Every missionary overseas will experience homesickness. While there is no cure to fill up the longing in your heart for familiarity, security, family, comfort, and purpose, there are ways to deal with homesickness. Many missionaries have learned that homesickness happens when you least expect it and can be triggered at the most random times by the most random things. When homesickness is not taken care of, the heaviness of loneliness can often lead to missionary depression, a sense of failure, and purposelessness. We want to equip you with the knowledge that you are not alone and that you can overcome your homesickness. In this blog, we’ll look at 15 practical ways for how missionaries deal with homesickness on the mission field.
15 Practical Solutions for Homesickness on the Mission Field
1. PrayAsk God to comfort you in your seasons of loneliness. He knows what it feels like to miss home and not be with your family. In fact, Jesus left His Father and His home to be with us so that we may know how loved we truly are. He is the best person who will understand when you are dealing with homesickness. Ask Him to show you why you are experiencing homesickness. You will find that He is comforting you when you are willing to invite Him into your longing heart. Never cease to commune with God when you are feeling lonely.
2. Spend time in God’s WordTake time to sit with the Bible and read God’s promises of comfort and healing. He is waiting for you to discover His amazing truths so that He can bring refreshment to your heavy heart. He knows your longings, desires, fears, and feelings of sadness, and longs for you to rest in His love. Remember that you are loved wherever you are, even when your family is miles away.
3. Keep in contact with your familyWhile overseas, make an effort to talk to your family frequently. Call, text, or skype once a week when you can find available wifi. Hearing and talking about normal life may not always be exciting, but continuing your relationship with your family is highly important. Another practical way of keeping in contact with your family is starting an iCloud photo sharing account where both you and your family can post photos and stay updated with each other’s lives. This has been an incredible tool for missionaries to connect with their families while also sharing their experiences in the field through photos and video. This is especially useful when you are in an area that doesn’t have a lot of wifi accessibility. You can upload photos into the cloud anytime and your family’s photos will also automatically load whenever you connect to wifi.
4. Share with your teammates what you’re going throughYour teammates are there to comfort you and help you process the emotions that are inside your heart. They will be able to point you towards truth or even create situations that remind you of home so that you aren’t as lonely. Don’t be ashamed of your emotions or hide from them. Let it all out. Let others know how you’re feeling and ask them to pray for you.
5. Embrace the culture around youLearn to love where you are at and embrace normal life when it comes. The biggest weapon used against you in homesickness is discontentment. When you are always longing to be somewhere else, you often forget to enjoy where you are at. Don’t get caught up in comparing your home country with the country you are in now. When you let comparison into your life, you are allowing bitterness to take root, and it gets harder and harder to choose joy and find things to be thankful for. Instead, find things you enjoy about your new culture. Try new foods, make new friends, and go do things you have never done before. When the time comes for you to go back home, you don’t want to leave with any regrets. Right now, try making the most of where you were at because you will only get out of it as much as you put in.
6. Build deeper relationshipsIn a place of unfamiliarity, you are often hindered by your own fear of meeting people. Do not let your social anxiety cripple you into not getting out and talking to the locals. Rather, make a choice every day to interact with someone outside of your house or apartment and engage in regular conversation. One of the most practical ways to do this is by picking a normal route that you want to make your daily routine. Routine can get boring, but friendships are also built in a consistent way. People will begin to notice you and want to talk to you, or you’ll begin to see people you recognize and start waving at them or asking for their name and introducing yourself. You can also pick different places to eat on certain days so that you can get to know local businessmen and shop owners. Who knows, maybe one day you will be able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ after having built a deeper relationship.
7. Look for daily things to be thankful forYour new home is not going to feel like anything you are used to, and that’s okay. You need to realize that it is different and look for the positive things in those differences. If you’re struggling to see the positive side of your new life, ask God to give you three things every day that you can thank Him for. Thankfulness and choosing joy changes our perspective and even impacts how we interact with God and with others.
“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.” – Kay Warren, author of Choose Joy
8. Don’t give up in the hard momentsThe life of a missionary is not easy. The food may cause you to have diarrhea for two weeks, there may not be any air conditioning, you may only have buckets for showers, and on top of that, language learning is not a piece of cake. But don’t give up. Keep persevering in the work that God has called you to. Even when you think life at home could be easier, the obedience you are choosing now in saying yes to God is going to matter. You may not always get to see the fruit of your labor, and a lot of your daily routine is going to be boring, but the Lord rewards those who are faithful to Him and remain obedient to Him in all seasons.
9. Don’t live on social media or TV showsWhile social media is great and can keep us connected to the rest of the world, it also gives an opportunity to disrupt our lives with discontentment and comparison. Homesickness will only worsen when scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed. Also, do not escape to movies and TV shows. While movies and TV shows are fun to watch and can be used as a way to relax, escaping to a movie so that you don’t feel homesick will actually worsen your longing for home. Put your phone down, turn off the screen, and go outside, draw near to God, or play a card game with your team. Live where you are at, not where you wish you could be.
10. Take walks and exploreIt’s important not to be cooped up in the house or apartment all day. Get out, explore, ride a bike, go fishing, and get some exercise. Who knows whether you’ll find a spot you didn’t know existed, have a divine appointment, or make a new friend in the process?
11. Keep a journalIf you are not a journaler, I suggest that you begin to learn now. Journaling about your experiences on the field will help you process and begin to see the process you are making in learning about the culture as it becomes more familiar to you. This will help you see that this country that was once so foreign and unfamiliar is now slowly becoming a place you can call home.
12. RestWhile you are in another culture as a missionary doing ministry, it is also just as important that you rest so that you don’t get burnt out. Sometimes you need to get away from the city you are living in and take a vacation in another part of the country every once in a while. This is not a guilty pleasure, but something all missionaries should do. It will not only refresh, renew, and revive you, but it is extremely helpful for dealing with homesickness and missionary depression.
13. Remember that normal life at home can be boringWhen you are longing to be home with your family, remind yourself that it isn’t easy living there either. While it may be cleaner, more comfortable, and safe, you must remember the calling the Lord has placed on your life and choose to live where you are at that moment. Our mind tends to remember everything good about our old normal life in the states and we don’t always remember why we were sent as a missionary in the first place. This leads to a sense of purposelessness. Missionaries who fall into depression often come off the field wondering what’s wrong with them and why their ministry wasn’t successful. Missionary depression is when you are longing for home, and aren’t used to the culture or place you’re living in. This is because often we live in a fantasy world of what a missionary’s life overseas can look like, when, in reality, it is the day to day things that make up our normal lives. While your family may not be overseas with you, they are still with you in your heart and in your memories. Knowing that they still love and care for you can help you deal with your homesickness and missionary depression.
14. Be hospitableInvite people who are locals from your new country to eat a homemade meal at your house. Put on a fun game night where you can get to know your local neighbors. Make some tea and have a conversation. People are going to be interested in why you have come to their country, and this is a perfect opportunity to build relationships with people and share the love of Christ in a normal setting and conversation.
15. Remember that your home is with Jesus
“My home is in heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”While you are missing your family and the comforts of home, remember to keep the bigger picture in mind. None of us on earth are home yet. If we miss our family now, how much more should we all long for the day when we shall see Jesus face to face and be in His Presence forever? The homesickness you experience in the field should remind you that your eternal home is with Jesus. Though we may be away from home, He promises to never leave us. He is with us always.
– Billy Graham