All the paint—except the last stubborn splotch in that hard-to-reach spot—finally washed off in the shower. Your aversion to PB&J after eating it for lunch every day for a week is wearing off. Your hamper is full of dirty laundry; your heart, of fond memories. You must have just returned from a mission trip! (Hopefully you felt an extra measure of God’s peace before and during your time in the field thanks to the first two posts in this series on prepping like a pro and serving like a superstar.) Now it’s back to the grindstone. You’re a changed person faced with reintegration into reality. How does one reconcile the highest of spiritual highs with the relative triviality of daily life? Here are eight ways to come down from the proverbial mountaintop, without tumbling headfirst.
- Pray. It’s no accident that this tops all three lists. Thank God for safe travel and for all that your eyes were opened to. Implore Him to continue working mightily in the lives of those you served alongside and amongst.
- Maintain regular communication with your team. This one sound familiar too? You just shared a deeply moving experience; don’t give them the cold shoulder in the narthex. In fact, have a “reunion” (in essence, a final team meeting) to debrief, fellowship, reminisce, and delegate (see #3 and #4!). What better excuse to find an ethnic grocery store that sells that coconut candy you couldn’t get enough of, or try your hand at authentic Panamanian patacones?
- Say “Thanks!” Elect someone to write thank-you notes, personalized with a favorite trip memory and perhaps even a photo, to anyone who supported you prayerfully or financially. Bonus points if the entire group signs them! Have your tech guru post a concluding shout-out on your trip blog or Facebook page. Nominate a point person to coordinate a presentation(s) for the Sunday morning adult Bible study group, men’s club, board of elders, etc.
- Archive your memories. By all means, scroll through your iPhone photo highlight reel in the car on the way home from the airport! But, sooner rather than later, ask for a volunteer to compile everyone’s photos into something you’ll be proud to share and can look back on for years to come. Sites like Google Drive, Flickr, and Photobucket make it easy to organize photos into folders. Shutterfly and Mixbook don’t require all the accoutrements of traditional scrapbooking. Lastly, PowerPoint yields professional looking slideshows. Captions are a must in all instances! Seemingly indelible details will fade with time, and you don’t want to forget the name of the little girl who sat on your lap all through church or the local construction foreman who constantly reminded you that stucco covers a multitude of ills.
- Dig deeper to get the whole scoop. Your eyes have been opened to the tip of the iceberg, but do some research. Does your host organization offer more than mission trips? Is your church body active in the community or region in which you served on a broader scale? What other churches or nonprofits have a stake? Follow the ministry’s Instagram account. Subscribe to its blog. Like its Facebook page. Sign up for the monthly newsletter published by the long-term missionary family serving there.
- Go long! Long term, that is. You made an investment when you started planning months ago; don’t stop! Aside from your continued prayers, how else can you contribute to God’s ongoing work? Could you collect school supplies for your host organization’s back-to-school drive? Sponsor a hole at its annual golf tournament fundraiser? Donate a bulk subscription to CPH’s quarterly devotional magazine Portals of Prayer (or Portales de Oración, in Spanish)?
- Become a backyard missionary. Be attuned to service opportunities in your community. Your church’s bulletin, the corkboard in the local coffee shop, and Christian radio stations are great starting points.
- Start planning the next one! If you’re anything like me, you’ve been bitten by the mission bug! Prayerfully consider making a return visit or venturing to a new and different destination. If there aren’t plans in place, perhaps God is calling you to step up to the plate and lead. . . . Stay tuned for future posts that start at square one!
The enthusiasm that’s aflame within you is a blessing. Don’t ignore it; use it as a jumping-off point for intentional missional living, even amid the mundane valley of work, housework, and schoolwork. Two of the key events in the life of our Lord—His birth and His resurrection—feature people who witnessed the incredible and did everything but return to the status quo (see Luke 2:16 and Mark 16:7). Having seen God moving in a new and inspiring way, allow the Holy Spirit to act upon you so that you, too, might go and tell.
We’ve got our listening ears on! Leave a comment with a favorite story from your recent mission trip, share how you plan to incorporate service into your daily life, or update us on where you’re headed next!