Throughout our time in Burundi we heard other missionaries speak of how difficult it was to return home to the U.S. after living in rural Africa. Some call this “re-entry” or “reverse culture shock”. So, I thought I would write a brief update on how our re-entry is going, for anyone who may still be checking in with this blog.
We have now been home for 10 days, and I will admit that there are certainly challenges with returning to our pre-Burundi lives. The first challenge was getting over the physical side of re-entry, including jet lag, change of diet, etc. But as our bodies now seem to be better adjusted to the time difference as well as all the processed foods we cannot seem to avoid here, now we are left with the emotional challenges.
I had heard missionaries talk about how hard it was to come back to a country with so much convenience, only to hear those around them complain incessantly. What I have rather found is that it is ME who I find complaining. As an example, we moved back into our house last Monday, and Stephanie called a local provider to sign us up for internet. After five days, and three phone calls back to this company, we still did not have internet. Somehow this frustrated me to no end, and somehow I seem to have forgotten that we spent the past 9 months in a home without internet, and often without electricity. Yet in Burundi I just accepted it as part of life.
For me, the hardest part of re-entry has been this feeling of unsettled-ness. As much as I love Bellingham, somehow it feels less like my home than it did before we went to Burundi. To be honest, I can’t figure out where my home is anymore. I long for a sense of feeling settled, of feeling like I am finally home. And in my 41 years of life, so far, I can’t seem to find it.
Last year I was talking to another missionary who told me that she struggled with this same feeling. And after much prayer, she felt God telling her that she would not find her home until she found her home in Him. When she said this, the following quote from C.S. Lewis came to my mind:
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
We have been welcomed back to Bellingham with so much love by our family, our friends, our church, my co-workers, and we are so grateful for this community. But in the end, I believe, we were not made for this world, but for another. And so, until we reach that home, we remain unsettled.