Re-entry is a word that has been used to describe our journey back into America after our eleven-month journey around the world. The word is actually space-shuttle terminology for “the act of re-entering the atmosphere after traveling in space.” The wikipedia article on re-entry goes into great details describing proper designs for the vehicle to ensure that it will be able to withstand the incredible heat and pressure of traveling through the atmosphere.
I have to say that “re-entry” is named appropriately – as it has been much harder than I anticipated. Maybe there isn’t physical heat & pressure, but you sure do feel it emotionally. My friend Sung Yun described it this way: ‘You used to be a round peg that fit into a round hole, but serving in the nations changed you and you’ve become square.’ It takes time to figure out how to fit your new self into the culture where you came from.
I am experiencing America in a whole new way. I’ve noticed that people are taller and wider, and man do they throw away food. I’ve noticed that our culture is centered on individuality – people moving about by themselves, rather than the Asian familial style. I noticed that nearly everyone was engrossed in their lives, in their ipods and iphones, with little regard to others around them.
For a few weeks, I was still surprised when I saw a toilet seat AND toilet paper inside of every bathroom. I added twelve hours to my phone call to my parents, then remembered we were actually in the same time zone. I had a hard time justifying paying rent for a month, when it was more than some people make in a year. I spoke slowly to a foreigner, then felt stupid when they spoke back to me in perfect English. Here’s a funny video that was put together by previous World Racers to describe some of the crazy circumstances that happen when returning to America:
So today I want to give some pieces of advice for anyone who is re-entering America from doing missions work abroad.
First of all, I’d encourage you to give yourself time. Rest and don’t rush into things. Allow what God has done in you to sink in.
You will feel a loss of community – but that just means that you have to go out there and find it. Catch up with friends. Share pictures and have a handful of stories on the tip of your tongue that you’re ready to share. Community will look different than the Race, but seek out people in your life who will encourage you, support you, and challenge you.
When I went to dinner with my friend Megan, she said, “Kelly, you’re different.” This made me nervous – but she explained, “Yes, you’re different. But God only does good work. They are good changes, because that is who God is. Everything he has made, from the beginning of creation until today, is good.” People will tell you that you’re different – but be ok with that. If you came back the same as when you left, there would definitely be something wrong.
Don’t neglect your time with God during this season – it’s easy to throw yourself into your busy old life and leave little opportunity for some of the seeds that God has planted to take root. Read through your World Race journal and celebrate what He has taken you through. You did it! That’s something to be proud of.
For me, I found a retreat setting to be a powerful way of hearing from God and transitioning to the “next” in my life. After sitting on a log over a stream and singing to Jesus for awhile, I read through my entire World Race journal, seeking to find continuity among everything I had seen and experienced. I let my mind wander to the memories that I needed to process through, but hadn’t taken the time to yet. I asked God tough questions, like “Where were you in the midst of the ladies suffering in the brothels in India?” and “How do you allow these things to happen?” I realized that my idea of God had become misconstrued due to the things I had experienced, and working through these things brought me great peace and clarity.
I realized that I was scared to move on, because I feared that I would forget – that the World Race would just become some sort of ancient memory, like when you look at pictures in old photo albums but have little recollection that you were actually there. However, God assured me that over the course of the eleven months, He had branded me with compassion. That the people I met and the nations I stepped foot in are now a part of my composition, of who I am, and there is nothing that can change that.
Finally, when you are ready, allow God to cleanse you from what you have seen and heard, and speak to you about what is to come.
My last piece of advice would be to seek out opportunities where you can laugh and have a good time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed & depressed by what is happening in third-world countries, but God doesn’t want us to carry around a burden that isn’t ours to carry. As my Aunt Barb says, laughter heals. Here’s a video that always makes me laugh.
So finally, after thirty days, America is finally starting to feel like home. I now appreciate many things about this country that I never noticed before, such as its ethnic diversity and freedom.
I want to leave you today with Ashley’s World Race video. It’s really well done, one of my favs: