Next steps: Returning from short-term mission

Woman walking through Philippines slum

It’s the end of your Serve Asia trip…

Hopefully you’ve learnt lots, been stretched and been used by God during your time in East Asia. But what is it going to mean for the future? Our goal for those participating in the Serve Asia short-term mission programme is that it would be a meaningful part of their life-long growth as a disciple of Jesus. This page contains information and exercises to help you to take the time to process your mission experience, communicate it to others and hopefully find a way to integrate it with your plans for the future.

Return Home

Understand and overcome the challenges of re-entry by effectively processing your experiences.

Stay Involved

Find out about the many different ways in which you can be a part of God’s work in the world. 

Share Your Story

Learn about how you can best communicate with others about your mission experience.

Returning Home

There’s no place like home…

Most of us look forward to going home after a trip and expect it to be an easy transition as we return to the familiar. But surprisingly, returning home after a potentially life changing experience can actually be extremely disconcerting. If you find re-entry into your home culture difficult it is likely because you have been exposed to a different way of life with attitudes and values which differ to those in your own country, shifting your own perspective. You may find your own culture confronting as your own identity and understanding of the world have been changed by your mission trip experience.

How can I integrate and experience growth through my re-entry?

The first step is realising what can happen upon re-entry. Most people spend a lot of 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 an adjustment time, you will create the space and time for it and will be less likely to get discouraged while it is happening.

Here are some practical tips:

Upon initial entry

Get balanced sleep, balanced meals and exercise. These will help to combat initial jet lag, tiredness and apathy that can set in the first few days upon return.

Think through your expectations

What expectations did you have as you went and in the midst of the experience? What expectations do you have now that you have returned? Pay attention to any dissonance you may feel now as you return and journal. Notice what values and attitudes are changing.

Debrief with others

Your Serve Asia Coordinator in your home country will likely invite you to attend a debrief day or weekend. However you may also like to debrief separately with your team members or another person who has recently been on a mission trip. You can ask each other questions like: What did you do? Whom did you meet? How did you live? What was the easiest? Most difficult? What was funny? What was sad? What did you learn about God? About yourself? About the culture and the people you met? Where do we go from here?

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 or with a prayer partner. Pray for the people you met, the church, each other and the people to whom you would like to tell your story.

Give yourself a spiritual checkup

Do I feel closer 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 creative and disciplined. Remember that our spirituality is not limited only to a “productive quiet time.” God is present with you throughout the day.

Reflect

Recall the success and accomplishments of your short-term trip 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.

Become a storyteller

Learn how to answer and not despise the question, “How was your trip?” Use a few descriptive words and ask if you can spend more time together sharing from both of your lives. For guidance on how to tell your story well read our advice in the Sharing Your Story section.

Stay Involved

We hope that through your Serve Asia experience, and the unique insight it has give you into mission, you will have developed a heart for the people of East Asia. OMF’s 6 Ways video series explains the many different ways you can continue to be involved in God’s work in the world. Below we have provided some suggestions of the different ways you can choose to stay involved in mission now that you’re home whether through going (again!), sending,welcoming, mobilising or praying.

GO: Serving God in a different culture

From short-term to long-term

Has God been challenging you about long-term mission through your Serve Asia experience? If so, it is important to take some concrete steps so you don’t forget about this once you get caught up with the business of life back home. Speak to your church leaders, family and friends so they can help you to pray and think about the option of going into long-term mission.

Make sure you receive mission newsletters and keep in touch with at least one missionary who can help answer questions. Maybe one of the OMFers you met on your Serve Asia mission trip would be willing to do this, why not ask them!

Find out what mission meetings are held in your area. OMF and other mission organisations often hold events where you can meet and hear missionaries speak and stay informed about mission needs and issues.

Short-term again, or longer short-term

Consider returning to the field, you could even lead a team from your church or student group. Having already been once you are in an ideal position to help prepare others to have a similar life changing experience. Check the OMF Opportunities site for the latest Serve Asia listings.

Alternatively, you might want to consider some of Serve Asia’s longer individual placements. Going for 6 weeks to 12 months is an opportunity to be further immersed in the culture and language as a learning experience. You will also receive spiritual & personal support and mentoring from an OMF missionary. You can find 6 week – 12 month long Serve Asia placements on the OMF Opportunities site.

SEND: Send missionaries through encouragement, logistics and finance

Support a missionary or missionary family, perhaps one supported by your church or that you met during your short-term mission trip with Serve Asia.

Ways to support and encourage:

1. Sign up for their prayer letters, take time to pray and respond.

2. Sign up to give monthly financial support.

3. Send care packages containing home comforts for birthdays, Christmas or just as a surprise!

4. Send short-term teams to support their ministry and gain valuable insight.

5. Welcome them home, listen to their stories and help them to reconnect with their home culture.

WELCOME: Care and befriend those who come for work, study or a new life

There are over 200 million migrants around the world today and 85 million of them are from East Asia. Here are just a few ideas of how you can welcome them in your home country:

1. Volunteer to speak English every week with a student from Asia who is learning.

2. Help in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class in your church or one nearby.

3. Join an international ministries program or mission group in your church or another.

4. Help in a program that offers help to international students with their schoolwork.

5. Volunteer with an agency that helps refugees in your city to find a home and get settled.

Did you know?

