We all go through transitions, but cross-cultural workers go through more than the average person. And the nature of their transitions is often much more profound than what you or I go through. For many missionaries, transition is a chronic reality.
Some people hate change; others thrive on it. The truth is, change is inescapable, whether we like it or not.
Once upon a time, missionaries left for the field on ships that took weeks or even months to arrive at their country of service. Often they had no expectations of ever returning to their passport country. That scenario evolved over time. Air travel took the place of ships, and the trips were reduced to a matter of hours. Missionaries would typically go to the field, work for four years, then return for a year of “furlough.”
That way of doing things is increasingly rare these days.
Now it is not unusual for global workers to return to their passport country for several weeks every year. They never really have time to adjust to their new situation before needing to change their venue again.
That takes a toll on a soul.
Every transition involves some form of loss, and every loss involves some form of grief. When a missionary lives with chronic change, the losses and the grief tend to pile up. What is not repaired is repeated. Grief that is not properly lamented can fester and become a serious impediment to spiritual growth.
To support global workers who live in a revolving door, take time to ask questions that indicate your caring concern. Questions like:
- What do you miss the most about (where they just came from)?
- What do you regret having to leave behind? Leave undone?
- How is the Father manifesting his care right now?
- What is the hardest thing you are currently facing?
- What are you excited about in this next chapter? What do you dread?
- What are you doing to take care of yourself during this change?
The fact that you understand what they are experiencing (even if you’ve never experienced it yourself) will mean a lot to them. The fact that you care will mean even more.