Monthly Archives: November 2012

Survival tips for dealing with a “Returning Medium-Term Missionary” (RMTM) who might seem a bit weird.

1. Your well-intentioned questions are appreciated, but may not always have an answer.  Not having an answer, not least an answer that fits into a five-minute conversation is unsettling and what with points 1 and 2 in yesterday’s post about the RMTM, who knows what sort of reaction you’ll get!  Patience is a virtue… for all of us.

2. Unusual life circumstances and experiences may seem exciting in relation to what you see as ‘humdrum’ home life, but on the other side of things your home and routine could be a balm of healing during an unsettled, uncertain time for an RMTM.  Don’t feel like you need to offer intense catch-up chats about the “excitements of the mission field” in order to show you care – share your life and the stories will come out in time.  Its possible that for both parties a take-away in front of the telly and the immense pile of ironing might be better than a sit-down meal with linen napkins.

3. Be ready to share your stories too.  If ‘normalcy’ really exists, then it exists in what each of us live day to day – the RMTM’s reality is not the only one to have continued in their absence.  It’ll do all parties good to remember that as they seek to embrace this new reality of ‘normal’ life.

Colossians 3:12-14

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

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5 of the reasons a “Returning Medium-Term Missionary” might seem a bit weird.

1. “Home” is no longer a clear-cut concept.  Asking ‘how does it feel to be home?’ is likely to be met with a blank look and, at best, a muttered half-truth or at worst, sobs.

2. Feelings change in direct relation to the ticking of a clock, so any question which relates to said feelings (how does it feel to be back? do you feel the cold? do you fancy a cup of tea?) probably means the answer has already changed 4 or 5 times before your voice even has a chance to inflect the question mark.

3. A big part of the brain still operates in a foreign language or some mixed-up version thereof, franglais par exemple.  Therefore common words and phrases like ‘toothbrush’ and ‘go for a walk’ are blanked out and one speaks in structures of sentences bizarre.

4. A big part of the body still carries the habits of the etiquette of the other culture.  When we need to walk past each other in the street, you will politely move over to your left as I politely move over to my right only to discover you’re still in MY way.  At which point, it becomes a game of chicken.  May the best foreigner win.

5. Everything is relative.  Every situation is open to comparison – it wasn’t like this where I was, when I was here before it was like that, I never used to see this, I always used to do that…  The possibilities for difference and discovery and naming of difference are endless as well as the ways in which those differences are important or not.  “Left-hand side of the road, Left-hand side of the road, LEFT-HAND side of the road…”

Tomorrow… a few survival tips (for all involved!) on dealing with a ‘Returning Medium-Term Missionary’ who might seem a bit weird.

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