WHEN MISSIONARIES COME HOME (Part I)
(2 Tim 4:7) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Remember the old American Civil War song, When Johnny Comes Marching Home? Here’s the first verse: When Johnny comes marching home again Hurrah! Hurrah! We'll give him a hearty welcome then Hurrah! Hurrah! The men will cheer and the boys will shout. The ladies they will all turn out. And we'll all feel gay When Johnny comes marching home. (Patrick Gilmore)
Well, when the missionary soldier comes home, they usually don’t get such a welcome. The missionary has been away so long they don’t feel embraced by their home environment, including the church. Perhaps there is a new pastor or there has been a large turnover in the congregation. You can’t be too hard on people because you usually bond with those around you, but you have to admit when Johnny the missionary comes marching home again there isn’t a whole lot of fanfare. They seem to just quietly slip in and then try to adapt to a society that doesn’t recognize them.
People usually have no idea about the isolation the missionary feels upon reemerging back home. It’s like a time warp in a Twilight Zone episode. They were connected to so many people in their line of duty and had so many friendships that ran deep. Now they have left that social network behind. People might offer a brief welcome and ask how their service went, but then quickly change the subject to what is current or about them. This leaves the missionary feeling unappreciated for their sacrifices and hard work. It is common for them to feel that they are on the outside looking in, and nobody sees their face pressed to the window.
So what can we do to better understand and support the missionary coming off the field?
-Tell them you are supporting them all the way through this transition, just like you supported them while on the mission field.
-See what you can do to ease the burden. Do they need an apartment to rent? A car? A job? Having things lined up as much as possible will really help them, as well as the morale boost there is from the idea that people back home are working on their behalf.
-If you are in the area, meet them at the airport. Schedule a calendar date as soon as possible where the missionary may share his or her experiences to a group. Encourage your pastor to have them share at church. Keep in touch with them and encourage their involvement.
-Let them know how much you appreciate their service for the Lord and that you will be praying about the next step God has for them.