Becoming a long-term missionary is fraught with change. You’re leaving behind the familiar and heading toward the unknown (cue a Disney song right about now). Questions abound. Questions such as, “What should I do with the things I leave behind?” “How will I fit in to a new future?” And, “How do I balance life between my ‘old’ and ‘new’ homes?” Rise to the challenge and meet each of these head on with the following tips and tricks. This list is by no means exhaustive – if we have left something out, please suggest it in the comments!
What should I do with my possessions?
Pare down. Be absolutely brutal with what you keep. Larger purchases may be more worthwhile to hang on to (buying a new couch is expensive), but keep in mind that putting it in storage may be equally expensive.
Store items with relatives or rent a climate-controlled storage unit. Make use of any available garage/shed space. Climate control is important regardless, especially where fabric or wooden furniture is involved. Long-term exposure to the elements may result in forced paring down upon your return.
How do I fit in to a new future?
Sleep. Jet lag is inevitable, and research suggests it takes one day per hour of time change for your body to adjust. Give yourself plenty of time to adjust physically and psychologically.
Eat regularly. My family “jokes” that food helps – it really, truly does. Fend off the hangry and never underestimate the power of food to change your outlook!
Develop community. Alone time is good, but so is time with the people around you. Get to know your neighbors, flat mates, fellow missionaries, etc. Get to know someone of the same gender who can encourage you when you’re feeling down.
Attend church. Missionaries need to attend church, too! Set yourself up for success with regular spiritual fellowship and nourishment.
Give yourself grace and time. Everyone’s adjustment timeline is different. Just because one person settled in immediately doesn’t mean your story is the same. Also, they may look like they have it all together on the outside but be treading water underneath.
How do I balance life between my ‘old’ and ‘new’ homes?
Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling. Don’t knock the homesickness or emotions you’re feeling. They’re okay. Acknowledge them.
That said, put a limit on whatever you’re feeling. Give yourself five minutes, or an hour, to have a good cry – and then distract yourself with the positive things and people around you. God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.
Skype/FaceTime regularly with loved ones, though not to the point that it comes between you and the people who are now around you. If you constantly FaceTime your friends back home and don’t let yourself get to know the girl across the hall – you’ll be missing out.
Remember, at the end of the day there may be changes and difficulties, but you are on an adventure with your Savior. And He has you in the palm of His hand.
If you’d like more advice and insight on serving in long-term or short-term missions, check out our resources page!