Returning Well: Looking Back, Moving Forward

by Editor on August 21, 2015



“Re” – meaning “again.” Meaning that you’ve done this before. This is not the first time. Sure, this time will have its differences. But, He has given you the courage to step out and the strength to walk forward before. You’ve sorted your things, packed countless boxes, and weighed your bags before. You’ve said goodbyes, given hugs through tears, watched the ground get smaller underneath you. You’ve landed and felt out of place—even awkward and alone. You’ve transitioned before… maybe not perfectly, but you did gain wisdom and got to where you are now. You can do it again. He will give courage and strength again. And the same skills that you learned to use to transition then—you may find it beneficial to pull them out, dust them off, and apply them in a new way. This is a “re,” and an “again” after all. Look back, and in so doing you may find you have wisdom for moving forward.

“Entry.” You are entering—walking forward into something. A new beginning. A new chapter. A new season. It may be to a place you’ve known before—but now you are different, they are different, and that place is different. So there may be hints of the past and even assumptions that you’ve not changed.  But you know better. Or you may be going someplace new. You may relish the thought of a new beginning or weary at the thought of starting all over.

Whatever the case may be, entering something new means leaving something known. For some that brings a sigh of relief. For others, it brings deep and painful grief. And for many, it brings both—along with a host of other re-entry experiences. What was is no more. And may never be again. What will be is not always entirely certain. And where you belong and what feels like home—complex.


Even though grief, confusion, and complexity swirl around you from leaving your current “known,” part of that “known” comes with you when you leave—it has been woven into the deepest parts of you as it has changed you, shaped you, and made you who you are now. Often it is this “known” that contributes to the difficulty of re-entry but at the same time also creates the opportunity for re-entry to be a pivotal time leading you to genuine thriving in the next season of life. The key to this thriving is an intentional gleaning of treasures from your recent “known.”  Let me explain…

Your life that you have been living cross-culturally, your most recent “known,” is filled with treasures.  Some are obvious. Some are hidden beneath the surface. The joys, the wisdom, the things He taught you, the ways He stretched you, and even the ways He has formed you (or is still forming you) as a pearl through great pain—all these are treasures. All are valuable—maybe for you, maybe for others. . .many times for both. And it is these treasures that can hold the key to your thriving in the season of life after re-entry. It is these treasures that in the hands of the Master can be honed and then applied in the next season to make a real and significant difference—not only leading to your own thriving, but also to the blessing of others.

So, you land back “home.” You unpack, or try to. And you want this time of re-entry to be pivotal—to lead to thriving—you want to find these treasures, “But where do I start?” you wonder. “How do I even recognize these so-called treasures when I am not even sure what they look like, and I can’t even find where I unpacked my chapstick? How do I take time to stop and find these treasures when the life in my passport culture is giving me sensory overload? And once I find these treasures, how do I know what to do with them to make a real and significant difference?”

Almost ten years ago, our Father put a vision on my heart—a vision of a resource that would guide cross-cultural sojourners through an effective debriefing to a dynamic renewal. For five years the seed that He planted laid dormant, until I mentioned to my boss in passing that we should write our own re-entry resource for our staff. He encouraged me to write it. At that time, I wrote what I now call the “draft.” Once it was complete, I knew deep down, He had something more.

Returning WellAnd so nearly every day for the last five years, we have been crafting, honing, field-testing (a grateful shout-out to those of you who were part of that process!), editing, and polishing Returning Well: Your Guide to Thriving Back “Home” After Serving Cross-Culturally. Returning Well is a guidebook that invites you into a guided conversation with your Creator that will reveal and apply invaluable treasures of insight as you reflect on your recent season of cross-cultural service. By using Returning Well, you will discover how this season influenced you, how to re-integrate well, and what moving forward in faith means for you. Returning Well not only provides a place to start but continually ushers you into specific conversations with Him so that you be fully released to uniquely and wholeheartedly love and serve your Creator in the season of life following re-entry. And at last, I am excited to share that Returning Well is now available—more details are below.

For those of you in re-entry or seeing it on your horizon, I fully believe that this season holds immense value for you. He has given you exquisite treasures. Following His lead and relying on His strength, you can do this, we can do this, you’re not alone—let’s get started. Here is an excerpt from Returning Well for you to take a moment to enter into a conversation with Him, guiding you in looking back and in so doing, giving you wisdom in moving forward.

What was the initial stage of your transition to your host culture like? How did it compare to your expectations?

What habits, mindsets, or resources most helped you through this initial stage of transition (e.g., practical transition skills, relationships, attitudes of the heart or mind, specific Truths, etc.)? What made each helpful?

Which of these, or particular aspects of these, might be helpful to you now as you transition back to your primary culture? In what ways might they be helpful?

You can return well. To take the next step and begin your Returning Well journey, visit for information on purchasing Returning Well individually or in bulk.

Readers! We are giving away one copy of Returning Well. Anyone who comments on this post will be entered into the Giveaway. We will be selecting the winner through a computerized program. You have one week to leave a comment. We will announce the winner on Monday, August 31 on our Facebook page and on this blog. Thank you for being a part of this online space!  

