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Orphan Advocacy

Now that you’ve met orphans up close and personal, you have a better idea of how important it is that we take care of them, love them, and give them everything they need to grow and thrive. You’ve seen what it’s like to live outside of Dorie’s Promise. Imagine the life of an orphan on the street.

We want to invite you to become an orphan advocate. You can do this by:

  • Talking about the great need in Guatemala with your friends and family members, encouraging them to get involved and help
  • Praying for the children at Dorie’s Promise and orphans around the world.  Consider joining our prayer team!
  • Hosting events and activities to raise support and awareness for the orphans of Guatemala
  • Plan another mission trip.

God brought you to Guatemala for a reason. Ask yourself the question: Why? Get involved and make a difference. Your work, your words, and your support will bring more people to Dorie’s Promise to ensure the children living there are properly cared for in the years to come.

Reintegration After Serving 

Written by Carol Sybenga

Now what?

Your mission trip is coming to an end … you’ve packed your bags to return home and are looking forward to seeing family and friends again. But what will that be like? How will they understand the experiences you’ve encountered? You are now looking at people and the world through different eyes than you were a short time ago. Be prepared for sensory bombardment – choices of foods, goods, etc. Perhaps you feel guilty over a $100 pair of jeans. Perhaps you feel helpless or maybe even angry. Spiritually some of you may find you have a deeper walk with God, while others may feel you’re on rocky ground. There are those who may even sense a desire to sell all their belongings and others who dive right back into “life” and chalk it up as a good experience. Each of you will reflect differently on your mission trip, but a challenge for all of you relates to the Now what? question.

How does your time in missions connect with your life back home?

God is the God of all. He was before you, is with you, and will be here after you. With God as Creator, Christ as Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as Mediator, it doesn’t matter “where” you are – you are in His grip. Your time in missions might be over, but it is not a closed chapter … rather, it was one more step on your journey. God had a reason for sending you out. What did you learn about or from Him? What is God doing where you are located now? You may feel very content in the Lord right now, or you might be completely disturbed. Focus on one or two things that you will do differently. You may now return as a teacher with a different sensitivity to your students. You may even plan on learning a new language or pay more attention to local, national, and international laws that are unjust. We encourage you to think ahead for the near future, as well as for five to 10 years down the road – perhaps write a mission statement for your life. Pray. Whatever it is, remember that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Re-entry

Whether you went on a mission trip this year or know someone who did, you might want to learn more about “re-entry” – what happens upon returning to a person’s home culture. People experiencing cultural re-entry can be tired, confused, or discouraged and are often critical of their own home culture. Re-entry adjustment can be major, but it’s important to work through in order to function well once back home again. 

Re-entry culture adjustment is simply the transition back into one’s home culture after living for a time in another. But it’s not easy, because it includes confrontation with one’s own personal identity and the impact upon that identity of both one’s home and foreign cultures.

What causes this re-entry time to be difficult for some? Generally it’s because the person has changed or is changing in attitudes and values while coming back to an environment that has not changed in the same way. (For long-termers, the home culture may have changed drastically since the time they originally left. For short-termers, it’s the person who has changed most over such a short period, while the home culture has changed less dramatically.) For each individual, the deeper these attitude and value changes are, the more likely it is that the transition period will be unsettling. Points of dissonance that a returnee may experience include:

  • Unexpected tiredness, confusion, and sometimes discouragement
  • An awareness of habits or behaviors that were second nature before leaving but seem meaningless or disturbing once home
  • Adjustment to role changes, either defined or undefined, that lead to an unsettled feeling
  • A change in responsibilities/a change of pace
  • An unexpected adjustment period leading to frustration or anxiety
  • A sense of loneliness and a need for a close friend to listen
  • An inability to express or share the experience and resulting changes
  • A reaction to North American affluence
  • A reaction to values presented in the media
  • Disillusionment with the abundance in the North American church and seeming lack of concern for the world

How do people handle this re-entry time? There are three basic reactions or ways of handling it. One may experience a little of each in the process.

