Going Home

I’m posting this from a hotel near Entebbe airport.  I board a plane at midnight tonight (Uganda time), and we’ll fly through the night.  I have long layovers in both Brussels and Chicago, but somewhere at the end of the next 36 hours, I’ll be loving on my family in an Oklahoma airport.  I could absolutely eat them all up with a spoon. 

Our trip ended on such an amazing note!  I can’t wait to tell you about it when time allows.  I actually have so many more stories and pictures to share, when I’m back to the land of high-speed internet.

I’m about to go through “re-entry”.  That’s what people in the field of child advocacy work call the days immediately following a trip of this magnitude, when you leave a scene of extreme poverty and go back to your comfortable world.

And I’ll tell you, this is one of the things I’ve dreaded the most. 

I’m not sure how I’m going to communicate to my family the depth of what I’ve seen.  Pictures and stories will never fully do it justice.  Will I draw too far in to my own thoughts?  Will I feel strangely resentful that they couldn’t see what I saw?

I’m also not sure how to shake the “survivor’s guilt”.  And I know, it’s normal, but I’m overwhelmed at the thought of stepping back into my world, knowing the kind of conditions in which so much of the world lives.  This afternoon I noticed how badly my eyebrows need plucking, and I shouted inside my own head, “HOW CAN I THINK OF EYEBROW PLUCKING WHEN THERE ARE CHILDREN STARVING IN UGANDA?”  I’m telling you, my brain and heart have some work to do, to sort all this out.

I know all these thoughts are normal—we had a de-briefing last night, and every member of our team is feeling the same thing.  The Compassion staff gave us some specific ideas about navigating the coming days and weeks.  Shaun, who has taken several of these trips, spoke with us about how times like this shape your definition of “enough”, and I already feel things shifting dramatically in my heart.

I do not believe God is calling me to run home and sell everything I own, moving my family to a shack so we can sponsor 382 Compassion kids.  But I know, without a doubt, He’s calling me to slow down and listen.  I’ll listen to the world around me, a world that was becoming a little too cluttered with the noise of 21st century America.  I’ll listen to my family, the people I love most in the world—I know I will love them better now that my heart has ached so badly.  And I will most definitely be finding room in my heart–and budget–for more of these sweet kids.

I’ll blunder my way through the next few days and weeks, and I’ll laugh and write posts about soccer practice and (oh great day) I will run with abandon toward a Sonic Diet Coke. 

But I’ll do it with a little piece of my heart back here in Uganda.       

66 thoughts on “Going Home

  1. pam says:

    My heart has already been aching for you all week. My lips have been praying the prayers right along with you, as you head back to your home and your family, dear Shannon.
    May the Lord give you clarity of thought and emotion as you continue to process what you’ve seen and experienced.
    He will let you know what you can do and what you need to change. Only He knows what He has planned for your future.
    Trust and obey . . . that’s all He asked before you went, and it is the same as you return. Thank you for sharing your heart and for taking us along with you.

  2. ukrainiac says:

    Totally agree with Pam’s thoughts. (I remember returning to the States after our first trip to Ukraine…my son kept saying that we were “going through a phase,” and wondered when we’d get over it. We now LIVE here…you just never know what God will do!) Thank you so much for putting into words what you could… you have touched so many lives through your visit…on BOTH sides of the big pond!

  3. Kim says:

    I completely understand your mind and heart right now. I spent two years teaching in Brazil and saw poverty and heartache amidst a city with areas of great wealth.
    When I returned home, no one could relate to what I had seen and experienced, so they got “bored” with my pictures and stories. At first I was hurt by that, but when I realized that their brains had nowhere to “hang” the info and that they had no frame of reference for what I had lived, I could more easily deal with what at first seemed like indifference on their parts.
    It still stung a bit because I really had no one to share my thoughts and experiences with on a deep level.
    I remember just after I came back, there was a large jet liner crash in Korea. I sobbed in front of the T.V. listening to the news report wondering if I had gone crazy. The news is full of horrible tragedies, and I had never sobbed before.
    Then I remembered something one of the counselors from my school had warned us about upon reentry. This will true of you as well, Shannon.
    Because we have participated in life with others in other parts of the world, we now have connections with them. We will feel their pain and tragedy more deeply even if we have never met them personally. People in other countries are more real to us now. We could be touched by their tragedies through knowing them.
    The reason I sobbed about the Korean plane crash was that I intimately related to the people and their losses. In Brazil I had several students who were Korean. One of my students regularly flew back and forth from Brazil to Korea. I sobbed because she or one of her family members could have been on that plane. I sobbed because I knew she could been in pain. I sobbed because I could picture in every Korean face shown on the news the likeness of someone I knew and loved. Because of this, I recognized every single face.
    This comment has gotten long, so I will stop here. You have, though, inspired my next post. Pop on over if you want to read some funnies about reentry. They do exist!
    Oh, and my little guy’s name is Joao. He is from Brazil. : )

