Well, we’ll start. I just kind of gave it a 5 minute chance for people to find their way to the seminars. So welcome to – just in case, I always say, when you’re flying to make sure you’re on the right flight – this is the seminar on reentry: Following Jesus Back Home. So our chairs are disappearing. Can we just kind of compress? It’s a little encouraging to seminar leaders that it feels more packed when we are together, so that my span of visual engagement is not too wide so I can kind of find you quickly.
Let’s pray. Our father, we don’t want a lot more to be overwhelmed by information, but we do want to offer this time, all our seminar time, that this would be a place to engage in a more specific way on subjects that relate to our work and subjects that we desire to improve on and learn more about. So Lord I pray that this session will honor you and that you will be with us in our discussion. Help me as I lead that my words will honor you and the thoughts of our hearts will be acceptable to you this morning. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Following Jesus back home. And we always talk about the strategic nature of working with internationals because of the great potential and reality of them going back home. That’s just excitement, that wow, they will go back home and make a difference. Not all of them do. Not all of them do it immediately. Some of them delay their going home for various reasons and we can just relax and know that God is in control rather than feel like we are a local holy spirit trying to work with the immigration department and trying to steer them immediately to go home. So I want us to see this as an opportunity for God to do his work in the lives of our international students or our friends who are from different parts of the world.
A little bit of background about myself is that I came as an international student and returned home without any of the seminars that you are doing. As a matter of fact, I pioneered some of the work in preparing Christian internationals to reenter well, because as we see that their transition on the entry side is critical, if they don’t make it on the entry side it will be a miserable time, while they are in the US – but if we fail on the reentry side then we also see a miserable person back home who’s first impulse is “I want to go back and do a PhD. I want to go back and just escape” from the reality and the challenges of going home. And so I’ve been really committed that a full service ISM (international student ministry) really considers the important transition. That it’s a full oar. We want them to have a good experience in the US but sometimes we don’t want it to be too good that they might lose a vision that is larger than the United States.
However there are those that are completely convinced that God is calling them. We gave an award to Jacob, who after being international in Louisiana got called to be part of pastoral staff in Louisiana. I went back home but then God brought me back and here I am. So I am not the first to condemn people who stay. Neither am I the first to condone those who stay for no strategic reason at all. So we would like to encourage our international students to continue their journeys. That’s why I have entitled this particular session “Following Jesus Back Home.” Just so I know where you’re coming from, why are you here? Why did you choose this topic among many good seminar topics? Just so I know where your passion or your particular need is. Yes.
I come from this church and we have a ministry on campus with about 100 scholars and PhD candidates and we’re baptizing a lot of Chinese. And we try to reconnect them with people back home but we know that going back home is difficult for Christians.
So there’s a ministry and there’s a personal investment there, that way. These are people you care about, this is a ministry that’s growing, and what’s the other side of their transition. Others?
Lisa, in our church there’s a guy that has been an intern with us and he’s completed he’s studies and he’s waiting to go home, but he doesn’t really want to go home. He wants to stay. And we sent him home to explore – things didn’t go at all like he expected. So they look at him differently, he says, and he’s no longer one of them, and he’s worried about what’s going to happen.
Spent a lot of time overseas and so we understand the reentry issue in both directions. And we too are working mostly with Chinese in our church. And we’re so busy trying to get them into the kingdom that we miss so much the importance of allowing them to continue and it’s actually really, really difficult because when you find the Lord in a certain context, once you take that context back with them, when it’s not there you’re really lost. We find we really need to do better.
Yes. And in some cases we don’t even know until the end of their time that they have become Christians, and they’re leaving in a couple weeks or they tell you, you know, goodbye my flight is scheduled – those things happen, and you feel like “What, you’re going home?” And you feel you did not get the time to really prepare people for that reentry. And there are those who after arriving in their country will send you an email or Facebook you that “I’ve decided to follow Jesus” – what? You couldn’t have told me that before you left? But again, I started by saying our posture is to release the students we work with, because in the first place God brought them to us. But release doesn’t mean lazy. Release doesn’t mean we’re responsible. As loosely as we hold them, we want to also be as responsible ministers so that we can offer them this full service: that we care for their arrival, we also care for their next transition in their lives.
Okay, so, following Jesus back home. It’s really Following Jesus: Continuing the Journey. For the globally mobile Christian – and that’s not only our international students – discipleship is loving and following Jesus and being conformed to his image in and through the transitions of life. So I want to kind of zoom away from a very specific that is only about their particular reentry, but in the way we communicate what following Jesus is about – it’s not following Jesus while you’re in the United States. I’m sure you don’t do that but I think it’s easy to localize what following Jesus is about. But for the globally mobile Christian, for those of us who go all over the world, or those of our international student friends, that it is about loving and it’s about following, about being conformed to the image of Jesus in and through those transitions of your life. So whether they are here or they got married, it’s a transition, it’s about what does it mean to follow Jesus? Those transitions are clear, they are evident, and they are inevitable as well.
