05 July 2008


After 29 airline flights, about 15 cross-country bus trips, about 8 cross-country train rides, numerous minibuses (of all qualities), taxis, tuk-tuks, auto & manual rickshaws, motorbikes, bicycles, rented & borrowed cars (on the left side of the road), river boats, kayaks, motor boats, charter boats, subways, inner-city buses (some a bit scary), a camper van, the back of pick-ups, and even an elephant... we finally made it home.

One definition of "reentry" is "the return from outer space into the earth's atmosphere of an earth-orbiting satellite, spacecraft, rocket, or the like."* From this perspective, we are "the like" that has been orbiting the earth, and now we're trying to return to the atmosphere of our home. (Seems extreme, doesn't it.) Well, a new friend in Vancouver pointed out that our "adjustment muscle" has been working all year long, so it should be well-conditioned and ready for just about anything, including reentry. We've been preparing ourselves for reentry for several months, but we find that it's harder coming home than it was adjusting to the shock of new places, people, cultures, traditions, foods, and styles of communication.

Just before our return to North America, a new Fijian friend told us about her challenges with reentry after returning home from extended service overseas. Although she wasn't in the Peace Corps, she shared how the Peace Corps prepares their volunteers for this reentry before they even go into their 2-year assignment. Their "Working Overseas Guide" addresses "Life After the Peace Corps" (section 6), touching on ways to prepare self & family, to deal with "reverse culture shock" & the change of a "new job culture," and to keep linked to your Peace Corps experience.* We're in the midst of figuring this all out on our own... with God's help, of course, and with the support of our blessed parents & eternal Family.

For example, my mom read The Reentry Team by Neal Pirolo before she gave it to us to read in New Zealand. Pirolo describes how the Church tends to avoid the reentry issues that missionaries go through upon their return home. He points out how we like to edit out difficult, faith experiences & instead use "warm, fuzzy" terms(19). There are only a few selective "reentry" programs in place for missionaries, but, generally speaking, very few mission organizations and churches seem to be pro-active about facilitating a smooth reentry process. I have heard of an effective reentry program, including a missionary's kids track, that some friends are participating in as they return to the States after 13 years in Cambodia. Fortunately, as they approach their retirement, our parents feel called to host missionaries on furlough, and their North Carolina home (a.k.a. "Rest & Be Thankful") is a perfect place to listen, nurture, rehearse and promote respite... as they've done with us upon our return home.

Hope & I have actively "processed" things throughout our trip (observing, discussing, praying & seeking understanding), and we realize that we need to continue to be intentional about this "processing" as we reenter life here at home. It's especially challenging because finding quiet space is not easy in our family-filled abode... but we are SO thankful for them all at the same time. We especially treasure the quality time with our beautiful 3 1/2-year-old niece, Madilyn.

To recap, the last two weeks of our year-long global mission trip adventure were spent in North America, namely in the cities of Vancouver and San Francisco. Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada), is an incredibly beautiful part of God's creation, flavored by an incredible diversity, strewn with people who are passionate about social justice... and not a bad place to reenter the continent. Our hosts, Rachel & Ed, were gracious enough to host us in their one-bedroom apartment for the week, and they even allowed my dear friend Ashley to come visit us from Seattle. Thanks to these old friends, our wonderful reception party lovingly embraced us, and we were able to spend some time processing with each of them.

While in Vancouver, we connected with both old & new friends. I originally met Joyce Ress (formerly Heron) nearly 5 years ago when I visited Vancouver to check out Regent College... Have you ever had an immediate, deep connection with someone, finding yourself revealing intimate challenges & significant growth within the first hour of conversation? Joyce is that kind of friend, and we reconnected quickly once again. Our time with her was filled with anointed conversations, full of blessing after blessing. Our timing to reconnect was good as she was on a sabbatical from her role as Executive Director at Jacob's Well, one of the ministries we visited during our time in Vancouver.

We spent an afternoon with a CRM ministry called Nieu Communities -- the same ministry we connected with in Pretoria, South Africa. My friend of 8 years, Amy Wilson-Roberts, directs this intentional, missional & discipleship-driven, community-minded ministry in the Commercial Drive district. She invited us to share our experience with the apprentices & staff, especially in relation to the gift of hospitality. During this divine appointment, everyone asked us very relative and thought-provoking questions.

Next, we squeezed in a visit with 2 of my favorite people who were in town for only a couple days between a trip to Cambodia & a trip to the southeast of the States -- Sue & Johnnie Wilson. Sue recently graduated with an Applied Theology degree from Regent, and Johnnie works with CRM as part of the Staff Development & Care Team. They filled the evening with Spiritually-directed questions, and they facilitated some good reflection & processing for us.

While in Vancouver, we also spent a couple of evenings with some intentional communities on the east side of downtown. Each neighbor group focuses on relational ministry with the marginalized, and they fight for local & international social justice. We joined the Saint Chiara Community one evening, checked out their music-centered after-school program at St. James Anglo-Catholic Church, shared a community meal with them, and let the Spirit lead us through a stimulating discussion with Lane, Jeff & Kathy. One other evening, we shared a meal with Servants to Asia's Urban Poor, and participated in their weekly "Creative World Justice Meeting." With them, we learned about & prayed for the plight of so many of Asia's poor who are caught in the snare of injustice (namely, the wake of the Cyclone amid the evil regime in Myanmar and also the slave-like conditions of Singapore's maid trade). Now serving as the International Coordinator for Servants, Craig Greenfield once led an innovative, community project with orphans in Cambodia. Interestingly, after reading my blog, he discovered that we have multiple mutual friends (again part of this 3 degrees of separation with the Faith) and commented, "... as if you have been traveling around the world visiting all our friends!" (in Cambodia, Australia & New Zealand)... I love being a part of making the world a little bit smaller!