  4. jolyn says:

    Haven’t commented before now, during your Uganda trip, but I wanted to tell you how remarkable I think all of you are. Not because you give and you’re real and you share. But because you are holding yourself accountable in front of all the (cyber)world, in front of all of these readers. I have no doubt this trip will change you, but it is also changing your readers, and that is a responsibility that you have taken on with absolutely no thought for your personal space, your personal reflection, your “right” to better yourself without others witnessing the mistakes you make along the way.
    I’ve no idea if this makes sense to you, but please know how privileged I feel to be able to witness your journey, and I thank you for it all, for your transparency, for your willingness to expose your thoughts, and ultimately your surrender to serving HIM. And welcome home!

  5. Ruth says:

    First we sponsored one child from Compassion. Then by husband wanted to sponsor two more, so we did. I didn’t think we could afford it. We could; I just didn’t realize how. But God did. My husband told me-after reading a thank you from one of them– he didn’t think sending that money could bring him so much joy.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences. It blessed me.

  6. Tami says:

    You have so inspired me to commit to at least one child. My husband keeps asking why now? I just keep saying I feel led. If he ever sat down and read your “blogs from Poverty” then he would understand. He has allowed me to choose a child and it is so hard to choose just one. THis is definitely a wonderful opportunity for my family who has so much. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  7. Cindy says:

    Praying for your re-entry, Shannon. That your family will understand just what they need to, and will share your heart. And that as you return to your comfortable home and relative wealth, that you -and all of us you allowed to join in the journey- will recognize with clarity where these good gifts come from, and will be wise in our stewardship of them. I pray the blessings you receive from this trip last until you are old and gray and Sonic Diet Coke doesn’t agree with your stomach.
    Thank you for sharing so beautifully. We’re in for a child; I blogged about you guys yesterday. Thank you!

  8. Julie says:

    I’m praying your re-entry will go smoothly and that you will be able to adjust to “normal” life in a new way.
    My husband and I are adopting two children (8 & 7) from Ethiopia this summer and although we have not traveled there, all that we have learned about Africa has already changed us in indescribable ways. I cannot look at our life the same anymore.
    I can’t imagine what it will be like once we have been there and seen it firsthand.

  9. chilihead says:

    I really want to be there for you as you ‘re-enter’, but I don’t know the best way. You know that I’m at your beck and call and will listen to everything you need to say. Of course, your family will be the first line of defense as it were, but during the day, if you need me, I’m here. I’ve missed you terribly.

  10. Kelly @ Love Well says:

    Praying for you as you navigate the re-entry process, Shannon. It’s detox for the heart, isn’t it?
    By the way, I would love to hear Shaun’s thoughts on how to process all this. Maybe I’ll put in that request over at his blog.

  11. Ann Kroeker says:

    Love your conclusion–that because your life had been becoming a little too cluttered with the noise of 21st century America, you intend to slow down and *listen*.
    This is what you’ve allowed us to do even while we sit in our cushy North American residences. You’ve helped us slow down and listen. You’ve helped us see what most of us won’t have a chance to see with our own eyes, and smell, and ponder…and think. Yes, you’ve helped us stop and think. Thank you for going. Thank you for living it. Thank you for writing it.

  12. Fran says:

    Oh sweet Shannon…
    I’m praying for your re-entry and the process that I can’t even imagine your mind and heart going through.
    I’m praying for all of you. You have done a remarkable thing. You are forever changed. We are forever changed through your words each day. Glory to God….He is mighty to save!!

  13. chickadee says:

    i’ve soaked up all your stories this week and look forward to more as you process it all. your words have touched me and opened my heart to these children.

  14. Boca Beth says:

    Dear Shannon –
    Today’s sermon at our church here in Tampa, FL from our dear Pastor Willy was about, of all things, realizing the damage of selfishness. Too often those who appear to have so much, have so little as they fail to actively serve others.
    Thank you for serving God, His children, His people with purpose and significance during this life-changing journey. You have touched many, many readers with your vivid accounts and heartfelt love and spirit of giving.
    May God keep you and your family in his circle of love, warmth and certainty as you return home………

  15. warillever says:

    I am praying for you and for your family.
    I am sure that this trip will not only change your life, but your sons’ and your daughter’s as well. For the better.
    I hope that you can find that “quiet” to listen to the Lord.
    Now, go hug your kids. As much as I love to read your updates, I hope that we don’t hear from you for a week.

