Returning Well: Looking Back, Moving Forward



“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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A Life Overseas is a collective blog centered around the realities, ethics, spiritual struggles, and strategies of living overseas. Elizabeth Trotter is the editor-in-chief.

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