10 Things That Stress Out Returning Missionaries

Stressed out
Returning missionaries need your prayers to adjust to American life and society again. (Flickr )

I spend a lot of time with missionaries who've returned to North America after their time on the field, and it's fascinating to see what catches their attention in our culture. Perhaps this list will help you understand them better and pray for them if they visit or join your church.

1. We spend a lot of money on church buildings. Most of us know that, but it's much more apparent to missionaries who've often been doing church without having a building—and who've been working with people who have nothing compared to our wealth. 

2. North American churches aren't very evangelistic. For people who give their lives to take the gospel to the unreached around the world, the evangelistic apathy in our churches makes little sense.

3. Our congregations argue over silly stuff. Worship styles, carpet colors and sacred cows don't seem as important to believers who've been serving in lonely places, and who've been longing for Christian companionship.

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4. Our stores are big. I remember a returning missionary calling me from a Walmart because he couldn't believe the number of cereal options he found. It was almost sensory overload for a guy whose only store for years had been a street market.

5. North Americans are globally ignorant. Not only do we not know where countries are on the globe, but we also know little about the people groups of the world. And I suspect some missionaries could write a book on culturally uninformed questions church people have asked them.

6. We believers don't pray much. It seems easier to "do church" without praying in North American culture, and missionaries who must pray to make it through each day quickly recognize that.

7. We assume that America is "home" to missionaries. We talk that way: "Welcome home!" "We're glad your home!" "How long will you be home?" What we don't realize is that for many missionaries, home is where they've served—not here. 

8. We eat a lot. Even the serving sizes at a local restaurant can surprise a missionary who's been living in a place where the people have little to eat. What we throw away is often more than some people eat.

9. North Americans are out of shape. We're a sedentary people who walk only from the front door to the car. That's different from the vast numbers of people around the world who are in better shape because they walk much of their lives.

10. We believers don't know the power of God. Some missionaries can tell stories of miracles. They've seen demons exorcised and the sick healed. They know God can miraculously change even the darkest heart. Then, they visit North American churches where such conversations are almost taboo.

What would you add to this list?

Chuck Lawless is Dean and Vice-President of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is Global Theological Education Consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

For the original article, visit chucklawless.com.

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