Going on a mission trip is a life-changing experience. The hardest part can be coming back. Returning to life as you left it may feel uncomfortable. This is natural. You may feel guilty or tempted to criticize. The contrast is sharp, and the confusion is real. Instead of reacting in haste upon your return, here are some healthy tips on how to overcome the reverse culture shock that many mission travelers often face.
Meditate on what you learned
Recognition is the first step toward recovery: coping requires proper perspective.
In the days following your return, take the time to reflect. Read through your journal. No one will understand your experience like your teammates–debrief with them. Ask yourself:
- What were your high points?
- What did you struggle with the most?
- In what moments did God “show up”?
- How has your prayer life grown?
- How has your worldview changed?
- How will you integrate these changes in your daily life?
- Will you continue serving back home? If so, how?
Taking these steps will help you sift through your feelings and process what you encountered both around you and within your heart.
How to process reintegration
Embrace is the second step. Reverse culture shock whirls you in a torrent of emotions, but you can’t let those feelings drive you. During reintegration, choose grace, thanksgiving, and peace while navigating reverse culture shock.
Things at home are likely different than what you experienced on the mission field. Give grace to those around you. Few witnessed the poverty and injustice you so closely encountered. Your polished perspective is a gift. Embrace your culture with grace by impacting individuals around you. You can lovingly share your newfound insight when the opportunities arise.
Upon your return, resist the urge to feel guilty. Don’t feel bad about “how good” you have things back home. Instead, count your blessings. Live each moment with intentional gratitude. God has gifted you with incredible resources–use them wisely!
Rest and reflect
Pause upon your return. Reflect. Resist the urge to act hastily in the first few days of your return. If you’re meant to make a significant change in your life, ponder it for a while. Pray about it. Let God, rather than your feelings, direct your path and lead any major decisions you should make.
Life after your mission trip
Response is the third step toward recovery. After recognizing and embracing your newfound changes, you need to do something about them. Otherwise, you could continue living unchanged. Here are a few ideas for healthy responses to the reverse culture shock missionaries face:
Give to the mission
You can continue giving to the cause long after your return, which can help bridge the gap with reverse culture shock. If your church has a long-term relationship with the international ministry, you can financially support the on-site missionary from home.
You can also find other nonprofit organizations that minster in the area you served or consider sponsoring a child from the country you visited.
Continue to pray
Pray every day for the on-site ministry team. Pray for the people you met. Pray for the country you visited. You can pick up a copy of Operation World and learn about how to pray for the country you visited.
Plugin and serve
If you’re not already, you can get plugged in at your local church. Search for a cause you’re passionate about and see if you can find volunteer opportunities there. Help with local disaster relief. Serve the homeless community. The ways you can serve are endless if you know where to look.
Reverse culture shock is real, and there are healthy ways to navigate it. If you find yourself struggling with reintegration after your mission trip, remember these action steps: recognize, embrace, and respond.
Be patient with your recovery, be kind to yourself, and find a loving support team. God will use these changes in your life for the better!
Looking for more encouragement? Check out 12 Encouraging Bible Verses About Hope in Hard Times.