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Navigating Transition

by | Jan 30, 2017 | Missions Articles

There are seasons in everyone’s journey with Christ, where Jesus will seem to ask you the same question, every day, for a long period of time. It will be in the most kind and loving way, as a father would speak softly to his child, yet with a strength that cuts straight to the heart as only a father can. Persistent and compassionate all at once.

It began the first moment our plane descended to land at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Our wheels squealed to a halt on the tarmac and but my pulse accelerated even as our speed decelerated. “We’re back. We’re actually back after two years. Now what happens, God?” Even as I thought the words, I felt God answer my question with His own, and it would echo in my heart from then on:

“Am I enough for you James? No matter how you feel or what happens around you; even if I strip everything away except Me, will I be enough for you? Will you trust Me?”

Though the question puzzled me at first, it became an anchor of peace for me as we transitioned from our time in Ireland as missionaries and begin to settle in Dallas, Texas. You see, I believe that at the heart of every season of transition, whether you are a missionary or not, God is asking you, “Am I enough for you and will you trust Me?” Through the fears, joys, doubts, upheaval, and celebration of moving from one season to another, God will often use that time to chisel things down to what really matters. Even in the mess and confusion God has a purpose.

Our Missionary Journey Back

About seven months ago, my wife (Molly) and I moved back to the states after spending two years in Ireland as missionaries. As most missionaries will agree, time on the mission field is both an adrenaline rush and a slow burn, full of the greatest joys and significant losses, where your emotional/relational/spiritual health is both tormented and bolstered. Missionaries are some of the most celebrated yet also the most isolated people in the Christian world. Yet for all of the stories about missionary life on the field itself, there is so little said about how to transition a missionary back to their country of origin. So my hope is that by sharing the good and bad of our own transition back to the states that we will encourage you and maybe provide a little insight into how to do the process better than we did.

Here’s a quick summary of what the transition has looked like so far.

  • After finishing our commitment with our missional church family in July, we took a few weeks to travel Europe together, visit friends, celebrate what God did in the past two years, rest, and begin preparing together for the next season of our lives.
  • We returned to Texas in August, right before the Olympics. My parents were so gracious to let us stay with them until we found a place to live, and we then began to reconnect with the family and friends we had not seen in such a long time. We also began looking for jobs. Then we ended the month by debriefing with our sending church, Beltway Park Baptist Church.
  • In September we began looking for a church to get plugged into in Dallas and joined Antioch Community Church in Dallas. Molly started her job as a Child Life specialist and I continued to work a few temporary jobs while I kept applying. We also felt God leading us to join Antioch’s Discipleship School, and I began leading worship on a volunteer basis at church.
  • Fast forward to January, at the beginning of the month I accepted two part-time jobs, one as a caregiver and the other as a counselor in Dallas. We just bought our second car and are planning to move into our own place in February!

Now let’s go a little more into the specifics of the transition itself, as well as a few tricks we learned along the way.

Location Acclimation

The physical act of uprooting ourselves and moving back to our country of origin was always going to feel unsettling. Our clear sense of mission for one country had to be switched to another, the weather was different than we were used to, everyone’s accents seemed both familiar and foreign, we didn’t have to think about the monetary exchange rate anymore, and we were rediscovering what to do for fun in this neck of the woods. I had to learn to take time to savor where we were, and as we continued to replant ourselves here we began to gradually establish our new mission here.

Tip: This is an incredible recommendation we received from my cousin, Tyler Savage, who was a missionary for several years in Germany: make an Adventure Passport. We created a list of simple and fun things we wanted to do in Ireland before we left, and things that we wanted to in Texas when we returned, and then stamped them when they were completed. This helped us to get closure as we left Ireland, and give us adventures to look forward to in Texas.

Emotional Roller-coaster

In all honesty, our emotions were nuts. Some days we missed Ireland, other days we didn’t and felt guilty about it. Depending on the day, we were anywhere between panic attacks and tears of joy. This is why it was of the utmost importance for us to get involved in the community of a good church as soon as possible. It is so crucial to find a solid church community and people of such a high caliber to walk closely with you as you process this journey.

General acclimation timeline: For the first two weeks it felt exciting, surreal, and weird to be back. For the next 6 months we have found ourselves getting comfortable here in America, but regularly missing some things about Ireland. And after two years of being back we are supposed to begin to be able to learn from our time on the mission field and put it all into perspective. That’s a long time!

Tip: The best advice we got (also from Tyler) was this, “Give yourselves grace for the process of getting back. Make sure to regularly set aside time to pull away and recharge.” Also, make a list of the good things you learned from your mission field’s culture, and begin to integrate it into your life.

Financial Tension

This is the most important thing about finances: we knew that since God provided for us on the mission field, He would continue to provide for us even after we returned. I looked for a full-time job for about five months, and God still provided enough income through Molly’s job and my temporary work for us to make it each month. My parents were also such life-savers in this area, letting us stay with them for the past seven months, even though it was not ideal for any of us.

Tip: Might I suggest that you save money for your re-entry back home, or at least keep receiving support until you have a job. We did save a little, but not necessarily enough to purchase what we would need (cars).

Relational Rebuilding

This is the exciting part. We got to have so many amazing meetings to thank all of the churches and people who supported us while we were in Ireland with finances and prayers. Honestly, our first month back was like a never-ending celebration!

Tip: Just like you inevitably changed and grew as a person on the mission field, so have the people you are reconnecting with. Take time to get to know friends and family as they are now, not as you knew them before you left.

The Beginning and End of Missions

In the end, I’m writing this advice for myself too. We are still in process and I still dream of the places in Ireland that I used to call “home”. Through it all these changes there will only be one thing to fully rest on, and this is the very thing that got you into missions in the first place: your relationship with Jesus and being enthralled with His glory. Take time to cultivate this in every transition and He will make everything clear, even when it is uncomfortable or scary.

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t… Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions…. Missions begins and ends in worship.” – John Piper

By: James & Molly Bass

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