiny three room cabin, on a ship with people from over 40 nations. Our daughter is about to graduate from the ship school and we will be returning to Australia to begin our life there once again. People keep asking us if we are excited to go “home” and we don’t know what to say because , frankly the answer is “no”. Thanks for this excellent article that so captures all that is to come!

    1. Patty Stallings March 4, 2018

      Oh Jodie, this is a huge transition for you and your family. May every step be met with His unmistakeable presence and the unwavering grace of friends and family.

      1. Jodie March 5, 2018

        Thank you so much Patty!

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