Thursday, September 2, 2010

Coming Back to a Land That Is No Longer Your Home

We have been through much since we arrived, and God has made our next steps more clear to us than ever. More on that later...

The most common questions we have received after being back have been things like "How was Mexico?" Or "How are you? Isn't it great to be home?" While these questions are innocent in themselves they stir up all kinds of emotions in one that he could only truly begin to understand if he has lived in another country for at least a year. We've been gone for two years.

So since you've been asking when we mention the pains of reverse culture shock "What is reverse culture shock?". We thought we'd dive into the topic. Why not?

When you move to a forgein land you expect culture shock. You expect learning life's ins and outs and starting from scratch. In essence you are a child in your new country--Learning everything from how to get your groceries, to how to communicate, to how to pay your bills. Eventually you adjust and you find a rhythm in your new country, it now becomes your new "home." It feels like home, tastes like home, and smells like home. Sure you miss your family and friends from time to time, but you have new friends now and at least your immediate family comes to visit you.

Now imagine that the time has arrived after two years to leave your new "home" to go back "home." Mmm...Wait a minute... This hasn't been a vacation or short-term mission trip. And we aren't going to visit the States for a brief period of time either. We are going to be back in our "home" for a while. No one prepared us for this coming "home." No one prepared us for the tough but good thing called "reverse culture shock."

You see reverse culture shock is worse and hits you harder than regular culture shock in another country. Why? Because coming back to a place where you grew up and once called "home" no longer can be "home." In just two years your country, i.e. the U.S. has changed and you haven't been there. All of the sudden the majority of people have an iphone and some even have an ipad. Technology has advanced, but in Mexico those things are only for the extremely wealthy. Politics are different and you haven't been around to experience these changes. The home you left is now somewhat of a foreign land to you.

Also, during those two years your friends have changed, culture has changed, and so have you. WE have grown and learned, but in a completely different environment and cultural setting. The States no longer feel like "home," and we have become foreigners in our own land.

We cannot summarize two years of living in Mexico in five minutes. Remember, we weren't vacationing and it wasn't a "mission trip." The question "How does it feel to be home?" is a complex one. While we are enthusiastic about seeing friends and family at the same time we know this is no longer our "home." Neither is Mexico. Instead, we are world Christians who don't truly belong anywhere except in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Another popular question, and a good one at that, is "What is the biggest contrast you notice between Mexico and the U.S.?"

Some answers:

1. The excess of material possesions and the unlimited choices that exist for what you can buy, eat, and consume. Whatever you like is practically available. This contrast has been the most difficult to deal with because we have friends in Mexico who are struggling to survive and have very few options in their lives.

2. The individualistic culture vs. highly relational culture and the rush to always get to the next appointment, meeting, or patient. We get the feeling sometimes that everyone is in a hurry and no one has extra time to spare. This is a huge contrast to Latin American culture in general, but especially in Mexico.

So, while we are here, we may seem a little strange to you and we are because we no longer have a "home." Jesus didn't either!

Pictured with some of our favorite missionary counselors from Mission Training International at our debriefing and renewal program.

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