So transitions – they bring about growing pains when they want, and as other say, they are bad pains. Both transitions, they are pains, but I say you put the two together, they are growthful gains. We need to not just think of the negative part and the difficult part of that transition, because I always want to encourage my international students that “look, look at the things you’re learning as you enter this country, and look at the things that you are just about to learn when you go home.” And it is not an easy task. When I went home, like I said there was no seminar on reentry. The only reentry then was the space shuttles that were reentering Earth. So I actually did the research and got around. Has anyone done anything for Christian internationals? And there was nothing. And for me, my own reentry preparation was to go on a retreat in Philadelphia. I said, “God, you did some amazing things in my life, I don’t want to return as the ugly, Americanized Filipina with a graduate degree and isolate myself from my people, because the basic reason why I left the Philippines was to serve my people better. And if I’m not able to do that then my time in the US would have been spent in vain. So I just did my retreat and I just asked God to help me reenter. And he led me to Philippians two: that the example is Jesus, who did not count equality with God as a thing to be prized but emptied himself and took the form of a servant. So Lisa, you may be elevated in a certain level of society because you have been to America, but you are returning as a servant. That just kind of set the frame and the posture for me. And one of the first things I did, for a servant, is to minimize the difference. I spoke my language as soon as I got home, even if I was speaking English all the time. It was a discipline. Even if they’d laugh at the way I spoke certain words it’s okay. And if some of them had said, “How long have you been away? And you still speak the language? Wow!” And I said, “Exactly.” I made a deliberate decision so that I could communicate with the pain and the gains of having lived away from home and also about to reenter the Philippines.
But there are challenges. There’s a high dropout rate. Japanese returnees – that’s why we have the Japanese Christian Fellowship Network. That was born out of an Urbana conference where Japanese students really saw that they had a need for each other because when you go back to Japan. Now they have returnee conferences in Japan that will link people because we know the dropout rate. Even Chinese returnees. There’s also an alarming rate. And you say whoa, I thought our work was done! They seek Jesus, they are baptized, and voila! You know, it’s autopilot. They are not in an American setting where there is a church every three blocks. They would be in a completely alien, even hostile environment.
The other challenge is – and this is probably true, and it’s true on my experience – we think they are Christians because we have a certain way of assessing: they raised their hand, they went forward, they prayed with someone. But the full understanding of the gospel – just imagine having, as it were, zero information and over two years became a Christian – what information did they have? How do they really understand who Jesus is? What is the biblical literacy that you have encouraged in that person’s life? I mean, they are here as students. They didn’t come to be in a Bible class. They did not come to be in a seminary where all they do is study scripture and study theology. They are working on their PhD! And if they have time, they’ll go to our events. If they have time, they’ll lead the Bible studies. So proportionally there is a small slice. So we need to put it in the context of how do we help them in that discipleship period, in that Christian formation while they are with us and there are materials available on that when you go the exhibits room.
Also, the challenge of the visible and the mystery part is what we see and know, but also what we do not see nor know about this person. It puts us in a very humble position because we cannot program nor legislate the events that happen to them. There are people who may not call themselves Christians but for all intents and purposes they probably have encountered Jesus in a powerful way. So again, I am not saying that we will be lazy or irresponsible, but we work with what we have and we begin to trust God for how this person will grow.
I think it would be safe, if you’re not sure, just assume they have made a decision, and start from there. And if they kind of move in a different direction, then you might say, huh, I don’t think they fully understood the gospel. And many times what’s helpful is those who have said they have received or prayed for Jesus to come in their lives, continue to send them or bring them to those opportunities where the gospel is rehearsed again and again. It will not hurt, because then it will just solidify the work of God in their lives.
Now, reentry is really still a hidden and overlooked side of transition. And I do this not as a day job, but I still get very sad and discouraged. Whether it’s short term missions, whether it’s study abroad, they don’t care for the reentry side. It is still a blind spot. Why do you think that is? Why do you think people – those of you who have traveled, how many of you prepare for that reentry? Why do you think it is that people don’t?
I think it’s because if you’ve come from a place – pretend like you’re in between two places, so you’ve left one. And nobody is there on both sides for you, to be there with you on both sides, so you don’t really see.
Limbo. You’re on both ends of places, in two places at the same time.
I’ve been living overseas for 12 years…because my experiences in my life for so long were so centered around our ministry, when we came back to the US I felt as though I had nothing in common with the people. Just are sharing recipes, or my children grew up there, I didn’t know about playdates here, just all the normal things that Americans know about. And it’s very hard because people – I felt very misunderstood and not a lot of patience, didn’t have a lot of patience. So I don’t know why, to answer your question, just more personal experience.
Yeah, so, but the point Wendy is did you expect that, or did you prepare for that?
No. I had no idea it would be so hard.
Why is that?
I think because our culture where we lived, the culture of our team was so open and sharing and just very transparent with one another, we had grown so much together I had just assumed it would be easier. Which was really very foolish. If you had come and visited us you won’t go “you’re a unique team here, you’re very different” – it’s just normal. It’s just life. And I just can’t go back.
We’ve forgotten or we’ve made assumptions that oh, it’s just going home. And I think that’s sometimes where the slippery slope begins. It says, I’m going home, and home stayed frozen and left me a space so that when I reenter that seat is still there. But the sad news is, the space isn’t there. Or the place expanded, and your chair is no longer there, or somebody occupied that chair, and it is unrecognizable. So the assumptions we make about life back home and the assumptions we make about life where you were, they cannot be transported back, and we know that. One author said you never get to go home, really. Because home is not the same. And all this kind of stuff, a little bit.
So because the assumptions we make and because we’ve changed so much, that makes it difficult. And that’s why I continue to say it behooves us, it’s an ethical part of what we do to take this seriously. We cannot send people out there without the preparation. We cannot fully control everything but prepare them as much as you can.
But the thing is, how can you prepare people that are just not aware of what to expect, right? And that’s why we learn from others who have been there. They tell us okay, what are the challenges, what are the things that you need to know, make sure to do this – the same way that they ask questions about entry. How do I prepare to go to a new place? Okay? So those questions that I ask, it’s interesting that I was with other staff with International Students, Inc. and I asked them at a meeting what kind- how do you prepare people for reentry? And they had two answers: they said, we pray for them, we give them a party and a gift together. And I said, that’s very nice.
What was the second thing?
