A while ago I wrote a post about some of the annoying things people say to returned missionaries, which you can find here if you didn’t read it. I got responses from fellow TCKs and missionaries who knew just what I meant, but I also had people asking what things should be said. It’s a hard question to answer. You know, ranting is a lot easier than guiding people along the paths of righteousness and good etiquette. 🙂 That’s why my blog tag includes “Mini Rants” and not “Mini Sermons”.
However, I’ve been thinking about it since then, and while I don’t have a lot of answers, I do want to tell you some things that people did for us that were amazing, and kept us cheered and feeling loved.
For when they’re away.
There were several families who faithfully wrote, the whole five years we lived in Erandique. They sent regular emails and paper letters whenever people came down. I cannot tell you what a treasure those were- especially the paper letters. We saved them and read and reread them, and I still have a bunch of them today. If you have a friend leaving for the mission field, you think, oh of course I won’t forget them, but the truth is, you do. It’s not intentional, but out of sight really does tend to equal out of mind. You may think about them once in a while, and miss them, but they aren’t part of your weekly socializing, and the months slip by, and suddenly you realize you haven’t communicated in ages. Having people back home who stayed interested in our lives and deliberate about staying in touch made a world of difference.
Initially, shopping was slim in Erandique, and those same faithful people also made sure to send us lots of goodies, which was wonderful. When we first moved there, we made a weird kind of almost-pizza once, with what we had on hand, and wrote home a jolly report about it. As if on cue, a flood of pepperoni was sent down to us, and we were set for months to come. Peanut butter came in a wave too, and I remember often filling up on PBJs when there wasn’t much other variety to eat. To this day, PBJs have a special place in my heart. 🙂 If you’re wanting to send treats overseas though, it’s nice to ask your friends what’s hard to get, so they don’t end up with imported batches of things they could have bought down the street.
Living hours away from any of your old friends tends to leave you pretty starved for conversation. We had many visitors, and of course, some of them were draining, but some were so refreshing. The ones we remember most fondly are the ones who took time to sit in the kitchen with us and just talk, for hours. The ones who didn’t have to be constantly entertained, and who didn’t treat our home as a vacation resort. Several of those even ended up marrying my siblings, so you never know what will happen if you take time for excellent conversation! Also, all you visitors who washed dishes and washed your own clothes and swept floors and cheerfully ate whatever you were served without grimacing, you were awesome.
When we moved to Erandique, we had one cell phone hooked to an antennae getting signal from El Salvador, and weekly trips to the slow internet cafe. That was our connection to our other world. Our abundance of long evenings alone quickly used up the supply of books we had brought along. But there were a few visitors who would pack the corners of their bags with books when they came, and we just devoured them. The House on Garibaldi Street, Enemy Brothers, stacks of children’s books, and our family favorite, Colditz. We took turns reading Colditz, and whenever the latest member of the family finished, we’d vigorously discuss our favorite parts all over again. Thank you, kind people, who donated from your libraries and lugged the extra pounds through miles of airports.
It wouldn’t be fair to not give a shout out to our friends in Erandique who also went out of their way to make our lives better. Even though we looked weird and broke all kinds of cultural rules, we lucked out in making new friends. They brought us tamales for Christmas and celebrated our birthdays and played hours of Dutch Blitz and basketball with us and even demolished our bizarre mint tea and popcorn and crepes with gusto. We couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome into their lives.
I know I’ve said this before, but aside from having our close friends and family visit, no teams of visitors were more refreshing than the teams which came specifically to pray for us and our town. That time and effort and money was not wasted.
For when they come back.
When we moved back to the States, we sold most of our possessions in Honduras, and came back with very few housewares. The church at home had a shower for us, and we ended up with beautiful dishes and new towels and bedding, and it was the height of luxury. Also, I’d like to brag on my church a little here, because it is common knowledge among missionaries that when you move back to the States, you get other people’s castoffs. You have ratty furniture and rattly cars and embarrassing hand-me-downs. But our church went above and beyond, filling our house with lovely new things. Not gonna lie, it’s kind of embarrassing to be on the receiving end of charity like that, but it was also amazing to be so well taken care of.
Some kind person also had the lovely idea to do a plant shower for us when we came back. So we came home from the airport in a daze of culture shock, to a house perfectly clean and fresh, filled with green houseplants and feeling so homey already, and a pantry packed full of cousins, waiting to surprise us.
Most of my siblings were back in the States before we moved back, and spent many hours (along with relatives and church friends) cleaning and repairing our house to get ready for our return. We had stored some of our furniture in the basement, which they were going to set up for our use when we came back. One day Daniel got a text from someone just saying, “I took your bed out of the basement, hope you don’t need it.” Um, what? So, returning missionaries aren’t supposed to require beds to sleep on? There wasn’t much to do but laugh or cry, so they sat on the floor and laughed heartily. Rosie wrote home about the incident, in great humorous detail, and accidentally sent the email to a friend instead of a family member. Well, the friend read this, and was filled with righteous indignation. He promptly went online and bought a lovely bed and had it delivered to our house. Turns out, it was the best bed in the house. I won’t name you, friend, but it stands in my memory as one of the nicest things someone has ever done for us. Thank you!
If you’ve lived elsewhere and have a fond memory of something meaningful a friend did to make it easier, please comment below. The more ideas, the merrier.