We sat up on the stage as guests, invited by the leaders of the conference to answer questions about life in missions. The building was full of young people who were ready to devote some part of their lives to life overseas. We had prayed for God’s wisdom to speak through us as we sat before the audience who seemed eager to learn from those who came before them. Our circle was small; two families, one single man and a single woman who ministered in different parts of the world.
The questions came, and we all seemed to be doing well, crowding years of experience into short, concise statements. We were nearing the end when the question sounded, “What do you do to ease the process of “belonging” in your community upon returning from the field?” Thinking that I had a good answer, I took the mic and said, “It’s important to have a group of like-minded individuals; people who had gone through the same types of experiences you have in ministry and who also have a heart for missions. At some point, you will find yourself longing to remember, longing to connect, and longing to re-live some part of your cross-cultural life when you return to your previous home, so fellowship with these brothers and sisters will help.” Two other global workers on the stage shook their head in agreement. We all knew what it was like to feel “out’ when we returned home.
Yet I was not ready for what the next few seconds would bring. The family that sat next to us took the mic and softly added, “It’s also important not to expect anything from the people in your home church and community. Instead of having expectations, serve. Serve the congregation the same way you serve overseas. Look for opportunities, make an effort, and honor others; and you’ll be amazed at how God works in your community.”
I sat there, kind of dumbfounded. While I was passing on advice of ways to search for community in order to feel like I ‘belonged’, the simple truth of serving others in order to build community had passed me by.
Because despite having expectations and feeling ‘left out’; God’s principles of serving one another have not changed.
What do YOU do to ease the process of “belonging” in your community upon returning from the field?