They give a party. A farewell party. And a gift. You know, that’s great. Unfortunately, that’s just the minimum. So I asked them what else do you do? And they said, well, do you have any ideas, Lisa, on what else we should do? And I wrote back and I said, whoa, there are a lot of things I wish I had known when I came home. So I put – I was nursing our firstborn over lunchtime, I pulled out a paper napkin and wrote vigorously all the different things that we need to address. And I called a meeting – can we get that group again in to meet? And I just said these are the issues. And as a result of that, Think Home was born. This is really a set of questions to help students to think and not just haphazardly flop yourself back home because I think there are gains and there are ways to minimize pain, minimize errors, if we were going to prepare people.
So tip number one for –this again, is for Christian internationals students, is to anchor themselves in God. I mean, we assume that, we know that, but I think it’s always good to take them through scripture and to scripture. What can be a good biblical basis for this reentry? And I discovered Joshua 24. Of course we had those powerpoint and those plaques on the wall that says – what is the most quoted verse in Joshua 24? As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. And this is great, but if you pull out the context of that it really is about Joshua calling the people of God, the elders, reviewing their history as he was about to transition, and the people of Israel about to transition under new leadership, was to recall God’s work. If you look at those verses it’s all about “I carried you. I opened the door for you. I took you to this place.” And so it’s a very personal work, hand of God. He begins with God, he becomes God’s word, faithfulness, guidance, and intervention in their lives. So the memory of God’s work is the seed, then, of hope. Recall is the discipline that builds great promise. So I’d take them there and review some of the things that are clearly God’s work in their lives.
Secondly, to recall and then to recommit. So that in the second half, he challenges the Israelites to throw away the gods. See, their forefathers worshipped these gods. Out there. And the Chaldeans. And then when they got to where they were, the Amorites, they were worshipping idols. So they left idols, and they immersed in idols, and the challenge was “choose you this day whom you shall serve.” Throw away the gods of the culture where you were living, past, your living present, and the idols in the past. So be ruthless about idols in your life and choose the living God.
So I find that this is very helpful whether I am going to be transitioning from my job as ISM director, I want to do the same discipline. Recall and recommit. Remember and recommit. Whether you are moving from one state to another, from one job to another, whether you’re moving from a major responsibility to less, is that remember what God has done. And then recommit. Then, in the next season of life, I’m going to be able to say, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Lord, I’m not ready to sit in my rocking chair and crochet (in the first place I don’t crochet) or twiddle my thumb, I just am like, “God you are in control of this season of life. It’s all yours. What does that mean?” But I want to begin with that recall. It’s very important.
So let’s stop and reflect just a little bit. Questions: how do you help international students build their memory bank with God’s acts of intervention in their lives? What are some ways to encourage international students to develop the discipline of gratitude? Our international students are either part of the generation that we witness among our young people, the entitled generation. You have the prince, the only child in America of a Chinese family, doting parents, doting grandparents, this is the heir. The emperor. Right? How do we discourage just absorbing this entitled value of our culture and the entitled value that they brought from home as well. How are we encouraging and equipping Christian internationals to discern, distinguish, between kingdom values and cultural values? How do you know? Is that an American value, or is it a kingdom value? Maybe they become Americanized more than citizens of God’s kingdom. So how are you encouraging and equipping them in that area? What costs may Christian internationals need to consider and pay when they return home? We think it’s easy for us, from our end, because we are clueless. If they are disowned by their parents, we don’t feel that. We don’t have an idea of what that will mean. If they go back and there’s an arranged marriage, how do you enter that pain of not being able to marry someone who also believes in Jesus? They go back and are asked and expected to bow to certain idols, or they completely are either confused or say, “I don’t know how to follow Jesus in this situation.” So there are those issues. So let me just, just for a little break, just talk to your neighbor. Choose one of the questions, just to kind of reflect on that a little bit, because we’re talking about following Jesus when they go back home. So just kind of a neighbor nudging time for a couple of minutes. Just choose a question that you’d kind of like to converse together.
[move to 30:23]
Okay, that was just kind of to stir the pot, an appetizer for us. Nobody wants to stop? Okay. I always feel bad if I have to release people to discuss things and then I cut it short, I feel very inhospitable. But it’s just kind of – these are questions that we need to be asking ourselves as we prepare our students. It’s not just going through a certain list of motions, but we are trying to embed them in a certain kind of mindset, a kingdom kind of way of thinking, and certain disciplines as well. So think of how you may be able to apply that. And maybe you’re already thinking of some creative ways, maybe in your ministry – “huh, never thought of that” or “maybe we should insert this in some of our sections” – or perhaps, when you’re planning an event on Thanksgiving day – huh, you always talk about the history and all the, you’ve got the great array of food, but perhaps that could be an opportunity where you could say, “How many of you are habitually grateful? How do you develop that?” And maybe a testimony or two. Anyway. We’re moving on. We’ve just barely started!
Okay. Consider other biblical examples. Moses, the miracle baby, prince turned fugitive, reluctant returnee turned leader and liberator. I love that story, we all do. But for the international students especially. You know? When they are in the desert, or settling with a husband and wife and feeling like that home is so distant, and then God appears in that burning bush, and that experience becomes a turning point. Or consider Naomi, a returnee, driven by (oh, not my) driven by famine to leave her home. She settled in Moab, her foreign sojourn was laden with grief and sadness where she lost her husband and two sons while away from home. God turned her bitter experience into joy – she became the great-great grandmother of King David. Or Nehemiah. Short term returnee – models a man with a heart and vision for his home country. So the more we can encourage them with – returnee is not a unique experience, although it is unique to people, there are others who have done it. And others also in the international student world, whether it is Jin Sun [?] or Bakht Singh, famous international students who have returned, or just your own local stories from your ministry. Some who went home. And I’m hearing – I don’t know if you’re hearing this, but some of our Chinese students who go home, and come back and say “Oh, I shared the gospel with my mother. Now she’s a Christian.” Like, that short vacation? Wow! There are others who are sharing their faith at the airport. I mean, like, oh, you’re sending this flaming evangelist all over just for this short visit, because they knew what God had done in their lives, and they couldn’t be stopped to tell the story. We want to be able to turn, by God’s grace, our international students into that Samaritan woman who couldn’t help running back to her people and saying, “Jesus, I’ve met him. He’s the savior of the world.”
