Life After the World Race

Written by Chelsea Winn

As I sit and write, I am very much aware of how fast time passes. Just a few weeks ago, I celebrated my one year anniversary of returning to American soil. There are moments when I cannot believe it has already been that long. Some days, it feels like just yesterday I was walking through a village in Bolivia, sharing the Gospel with a Hindu woman in Nepal, or loving on the sweet children whom I grew to love in Malawi.

For those who may be unaware, I spent most of 2015 traveling as a missionary with an interdenominational program called The World Race. It is an 11-month journey through 11 countries. It is impossible to share everything in this brief post, but if you desire a taste of my year overseas I encourage you to read my personal blog. (Or if you are more of a “get the story in person” type, feel free to contact me. I’d love to share more!)

Transitioning Back to the U.S.
I remember having mixed emotions last year. My team flew back to the U.S. the day before Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days of the year. I remember the security guards at JFK in New York, not sharing the excitement many of us expressed at 7:30AM. I recall one saying to me, “Your friends are a little too awake and excited this morning.” I kindly smiled and replied, “We haven’t seen our families in nearly a year. This is our first time Stateside.” The guard just nodded and replied, “Welcome home.”

Sweet Homecomings
I have loved coming home to my Bethany community. My first time at Bethany, after re-entry, was A Community Christmas. I remember all too well pulling into the drive of Bethany and I couldn’t contain my excitement. I nearly cried at the joy it brought me. I was home.

I also was able to reserve time one evening to share a presentation on my year in deeper detail. I was blessed by the people who came out to listen and even more blessed when I have had people approach me, even a year later, inquiring about my time on the mission field.

Some of the usual challenges of re-entry include being prepared to answer questions appropriately. I feel my team was prepared well for this in in our final debriefs. They warned us that we will have the same question asked (“How was your trip?”), but that it is necessary to have different amounts of time to share.

There is the friendly polite person, who may just want to the know the brief 1-2 minute version.

There is the person who is a little more invested where you may want to share about a 15 minute summary.

And, last but not least, there’s the eager, “I-want-to-know-every-detail” person, who you should allow a minimum of 30 minutes, knowing that it may require an entire afternoon and maybe even dinner plans.

I know my initial fear of re-entry was not knowing how to respond to questions that were common sense to me. After a previous trip, I had planned to discuss my experience with a professor. However, after less than one minute, I realized her interest was in something completely different than what I was excited to share about. I had prepared to share how the Lord moved in the jungle, and she wanted to know what items I had purchased while there. Coming home, a big question people had for me when discussing Nepal was, "Did you feel the earthquake?" When I hear some of these questions, I'll admit that sometimes I have to catch myself from doing an eye roll. But then I realize nothing that happened in the past year is ordinary. And every person may be interested in learning of different moments. And the Lord was present everywhere and deserves glory.

Another challenge is identifying my community. It is easy to know your community when you are surrounded by believers 24/7 and are attending church nearly every evening. But once you return home, this is not always the case. In fact, it is almost the exact opposite. Please don’t get me wrong. The introvert in me was so excited to finally be able to be by myself. But I also realized I had a craving to interact with people often, too. I changed in many ways over the course of 11 months but I was aware that people here would change, as well. Community was a struggle to rediscover at times. I had my pre-Race friends. But those friends have some new friends, some of whom I never met. So, does that make me friends with their new friends? Do I get different friends? Am I intruding on these new friendships? Are we still friends?

What’s God teaching you post-Race?
Boldness. The battle continues even here at home. I need to continuously put on the armor of God. This was something I really spent time studying last year. It was necessary in the field in some countries more than others. But even here at home, the enemy is roaring like a lion.
Sometimes I find myself automatically quoting Ephesians 6: “Finally be strong in the Lord, in the strength of His might, and put on the whole armor of God.” My teammates started laughing each time I’d start morning prayer because I would read through it almost every time. But what better way to combat the enemy than with the word of God, which is sharper than a double edged sword (Hebrew 4:12)? Through this I overcame a fear I didn’t realize controlled me. And it continues to be a battle. But I can now proclaim truth, with boldness.

Church as a blessing. The first thing I acknowledge when speaking about the World Race is that I am so thankful for my church family. I am thankful for your support, interest, but most importantly I’m thankful for your prayers. If you have spent any time with me, you know my firm faith in the power of prayer. There were many opportunities for potential defeat physically, emotionally, and sometimes spiritually. I know I had prayer cover the entire year and it did not go unnoticed. I’ve also had so many sweet conversations through this year - from coffee dates to check in, to presentations, to moving back to Peoria. The support of re-entry has been great.

How can the Church better help encourage missionaries through re-entry?
I would encourage individuals of the church to continue reaching out to returning missionaries (including short-term) even after 6-12 months. I find myself still processing events from last year, and it’s easy for the enemy to say, “Last year didn’t happen. Nothing has changed. You have not changed. You’re just the same person you were before you left.”

There is also a sense of known isolation. I completely understand that you will not be able to sympathize with all the struggles a missionary faces with re-entry, but feel free to point us towards someone who may understand on a different level. Please don’t misunderstand, anyone can reach out.  Sometimes we need someone to just listen or pray with. And if I am 100% honest, it’s still an adjustment.

I actually knew, coming home, I wanted to seek counseling right away and was fortunate to meet with a couple of Bethany’s pastors. I would encourage anyone who has been on the field to do this. It is a way to debrief Stateside.

How do you see the Gospel played out in your post-Race transition?
The Lord continues to challenge me with opportunities in being bold in sharing the Gospel. This has been particularly true at work. I have been able to share my beliefs very openly and encourage co-workers who do not have a church family. Also, within a day of moving back to Peoria, I became aware that my neighbors are Hindu. I am reminded as I hear the Hindu prayers next door, that I too can pray to the only true, wonderful, faithful God.

2015 was a beautiful year for me. The Lord taught me so much through my experience with the World Race. But I must say, the Lord has continued to be good through re-entry in 2016 and will continue to lead me forward.

Meet Chelsea: Since returning from the World Race, Chelsea has returned to the Peoria area. She currently works for Heartland Health Services as a Registered Nurse, primarily working in the OB/GYN department. At Bethany she is involved in choir, nursery, and the GO team. She is still open to the idea of returning to the field in the future, but is currently residing in Peoria.


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