We spent a week at Missions Training International (MTI) in Colorado Springs debriefing from our 2 years in Haiti.
Did you know debriefing is actually a military term? The military meaning of the word is “to unload confidential material so as not to be tempted to share these things when returning out into the world.”
A few highlights from our time:
We talked a lot about “Paradox”. How it’s important to realize you are speaking in paradox with others. For example, “I wish we had never gone to Africa. I have seen incredible and powerful changes during our time there.”
Sir Henry Morton Stanley was a Welsh journalist and explorer, famous for his exploration of Africa and his search for David Livingstone. Stanley is often remembered for the words uttered to Livingstone upon finding him: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Stanley hired a large company of Africans to carry his equipment and forge a path through the jungle. He was in a hurry to find Livingstone and pushed agressively ahead demanding long and difficult marches through practically impenetrable jungle. One morning he awakened his porters but they did not move. He cajoled and threatened them but they refused to budge. Their Chief communicated their message to Stanley as follows: “We will not march today. We will wait until our souls catch up with our bodies.” ¹
“We will not march today. We will wait until our souls catch up with our bodies.” – African Proverb
In our haste to march through the jungle of life, sometimes we out-run our souls. We need to take a moment to let our souls catch up with our bodies. In our busyness of being back in the United States we can neglect our souls and we become stressed, strained and stretched. It is important for us to take time to reflect upon our past and present – it’s after we do that we can focus on the future.
What you know about yourself can be changed. What you don’t know about yourself controls you.
We talked about different types of stressors and took self-tests to evaluate our stress (holmes and rahe stress scale, headington, etc.). What I found most interesting during this section was the similarities we had with other missionaries as we wrote out different aspects of stress. It is important to evaluate because unmanaged high stress causes burnout which can lead to depression.
Found this quote in the article “Warning Signs of Missionary Burnout”:
Sincere plodders often achieve more in a lifetime than fiery men and women who burn out prematurely. – Donald E. Demaray
Here are some things people wrote on the board:
Transition – Losses and Gains
We learned it is important to acknowledge our loss and acknowledge our love. There is a grieving process that you go through when changing cultures.
“The amputation of the familiar self”
There is no natural pathway in the brain for grief. Important to realize we can carry grief and joy at the same time.
Stages of re-entry:
- Excitement – Greeting friends & family, eating special foods, enjoying your native cultural habits/traditions
- Attempting re-establishment (which can lead to frustration) – Trying to setup previous patterns, questioning of self-concept, sense of loss as things are not the same and never will be.
- Striving for control of your world to lower stress – Loss of direction during home assignment, questioning whether to return to field or become “mainstream” again, criticizing the home culture and church, loss of being on the “front lines.”
- Integration or marginization – begin to feel a part of home culture OR remain an outsider, cosmopolitan (at home in all countries or places), greater sense that this world is not our home.
Saying goodbyes is sooooo important! We noticed that a lot of other missionaries did not allow time for goodbyes. Heartline was really good about properly saying goodbye. Melissa also made a point to stop around to hug and say goodbye to others before we left.
“If I’m afraid of the goodbye, I won’t fully embrace you in the ‘hello'” – C.S. Lewis.
Choosing to approach that suffering of saying goodbye is important. We found that others struggled with regret because of not embracing that suffering of saying goodbye before they left.
This program came recommended by many people, including our old friends the Browns – you may remember us talking about them because we met them after they were broken into and the wife was shot. It was a great program with built in time to relax and reflect. The only critique I have is for the lack of true counselors or psychologists.