Previously published on Velvet Ashes, updated and used with permission.

mcMelissa’s heart was set ablaze for cross-cultural work in high school and it was in college where He honed her sights on member care (and the areas of marriage, family, and transitions in particular).  Ever since then, she’s been traveling the world through her feet, her knees, her phone, and Skype – listening, loving, and serving those who have lived or are living among those not like them.  She is a devoted follower, wife, mom, and an Associate Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation.  She eagerly anticipates the culmination of a vision and burden that He gave her to create Returning Well — a guidebook that makes an effective debriefing that leads to a dynamic renewal available to all people in re-entry. Its publication is forthcoming.  You can get in touch with Melissa at her website: or by way of her email:

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  • Candy J Rieger

    I look forward to reading “Returning Well”, whether I “win” or not 🙂 I’m sending this link to our office in Orlando as a “returning home” program is not yet offered in-house… maybe this book can be used to guide us. (“us” is Missionary Ventures Int’l.) God bless and prosper this work.

    • Candy, I am so honored that you would share this with your org! And if Missionary Ventures Int’l has any questions about using Returning Well as a foundation for offering re-entry help to their staff, please do encourage them to email me–I would be glad to help! Returning Well can dovetail very fluidly with what organizations offer in terms of re-entry member care. (

  • Cathy Mullins Brown

    Thank you for sharing such insight for those of us serving overseas!!

  • Alyssa Miriam

    I am not in re-entry yet, but may be in the near future. This book seems like it would be a great resource!

  • Amanda Doerksen

    Looks interesting!

  • Brian Lois Niehoff

    I look forward to reading this and using it as a resource. Such a difficult concept to help other people understand.


    After 4 years in Kenya, our family, with a new addition through adoption, is planning reentry soon and this book would be a B.L.E.S.S.I.N.G to go through as a family before we hit the States.

  • Mark Korrin Jacobsen

    So important to return with grace! What a great resource and blessing

  • Cristal

    Have gone through re-entry twice….walked others through re-entry…. Would love more resources and tools for this difficult road. What a blessing for you to give a book away!

  • Rachelle Sperling

    This would be a great resource. I’d love to win a copy.

  • Sarah Davis

    Living in the reality of this, the ups and downs, the grief and loss, the confusion of not belonging… all part of the journey of re-entry…

  • Richelle Wright

    Wish this book had been available 2 years ago…

  • Jennifer Allen

    Experiencing the deep grief of leaving our beloved host country just one month ago. Does it get any easier?? I would welcome any resource that would draw me closer to my Sovereign and gracious Lord through this time…

  • Jacinda Good

    Just returned to my native country 2 weeks ago and feel like I’m in a total daze yet. I would love to read this book!

  • Lynn Pottenger

    This looks like a great resource!

  • C Ferrandes

    Would love to read this book.

  • JacknMisty Lindsey

    We just returned to the states after 12 years overseas. Would love to use this guide to help process things.

  • CB

    I was so excited to find this recently. I bought it for a friend who just returned from overseas and a copy for myself (I am just over a year into my second reentry.) I’d love another copy to pass on to another friend!

  • Katie Lawler

    Thank you for this post, and the forthcoming book…definitely filling a void!

  • To be entered to win, do you need to comment here AND on facebook. Either way. Here is a comment here too.

  • Ibu Tonya

    Re-entry after 21 years is hard! This looks like a needed resource to help us see the goodness in the fog.

  • Irene NIcholson

    Looking to buy this as a helpful resource

  • Thank you for sharing this blog post. It’s exactly where I am right now.

  • Sara Derr

    Two years ago, when I moved “home” from South Africa, I was astonished to find the re-entry more difficult than the initial leaving. While God has worked in my life through the time of re-entry, I would love to give this book to a friend who will soon be starting on the same re-entry journey. Thank you for dedicating time to this!

  • Alexandria Woodward

    Wow, I will definitely be needing this book in about three months when I get home from my first long term missions trip from South Africa!

  • Maggi

    …and I want to write a comment here for the possibility of getting what seems like an incredibly valuable resource. 🙂

  • Britney

    Wish this had been around two years ago!

  • April Marie Morris

    would love to read this

  • Bayta Schwarz

    Loved this post and would love to read/work through the book!

  • Glenn Miles

    Looking forward to reading this

  • Transitioning to and from time lived in other countries can have many challenges – and rewards. Through it all, we offer up our lives to the glory of God.

  • Henry Armstrong

    Though I have not read your book yet, I want to thank you for all the effort you have put into this. As we look back over 34 years (and counting) of cross-cultural ministry we find that “re-entry” and “member care” are finally getting the attention they deserve (or “that the missionaries deserve”). Your book will be a vital tool in the hands of missionaries and member care providers alike.

  • Laura Armstrong

    Wish I would have had this resource two years ago when we returned after 23 years on the field. So thankful that God prompted you to write it and look forward to reading it!!

  • Frey

    This is a very relevant topic for me, as I’ll be returning to Australia in January, after 2 years in Italy. It is a process I’m both dreading and incredibly excited about! Gotta love that paradox! Anyway, thank you for the encouragement found in this post and I hope to be able to read your book!!

  • marilyn bridges

    Looking forward to using this book as a resource upon completion of serving in another country.

  • Sandra Julian

    This was timely. Re-entry. Transition. I detest the very thought of those words. My spirit wants to do this gracefully. My soul is kicking and screaming within me. I need God’s help.

  • I’ve been collecting resources for the time when re-entry awaits us, and it sounds like this would be a great one to have!

  • Claudia

    Returning “home” next year for 6 months. Would love to return well and hopefully reading this book will help!

  • Anna Wegner

    We just did a return, and I think the book will help us work through some things. 🙂

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