Coming Back From Haiti – Processing Reverse Culture Shock

Somethings in life happen without us noticing. Somethings come and go with minimal impact on our daily autopilot.  But there are other things that mess with our equilibrium, speedbumps that throw off our current rhythm, striking moments that you not only notice, but that stick with you.

Somethings come & go w/ minimal impact on our daily autopilot; some come like speedbumps throwing off our rhythm. Click To Tweet

For us, our recent week in Haiti was the latter.  In fact, adjusting to Haiti was as easy as going to sleep the first night and waking up in the morning, but adjusting back… that has been a very different process.

I have been waiting to write this post because I was not sure how to verbalize what we learned, how it changed us, and why coming back has been so difficult.

Haiti was very different from America (except for the fact that most people had smart phones).   There it is normal to only have electricity at night, it’s very odd to have air conditioning, houses are not what we are used to, jobs are rare, and to do lists are minute.  It was not cushy, customizable, and programmable to meet our every desire like America, BUT it was beautiful, bursting with opportunity for relationships, and full of time to savor life.

our neighbors the pigs

our neighbors the pigs

wpid-screenshot_2015-09-20-08-44-31.png While we were in Haiti it was obvious that what we were doing was important. Our daily lives were making an impact.  I think pretty much everyone wants their life to make an impact in some way. Will and I are no exclusion – it’s something we crave. Nearly every morning we send each other off to work with the exhortation to “go make someone’s day better.”  For us and all the members of our team in Haiti it was obvious that we were doing just that.

Maybe adjusting back (reverse culture shock) was so much more difficult than adjusting to Haiti because America is so fast and bursting at the seams with things to have, things to eat, and things to do.  Consequently, our culture leaves little room for intentional relationships and investing in and helping those around us.

praying for this 20 year old first time mom.

praying for this 20 year old first time mom.

wpid-fb_img_1442531912515.jpg Before Haiti I was nervous about having “down time.”  But down time there was good.  It was spent getting to know the people around you, taking your time to eat and talk with the people at the table.  After Haiti, it has taken me two weeks to feel like I am catching up to the pace of my American life.

Coming back from Haiti I realized that I have so much even when I feel like I don’t. Coming back from Haiti I realized that I want a slower pace in my life.  I want to be able to invest in my friends and community. Coming back from Haiti, I have had a hard time reconciling with the lack of an impact I feel like I make here.

But perhaps the biggest thing that I still don’t know what to do about is that in Haiti I felt like I was 100% myself.  100% who God made me to be.  100% alive.  And when I went to work 24 hours after getting back – I didn’t know who I was.

So where do we find the balance between our beautiful, impactful life for a week in Haiti and our “normal” lives here in America.  Where’s the compromise?  Where’s the marriage of the two?

I think the answer is in prioritizing properly.  Make sure the things that truly matter come first and the other things fall in line accordingly.  Know that making time for friends and family and ministry might come at the price of late nights and tired next days because I need to finish my homework.  In the ungrateful moments remember how good and cushy we have it.  In the lack luster moments, remember the luster of the God who we serve no matter what country, culture, or job we are in.

Bottom line – if you have been contemplating a short term mission trip; take the risk.  Even if it requires a sacrifice of vacation days.  I promise you; it’s 100% worth it.

haiti

If you're contemplating a short term mission trip; take the risk. It’s 100% worth it Click To Tweet
  • Wow. What an amazing time you must have had! Adjusting after an adventure like that can be so hard. I remember coming back from various travels and service trips thinking, *man, why is my house so nice?!*– even while I live in a small, simple space. I hope this adjustment has treated you well and you’ve been able to share these great stories with lots of friends.

    • oh man sorry this response is so late!
      But it was amazing! Definitely don’t want to lose the impact that it had on us.