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How to Care for Disciple-Makers Transitioning “Home”

How to Care for Disciple-Makers Transitioning “Home”

For disciple-makers who have lived overseas, coming back to North America can feel like uncharted territory. They’re leaving the country where they feel at home, the relationships they have built over many years, and the culture they have come to love.

Most people say, “Welcome home!” to a returning missionary. Perhaps on one level, this is true; but on a deeper, heart level, most of them feel like they’ve left home.

After living and working in Ireland for 35 years and then transitioning “home” to the U.S., we feel this disconnect deeply. As we have talked with our friends and coworkers, we’ve learned we’re not alone in feeling like strangers in the country we have listed on our passport.

So what can you do, as an individual or a church, to care for your missionary who is returning to North America?

As an individual

Take the time | The North American culture tends to be fast-paced and schedule-oriented; that’s often different than the culture your disciple-maker just left. Your worker will hate to ask for something from an already busy person, so be intentional in building a relationship.

Ask questions | Is there something you don’t understand about your worker’s favorite word or the culture he or she came from? Just ask! If you don’t ask, your worker will never know when there’s a misunderstanding. Asking questions shows you’re interested in the things your worker cares about and loves.

As a church

Invite service | Take the time to help returning missionaries figure out where to fit into the life of the local church. Your disciple-maker may have spent the last 20 years as a backbone of their local church overseas, only to find at home, she has no place in her new church. Don’t be afraid to ask for her help! She may have retired from her overseas location, but she hasn’t retired from serving the Lord.

Be patient | Transitioning takes times, as your worker is well aware. Don’t become frustrated if the pace at which your worker is adjusting is not as quickly as you want it to be. The Lord has led him back to his passport country as surely as He led him to leave it in the first place, but transitions take time.

Pray | When disciple-makers leave for international service, they are sent off with excitement and prayer. Once the shine has worn off, does your church still pray for them with the same purpose and passion? When they return home, your prayers may be needed more than ever! Not sure how to pray for someone? Just ask.

Ernie and Nancy Tromsness served in Ireland for 35 years, working with local churches. They transitioned back to the U.S. to work in the Kansas City home office by training and mentoring 

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