So tip number 2 is let’s understand the reentry phenomenon. Let’s be as informed as we can. What is involved in that? You’ll find in our book table in the exhibitor, I’ve developed a bookmark that would help people remember this little diagram. And our staff buy hundreds of this bookmark and they give it away during new student outreach. It’s just a simple tool that will help them remember, ‘where am I in this transition?’ It’s a conversation starter, it’s a bookmark – it serves something. And I remember doing an orientation for Hope International, which is a microfinance ministry where I serve on the board, and all the government, I mean the country leaders, come once a year in Pennsylvania to train. And I led one of the trainings one year, and the following year they asked me again. So I just asked people, “What do you remember from last year?” And this man from the Dominican Republic just lifted his hand with a worn, torn copy of this that encouraged me. But I thought, something simple something safe if you’re thinking of what will the poor student advisors say if they’re pushing Christianity, and you always want to be careful that we don’t alienate the foreign student offices – nothing in there. Even InterVarsity sounds like an athletic group, so we’re safe in that sense.
Okay. Understanding the reentry phenomenon. Stages of transition, you’ve got the vertical curve and the vertical line and the horizontal. The foreign sojourn, the level of satisfaction, up and down, and the span of time, horizontal. So I call it the Honeymoon stage – which it’s not all honeymoon, but mostly happy. Mostly whoa, you know, I’m arriving in the United States and this is a great experience. Then you go through a period of normal culture shock when things are different so the response is avoidance. And then it goes even worse when you have the fight stage, where there is anger and mockery. And I’ll explain this later, but this is not predictive, it’s just descriptive. In other words, you cannot just say this is what’s going to happen to everybody. But if it is happening to you, this is how it’s described. Because when the studies had been done by this husband/wife couple, it’s not normative for everybody. But I find it again and again, when there is a language to what you are experience, there is liberation in some ways. “Oh, I didn’t know that was called that! I thought I was just crazy! I thought it was me! I thought the problem was me and I couldn’t adjust.” No, you’re just going through culture shock. Really? And this is normal. Really? And people go through this, even those who are doing PhDs. They’re not exempt. So we go through that period, and I call that – they call this the U-curve. This is now the U curve, and what’s happening is it repeats itself. That’s called the W-curve. So done by a husband/wife team. So on the return, there is that – the fifth stage on the foreign sojourn. You now become acquainted, you’re more familiar in this culture, there’s tolerance, there’s understanding, there’s creativity, you know that. You have experience with your students, how they have moved from here – some are stuck here (whoops, I do have a pointer somewhere. There you go.) Some are stuck in here, but over time they go through that period of feeling like, I think things are going a lot better. Can you think of an example of where you’ve seen this transition from among your students? Clear kind of “Oh!” after? I tell them, “Wow, your English is a lot better than when I first –“ Really? They need to be encouraged! Say, whoa, you’re just kind of driving around with your new car –we have the new, rich international students, you meet them, you know? They give me rides. I hear ‘oh yeah, my parents came and bought me a Mercedes.’ I said what? Which planet are you from? But we see this. They have transitioned from the hesitant to the engaging, secure international student engaging in social activities. Do you have a kind of good example of one of your students who just kind of blossomed and transformed before your eyes? Stuart?
We had a young woman who her parents wanted her to go to the best university in China-she did, but she hated it. She came and she was pretty unsure of herself. She was going through depression and she came …she started to go up, settling up, up, up, every so often we’d have our downs, but then she went back to Beijing, and some people at our church had started an NGO, and they were looking for their first national worker. And they had a very high standard. And they had five finalists, and she was picked. I think that’s one of the great moments in my life and yes, she just came out right consistently at the top. And here was a young woman who suffered depression, low self image, and just sort of a steady, steady going up. It’s just amazing. The story’s not over. But she’s been back just over two years now, but she seems to be going a very good direction.
That’s great. You’ve seen them, especially when you meet them, as new arrivals, and then you see that transition. It’s just wonderful. And I think when we work with non-Christian international students, we celebrate those successes with them. We might just be struck with the success of ‘he became a Christian’. I am there with my non-Christian international students. I send them gifts to just celebrate moving from University of Madison, Wisconsin Madison, to UCLA. Hey, cheers, you’re doing great. The more we are – and this is just speaking to the choir – but it’s our investment in their welfare, our cheering their success academically, that they don’t really know what to do with that. Why are you so excited? Why? Why? They ask questions. Why do you love us, you know? You paid for this? Are there other people like you around? They are just amazed. This, this hospitality, this love that Al talked about, is remarkable, is unique, and when it’s experienced in a powerful, consistent way, you cannot help but turn the direction of life.
So on the reentry side –whoops. Oh, okay. So transition may bring a series of ups and downs, there may be two or more high/low points. This model shows only a segment of what returnees may feel, so don’t think that it’s nice and neat, that it’s just kind of U-curve, oh yeah, life is nice and neat, up down and then up again, but it’s not that simple. It’s up and down, you know, over a period of time. And also there are multiple Us simultaneously. They might be on the high point schoolwise or gradewise, but they are really angry in the fight stage socially. No friends. And they are just struggling. But they are making the As. So they could be in several of those U curves simultaneously.
