So, maybe you’ve been back home from the mission field for a long time. Maybe you just stepped off of the plane a few days ago. Or maybe, you’ve already moved on to a different field or town or country.
Whatever your current residency status, at some point or another, you certainly have visited your home congregation. And it certainly was difficult, at least to some degree.
Let me tell you about a conversation I had with a lady from my home congregation recently. The church I grew up attending is somewhat of an AIMer factory, and lots of ex-AIMers, even those who aren’t originally from my hometown, find themselves planted there. And yet, lots of ex-AIMers have found themselves back home, but are not planted there at all. The lady I was talking with expressed her pain over this. “I’m not saying I expect everyone to call our church home again – I’m not expecting anything from them at all, actually. I just want them to come and say hi at least. I want them to let me love them and hug their necks again, even if they’ve moved on to different things. I think we deserve that at least.”
This was really enlightening to me and got me thinking. I know not everyone has such an understanding home church, but I can bet you that there is at least someone back home who wants to try to understand, who wants to just hug you and remind you that you are loved. Maybe they won’t connect with every story you have to share. Maybe you won’t ever feel at home in such a big (or small) congregation, who sings so differently or is set up so differently or “isn’t as intimate” or “isn’t as involved.”
But you know what? If it weren’t for those people that we can be so quick to judge in our self-righteous "missionary" attitudes, we wouldn’t have had the chance to be a missionary in the first place. Really, we may not have even known Christ at all if it weren’t for those preachers, those youth ministers, those elders, those peers, those parents, those little old ladies that raised us and participated in our early Christian days.
It isn't wrong to move on to something different, whether that be a different city or even a house church or another congregation in your own hometown. But please, as this lady from my church said, at least give them the chance to love you. Give them the chance to hear how you appreciate them (and if you don’t appreciate them, maybe pray about that first). They’re not perfect, but I know you know, neither are we. And it shouldn’t be “us and them” in the first place because we're all one body. So please, let us stop giving missionaries a bad name and be humble enough to remember our roots and love one another.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” – Romans 12:10