How exciting! Your missionary has been gone for up to 2 years and will soon be home. You have followed them each week in their progress; felt joy at their successes and sorrowed in their disappointments. You have missed them more than you can describe, but felt the blessings of the service they have rendered in the time they have been gone.
Now it is time to prepare for their return…
You may ask, “What is there to prepare for?” The only preparation they needed was to get themselves out in the field, not to come home. They will step off that plane, step into their former life, find the love of their life and move smoothly into the next chapter. Right?
This is where I am at the moment. Our daughter will be home in less than 8 weeks and already the family is talking like she is back in our daily lives. Just this week we have been discussing our plans for the upcoming summer holidays and Christmas break (remember I am living in the southern hemisphere). Everything we discuss includes the presence of our missionary daughter just as if she had never left.
But as I talk to many of the mums and dads who have already experienced this ‘return’ I am fast understanding that it may not be that simple. While many returning missionaries will do just what I described above – fall right back into a routine as if they had never left – there are still some things that as parents of missionaries we can do to make sure that transition is as smooth and painless as possible – for both the missionary and the family.
Recently a friend (who has also just welcomed home her first missionary son) shared with me an article titled ‘For Parents of Returning Missionaries’ written by Dave and Wendy Ulrich*.
The article was part of an outline for a seminar that Dave and Wendy held for recently returned missionaries, and families of missionaries who were soon to return. Along with a long list of personal and business credentials (Dave in business and education, Wendy in psychology and business, and together as authors) both had the wonderful opportunity to presided over the Montreal, Canada Mission in 2002-2005.
As a couple Dave and Wendy recognise that coming home for many missionaries can be a difficult experience. In their words…
Returning missionaries may feel like actors in a play that has run out of script. They face decisions about school, career, lifestyle, relationships, and Church, but don’t have all the information they need to proceed with confidence. They need loving support while they find their script, and patience with themselves as they go from being seasoned veterans at missionary work to being “greenies” at adult life.
Over the next couple of weeks I will be sharing some of the important insights that this amazing couple have to offer. Things such as:
- To Pick Them Up Or Not
- Excitement and Disorientation
- The Need for Structure
- Big Goals, Little Steps
- Renegotiating Family Relationships
- Friends and Dating
- Singles Wards and Church Callings
- Finding Meaning
- Getting Help
- 13 Guidelines to a Softer Transition
…and plenty of other information that can help you and your missionary as they move back as ‘greenies’ into adult life.
For those who have already experienced this transition period, please contribute as we go along and share some of the challenges and solutions you have faced. For those, like me, who are yet to go through it, I hope that this series will offer you some helpful ideas on how to best support your returning missionary.
*For more information on who Dave and Wendy Ulrich are then the following links may assist:
- Dave Ulrich – Overview
- Wendy Ulrich – Sixteen Stones
- The Why of Work – Co-authored by Dave and Wendy
- About Dave and Wendy Ulrich – About the authors of The Why of Work