Missionaries do come home. Sometimes for training, support raising, meetings with their home office, representation or promotion of their mission. Sometimes for an appointed period of furlough or home assignment. Sometimes for family or medical reasons.
Hopefully, your supported missionary will communicate with you about the timing and reasons for their visit home. “No surprises” is usually a very good policy. You should be informed or find out about the duration of their stay, their goals or expectations about Thursday, when and where will be there arrival and departure, and what, if any, will be their logistical needs.
The home or sending church often has priority in time, duration, and quality of opportunities with the missionary family soon after they arrive. The home church also has the greatest responsibility for meeting logistical needs. In today’s terms that may mean providing them with a mobile phone, transportation, accommodations, assistance with appliances, tools, kitchen gear, food, references for doctors, school, drivers licenses, shopping, possibly supply of seasonally appropriate clothing, and the list goes on.
An honorable missionary homecoming can be a great time of rejoicing and participation by the congregation. It is a wonderful opportunity to forge deeper relationships and provide practical assistance with which everyone can identify. People rally behind the food drive to stock the cupboards, the preparation of the rental accommodations, the gift card shower to help the missionary family by whatever stock items or clothing they need. The church is eager to hear the latest stories of life and ministry on the field. They want to see the pictures, here the reports, and praise God for what has been accomplished through their distant representative in foreign lands.
Thoughtfully give your missionary space to reconnect with their extended family and simply to rest. Help them plug in to church family life. Inform them about expectations regarding attendance at services or church programs. Help them understand how their family fits in to Sunday school classes, kids clubs, small group ministries, adult Bible fellowships, etc. get them up to speed on the local favorite sports teams. Give them administrative or technical assistance at producing their presentations, new prayer cards, newsletters, etc. They will probably need advice and IT support to understand and use the latest technology, even how to use a new smart phone!
Listen well. Make priority time for them to talk and decompress with mission team leadership. Understand that their children may be confused and have significant cross-cultural stress because they have spent most of their young lives in what they consider as their own home culture overseas. Help them build realistic plans for their time at home. Bottom line, a missionary coming home should be a little bit like a joyful family reunion. It doesn’t happen very often; so you have to make the most of it when it comes. Make sure they know that they are loved. Make sure they know that, even when you have to say difficult things, they are accepted as valued members of your church family.
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