Back in 2014 when I went with River Valley Church on Global Project Thailand, I remember being quite surprised by the process of reentry, returning from “field” work to home base. Since I’d been to both Thailand and to Minneapolis before (where I met my team and spent a month in Polar Vortex weather =| ) and had traveled widely, I didn’t really think much about reentry at the time. Unfortunately, I ended up quite overwhelmed by the adjustment process of returning from Thailand to my “temporary” home in Minneapolis and then to my “permanent” home in California. =\ It took me several weeks to fully recoup, reengage my community, and make heads or tails of my experience!
Reentry can be rather disorienting as you adjust to the changes you’ve experienced and the potential changes you discover in the home you left. There are great resources that talk about important things to expect upon returning, coming out of the fog of reentry, the reality of “mini” reentry, and how to make the transition home that you can find online. I’m finding the key piece to reentry is to be aware of it, prepare for it (even if just mentally), and be patient with the process as you shift from what became your “normal” (including the small things…like what you ate for breakfast each day while you were away or getting so used to living out of your suitcase that having a closet full of options is overwhelming!) and returning to life as you find it back home (which may or may not still be as you remember it!).
Since my 2014 Thailand/Minneapolis experience, I’ve been learning how to better prepare for reentry (yay!). =) Though my relational ministry work primarily happens in the States and, typically, for shorter periods of time (e.g., a month-long Minneapolis trip, a week-long visit to the South Bay/LA, etc.), reentry is still part of returning from short-term, domestic field work too. So after a month of visits and ministry in Minneapolis recently, I tried a new approach to making the transition well.
Thanks to wisdom from the Lord and a dear friend’s generosity, after flying into the airport last week, I slowed my transition back into California life a bit by doing an overnight at my friend’s place nearby while she was out of town. Then, I made the journey back home the next day which gave me a little more processing time.
(Although on the train ride home, I ended up in a spiritual conversation with a brilliant Berkley college student on his winter break! In relational ministry, opportunities to connect can come at the most unexpected times. =) )
Honestly, what’s also helped is the opportunity to talk with and pray with a friend who knows the process firsthand and can encourage me through it. It’s also helped to let go of those who may not be itching to hear about my experience and seize the opportunities that I do have to share bits and pieces of the journey over time (rather than trying to share everything all at once). And aside from all that, it’s facing the challenge of being in this uncomfortable, messy place that comes with reentry and being flat out honest with the Lord about where I’m at inside my heart and head.
My own reentry process reminds me of the wise way Jesus led His disciples into a time of rest after sending them out in pairs to minister to the surrounding villages He would be traveling to:
“And [Jesus] summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs… The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all they had done and taught. And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ (For there were many people coming and going and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.” –Mark 6:7a, 30-32
Interestingly enough, shortly after Jesus’ call to “come away,” the disciples experienced working alongside the Lord in the miraculous feeding of the 5,000+. It just goes to show that you can never tell what’s next when you’re following Jesus in ministry, so take the chance to rest when it comes!
As for me, I plan to heed His call to “come away” by taking the time to deliberately stop, rest, process, pray, and press further into Jesus so I can better hear His voice, focus, and prepare for the next wave of ministry the Lord has ahead. And as I consider the joy of what’s ahead and all the fruit I saw from the trip I was on, I’m excited to make my way through reentry so I can fully enter into the next immersive ministry experience with expectation and delight!