What does a missionary do when she is no longer a missionary?
I remember a missionary friend who had to leave the field telling me about her last plane ride back to the United States. The stewardess asked, “What do you do?” My missionary friend began weeping because she could no longer answer that question with, “I am a missionary.” She cried the entire flight.
Did she feel she was doing the right thing? Yes. Did she feel God had led her family to make this decision? Yes. But now her identity for over 20 years was gone. She was no longer a missionary. A few years later when we left the field I knew exactly how my friend felt.
My friend and me, like Deborah Reece in LifeContinues, struggled with the transition of coming back to America. It seems strange when there are so many internationals who would love to be asked to live in America. Maybe it is because the life of a missionary is not about an address but about a call to lead a people group to Christ.
For a missionary a call to return home is just as difficult as a call to leave home. In both instances you are leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar. When you are on the missions field, you miss the US and when you are in the US, you miss your host country.
But maybe the reality is as long as we are on earth, we are not at home. In Peter the believer is referred to many times as strangers in the world—most at home when we are in relationship with Christ.
Being homesick is my reminder to be about helping others find their eternal home at the foot of the cross. And then I am still a missionary leading a people group to Christ and very much at home.