How do we deal with some of the challenges we face when we return home from a short-term mission trip? Three months ago, a team from Melbourne and Sydney returned from visiting Hands at Work in South Africa on a short-term trip. Like most teams they have faced various challenges since returning home. A member of the team (Rachel) recently gave some insight into the challenges she and others have faced since being home.
The initial challenge was settling back into life as they knew it before Africa but now with questions over the many little things they used to take for granted - like coffee purchases, etc. Another challenge was getting people to want to hear about Africa. They found that people put a wall up because they didn’t want to deal with knowing about it. People can get quite defensive and so you have to be able to know when to back off until they are ready to listen.
Some of the longer-term struggles they have encountered since then have included arranging and increasing child-sponsorship and feeling the tension of being so far away from those they are sponsoring. With regards to sponsorship she says,
“I believe that when you first get back you have to really think about it and make up your mind straight away what you would like to do regarding support. I know we felt so passionate about it that we went ahead finding funds for Hands to look into building Thoko a house straight away. In the end amazingly the government built the house and even furnished it. God is so good!”
Once you have cared for the children and walked alongside the careworkers then it can be difficult to return home and no longer be in direct contact with them (money just doesn’t seem enough). The way that Rachel has personally overcome this issue has been to send an SMS to each of the careworkers every few weeks. When she was in Africa she diligently accumulated the careworkers’ mobile phone numbers so that she could keep in contact with them once she returned home (technology can be such a vital tool).
In addition, Rachel commits to praying for the Pfunani careworkers and children , helping to keep the Hands vision alive (each child has a name and story) even though they are separated by distance. The youngest member of the team (2-year-old Riley) is not excluded from this. He continues to pray each night for the children he met over there.
As well as praying for the community they are supporting, Rachel also mentioned feeling a concern for those who work behind the scenes at the Hands village and who carry an enormous load. As a family they have committed to praying diligently for these workers as these volunteers are what make the Hands vision possible!
In terms of advocating, Rachel has been asked to make a PowerPoint to present in their local primary school and is also open to holding fundraising events with the youth group and bible study they run each week. Some of the ways members of this team have advocated and continued to support Hands since coming home is a great encouragement. I know that I have been personally challenged to do more because of their diligence.