I ran into someone from church the other day and had an interesting conversation. "Adele," she said, "I was thinking... Your life must be rather surreal."
It got me thinking about a quote I read yesterday on a missions Web site. The author talked about missionaries sometimes living in a bubble. "The mission field bubble is a term used to describe the detachment and disassociation of missionaries from the ‘real world’ when they live on the mission field, most often in a foreign country or different culture." As much as we (as missionaries) may try and fit into the host culture, we typically live in a bubble of sorts, a life that's not entirely like that of the nationals, yet not like that of our home culture, either. It's a third culture of sorts.
Coming home, we're still somewhat detached from life as everyone around us knows it. There's reverse culture shock, where even going to simply buy groceries is just different.
What's been tough for me, though, is how one is on display when you're in this missions bubble. Coming home, I both need to and want to tell people stories of what's happening in Africa. But I don't want to live in a self-absorbed bubble! I want to know about what people around me are going through! In that lies a challenge: sharing some of what's happening in Africa, yet being able to switch the focus back to my friends and have them know that I'm genuinely interested in their world!
Coming back from short-term mission trips, I always tell my teams, "Remember, life went on for your friends back home. Ask about their world, too. Don't just expect them to want to know about your trip..." As a visiting missionary, however, I want to make sure that people don't feel like I'm trying to avoid their questions when I turn the conversation back to what's happening in their world. And I don't want them to think my world revolves around my little bubble, that I only want to talk about me. Because it doesn't.
My point? Please bear with me as I try and figure out life outside the bubble.