Book Reviews

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Book review – Coming Home: Loss, Grief and Re-entry

Reviewed by Beverlea Parkhill

Coming Home: Loss, Grief and Re-entry
By Judy Routamaa
Regnum, in association with Redcliffe College, 2019.

Mission Round Table Vol. 15 No. 2 (May-Aug 2020): 39

We have all heard the stories of re-entry of mission workers into their home cultures or experienced it ourselves. Do we feel like we are coming “home” or just returning to our passport country (or to a third country if a member of a cross-cultural marriage)? Re-entry can be a long, complex journey. Routamaa’s book seeks to understand and evaluate the key issues of loss and grief in that journey and the impact these have on the mission worker’s life. One of the strengths of this book is that it builds on previous research on re-entry and delivers insights into the areas of loss and grief that previously hadn’t been available.

Routamaa is a member care practitioner with many years of experience working with Wycliffe/SIL in Papua New Guinea. She has personally experienced grief and loss through the process of saying goodbye to friends in PNG and returning to the UK. Routamaa acknowledges, however, that not everyone experiences re-entry in the same way. This research recognises how the degree of choice in returning home, and the circumstances and attitudes surrounding the leaving, greatly impact how returnees deal with coming home. Did they have time to plan their return? Was it their choice to return home? Did they experience a “healthy” departure? Were they returning to a familiar and supportive situation?

This book provides practical recommendations for mission agencies and their member care practitioners. It further benefits returnees themselves and their networks in order to adequately prepare, support, equip, and care for mission workers as they navigate the challenge of re-entry and the subsequent issues of loss and grief. The “professional reflection” elements throughout the book have personally helped me, in my member care role, to consider what we, as a sending centre, could and should do to support our workers through re-entry.

Coming Home is very practical and easy to read. Although its findings are based on workers from only one organisation, the experiences shared should resonate with anyone who has lived overseas and gone through re-entry.

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