I’m glad to be done with my time on The World Race.
We said our goodbyes to our last contact and headed toward for our final team debrief. I’m a bag of emotions, burnt out and coming into home base on fumes. 15 flights this year. Three more flights and I’ll back in Denver.
Some heady guy named Socrates once said, “an unexamined life is not worth living.” So I’m taking time to examine. It’s good to reflect.
The 52 of us on “O Squad” all came into this adventure with expectations. Some laid out by Adventures in Missions, some realistic we were given, and some unrealistic made up in our minds. My initial expectations are reflected in my first journal entry back at training camp.
“Traveling the world for 11 months will be amazing. Traveling the world for 11 months with my Lord and maker will be even more amazing.
I expect at times to be lonely, scared, tired (physically and emotionally), upset, frustrated, annoyed by teammates (have them feel the same about me). I expect to feel pain and through that pain be broken. I expect to build lasting friendships, to see wonderful things, and to be impacted by others and let others impact me.
I expect God to show me the world and in the process shake up mine.”
Those things happened. And no doubt there will be more processing to come. I left Fort Collins with questions and expectations in hand. Questions like: do you speak to me Lord; and what do you see in me; what are my gifts I can give away?
Expectations like: seeing miracles and healing; and being broken for the marginalized and oppressed. Those things also happened. But soon… I’ll be home.
Re-entry is the nice missions word for, “I’m home. Now what the heck do I do with my life?”
A Shared Experience
My first meal back in the States was a Taco Bell Express in the Dallas airport with friend Andrea. I had no idea they had a new sauce. Andrea was beaming. My first meal in Colorado was a Chipolte burrito. I was beaming. It took me three different sit-downs to finish. Apparently my stomach shrunk after loosing 15 pounds on my already skinny frame.
I spent the first two weeks in the states mooching off my wonderful sister, Megan in Florida. We crossed our fingers hoping weight gain would come overnight as she made me shakes loaded with calories to reverse my Race diet. More was accomplished on her Apple desktop computer in thirty minutes than in three weeks trying to find good internet on the race in countries like Tanzania & Cambodia.
Megan introduced me to a website for downloading music called Pandora. I downloaded. Made playlists. And downloaded some more.
I looked at cameras. I looked at ipods. I looked at computers.
And then I looked in my bank account. Nevermind.
Among other things she bought me: underwear, socks, and crest white strips.
I take hot showers with water pressure. I watch ESPN. Turns out I really didn’t miss anything. I smoke my pipe tobacco and drink beers that don’t taste like crappy light lagers from Asia, as I catch up with close friends and family back home.
When I take a poop, I forget I don’t need to throw my toilet paper in the trash can. I ask other friends from my squad if they are having the same problems. My friends are all experiencing the oddity of re-entry.
What They Say
“Talking at a normal rate of speed, with a normal vocabulary after being used to speaking to non native English speakers for so long. Or not using my ‘I’m being translated voice,’ in small churches around the world. It’s also become reflex for me to get really excited when I see a restaurant or coffee shop advertising free wifi – even though that’s basically every coffee shop or restaurant in America – and I have wifi at my house. It also felt remarkably strange to change into a totally new outfit after only one day of wearing it.” – Alex Cole
“Forgetting which way traffic should be going when driving or crossing the street. Being discussed at eating contests. Forgetting to wash dishes in hot water. Realizing all my clothes from race smelled. Not knowing any pop culture references.” – Elle
“I’m pretty pop-culture ignorant so I don’t know if I can completely blame this on the race, but I’m pretty sure lady Gaga happened while we were gone. She was eeeeeverywhere when we got back and I had no idea who she was, or that she sang several of the songs we frequently heard blasted from loudspeakers around the world.” – Jess Sims
“I remember when I came home the first time my parents asked what I wanted to do and I said, ‘just don’t ask me to make any decisions for at least 48 hours.’” – Jacob Hoyer
“Being fascinated by the fact the water coming out of a faucet was drinkable. (Sometimes this is still a thing). No one reminding you “don’t drink the water.” – Aly
“I was struck by how many mirrors are in the states. I had gotten used to not seeing myself in the mirror more than once a day (if that) while overseas. The US has mirrors everywhere. Getting used to having a dryer again and clothing that is t stretched out by hand washing. Having to pay strict attention to a clock/schedule.” – Syd
“I’ve lived alone my entire adult life and loved it. After coming home I couldn’t sleep in my house alone for a while.” –Tracy
“I still did the ‘army shower thing’ turned off the water while showering so to only have the water running for short stints. Ha!” – Carin Cowden
Some days back home are highlights.