  16. Lori says:

    Thank you for sharing! We have been praying for all of you. I have shed many tears while I read the blogs. God is definitely at work! Praying for a smooth “re-entry” for all of you. God bless!

  17. Melanie says:

    My old pastor told me once that compassion for others is a gift. It is a gift that not everyone has. It is also a gift that can wear you slap out.
    Praying you find your balance and thankful that you have the gift of loving others!

  18. Lori Leigh says:

    Thank you for documenting your trip. I just wanted to let you know that we signed up yesterday to sponser a child through Compassion. Thank you for opening our eyes and making us aware of other ways we can help make a difference in this world.

  19. mimi2six says:

    It will be a joy and honor to listen to your stories and look at your pictures. We have been deeply impacted by your experiences. We, your family, have the special privilege of participating in your re-entry in person. Re-entry…yes; back to the way we all were….I hope not. I’m changed, and I want to stay that way.

  20. Terry says:

    I certainly will continue to pray for you all as you deal with the stresses of returning. One thing always concerns me following an experience that has moved me to my core and made me truly want to change,is how quickly I can fall back into the “old me”, all the while thinking I never could. The world and all of its comforts have such a powerful hold. It is always my fear that I will be moved, but not changed. I have thought of this many times while reading all the Compassion blogs–they move me, but have they changed me? Thank you for helping God speak to my heart through your trip.

  21. Jesse says:

    Re-entry of this type can hardly be conveyed to those who have not experienced it. I went through it myself after a deployment (to Kosovo) about 4 years ago, and their warnings and explanations were not able to convey what I (and others) REALLY went through.
    My advice would be to take your time, express your feelings openly, and to try not to jump right back into “normalcy”. I know I speak for all of us when I say that you’ll be in our thoughts, and that you can take as much time and space as needed here to try and sort out your feelings. Do not be afraid that we won’t understand – situations may differ, but we DO. *hugs* go out to you, and thanks for sharing your experience. It was beautiful.

  22. Linda Sue says:

    Shannon – remember to be gentle with yourself during this time of “re entry” – if God wanted you to live in the poverty of Uganda – you probably wouldn’t be living in Oklahoma. I totally don’t understand the why of living like we do here – I do know that it is becoming a feeble overripe tower that will have to come down some day – that we live so much fatter than everyone else. Thank you for your heart in this – you spoke for all of us in your love. I know even traveling to central america on a tourist type thing – getting back to the USA makes me humbled – I don’t know why me.

  23. NancyB says:

    Oh Shannon, what a blessing you have been to so many. Yesterday afternoon I received a last minute request to fill-in as teacher for our adult Sunday School class. I said yes but reluctantly. When I sat down to prepare for the lesson I was surprised that the topic was on missions. Coincidence? I think not. There are no coincidences with God. He knew I’d been following your trip. I went on-line and printed 2 of your posts to share with my class. And let me just say that several of the ladies were in need of a kleenex or two by the time I finished.
    God (and you) have touched many this week. I know that Daissin saw Jesus in you.
    Praying and thinking of you as you venture home and your “re-entry” process.

  24. Michelle says:

    Sophie & Shannon,
    Add “Wakuma” to list of children that have been sponsored thanks to your trip to Uganda. My family has sponsored another child through Compassion for several years, but decided to sponsor another child as my heart became burdened for the children of Africa.
    I have been following your trip and will be thinking of you this week as you “re-enter” your lives. After my first trip (a medical mission trip to Guatemala during which we experienced MANY of the feelings you have both described) the weeks and months afterwards were very bittersweet. On one hand, I felt so guilty…and very disgusted by the EXCESS of my life. On the other hand, I felt so incredibly blessed….and burdened to share it.
    I pray right now that God will USE all of these emotions as only He is able to do. That not a single one of your tears would be in vain!! And I am CERTAIN that He will bless you both for your willingness to serve Him in this way.
    I will be waiting and watching for all the stories and details that I know you will be sharing in the near future!

  25. suzanne says:

    I researched and found a little boy named Brian, who shares my son’s birthay. I’m going to sponsor him and it’s all I’ve been able to think about. How will I afford it? My own family has very little money but I feel called to do this. I’ve wanted to do it since seeing a similar campaign at Women of Faith conference. Reading your stories nad crying cemented the deal for me.
    Thanks for stepping out of your comfortable life and going around the world to share this with us. You’re a blessing to many, Shannon.

