After the suitcases are unpacked, the laundry is done, and you’ve found just the right spot to hang your feathered mask and the pictures of the kids you met at the playgrounds, you might think you’re done with the week you spent at MissionLab this summer. But as we’ve learned here, it’s really just the beginning. It can take a little work to really unpack all that you experienced here in New Orleans, and that’s where debrief, “a series of questions about a completed mission or undertaking,” comes in.
To me, debrief is just as important as training. It allows a time for reflection. Most people only think of training when they consider completing a mission, preparing themselves to do a job and do it well. What doesn’t cross most people’s mind is what happens when you head back home.
Our summer missionaries joined us in late May, and the permanent staff spent a week going over everything from policies and procedures, to ministry site info, on-call training, and a slew of other areas that had to be covered in just 5 days! Summer began, and our SMs worked tirelessly for 9 weeks. Life here is 24/7 with not much space or sleep for the SMs. Then as fast as it starts, it ends. The last church van pulls outs, campus clean up begins and things… well, they get a little quieter.
This year we had our summer staffers stick around for a few more days to debrief. Over the summer the SMs learn so much about themselves and the Lord. They experience the city, ministry, and life in a whole new way. Because the summer is so busy, the SMs don’t have much time to stop and process what is happening. There aren’t a lot of free moments to ask the important questions like, “What did I see God do this summer in and through me?” or, “What will I do differently when I return home because of this experience?”
Usually one of three things happens when someone goes home from a mission experience:
1. You return to life as normal, almost as if you never left, and you don’t really process what has happened.
2. You go home and find yourself angry at the culture around you, whether that’s concerning finances, materialism, etc. Basically, you can become hostile toward your surroundings but then eventually go back to normal.
3. You understand and are aware of what’s happened and that there is going to be a transitional period upon returning home. You integrate what you’ve learned on the field back into your everyday life.
Over the course of several days, we sat with our summer staff and re-hashed the summer- all of it: the highs, the lows and all the in-between. We created a space for them to process in many different forms what God did this summer. They encouraged one another as they shared their hopes and fears returning home. The result was beautiful! As we closed our time with the circle of encouragement, my heart was not only happy but also full. It was my joy to see eight unique individuals created by God grow in relationship with Him and the Body.
Have you taken the time to process and share what your summer experience meant? Have you found a way to integrate what you learned in New Orleans back home? Know that our staff has been praying that the answer to both of those questions is yes! And you can pray for our summer staffers and permanent staffers as we continue working through how the Lord moved this summer and what that means going forward. May He be glorified in all of it!