OMF International has a global Diaspora Ministries team who seek to evangelise and disciple East Asians who are scattered across the globe, living away from their home countries, for work, study or migration reasons. The team works throughout the US, Europe, and Asia alongside churches and other organisations and has a wide range of evangelistic material, resources and training available. Find out more on the Diaspora Ministries page.

 MOBILISE: Share the vision of God’s mission with people you know

Ask if you can share about your mission trip in your church, home group or youth group. Please contact your Serve Asia Coordinator if you need photos, videos, prayer guides, books etc. to help you mobilise others.

After sharing about the country and team you visited you can also encourage your church or home group to “adopt” them and make them a focus of prayer and future short-term mission trips. To help guide your prayers you could ask to sign up for the prayer emails of the missionaries you worked with, as well as checking the OMF International website for the latest news & stories from their field.

LEARN: Explore and study what God has stirred up in your heart for mission

1. Develop and grow your understanding of cross-cultural mission by attending the Kairos or Perspectives course, available in many countries worldwide.

2. Attend mission conferences. Your Serve Asia Coordinator will be able to tell you about OMF day conferences being held in your home country. These are a often a great opportunity to meet and chat to OMF missionaries face-to-face.

3. Read missionary biographies.

4. Invite short and long-term missionaries to visit your church and share their story.

5. Read mission magazines, bible studies and prayer guides. OMF International has a wide range available on the Resources for Mission page.

PRAY: Commit to praying for a specific missionary, ministry, or people group

Spending time in the mission field will have given you a unique insight into the particular needs of the people in the country you visited on your mission trip. Use this as an opportunity to continue to pray for the places you went, and the people you met. You could even arrange to meet up with your team members to continue praying together.

Consider joining a local OMF prayer group, or if one doesn’t exist yet consider starting one! Your Serve Asia Coordinator can give you information on existing groups as well as providing you with OMF prayer guides, these will help you to pray for the specific needs of a country or people group and challenges they face.

You can also pray for the global missions movement by signing up to OMF’s 5 Days of Prayer for The Task Unfinished.

Share Your Story

One of the biggest frustrations about coming home is trying to explain your experiences to your family and friends. What makes it particularly frustrating is that they understand the words you are saying, but they don’t seem to understand your meaning behind these words. People who once seemed close and intimate can often now seem distant and disinterested by what you have to say. At a time when you most want to talk about deep and meaningful issues that have suddenly been raised in your life, those whom you most want to communicate with seem unable to do so satisfactorily.

Tips for communicating with others

The goal of communication is to get ideas across to others. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 that he’s prepared to flex to make it easier for his audience to understand Christ. Paul doesn’t expect a Greek to become a Jew to understand Christ. In the same way we need to flex in order to communicate accurately with those who haven’t experienced what we have. They haven’t been where we have, so we have to use language and communication techniques that will make sense to them.

1. Don’t expect too much understanding from those you’re talking to, at least not at first, give them time to come to grips with what you’re saying.

2. To avoid unnecessary confusion take a little time to think things through before you share them with your friends. Tell them that you want to use them as a sounding board and that your ideas are only formative at this stage and may not make sense to them. This takes the pressure off them and helps explain to them the strangeness of what you’re describing.

3. Explain that what you’re trying to communicate to them is difficult and that perhaps at this point you can’t think of the right words to properly communicate with them.

4. Be careful not to make it sound like it’s because of their lack of experience that you can’t communicate with them as this can often offend.

5. Make sure that the way in which you communicate doesn’t sound like you’re trying to make them feel guilty. Always talk in terms of what you’ve learnt and how you have to change.

6. As they have no frame of reference to understand your experience, try to frame them in terms of experiences they can relate to, i.e. past shared experiences in your home country.

7. When communicating with others try not to be critical of the church or of other people and organisations.

The most common question short-termers hear upon return is, “How was your trip?

Some people ask this question as a formality of greeting, others really want to know. Anticipating that people have different levels of interest can help you make friends with that question rather than despise it! One way to prepare for varying degrees of interest is to have answers of varying lengths that can be used appropriately as the question, “How was your trip?” is posed.

The Soundbite Approach

Write a quick 15 second response (approximately 30 words).

The Commercial Approach

Write a 1 minute response which invites the listener to ask for more (approximately 110 words).

The Interested Conversation Approach

Write a five minute response. (Of course, this response needs to anticipate the fact that in normal conversation there is dialogue!)

The Invited Approach

Write an outline for a 20-minute talk and photo presentation that may be solicited from either your campus group or home church. Use lots of brief stories, principles God taught you and what you saw God doing where you were. Avoid stereotyping of the people and culture in which you stayed.

We Want to Hear Your Serve Asia stories!

How has God been working in your life?

How did your short-term mission experience play a part in this? We’d love to hear about your experiences with Serve Asia and share them with others, here on the website and on social media. If you are interested in sharing your experiences with others please complete the contact form and we will get in touch!