  26. Jmom@lotsofscotts says:

    God has completely used the experiences you and the others have shared to rock my little world, too!
    In the end I have settled on the fact that He did not place me in Uganda, He placed me here…and as you alluded, my job is to remember those who are in different situations, pray for them, give to them, serve them….but also serve those around me in LOVE, LOVE, LOVE and with a heart overflowing with gratitude.

  27. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for sharing. I have enjoyed reading about your trip and look forward to reading more as you process it all…especially how to continue living in such an affluent society now that you have seen the depths of the poverty there. That is something I struggle greatly with myself.
    Have a safe trip home!

  28. rachel says:

    Hey, I hope all is well with your re-entry. I’ve taken several trips to Africa, and all I can say is God knows how to direct your heart at this time. Slowing down, taking time to cry, hug your family, and pray are all good. He’ll show you the one or two things you need to change upon coming back. Praying for you.
    ps. if you want to see some of that re-entry you can check out June/July of 2007 on my blog. Hope it helps.

  29. elizabeth says:

    Well – to us (me) in our cozy corners, it is as if you are returning from a another planet, so the term re-entry does make sense.
    You have been in my thoughts, and have given me SO much to think/pray about.
    God Bless!

  30. Gretchen says:

    Shannon, thank you for making this as real as it could possibly be for us, both as an observer and as a mother. Blessings and traveling mercies. And…thank you.

  31. Alaina says:

    I have been so impacted reading about your trip and reading some of the other blogs of your fellow travelers. I’ve shared it with my husband and we decided to sponsor a child from Ethiopia. Thanks again for raising awareness and sharing your experience! We can’t wait to get the information on our little guy. I will definitely be blogging about it and encouraging others to consider sponsorship.
    Safe travels as you return home and to the life God has given you here. Re-entry will be tough…we have two children adopted internationally – we spent 4 1/2 weeks in their birth country; it was difficult to return from that experience. And it also profoundly impacted our lives and perspective. God bless you!

  32. Christi says:

    Oh, Shannon, your words have touched so many hearts this week, and they have been my sustaining grace. The updates on each of your blogs have been what has uplifted me this week when I really wanted to crawl in a hole. As I told Sophie, you have BEEN CHRIST to these persons, you have been Christ to me, and they have been Christ to you. He has been given all the glory, and the rewards for Ugandan children will be great. I am praying ya’ll home and have much, much, much love and respect for you coursing through my very veins!

  33. Kim says:

    So glad you had a de-briefing even before heading home! We didn’t and coming back was SO hard! After spending a year in Uganda, just traveling through the abundance of the European airports was almost more than I could handle. I remember standing in the middle of a food court at Heathrow, stunned at the multitude of options.
    One of the girls from our youth group in Michigan spent a month with us in Uganda, and her mom said when she got home and they went to Wal-Mart she just stood in the middle of the store and sobbed.
    So I’m praying for you, Sister! It took us months to re-adjust and it really wasn’t until missionaries who are friends spent time “de-briefing” us that we could start to make sense of all we were feeling.

  34. Gego says:

    I look forward to your posting about sleeping for 24 hours, opening your eyes to recognize your kidlets and Hubs, then rolling over again.
    I know there are quite a lot of youngsters on this site who don’t remember the sacrifices at the Entebbe Airport.
    Children in each and every country, including ours, deserve all the pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars that we can give.
    Shortly, you will be in the arms of your strength here on earth and those perfect (Gego’s opinion)children.
    I was especially interested in the counseling Compassion provided for its travelers.
    Sweetie, there will be a time for a few days that you feel guilty about the wealth in this country and the blessings bestowed upon your family. As I had to process this many years ago, we have opportunities that other countries do not have for their citizens. Children are not appreciated. May each prayer from each of your readers include a prayer for each child in this world to have the ability to become the best they can be.
    Your experience is celebrated in LRAR
    Sweet Dreams. Love ya bunches, Gego

  35. Risha says:

    We sponsor two boys through Compassion in Central/Latin America. I can’t even begin to imagine traveling down there, let alone to Africa. And yet, as I have read your blog, I have been brought to tears again and again. I believe that maybe a trip South is in order.
    What a blessing… both for you and for us. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  36. Amanda says:

    “Re-entry” doesn’t apply in this situation alone.
    I’ve lived in the spaces you’ve written of; NOT fun, and not good. You’ve taken a first step; it’s up to the rest of us.

  37. Amanda says:

    Are you serious? This is such a slap to people who have devoted their lives to refugeeism in Africa. How can you possibly put “eyebrow plucking” in the same sentence with “starving” and “children”? Wow. You said it; not me.