So then when we look at the reentry side, it’s pretty much the same. You experience fun – did you experience maybe a little bit of fun going home, kind of? Fun in the sense of excitement, a little bit, or fear. Fear. Okay, so we’ll go to the fear. Right there. There’s that reverse culture shock which is even, you notice, deeper in comparison to where this is in the level of satisfaction and where this is. And that is the blind spot. I didn’t know I would have a hard time. I wasn’t ready for this. See the preparation we do is mental, it’s emotional preparation, but it’s also spiritual preparation. How do you prepare yourself for something that you have not been through? But you will have a hard time. There are too many choices. How many people walk out of supermarkets just trying to shop! I mean, it was an entry shock for me just to walk through an aisle and there are multiple cheese. I mean, I grew up with cheese that is in a can, Kraft cheese, and I moved into Wisconsin which is the cheese land of the world, I felt. Like, choices choices choices. So it could be fun at the beginning, but immediately falls into the flight. This is not the same home. People have changed. And then, we realize we have changed as well. The international students have changed so much. And many times in my conversation I would ask those questions, putting the reentry in the front side of the conversation is, “How do you think your parents will respond to you now? How do you think your colleagues will receive you?” Just so they are thinking. How will they think you’ve changed? Is that something you could do easily back home? Those are just some ways to insert the reentry in the front end. So again, the fit stage, the anger is there, but then there’s also that recovery where you feel like, Oh, I think I’m going to be okay. I think I’m going to be fine. But the thing is, they cannot fit back as if nothing changed. How do they incorporate the experience of that foreign sojourn into their lives and still have the integrity to live in the place where they used to live? So what I’ve done, I’ve put together – I’ve always encouraged people to say, okay, let’s give them some devotional guides as they reenter. And one couple, years ago as I was doing this, they said, “Lisa, we’ve already started it for short terms. We have a devotional guide for short term people.” I said good, I don’t need to write that! But then I said, what about international students, when they reenter? So I developed a 30 day devotional guide for international students and I tell you, even if they’re not Christians, it’s just going to be scripture. It’s very simple, I had people read it so it’s not, the English is not too complicated, and the interesting thing is whether it’s a short term mission, whether it’s study abroad, or an international student, they’re all saying, that was just very helpful. Because I was going through this and I plotted this so that there’s scripture for every stage. You’re going through the fun stage, okay, here’s a scripture for you. You’re questioning why you’re back home and you’re angry, well, there’s scripture for you here. So wherever you want to start with this, it’s just 30 days, they could go back to it, and there’s a lot of ways to also engage by writing in a journal like format. Questions so far? Yes.
What about using facebook or sending emails? So that when they’re back in the home country they can say they missed the city they were staying in…[inaudible]
Yes, our staff, of course we all use technology (I was wondering why this thing was bothering me, I forgot I didn’t take off my microphone. I said why am I bothered by something? Sorry, excuse me. I had to borrow my host’s belt. I’m glad she’s my size. So this belt didn’t come with this outfit I had to borrow that so I can..sorry, it’s women talk. These things were made for men. Do you think this was broadcasting throughout the sanctuary? Yeah, I hope they edit that. [Oops, sorry.] Where were we? Oh, question! Yes, Facebook. Yes, let’s use technology as much as we can. There are those who are really are consistently connecting and they’re telling you they are having a hard time, but the more informed we are, we will know how to counsel. And one of the things – and, you know, Marc Papai who is going to be the new director taking my place in a couple of weeks – one of the things that we were talking about is how to put that Back Home on the web so that they don’t, you know, it’s easy to access so that they can download it. So if that was available online that would be a great service to people. But yeah, use Facebook. If you can Skype, use Skype. If you have other ways of communicating faster, let’s use that. How many of you are able to use your Facebook or…? Yeah. Okay. Great. Yes?
How long would you say, this is my first time trying to understand in general reentry, does it ever end? I once asked the director of my ministry, how long has it taken you to adjust back to the US and he was like, “Well, I never did.” So from your perspective, how would you answer that question? How long would it take?
Well I actually asked a more professional psychologist on this. And his response was if you were on a normal scale, kind of everything taken normally, there’s no trauma, there’s no drama, but just the normal transition, it takes about a year. Just to, whether you are in a new job, you give yourself a year just to learn the ways, and then the second year will be less, you don’t feel as much of a foreigner, but then when you are just away for a few months or weeks when you are going abroad for a visit, you compress that process. So when I train church people who have young people who are going for a week, I say by Wednesday, watch the drop. Or prepare for the bottom of the U. Everyone’s excited, by Wednesday they’re tired of each other. So whether they come in the fall, by wintertime, if they are in the upper USA, Midwest, that’s where it sinks in. And it’s real-there are some other factors for some people who are used to traveling, used to changes, they adjust very quickly. But the thing is to be kind and gentle to yourself. Give yourself that transition time. Some people bounce easily, and that’s great, but make sure that the issues are not kind of just swept under the rug. “I’m not having a hard time, I’m having a great time.” But maybe they’re not just being honest. Just to have that opportunity to converse and talk about it. But yes to the answer about Facebook, please. And how to also keep confidentiality, because Facebook is scary because it can become so public, and security issues with some of our Chinese students. So that’s another thing to be mindful of. Yes sir.
One thing, excuse me, that I found very helpful was the work that was done with third culture kids. To begin to realize that when you have gone into another culture for any length of time, you really develop another culture. It’s a blend of yours and that one and maybe multiple others, and begin to realize it’s okay that I have a cultural experience that’s different from the culture that kind of looks like what I am, but different. For me coming back to this country, it took me a year to decide, and then finally I realized, you know what, I’m never going to be able to be back in this culture. But I’m not going to be what I was in the other culture. I’m in the third culture and that’s okay.
