This is my first post as part of a semi-monthly to monthly series entitled “Missions Monday”, where I’ll be sharing some of my missions experiences or invite others to do the same.
Have you experienced homesickness while traveling? Today I’m focusing on homesickness, a funny beast that seems to hit without any rhyme or reason. I’ve traveled extensively, and was recently surprised by a severe attack of the homesick monster while on a mission trip to Chile.
And so it began…
On a Sunday morning right after Thanksgiving, I and 7 other team members got up before the crack of dawn and drove to church. Our destination? Chile. Trip length? 10 days. Goal? Light construction and encouragement to the local church.
Bags were weighed one last time, and loaded into the back of the ubiquitous church van, before we and our drivers (bless them; they didn’t have to wake up with us, but they did) piled in, too, and drove us down to Sea-Tac Airport.
I was ready to turn around and go home.
Not just because it was early (we’d met at 3:30am) … but because surely, somewhere along the line, there had been a mistake. I wasn’t supposed to go on this trip. Not at all. I could stay home and learn the same things, right? Surely God didn’t mean that, just because my trip application was accepted, funds came in (boy, did they ever … bless you), I spoke Spanish, etc., etc., I should actually go to Chile.
Even the pilot on the first leg of our flight to Chile (SEA>JFK) said, as they closed the flight doors, “This is your last chance to get off, if you’ve changed your mind.”
How badly I wanted to take him up on that!
If it weren’t for having to walk by my teammates and tell my supporters and prayer partners when I got home, “Thanks for supporting my trip, but I’m a wuss and staying home,” I would have been off that plane in a heartbeat. (Pilots, never give your passengers that option. Ever. :P)
Our trip was a lesson for me in hyperawareness. I was so alert and on edge, checking my watch non-stop. One hour closer … two hours closer … one day left. And yet, amidst that hyperawareness that I was not home and that routine is blessed (until I get stuck in it) … God worked.
Have you been on a mission trip before? How did it go? Were there things you expected, didn’t expect, were surprised by?
Hoh, boy, was there ever, for me. Amidst all of our preparation, training, planning, and anticipation … I honestly didn’t expect to be hit with homesickness. Maybe a little, if any; but hey, I at least sort-of-knew the people I was going with, and I’ve been on enough trips that I thought it would be fine.
But oh, boy. I got broadsided by the homesickness semi-truck. And then it backed up and ran over me again.
I’ve found that that truck gets around. So I’d like to share with you some of the things I learned, in hopes it may help you get back up a little faster than I did.
1. Acknowledge the sentiment, but don’t wallow in it.
It’s there. It is what it is. Give yourself a few minutes to think of home, or what-/whoever you might be missing. (It took me days before I realized that while I missed my loved ones, I really missed my routine. My three hours of solitude before I go to work. Being able to come home after work and do what I want, including not saying a word to anyone if I so choose. Weird, I know, but just stating the facts.) Don’t sweep it under the rug or ignore it. But don’t wallow, either (for long, anyway). Moping isn’t attractive – and it doesn’t let God work in – or in spite of – you.
2. Don’t isolate yourself.
Spend time in the Word. Spend time with your team. Spend time with your host family. Don’t, don’t, don’t hide yourself away or insulate yourself from those around you. This will only make the feeling worse.
3. On the same token, don’t underestimate the power of alone time.
My team stayed with host families down in Chile, and I have to tell you that my host family, Tia Ellie and Tio Carlos, are some of the sweetest folks known to man. But on the same token, I was physically and emotionally exhausted after spending 13+ hours a day interacting with people. (Have I mentioned I’m an introvert?)
Do be cognizant of the fact that you will be surrounded by people for a majority of the time. This is on purpose. But as important as that is, it’s critical that you make a point of having alone time: in the Word; processing what you’re seeing/learning/thinking; or just simply being. Carve out daily time to recharge your batteries.
4. Share your struggles with someone(s).
Don’t feel like homesickness (or any other struggle you may face) is a sign of weakness or failure, and therefore “must be hidden” or fought through solo. I tried that for two days, and on the morning of the third day, had a meltdown. (The first of many, I will admit.) But that meltdown actually paved the way for some bang-up conversations with my trip leaders and with the locals we worked alongside, that I would not have had otherwise.
My leaders were also gracious to speak truth to me, asking me the tough questions I didn’t want to answer about God, his goodness and plan. The team leaders are there to help! They want to know if you are struggling, so they can pray for and with you and take action if needed.
And the locals? I walked into the kitchen bawling (the morning of the first meltdown), and they came around me and prayed for me. I was sooooo humbled and blessed by that, I cannot even tell you. One lady came up to me later and gave me cookies, too, saying how happy she was that I was smiling.
Partly to resist the temptation of having four cookies all to myself, I ate one immediately and started to share the rest. This actually helped even more as I extended the grace and love I had been given to those around me – so satisfying.
5. Distract yourself.
When you get caught up in homesickness, find something to at least keep your hands busy, or take a walk (with a buddy).
Maybe even sit on a table.
What do you think? Have you ever been homesick on a trip of any kind? What worked for you? Share in the comments section!