  • The Assimilators seem to slide right back into the home culture with little to no problem and appear almost to have forgotten the short-term. These people seem to have adjusted well, but may have missed out on the greatest growth opportunity, for they don’t seem to integrate the things they saw, learned, and questioned into a new view of life and the world. 
  • The Alienators seem to reject the home culture, although for the very short-term traveler this may not last long. They may be very pessimistic and critical of the home culture, realizing that they too were a part of it. They may nitpick about small things, missing the range of possible social structures and their appropriateness for creating personal alternatives for life values. They may finally succumb to the home culture out of a need to belong somewhere. As with Assimilators, this reaction does not afford a growthful re-entry. 
  • Integrators expect the dissonance they are experiencing, although maybe not in each form it appears. They are able to identify the changes they have undergone or are still experiencing and don’t demand immediate closure on them. They desire to see their short-term cross-cultural immersion have a lasting impact on their lives and the lives of others. This means that they will grapple with how to integrate the things they saw, learned, and questioned into creative alternative choices. 

How can I become an Integrator and experience growthful re-entry?

The first step is realizing what can happen on re-entry. Most people spend all of their time training for the new culture they will enter, but give little time and attention to their return. Expectations play a key role in this transition time. If you are expecting a re-adjustment process, you can create the space and time for it and be less likely to get discouraged while it is happening. Here are a few other helpful hints:

Upon initial re-entry, get balanced sleep, balanced meals, and balanced exercise. These will help combat the jetlag, tiredness, and apathy that set in the first few days upon return. 

Spend some time thinking through expectations. Think about the expectations you had going into your experience, how you felt in the midst of it, and what you’re thinking and feeling now that you have returned. Notice any dissonance you may feel now as you return and journal. Notice what values and attitudes are changing. 

Remember to apply the training you received before leaving. The tools you learned for crossing into a new culture are just as helpful for returning to your home culture. 

Debrief with others. Find one other person or a group and discuss things like: Tell me about the faces and lives of people you met. What stories mark your time with some significance? Or even insignificance? What did you learn about God? About yourself? What voices did you hear that also need to be heard here at home? Where do we go from here? 

Reflect on these questions as well:

  • What were the highlights of your cross-cultural experience? The low points?
  • What did you learn about God? (whether easy of hard lessons)
  • What did you learn about yourself?
  • What did you learn about the other culture? About the world? About God’s purposes in the world?
  • What expectations were met (or not) during your experience? Upon your return?
  • How does what you’ve experienced and learned affect where you are at now and/or your future?
  • How will you apply what you’ve learned back home? (Some suggestions: befriend someone from a different culture or get involved with a person or group that is racially or ethnically different than you.) Re-read your journal. Read one entry every day for several weeks and ask God to remind you of the things He was teaching you then.

Things to Do:

  • Re-read your journal. Read one entry every day for several weeks and ask God to remind you of the things He was teaching you then.
  • Pray – alone, with others, with a prayer partner. Pray for the people you met, the church, each other, the people you want to tell your story to.
  • Give yourself a spiritual check-up: Do I feel closer to or more distant from God? What will help my love for Christ grow? Do I need to try something new in my devotions? Take a few long walks for my quiet time? Spend a day in a personal retreat?
  • Be disciplined, yet creative. Remember that your spirituality is not limited to a “productive quiet time.” God is present with you throughout the day no matter how you feel.
  • Recall the success and accomplishments of the short-term and develop a list of gifts and strengths that God gave and affirmed. Likewise, make a list of weaknesses and areas where God moved in spite of you.
  • Learn how to answer – not despise! – the question when someone asks, “How was your summer?” Use a few descriptive words and ask if you can spend more time together to share from both of your summers.
  • Become a storyteller and learn to tell your story well.

Is there life after a short-term cross-cultural experience? There most certainly is! And the ones who have the greatest impact upon others are those who take the time to process and integrate their experience with plans for the future. Have a great re-entry!

By Linda Olson. Reprinted and adapted from the Global Projects Journal Guide from InterVarsity Missions

Debriefing

Following up after your volunteer engagement is as important as your pre-trip preparation! Some professionals even say that you should spend twice as much time debriefing as in orientation.

Continuing the engagement

Have you experienced the high that comes from being involved in short-term missions only to have it disappear after you get home? What can you do to keep that flame alive – to maintain enthusiasm for ministry and missions? Instead of seeing this as the end of a journey for you, consider it the beginning of something new and look for other ways to stay involved. By spending time reflecting on how you will remain engaged, you will be able to live a changed life, one that will help you remain focused on the work of Christ in your own life and the lives of people around the world. Some ways of keeping engaged could be keeping in touch with missionaries, reading about ministries that you worked with, and/or meeting regularly with your team members to pray for and encourage the field staff and each other. 

SOURCE: Christian Reformed Church