Yes. Yes. Very good. Third culture kids, TCKs, a great work by David Pollock, is one of the leading thinkers and writers on that. He did seminars way back, and there are others as well. I forget the names of those but you can just Google that. But thank you. Because that leads us to the choices that they have. They can either imitate and just go native, they can isolate and just be a foreigner back home, or they can integrate. So they do have choices.
When they imitate, they copy what others are doing or revert to old ways like old routines as if nothing changed. They plunged through the pace and rhythm of life and are struggling to meet expectations. I mean, when I got back, I had to remember certain things. For example, I had to remember that- I forgot that people walk slowly back home. Really slow, with an umbrella. And here I am, I did my graduate work in Chicago. I had to learn to run fast, to walk fast. I had to make up for my height, faster! And I carried that, I didn’t realize that. I just carried it over. And so I was just making myself very different but then I had to imitate. Oops, I forgot, you know? And I cannot just be casual because I learned to be casual, so if you’re just in your blue jeans it’s fine. And my sister called me down on that. What? You’re going to that meeting with those? I said what’s wrong with my outfit? No, you can’t do that. Why? I’ve learned the American kind of informal, who cares kind of thing. No! She told me no you can’t! And she’s my younger sister. You can’t tell your older sister something like that. So there was the cross cultural conflict right there. And I said okay, I’ll dress up and accommodate. So imitate. Strong need to meet people’s expectations. My word of advice is there is some imitation necessary to fit back. But it should be done without loss of values and integrity. So this is where, you know, how much do I imitate? We have a saying, When in Rome do what the Romans do, but how much? So there is imitation, but there is also a word of caution. Imitate up to a point where there is no compromise of values and integrity.
In the isolate, you feel like a foreigner, you retreat in your own room, you just go with the company of expats and fellow returnees. It’s very interesting reading two fiction national bestseller, this one I’m going through, Those Crazy Rich Asians, funny, and just good. It’s just a discipline for me to read foreign authors. Kevin Kwan from Singapore, and a Ghanaian author, Americana, and both of them had funny stories of returnees. So it’s just kind of ways that I often talk about the Bantu tribe in Africa, and returnees are the Been-to. “I have Been-to Washinton DC, I have Been-to” and I say that in these seminars, and then I read in Americana “yeah, the Beentos” and I’m like oh my gosh, she’s talking about the same thing! Anyway. So learn as much as we can in the area of how people transition back home. So the longing for former lifestyle and friends, so isolate. Isolation is not negative. 100%. In fact, you may welcome times, or they may welcome times to be alone as a breather from stress and fatigue. So my word of advice, there is a place for appropriate isolation without loss of opportunities to grow, relate, and give to their people and community.
So the imitation is not complete the isolation is not complete either. So this is what you’re talking about. I’m different, but how do I engage, how do I isolate in certain normality and sanity and health? And then the integration, it’s actually, they’re beginning to merge with the home culture with ease without abandoning their newly acquired values. They have a new appreciation for the home culture, increased ability to relate at different levels. So this is where the third culture. I’m not that, I’m this, but it doesn’t mean I will isolate because they’re different, and some of the issues for our international students is they’ve experienced this spiritual superiority. They go back and say, oh, that’s different. That’s not like the church I was with or the group I was with on campus. So they distance themselves, they isolate themselves, so we need to help them with issues of how do you decrease, as it were, the difference between you and the people you are with in order to be that person who has a message, who hasn’t lost your voice among your own people. So congratulations. Integrate in every possible and be true to who you are becoming.
So when I say this, it’s not so much that the goal is integration. There is a place for isolation, there is a place for imitation, so my example is really like a dance. You learn your steps. Relearning home culture, a good amount of imitation is a must. You cannot go back without that. You have, if they shop this way, you cannot say, “We shop this way back home.” You have to make that adjustment. Isolation: maintain a good amount of cultural equilibrium and sanity, and some isolation is necessary. And to be effective back home, integration is required. So it’s a dance. You isolate, you imitate, you isolate, you integrate. So it’s kind of, you know, and I’m not a dancer myself, but I find if you know those three steps they’ll be fluidity and flow in the transition. It’s not going to be rough and spotty and kind of reckless, because you understand that I’m not stuck with only imitating, I’m not stuck with me and my world and my “been-to” tribe, it’s not just, Okay, I’ll just be there, there’s the balance. There is a lot of learning along the way. Questions?
You mentioned that some will go through maybe part of this before the end of the semester, for everybody, is that a good idea? Because if you’re just talking individually you might not touch everyone who needs to hear it. What’s the best way of accomplishing…to make sure they have this before they go home?
Good question. Answers? Give them the book. And besides my colleague, Nate Mirza, Home Again, right after Think Home was born, he wrote Home Again which is the companion really, this is Navigators answer to the whole entry because at the same time we were all concerned, we had a concern about returning internationals but there was nothing that was really written on it. So this is more prose, narrative, and stories. Great stories from different countries.
….been doing this for a number of years. We get more thoughts on that, individually, group, just before they get on a plane, when they first arrive.
In Think Home, I have either you can do it individually, you can do it in groups, so there are different ways to approach it. One of the things that maybe when I’m done with my tenure in a couple of weeks, I would like to go around the country and around the world doing Think Home weekends. That is confidential. But really to offer it as a weekend getaway. My dream, didn’t quite materialize, I actually have a member of our board in InterVarsity saying, “Lisa, I have a place. Use my place.” And my dream is to bring select returning international students and use that place for a retreat where we can go through Think Home and give them a vision of the kingdom of God in a more concentrated and have mentors who will be on the team, maybe even a dozen of them. So, you know, like I said I’m not ready for the rocking chair because these dreams keep waking me up. So that’s an approach that I would do. You know, try it! Do something. Take them for a weekend getaway or in February or March, offer it as a session. If you’re able to get, if you have a program that’s more organized, offer it, or if it’s more informal, consider when you invite them over for dinner, pull it out. That’s what I did. I did something individually with a returning Japanese and because she was returning in a week we couldn’t go through the whole book and we just pulled out a few things. And in some organized ISM work, you could actually have someone speak on it and have a little kind of 3 hour seminar where international students get to participate and prepare them for that reentry. Is that helpful to you?