Some days we have no idea what to do with ourselves.
I’m glad to be back. But I’m not really sure what back is – if that makes sense.
Ruined for the Ordinary
Now I’ve never been to war and I don’t think missions and war are comparable, but The Race was like a war in that it has casualties, hurts, scars, wounds, offense, victories, and losses.
People asked me if I have culture shock.
I say no. I’m not really shocked our culture is materialistic and based on consumption. Zing! No…but seriously I do the same. I’m a consumer. I’m not shocked at the variety – but the choices do overwhelm me.
I’m shocked to go from living on three bucks a day for food, to getting a six dollar shake in a health food store. The shake was great though. I was thankful my sister offered me one. But afterward I kept thinking, where does Pensacola keep all the homeless people and can I go hang out with them?
I miss my friends the world considers poor but give extravagantly in love and personal resources. I feel close to the Lord when I’m with the poor.
I’m reminded by Chris Heuertz, “when we get to know people who are vulnerable, we are challenged to take more seriously the power and opportunities we have. We might need to rethink our vocations in light of God’s purposes for the world. Can we more consistently use our training and skills for human good? Can we use our leisure time in ways that more fully reflect our love for Jesus and his friends? Friendships with people who are poor make our lives bigger and invite us to enlarge decisions matter – they matter to God, to our spiritual identities and to our friends.”
In his book Wrecked, my friend Jeff Goins defines being wrecked as the following:
“Ruined. Devastated. Undone. Their lives were forever changed, and there was no returning to how life used to be. Their paradigms had shifted. Their worldview was infected with a contagion that was spreading to every facet of their life. More than one person told me, ‘I can’t go back to who I was.’”
My friend Jonathan explains re-entry well.
“Two years ago I left this country for the first time. I was committed for 11 months to be a voice for the Lord to many nations as I traveled around the world. Those 11 months turned into 13 and now, I’m moved for a lifetime.
I’ll never be able to shake the things I’ve seen, the things I’ve experienced, the things the Lord has told me about himself and what that means for me; what It means for everyone.
I don’t want to shake those things, I want more of them, they cause eruptions inside of me; eruptions of clarity, eruptions of confidence, eruptions of feeling like I am in exactly the right place at exactly the right time doing exactly what I was made to do.
Simply put, they are eruptions of purpose.
And these things are very much the point of it all: purpose, and what the Lord means for everyone. When these two things collide, reuniting as the original intention of Life, the forging of a union occurs on an eternal scale.
It is a union so uncommon to the visible realm that our senses tell us about, yet drive us to search for it in all that they perceive. How, among all the tangible, are we to attain something to fill our soul? A soul. When is the last time your senses fully perceived a soul? They never have.
It’s something greater, something beyond all what we can understand. Only a soul perceives a soul, and only from a higher perspective can something bigger than yourself be perceived. We were made for something greater than ourselves! Hallelujah!”
I, much like Jonathan, can’t go back to what or who I was before. But I’m also not sure where to go from here.
I’ve become dis-content with being content.
We’ve been ruined for the ordinary. We are learning to ask for more than we can handle, for dreams that change lives, and are asking for you to dream larger than you could ever imagine.
We need nurses, teachers, politicians, bakers, coaches, plumbers, moms, sons, and husbands just as much as missionaries, adopters, entrepreneurs, and abolitionists.
Not one of these roles sound normal to us.
Don’t miss the beauty of the positions, skills, and jobs the Lord has lead you to. If you are a mother whose dream is to cultivate the best family environment the Lord can provide, you must be an active participant in seeing that dream come to fullness.
Do not forget to dream big within those roles.
You don’t have to travel the globe to find someone in need of love. That’s why the Bible talks about loving your “neighbor” as yourself.
The Great Commission is a call to go. It may sound different from person to person, but the call is still the same…go.
Scriptures talk about going to “the ends of the earth.” You my friend, are just as much living in the ends of the earth as the farmer in Burma.
Should we put extra value on the missionary abroad? I mean… shouldn’t we all have a mission? What makes a true missionary is someone who chooses to be faithful in the small things. The jobs, positions, and roles we have were meant to be viewed with normalcy in mind. They are meant to bring life and life to the fullest.
Do the world a favor, stop what you are doing right now and pray. All great movements start with prayer. Pray for direction.
Then decide to act. Today. In some small way, make an act toward living out your dream. What will you do today to be “a planting of the Lord for the display of the His splendor?” (Isaiah 61:3)
Sometimes you need to be discontent with normalcy. Be uncomfortable with settling for comfortable. Then pray for God to do a good work in you.
Heaven is cheering, earth is waiting.