I love “mission trip meals.” Not so much for the actual food, as much fun as that can be, but to watch the way team members respond to the “exotic” meals placed before them. These meals aren’t the kind that you’ll find at Whole Foods or any other American restaurant. They are, shall we say, “unique.” Thankfully, most people find a way to show their appreciation for the great generosity being shown to them. While it’s rare for anyone to eat everything, most of us end up eating something.
As you make your way back into “normal life,” I’d like to offer you some food for thought. I’d like to serve up a few pieces of advice that might help you transition back into American life in a way that energizes you and positions you to take greater steps forward for the kingdom. Like your “mission trip meals,” I doubt anyone will take everything I offer here. But, perhaps, you’ll find one or two pieces of advice nourishing to you as you go. Here are 12 insights I think are worth remembering when reentering the States.
Remember What It’s Like To See Past “Normal Life” – When you spend time amongst people from different cultures, you realize pretty quickly that your definition of “normal” really isn’t “normal.” You don’t have to be on the go all the time, pursue more and more, care what’s happening on the internet, or be involved in ___________, to have a life of joy, hope, love, peace, and meaning.
Remember What It’s Like To Be Thankful – Most of your days on the mission field are filled with gratitude. You’re thankful for big things and small things. Often times, you’re gratitude naturally overflows into conversations where you share your thankfulness with others. Gratitude is supposed to be one of the key marks of every Christian’s life, although it’s often missing in our normal lives. If you discover it anew on the mission field, don’t let it go when you come back.
Remember What It’s Like Not To Be “Too Busy” – The slower pace of the mission field often helps us realize the hyper speed we’re accustomed too. It’s amazing how much more of life you actually see when you slow down a bit. You won’t be able to keep “mission field pace” when you return to “normal life,” but perhaps you are better equipped to slow down in life giving ways.
Remember What It’s Like To Disconnect From The Internet – Limited internet access on the mission field is steadily becoming one of its most transformative elements. After a few days of detox, people often realize they enjoy life more when they have limited internet access. When you go back to normal life, try to maintain “limited internet access” so that your life can be more of what you hope it will be.
Remember What It’s Like To Be Present – Mission trips are typically filled with people talking with others more often and more deeply than they would otherwise. The amount of time you spend with a mission team requires you to move past the surface. Some of this level of fellowship is caused by the lack of Internet access. Indeed, when we lack internet connection, we often find personal connection. There’s, of course, more to this dynamic. At the very least, remember to be like Jesus who prioritized consistent, unhurried conversations.
Remember What It’s Like To Engage With God Daily Through Bible Reading And Prayer – Most people find themselves praying and reading the Bible more on mission trips than they did before. These habits are necessary for any relationship to grow, especially one with someone you don’t “see” everyday. Remember how meaningful these moments were to you on the mission field as you get back to “normal life.”
In Part 2, I’ll offer the remaining pieces of advice. In the meantime, would you pray with me for a team that is transitioning back into “normal life”?