One of the things that we’ve found has been helpful is probably many of us have ESL programs…and within that context you can talk about reentry issues. And so many of the ones who are in the ESL programs are women and I think women have more difficulty with the reentry aspect. And they’ve been very, very helpful to them. And they begin to tell others what they’ve heard.
Right, that’s helpful. The ESL classes, put it in their context. And I’ve done that with ESL classes. I’ve done training for ESL teachers on this little bookmark so they could include it in their curriculum at the beginning. The ministry we started at our church, it is now going into its 30th year. We started with September is about adjusting to here. October is about those crazy Americans. Understanding American values. By November we were doing Thanksgiving – this is a dinner where we have hundreds of them come at the farm of one of the members. But we time so that we could talk about it. But always when I do it, actually, I carry a pocket plant, so I can visually uproot and transplant that plant. At universities when I do orientation, I carry my pocket plant and say, “This is what happens to us when we are uprooted and transplanted.” They remember the plant lady, they don’t remember my name, but I have ..something of those words. But that’s again a way to just, a simple ESL class that doesn’t have complicated English words, but you have a visual with you, that’s always helpful. Yes?
The Chinese overseas ministries and also the Japanese network have amazing materials online, downloadable, and I’m wondering if there’s anything for Koreans? I mean, we always think, we’ll back to churches, but I’m thinking it might not be so easy either. Is there anything for Koreans? Anyone know of anything like that?
No…not that I’m aware of as far as materials. I know that Think Home has been translated in German and Chinese, parts of it, and also adapted in the UK, in Australia, and in New Zealand. So just the whole concept of having somethings. But South Koreans, although we have KOSSA, Korean Students Studying Abroad, they are aware of reentry issues but as far as resources I’m not familiar with specific stuff of South Korean materials. Okay? May I move on? Other questions?
Tip #5. Anticipate what they might face. I think preparation is half of the solution. We are able to prepare them so they are not surprised. Even if they still need to cope with the difficulty, it will be less traumatic if they have prepared mentally and emotionally, spiritually as well, what returnees might face. And this is just the adjustment to change. If they go home, it’s from the student world to the working world. The western ways of doing things, the weather, the food, the abundance, different type of preaching, church experience, different pace, what other changes will they experience? When they go back home?
It’s a big issue…they wear a mask, they just aren’t breathing. They’re used to a very clean environment here.
It’s physically draining and exhausting just to get your body, unfortunately we can go home, within 24/27 hours to the other end of the world. And there’s no time really to make that adjustment. Someone made the comment that our soldiers are returning from military duty within 24 hours they’re home. It used to be they were on a ship that took a month to get home, where they could process, talk about it with fellow soldiers, and we say, “That’s exactly what makes it so hard, is how fast we are expected to just- all of a sudden you’re transported back home and your making adjustments and the changes are not only numerous but fast.” And so we need to help them with that, and like I said in Think Home, I have a worksheet on the changes.
But let me just say that with changes, it’s not only change back home but change in them. What have you experienced in yourself? As someone said, when you go back home, your home has moved one direction, so there is that change, one year of change and then you move in another direction. So a year’s worth of change, so when you reenter, how many year’s worth of change are you dealing with? Two years. Right? Two years. So we cannot undermine that. And that’s why the wisdom of taking it slow when they return for good. It’s fun to return when you’re just there for a visit. You can live with the mask if you’re not going to be there for the rest of your life.
Realities of life back home. They’re still shocked by the corruption, by the recession, well of course we experience that time and red tape in looking for jobs, pressures of materialism, the pressure to get married, family demands on time and money and responsibility for siblings. They say that international students have a delayed adolescence when they come to the US. They experience great freedom. And a Singaporean said, “Recaging a freed bird” was how she described her reentry. You may have to back your parents and live with them and she’d already gotten a law degree and this independent woman, and recaging a free bird. But that’s just the reality of life back home.
Those are just listing unmet expectations. Maybe participation in religious practices, joining family business, and this is the fourth thing is very important: the experience of loss and grief. We don’t want to minimize this at all, and some people don’t have a name for it. Why am I just crying at weird times of the day? What is going on? Am I going crazy? I’m not making it here because home is not here. And the grief that accompanies that – because grief is the natural response to loss, and if we understand that, we will do our friends a great service. So that Facebook will all have those grieving, I’m sad, I’m lonely, I miss you. I tell them you’re really fortunate you have Facebook! During my time (of course they don’t like hearing that, you sound like really a senior citizen when you talk about “during my time”) but it took two weeks for one way letter to get to me! And another two weeks to get a response. So your reentry’s even harder because there’s really no way for them to know what’s going on in your life. Now photos can be sent digitally. So the grief over old friends, missing friends, support group, grief over the end of the foreign experience. So we need to help them with that process of grief and loss. And not to kind of belittle that. And when you’re grieving, those of us who have gone through death of family members or friends, it’s a process. It is this, it comes in waves. You think you’re fine, then all of a sudden you’re back in that same place of sadness and grief. So we need to help them as well with that.
Let me just move on. Church life, again, things to anticipate, it’s going to be different. So they need to prepare for that. Temptation of loss of vision or spiritual pride or resentment, loss of faith, laziness. It’s very hard when they are working. In Singapore they work Monday to Friday and half Saturday. So all of a sudden it’s a whole different rhythm. And how do you spend time with God? And you have to be creative. Do it in the subway. Sit in the parking lot. And by the way, you cannot just own a car in Singapore, you know that? Just to own a car, not to buy a car, just to own a car, is $250,000 you have to pay. So it’s a luxury to even sit in the car and have some quiet and some centering that’s needed as you engage in life. Loneliness and depression. So they all are kind of the things that accompany what that reentry piece is for the sojourners.
