July 3, 2017 | Melissa Weissenberger
Tomorrow we board a plane at noon and make the 13-hour trek back “home”. We’ve been slowly saying goodbye to everyone and everything we hold dear here, and whether we’re ready or not, it all ends tomorrow.
We enter again into that ever elusive nomadic life where home becomes wherever we spend the night and for at least one month that will be the guest bedrooms of friends and family, or campsites across the East Coast (all while hopping in and out of a Chevy Suburban that my gracious mother-in-law is lending us).
For the fifth time in the past 2 years, all of our belongings have been packed, weighed, unpacked, repacked, reweighed, and parsed down to 8 bags (two not featured in this image: one is my purse and the other is our cat carrier).
The release of the little parts of life that make it great (the knick knacks that make a house in a home; the sweet gifts we’ve received from friends…) is a simultaneously freeing and exhausting process. Additionally, we still have loose ends that will remain “untied” after we leave: the biggest being our car which has not yet sold.
The two plane rides tomorrow will provide ample time for the tears and emotional processing that we have yet to fully go through. How do you prepare yourself to feel the sinews of your heart slowly separate as pieces of you will continue to live on two separate continents?
In the most recent days, I’ve mostly been reading Psalms because they resonate with my anguish:
“O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me!/Give ear to my voice when I call to you!/Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;/keep watch over the door of my lips!/Do not let my heart incline any evil,/to busy myself with wicked deeds/in company with men who work iniquity,/and let me not eat of their delicacies!”
Psalm 141:1-4, ESV
I feel like every prayer starts with me simply asking the Lord to hear me because I have no idea if the words that will escape my mouth are even pleasing in His sight. There is an abundance of temptation for hopelessness, bitterness, and anger as we essentially enter a grief cycle. With every step forward there is always an opportunity to be selfish, brash, or boastful.
And so with these last hours as I contemplate what comes next and as I try to steady my heart, I find myself asking over and over for grace. I need to give myself grace as my heart grieves, I need to give my husband grace as he processes, I need to receive grace for the temptations that pull at my mind.
There’s a proliferation of materials on missionary “re-entry”, but no matter how many books you read, your heart still goes through an unimaginable roller coaster. The process of re-entering a “home culture” is something I don’t wish on anyone. When you are gone from the culture you grew up in for enough time, a million little things about you change:
- Your food preferences
- Your music tastes
- Your clothing style
- Your politics
- Your religious disciplines
- Your relationships with old friends
- Your cultural customs
And some of those things are easy to readjust immediately. It will be odd and comforting to be able to discard toilet paper in the toilet when we reach the US (you put it in the trash can in Bolivia). It will be potentially frightening to be on a major US highway coming back from the airport (we don’t drive particularly fast in the city here).
Other things take weeks, months, or years to readjust, and some things will never ever be the same.
It’s difficult to explain that to people and it’s difficult to feel understood. That doesn’t mean we don’t try, and it doesn’t mean we don’t want to, but it does mean that some days in our near future will look like emotional exhaustion by 11 am because of culture shock and the pain of readjustment.
Then there’s the physical adjustment. In the past 3 years, we have purged our wardrobe 4 times in order to prepare for this time overseas. We just did it twice more in the past two weeks. This photo is of two boxes of clothing we cannot fit in our suitcases, despite having an extra duffel bag that a friend is bringing back for us when they return to the US next month.
When we get back, we will essentially need to completely replace our wardrobe, shop for housing items like newlyweds, and gather what little possessions we’d left behind in the care of loved ones.
Sometimes this is fun–it’s kind of like Christmas or a birthday. Most of the time it’s not: it’s counting pennies and wondering exactly what we really need and what we can live without. It’s living out of a car and wearing the same clothes for a month. It’s wondering when we’ll finally move into a house or an apartment so we can grocery shop instead of spending money at restaurants.
This is where you all come in. We need many things over these next few months and we would love for you to participate in any of them:
- Prayer: it is only by the grace of God that we have been down here for two years working in this ministry. It will only be by His grace and power that we transition well back to the US.
- Physical support: if you want to help us rebuild our lives, you can peruse our Amazon wishlist and bless us. Anything and everything will help. When people first started asking how to physically help us, I suggested buying gift cards or inviting us over for a meal: they are the most tangible way to help us move forward. Here’s the link: http://a.co/2Y1law6
- Emotional support: there are a few things you can do to ensure that your time with us or your messages to us are helpful and encouraging–
- Read our most recent newsletters and blogposts to make sure you know where we’re coming from and what we’ve most recently experienced.
- Know exactly where and how we served: We have been at the Santa Cruz Christian Learning Center in Santa Cruz, Bolivia for the past two years. I taught English classes and led the student government while Chris helped with the tech department and the youth spiritual program. It is like a punch to the gut when someone asks us about our time in Africa or Chris’s computer class (he never taught computers).
- Understand that the past two years haven’t always been fun. There are plenty of funny stories and really incredible memories that we would love to share with you, but there were plenty of hard and emotionally wounding or stretching moments as well. Don’t be afraid to ask about them and be prepared to hear an honest answer.
We would be overjoyed to see you. It will breathe life into us to spend time with you and reconnect. Coming back to our home country also means coming back to relationships that we haven’t actively engaged in for over two years: it’s daunting, but it’s valuable. We have missed you more than we can express and we’d love to hear about your life too. Don’t think we’re too busy for you or too out of the way: just reach out. We’ll find time for you.
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