Part 2 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series
Excitement and Disorientation.
Ending a mission can be challenging, and it is not unusual for missionaries to feel disoriented and a little lost. Often they are physically and emotionally tired and looking forward to a few days to sleep in, visit with friends, and do nothing. Parents rightfully expect children to come home from a mission with new maturity, skills, motivation, and discipline, and may be dismayed to see them sitting around playing video games in their pajamas. Try to remember that missionaries have worked 60+ hour weeks for months and years with no weekends off and no vacations, and outside of these work hours they were expected to study, plan, keep up an apartment, and help companions. They need a little time to rest, to learn to be a “normal” person again, and to integrate their new self with their old environment. At the other extreme, they may be quite judgmental of the family, overly idealistic in standards, and not want to let go of mission patterns. This is certainly not all bad! Don’t get defensive, and don’t tease – just be kind and patient. Make sure they have some kind of personal space, especially if they won’t get their old room back. They also need some non-missionary clothes, books, music, and activities that gradually reintroduce them to normal life. Ask about their plans, interests, and needs in a supportive, non-judgmental way. Listen, learn, be patient, and remember: They won’t stay in this “lost” phase forever.
What do I think?
Even tho’ a missionary has been living in the world, their world is one wholly dedicated to the service of the Lord and other’s. Just like being wrapped in a clear bubble – still seeing the world around them for 18 months or two years but free from its influences. On return, that bubble is popped and suddenly you are breathing the same air as everyone else. It takes time to re-explore it and find your place within it.
As a return missionary I think I fit Dave and Wendy’s description perfectly. One of the hardest parts of serving a mission for me was the first 3 months after I returned. I felt very disoriented and a little lost. I remember being excited to come home and begin the next phase of my life, but I really didn’t expect it to be quite so hard to adjust to a new kind of routine (well actually no routine).
The regiment of mission life didn’t exist any more, and in a lot of ways I felt a lack of purpose. I was really grateful for parents who were very patient with me; who didn’t pressure me to be something I wasn’t ready to be.
Many of my friends had moved on – married, moved away, or simply made new friends. I remember one time, not long after reconnecting with my best friend, how she complained that I talked too much about my mission and wondered if I had anything better to talk about. I was devastated. The one person I thought would understand had just impatiently brushed me off.
I must also admit that I had thought, and mentioned once or twice, about how my family needed to up their act in terms of living the gospel. I’m pretty sure there were a few raised eyebrows behind my back…but glad to say that they never seemed to take offense at it.
1. Do you have any expectations for your missionary when he/she gets home?
2. Have you discussed as a family how you are going to assist your missionary to integrate their ‘new self with their old environment’?
3. Do you have an experience that you would like to share here of how you assisted your returned missionary to settle back into life?
**Part 3 will explore the ‘Need for Structure’ soon after returning home.