As I mentioned, we visited Jacob's Well, but I have to share the divinely-ordained timing of our visit. Every Thursday morning they come together for a time of worship, and when we came in to join them, we were excitedly greeted by 3 staff who were busily cleaning the kitchen. Apparently, the municipal health inspector called in a surprise visit for that afternoon, so with minimal staff & a lack of volunteers, they sang praises for our "incidental" visit & helping hands. We dove right in, cleaning out cupboards & drawers. We took a break from the cleaning for some anointed worship time and a healthy, spontaneous lunch, seasoned by candid discussion & personal stories.

Before the end of the week, we fit in a short yet full visit with Rob & Iona Snair, who have over 20 years experience doing youth work. They lead an amazing & innovative program under Youth for Christ called Lifeteams -- a school of youth outreach filled with "experienced-based, college-credited learning in a soul-shaping environment." They share a vision of discipleship & leadership training that speaks relevantly to post-modern young people.

On Sunday, we attended both the 10th Ave. Church & the Grandview Calvary Baptist. Our new friend from Servants, Kevin, shared his powerful testimony before being baptized through immersion at 10th Ave. It was wonderful to witness his celebration. That evening, we joined the Grandview community of faith in celebrating Refugee Sunday, and we shared stories with some in the community at their fellowship potluck dinner. In between the two services, we squeezed in a short visit with Johannah Wetzel from my home church in North Carolina.

Other highlights of our time in Vancouver include reuniting with our new Fijian friend Adriana (up to Squamish & back), hiking with our NC friends Rachel & Ashley in Deep Cove, and checking out Rachel & Ed's amazing community garden plots. Vancouver is a beautiful city, so it's no surprise it rates in the top 3 of the world's most livable cities. I can see why.

Now, our official reentry to the States was with our brother Tony & his wife Mardie in the Mission District of San Francisco (not to mention being picked up at the airport from a random old friend, Clancy). "The Mission" was Hope's home for nearly the 3 years just before this year-long trip began, so this visit was the beginning of her true home-coming. Along with spending quality time with Tony & Mardie and catching up with old friends, we visited several communities in the SF area. The first ministry we actually heard about through a new friend in Paarl, South Africa, who used to live in the Bay area. She pointed us to ReImagine: "A Center for Life Integration," so we joined them for their Tuesday night "Seven at Seven" gathering. Each of these fellowship gatherings are a unique experience, and this particular night we participated in a gift-giving experiment which involved connecting with the surrounding Mission community by passing out cookies to neighbors. Later, we reflected on this experience of sharing Christ's love through cookies. That evening, we made some new friends, especially Sarah Montoya and Amy Ross.

We also spent some time with The Outer Circle community in the Golden Gate Park area and the San Dimas Community in the Mission District. Both communities are part of Innerchange -- another CRM ministry and sisters to the Innerchange groups that we met in Pretoria, South Africa and Phenom Penh, Cambodia. These San Francisco InnerChange teams actively seek bridges between the Church and the Poor, claiming "in the spirit of St. Francis, for whom our city was named, we reach out in true solidarity and friendship with the marginalized, empowered by the love of Jesus. Gang members, drug dealers, 'gutter punks,' and the homeless are our friends, and have been God’s instruments in transforming our lives, even as we seek to be messengers of hope in theirs." It was powerful to hear their stories, witness the Spirit's work through them, and to connect with the apprentices, a couple of summerXchange participants, a staff member, and some of the wanderers/seekers that they journey along side (particularly at one of their weekly pancake breakfasts in the Golden Gate Park).

On Sunday, we worshiped at Dolores Park Church, joined them for coffee after the service, and met a few formative members of this friendly part of the Body. Later, we joined the Church of the Sojourners in the evening for a contemplative, house-church-style worship service centered around community, fellowship, food & praise. One of my favorite parts of their gathering was the intentional time to affirm children & later a time to affirm the adults. What if all churches were sought to dedicate time to affirming one another?

We are so thankful for our flavorful reentry & visit to San Francisco, including all the quality time with Tony, Mardie, Rhea, Amy, Clancy, Chris, Leng, Hung, Annie & Megan, not to mention our home-coming party with a special slide show & story-telling presentation. (Tony & Mardie hosted a small gathering for us to present only 20 pictures with specific stories, consolidated to share some of our experience.) Finally, for our very last evening of the trip, Mardie invited us to her cousin's very unique yet "incidentally" quite appropriate storytelling about her journey of faith back to her roots in Judaism. She intertwined her testimony with song & guitar in a creative way... Although I wouldn't share my testimony in the same manner, it gave me some ideas about how to share my own story.

People have shared prophetic words with us throughout our trip, including just the other day -- about how this blessed journey is way bigger than just us... I'm still praying about God's intentions for & expectations of us, specifically how, when & where He plans to use us & our experiences. I know that's His business and that He'll reveal everything in His own time... I'm just continuing to pursue my relationship with my Maker.

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