A lot of people ask me how many mission trips I’ve been on. Unfortunately, I have no idea. My parents started traveling with my brother and I when we were just little munchkins. We grew accustomed to traveling and the intensity of mission trips at a very early age. However, that fact does not change the roller coaster that happens after many mission trips. If you’ve been on a mission that impacted your heart, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Coming home is by far the hardest part of most mission trips. You can try to prepare yourself, you can set intentions, you can ignore everything that’s going on inside you –eventually, you have to deal with whatever just happened to your heart. And the truth is, that isn’t always a smooth process. Some people trudge through it. Some people blaze through it. I’ve experienced both. Depends on the trip. And while I don’t have all the answers, I do have a few tips that have really helped me throughout the years.
Tip #1 Give yourself grace.
Don’t belittle what you’re feeling.
Tip #2 Set aside time.
I know it can be tough, but it is critical that you give yourself some rest time once you return home from the mission field. Schedule out a day or two after you return home, and –here’s the hard part—don’t do anything. Even if it was a short trip. I made this mistake just recently. When I returned home from Costa Rica, I had set aside a couple days, but the minute I got back (actually, before I got back), I started making plans. The day after we returned I went to the mountains, the next day I drove three hours away to visit a few friends, and the day after that I returned to work. Then guess what happened? I got sick. Uh….duh! Just because you feel strong and energetic, doesn’t mean you should be gallivanting around. Your physical, emotional, and spiritual health are interconnected. If one is weak, the others suffer too. When you return home from a mission trip, you should be relaxing and talking to Father God. The relaxing part is hard for me (I like to go go go, so no excuses to all you who like to go go go as well!). You might think you’re just fine, then suffer for it later. Or, you might BE just fine, but most of us are too busy in general anyway. It will do you good to slow down. Yes, YOU!
Tip #3 As soon as possible, plan to do something that you love doing.
For me, this is hiking. Not only do I enjoy it, it helps me process. Something about the wide open wild clears my mental walls. Find that space for yourself and make use of it. It is so worthwhile.
Tip #4 While still on the field, pick a souvenir for yourself –
Whether it’s an actual souvenir or just something symbolic, like a rock. When you’re home and you’re missing the mission field or just thinking about what you experienced while on the mission field, you can go back to that souvenir. I find this can be particularly comforting; for example, the other day I was missing a place I had just traveled to, so I went and picked out the mug I got while I was there, poured myself a hot drink, and just enjoyed having a little piece of what I was missing.
All these things can be helpful, but remember, every experience is different. No matter what, we have to be okay with the fact that God made us emotional human beings. So sometimes the things that shouldn’t affect us do, and sometimes the things that should affect us don’t. That is okay! The only universal advice I can give to anyone coming home from a mission trip is this: you have no idea what coming home is going to look like; however, your Creator knows exactly what it is going to look like. And no matter what, He has the answers you need. Don’t be afraid to delve into the depths of your heart. Put forth the effort and make time to listen to Father God. Whether your mission trip was an intense experience that completely changed your life, a complete bust, or something in between, you have the right to honor that fact. And God knows exactly what you need.