(Aubry Tatman, serving as an intern, was tasked to listen to the podcast episode, Caring for Missionary Families As They Engage in Transition, from the podcast Global Missions Podcast. You can follow Aubry at her blog site, aubrygrace.com)
In this episode of the Global Missions Podcast series, Becky Matchullis shares with us the importance of supporting families through their transition and changes of becoming missionaries.
She explains the difference between change, moving from one situation to another, and transition, the psychological reaction we go through inwardly to come to terms with change.
Both of these terms are important for the church to understand in regards to the missionary’s feelings throughout the transition. Matchullis gives us a summary of what the family is likely to experience in a list of 4 stages.
- Calling – this is when God calls a family into missions and they experience euphoria
- Chaos – when the family is getting ready to go overseas, experiencing a new way of life, change of routine, new support systems, and trying to settle in the culture
- Crisis – this is when culture shock hits, causing a sense of feelings such as frustration, hostility, fear, anger, and other negative emotions
- Contentment – it’s accepting the new normal of your character, relationships, support systems, etc.
It is important to remember that everyone copes with change differently. While most of the family may cope well with the change in their life, one may find it very difficult to adjust to these changes.
As a parent experiences this transition, it is especially difficult to help their child cope while they themselves are trying to manage this change.
Just as the parents experience difficulties during this transition, the kids find it difficult to know their place in this situation. Often times, MKs (missionary kids) struggle with fitting in with others in their host country.
Although they know the language and most likely feel like they fit in their best, MKs understand that they are foreigners. However, when visiting North America, they may not feel like they belong, even though they feel as though they should. This leads to identity problems as the MK grows older.
There are certain aspects of the struggles of a missionary family that churches back in North America may not understand. Although the families are filled with joy to see their families and friends, the transition can be difficult.
As mentioned before, it is difficult to try to fit into a country that should feel like your home, but doesn’t. There is also a possibility of the family being redeployed and relocated to a different country, meaning they will need to make the transition all over again.
The loss of security and sense of sacrifice that these families may be going through due to their missions field, can easily bring stress on the family.
Through all of the emotional, mental, and physical change these families go through, it is important for the church to give them the time and space that they need to properly rest and debrief when on their home assignment.
These families have been challenged in ways that probably no one around them can understand and they have seen and experienced things that others probably haven’t, requiring rest when they come back to slow down and comprehend what they have experienced.
It is important for the church to accept the families and provide them with the mental, emotional, and physical support that they need, showing their love for the missionary families.
(Aubry is a senior at Lakewood Park Christian School. She is serving as an intern at County Line Church. After graduating, Aubry is planning to take a gap year before studying in Madrid, Spain at St. Louis University – Madrid.)