When your period of missions service is complete and you re-enter your home culture, you will find that some heat is generated. The heat can come from outside you, or from within. The external heat will most likely be generated by some of the comments and questions from friends and family who don’t really understand what you’ve been doing. “I bet it was nice out there in Hawaii! How was the surfing?” Or, “It must be great to travel? Did you say the church paid for your vacation?” Or perhaps the heat will come from the fact that no questions are asked or comments made about what you have been doing on the mission field. Apathy and lack of spiritual interest are bitter pills to swallow, especially when you are bursting to tell people about God’s faithfulness to you during your absence. Disinterest and indifference generate heat.
On the other hand, internal heat will probably be generated by your inability to fully understand and respond rightly to people who seem to misunderstand you and why you went.
“The Zone of Silence” can be a traumatic experience that can last for months, even years. The silence that you encounter as a returning missionary occurs in two areas. First, in leaving the mission field, you are leaving the support structure of friends and co-workers who have guided and nurtured you during your time away. When you arrive home, you must establish a new support structure. Unil you do, the silence can be deafening.
Second, if you’re not careful, silence can creep into your devotional life. The pressures of re-entry have the unfortunate tendency to push you in the opposite direction to where you want to go. Instead of pushing you close to God, re-entry stress tends to push you away from Him. A disruption occurs in the flow of your devotional life, and the ensuing silence can be frightening as you try to bear the challenges of re-entry alone.
While on the mission field, you may have had certain ministry pressures to bear, but they are different pressures to those you will experience at home. At home you will have the demands and expectations of your family, your church, and your culture to deal with. This added “gravity” may manifest itself through feelings of loneliness or periods of depression, anger, or sadness. The only way to deal with this type of “gravity” is to release the weight you are feeling to the Lord, who says, “Come to me, all you who are…burdened….Take my yoke upon you…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Taken from “Re-Entry - Making the Transition from Missions to Life at Home” (1992) by Peter Jordan. Reprinted with permission from YWAM Publishing, Seattle, WA, USA.