And then as we anticipate, knowing that this is what we anticipate, and many of them I discuss in Think Home, prepare by praying; prepare for what to expect; prepare with the right attitude of humility, flexibility, sense of humor actually, don’t take yourself too seriously; be a learner; prepare for what to say, when; prepare for how to behave, when; and for those of you who’ve heard me before, I prepared to meet my brother. You would think why do you have to do that? Well, he’s so Filipino, so occupied with his seniority because he’s the older brother, and I’m 6 of 7 children, and I knew because he was a police officer that when I returned home I couldn’t be casual. I couldn’t say, “Hey, what’s up?” That is the most disrespectful way or to even come and hug him, I couldn’t do that. Because then I’d become a loose woman. Those American’s have corrupted you. So I was, I had to prepare myself for that. Preparing for what to expect, how to behave. So literally I just stood there and waited for him to take the initiative. You know what he said? He just kind of slapped me in the back, said “Welcome sister.” Like no big deal, you think you’re some important person. He’s a police officer, number 607, you just kind of immediately get into the imitation right? Because I had a greater goal. I wanted to build trust with my family, I wanted to build trust with my people, so that when I had the opportunity, I could talk and be listened to.
Did you feel slighted?
No, because I prepared. If it came as a surprise, I would have been. See, the reverse happened to me because I see Americans hugging each other and that’s where I felt not just slighted, unsafe. I thought, “Oh my goodness, this guy is hugging all the women that come through the door in the dining room, is he going to do that to me?” Like, feeling endangered. Well after a semester, he’d be hugging me back. I have to unlearn that in order to build trust. Does that makes sense? Okay. Prepare how to think home, build confidence in God who is loving and powerful, use reentry resources. Okay?
I’m gonna push- if you’re interested in the powerpoint, I would love to send it to you. If someone could just pass around a sheet of paper.
The website has most of these seminars, are workshops are already posted.
Okay, I didn’t know that. Sure. Someone can help me with that.
Prepare for reading- again, these are all things that we can be – especially returning to China, Returning Home to China by Outreach Mission, returnee handbook, overseas campus, these are all Chinese. The Art of Coming Home, done by a secular publisher, Craig Storty. Salt and Light, stories of faith that shaped China. And this is an amazing book of a historian, Stacey Beeler and Hamlin, and they researched the early international students that came to the US. They were called the first 100. There’s another book called the First 100 of Chinese international students. Many of them came to know Christ. And that, when they returned, set the tone and built the foundation of modern China. And people don’t know that. That’s kind of a scholarly book, it’s worth 40/50 some dollars, but it’s worth the investment. Okay?
Also on resources, the JESCN has done great things in Japanese.
Yes, JCFM – I have those resources in the back of my book as well. Yes, they have excellent resources.
So there are just things to consider, I’m just going to go run through this. Some of these are no-brainers, they’re the things that we want to incorporate. When we have the chance, because I know that our time is compressed, they’re going home and how do I pack in a seminary worth of content, but these are basic things but let me just say the theology of work and the workplace. I think that is something we don’t want to miss. That what is the theology of work in the workplace; and the Holy Spirit himself yes; care of creation; money, wealth, and affluence, what does scripture say about that; and of course marriage and singleness. Another thing is how to handle pressure, opposition, and persecution. This will be depending on where they’re returning, and Sabbath and the theology of rest and leisure. We need that here for ourselves, but we really could help them if we just say you have to have the space to be quiet. Find a place to be quiet so you can just recalibrate yourself in a very fast-paced society depending on where they’re going home. Finally, help them return with a dream and a vision. What is God’s purpose in the world? What is their place in it? What is God doing in their country today? How may they join it? And who are those in their home country with similar dreams?
Have an invitation to Sabbath we find many across the board, different ethnicities, that the church leaders do not model the Sabbath. And can you speak into that a little? The Singaporeans, going back to Tokyo, to Beijing, if anything it’s the Achilles heel.
I think this is the call to be countercultural. And it’s the pressure. The pressure is not so much materialism, the pressure is within the local church to be workaholics because the model is not to rest. I mean, I’ve heard. “What do I do, Lisa, with this group of leaders, they’re just driving me to wake up at four and end at midnight. Don’t they sleep?” In the name of the kingdom of God, in the name of working for God, and it’s a challenge. We face that ourselves in our own rhythms, and I think that would be something to present to them. And habits, if they are started here, are likely to continue. But if they’re going to start there, it will be harder. So how do we- just a few, whether it is, if you ask me, just two- the discipline of gratitude and the discipline of rest.
If you were just to have two disciplines- prayer is there, bible study is there, but to incorporate that into the life of the returnee, because when you’re grateful, your attitude is very different. When you decide, “I’ll be grateful about this, it sucks, it’s miserable, but there’s something here that God wants me to see.” And then the second part is that, “Am I resting? Am I physically stopping?” I was introduced, back to InterVarsity, just to be still. My first boss, or second boss, was this 6’3” man, and he’d just sit still. I mean really, not move. And that was his discipline. And in that stillness and in that quiet there was renewal. And how do we help them? And this is where over maybe that Think Home weekend we will start a little of the discipline of spiritual formation and these things. So just encouraging them with a vision. Not giving them a guilt trip. But freeing them to discover the kingdom of God and their place in it.
Some of them will do PhDs. Some of them will take a faculty position. But encourage them to follow Jesus wherever they are. Like the globally mobile Christian who follows Jesus, being conformed in his image.