Almost every missionary who has ever done it will tell you that the transition back to life in America is much more challenging than the transition was to life on the mission field.
For reasons too numerous to mention in this post, re-starting life back in the U.S. poses greater dangers to the spiritual, emotional, and social health of the missionary than their original move to the mission field presented.
Based on this somewhat surprising reality, those that know, understand, and love missionaries–and the vast majority of former missionaries themselves, are now convinced that every returning missionary should receive the blessing and benefit of being debriefed.
When some people hear the word “debrief”, they think about a soldier or spy being questioned after what took place as part of the mission they just participated in.
For others, the word “debrief” prompts them to think about a person who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. When understood this way, a debriefing includes asking the victim or the witness to describe what they saw or experienced for the gathering of information or as part of the emotional healing process.
Because these are the things the average person thinks when they hear the word “debrief”, it’s essential to explain what is meant when the word is used to describe something that is beneficial for missionaries.
MISSIONARY DEBRIEFING DEFINED
Missionary debriefing is a relational and intentional process that provides an opportunity for a missionary to tell their story–verbally processing past and recent events from their point of view, complete with their emotional responses at the time and since then.
Although a prior relationship with the person who debriefs the missionary is important, it’s not absolutely essential. What is essential is that both the missionary and the person debriefing them recognize that their time together is either the beginning or the continuation of a meaningful relationship that will be a mutual blessing and bring glory to our Missionary God.
Debriefing differs from fellowshipping or just spending time together because it has a specific goal or purpose. The missionaries that are being debriefed and the ones who are debriefing them know that their time together has a specific purpose. They have allotted an adequate amount of time and chosen a setting that will contribute to, not distract, from the goal that are trying to accomplish.
THE GOAL OF MISSIONARY DEBRIEFING
The goal, or purpose of missionary debriefing is best summarized by a number of easily understandable words that begin with the letter R. A successful missionary debrief will help the missionary to be released, renewed, replenished, restored, and readied for the context they now find themselves in.
Put as succinctly as possible, the goal of missionary debriefing is to ensure these faithful servants are REFRESHED and REALIGNED–for the next season of life and ministry that God has in store for them.
At Shepherd’s Staff, we’re convinced that every missionary can benefit from receiving the REFRESHMENT and REALIGNMENT–R and R, that missionary debriefing provides.
Pastor Jeff Jackson is the founder of Shepherd’s Staff Mission Facilitators and currently serves as the director of Church Relationships and Missionary Care. Jeff previously served with his family as church planters in the central Philippines and in the United States.