It has been six months since my family returned to life in America and although it is increasingly becoming "normal," we are still not completely there. This is largely due to us now being considered third culture adults, in Andrea's case a fourth culture adult, where we identify with both or numerous cultures on certain levels. The past six months has been full of catching up with family and friends, mobilizing churches, preaching engagements, church planting cohort, traveling and living in multiple cities, graduating with two master degrees, and trying to figure out where it is exactly the Lord wants us next.
During these six months I have taken a lot of time to reflect on life in India, reverse culture shock, and the return to life in America. Below you will find some broad generalizations that have been true in my life and experience. The last six months have been very eye opening for me and have caused me to want to help others returning from overseas. If you fit that category then please contact me directly.
1. Most people mean well, but most of them just don't get it. You may ask, get what? The majority of people do not understand or care what we were doing overseas, how to engage us in conversation about life and ministry overseas, and most people do not know understand what it is that we are experiencing now that we have returned from overseas. There is a small percentage of people that do get it and those are usually ones that have also been sent out at some point in their life.
2. The American Church highly undervalues overseas ministry experience. This one did not really come so much as a shock, but more of a hard reality. I have more education than the majority of churches are looking for in a candidate and I have about the right amount of paid experience, but when many learn that this experience of church planting happened overseas it is like they write it off. One guy summed it up well, "It's as if these churches look at you like you have leprosy or something."
3. A hard reality is that many people you had relationships with in the past have simply moved on in your absence. This is not referring to all relationships, but there is a percentage of people that you assume you will return and pick back up with and it simply does not happen. When we were saying, "See you later," they were saying, "goodbye." In a sense we put life and our relationship on pause and they just let it be finished.
4. Everything you were once involved in has changed so quickly that you are not sure if you fit any longer. The American culture is a fast paced moving machine and that carries over into all spheres of life. It is difficult returning to the areas of life that you once were heavily involved only to feel like an outsider and to be uncertain if you even have a place to fit in any longer.
5. Making disciples and establishing the kingdom as it is in heaven seems to come secondary. One thing that I greatly miss about what we were doing overseas is that every decision we made revolved around the mission and purpose of being there. I believe that we are all to be missionaries so we should function the same way in the US, but I find that few people really do. Sure, they will volunteer some time occasionally, be faithful to attend a church gathering on Sunday, but it rarely goes deep.