Back on American soil….. What now?
By: Jhasmine St. Hilaire
A mission trip is an amazing experience. This summer I went on my first mission trip to Zambia, Africa.
It took several months of saving, begging, fundraising, calling family members awkwardly, and praying for God to come through. After all of the labor, I found myself fully packed and about to aboard for my first mission trip.
Africa was not the meme’s you see on Instagram, nor was it the commercials you see at 2AM. Yes those things were present, but the beauty of how different it was than I expected trumped every feeling of discomfort or sadness.
When you’re there, you’re there. Am I right? It is like the memories of home feel so distant, even after only a few days of being on the mission field. You’re taking all your pictures, you’re hugging the babies, your serving your heart out, and you’re making connections with people.
You feel connected to God’s people, you feel like you’re being used by God, and let’s be honest you feel tired. Everything feels so permanent, because you know these moments will stay in your heart forever.
However, good things pass because God has more. And after three weeks, we headed home. After a series of flights that I felt like I had boarded yesterday, I was boarding again. But this time I was full experience of vivid memories of Africa; precious moments with my team, frustrating moments with myself, and glorious moments of God’s goodness.
At this point, your heart is still so full—and civilian life becomes real again. You finally have some consistent Wifi to post that selfie, or that cute child. Here is mine:
Than you arrive home, and you are like, “Back on American soil…. What now?”
First, take note, that your emotions are valid. Emotions are always valid, there is a reason why they are there. But, the experience was meant to move you, and not to cripple you. After the journey back home, you will look aimlessly for comfort in others—but it may seem like no one understands. I realized I had been struggling with post mission trip sadness, but I had to realize my emotions were not limited to mission trips. My sadness was pertaining to any thing that involved transition, and change. Life is full of change, and transitions. And if there is something I have realized lately, emotional health his EXTREMELY important. Following the mission trip, I had to take time to process everything— and I think it is extremely important that you do the same. So I evaluated myself. I had to figure out what was going on… So I assessed some attitudes/mindsets I picked up along the way; some humorous, some sad, some downright unhealthy. Here is what I learned and I hope if you feel or have felt any of these, that you would know that you are not alone.
A couple of mindsets I had experienced after my first mission trip:
1. LEAVE ME HERE: This happened right before I left Africa. This is the “I’m being serious when I say leave me here,” mindset. I called my mom while I was on the trip and told her I’m called to this nation and I wanted to stay— and I said this as I am laying on the floor in front of the van (some say I am a drama queen) but hey, I was sad? Am I right? You make every attempt to find a way to stay, even if I have to call, and text EVERY child or adult I met, because I am staying at one of their houses to live there for the rest of my life. Now realistically if you know in your heart you are to be there, God will make a way for you to be there. But you need to give it time. As with any big commitment, usually spontaneity will not produce a lasting positive effect. Nothing happens over night, make a PLAN to win wherever you find yourself.
2. Did I do enough?: This was when those memories were so frequent and strong in my mind, and the more I thought about it the more I realized the areas I could have done more while on the mission field. I thought back to one nice day we had of evangelism, there was a man who I knew needed prayer up the street that I didn’t go to. Why did I not? I will never know, and it is not my job to know. The answer is YES. You did everything you could have done while you were there, and understand the trip was set up to be a MISSION to do as much as you can while you were there. At home is does not look the same as when you are in “mission-mode,” but know that God still wants to use you.
3. How do I keep the momentum?: So I realize all of the things God did in and through me… But what do I do with all of this? Journal! Journal! And more journal! Pray! Pray! Pray! You cannot steward big things on your own. So what I do to continue growing is tell a friend that you plan on doing something specific, that you felt God wanted to grow you in. The key to momentum is eyes all around you, even when you do not want them to be.
4. I just want to be sad: You may question why I put this mindset towards the end, and it is because I still (even today) just want to be sad. Sadly enough. We are all not perfect, and even after God enlightens you on why you’re in a rut, or sad, we still want to be sad. It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to miss things, but it is not okay to be down all of the time. Give yourself time to be sad, but when that time is up. Either fake it until you make it, recognize it’s a tactic the enemy is using against you and let it go, or surround yourself with people you know will encourage and be honest with you! I never look for cheerleaders in the circle, I always look for coaches. (This is the steps I take for anything).
5. Healed: I love Africa. I still love everything about it. But now I’m healthy emotionally, and HEALED, while still appreciating everything that happened. Does it mean I will not experience this again? No. I probably will but I know it will be better than before because that is how God works and that is what experience does for you. It makes you better. And will continue to do so for all of us.
As hard as the transition and change is when coming back from a mission trip, it gets better. And life goes on. Now I’m onto a new experience— studying broadcast journalism at the University of North Texas! College in itself is a huge change, and being away from home is hard, but God is still at work and I’m excited for where He has taken me and more so where He WILL take me!