  38. Stacey says:

    Thank you for being so open and honest about how you’re feeling! It’s gotta be hard to be there and see what you’ve seen. I’m not sure how I would handle it. I love that we have been able to somewhat take this journey with you though. I’ll be praying for all of you as you come back home and try to start life again!

  39. To Think is to Create says:

    Yuck, let’s all pretend that mean comment does not exist…
    Thank you so much for this honest post and all the others, they’ve moved me so much. I know probably tons of people have said that, but I’m just me, and this really has changed me. We now sit and talk about what it will be like to someday be able to visit our child in Africa…incredible.
    Prayers for you…

  40. Beth_C says:

    Your posts have really touched me. I have spoken to my husband and we are going to sponsor a child. I am sure your trip has inspired many people to do the same.
    Praying for a smooth re-entry for you and the other members of your team…

  41. Robin says:

    I wonder if re-entry will make “fear of flying” pale in comparison (as a fellow FOFer). The experiences you’ve lived over the past week or so could fill a lifetime, and yet, you’ve done so in just a few days. Yes, you needed prayer for a host of reasons leading up to the trip (and during), but I can’t help but wonder if you (and the team) needs it even more now.
    Either way, I’m just one in a sea of many voices uplifting and interceding on y’all’s behalf.
    Blessings and peace as you return home :).

  42. Elizabeth says:

    Oh, the tears that have been shed this week as I have read the bloggers’ posts. Amazing. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  43. Jenni says:

    I am so glad you are heading home and avoided lions, malaria, and mysterious uncharted islands with invisible guys named Jacob living in shacks.
    But I’m even gladder (?) that God has been at work in so many hearts and minds through your words, mine included. I pray the ripples from this Uganda “rock” spread far and wide for years to come!
    You’re beautiful, babe! Eyebrows notwithstanding!

  44. Joy says:

    I am praying for a safe trip home and a peace to help you re-adjust. And you enjoy that Sonic diet- they have the best fountain drinks!

  45. JD says:

    I remember all these same thoughts after my first mission trip. I was in a daze for a little while when I returned. My starter home seemed HUGE; I wondered why I had 2 bathrooms for just 2 people. And, most of all, I longed for those smiling faces — people who lived with so much joy in such poverty.

  46. Jean Stockdale says:

    Thank you for sharing with such transparency about what God has done in your heart as you have walked on foreign soil. To actually see poverty firsthand, to smell it and taste it, is to be forever changed. You have translated it into your writing and your words will serve to shake the body of Christ from her complacency and comfort zone and force her to re-examine her commission. Thank you for being willing to step out on faith and trust the Lord and for your committment to write with truth and integrity-the things you have seen and heard. I will continue to pray for you as you work through the “re-entry” process. May you never be the same! Blessings.

  47. Pam says:

    I have been so touched by your words and observations. When you mention surviours guilt this has really been on my mind lately. We support our former pastor’s family as they are missionaries in Thailand, the local homeless center, a women’s crisis pregancy center, a local man who is severely disabled….and when we read of someone in need in our local area because of a fire or other prooblem…we try to help. We are NOT wealthy! I try to be frugal and responsible with what we do have. How to you decide who to help and how…..sometimes it seems so over whelming there is so much need. If we spread what we do have too thin is it meaningless…..if we give more to fewer causes is that a better choice???? God Bless, Pam, South Bend

  48. JanMary, N Ireland says:

    Hugs and prayers for your safe return to your family. I am sure you have been changed for ever by this trip, and I look forward to learning more when you have adjusted to being home.
    A little girl called Fiona in Uganda is now being sponsored as a direct result of ALL of you taking the time to go and share with us.

  49. mod*mom says:

    you sound like you appreciate the important things in life more now (not just soda).
    you’re life + ours is enriched by your experience. you’re a better mama 🙂

  50. M says:

    Found you through bloggy giveaways and read all the posts from your trip at once, crying through them. Loved seeing a photo of you (you look great, btw, in Africa despite all the travel and jet lag and all). Feel moved to sponsor a child, first just must do the due diligence of researching Compassion a little more. Thanks so much!

  51. brandy says:

    I have only just skimmed through your recent entries and I am moved almost to tears. Our family is having some financial struggles but, wow! We’ve got healthy kids and four walls. We are blessed. My husband and I will be discussing sponsorship as part of our new and improved budget. Thanks for sharing all of this.

  52. AprilMay says:

    Oh, if only EVERYONE could go on just one mission trip! The world would not be the same. Re-entry is necessarily hard, but good, because who wants to be the same after an experience like yours? Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly!

  53. Paris says:

    I have never been on a missions trip to a foreign country, but just hearing about all the physical wars, poverty, and spiritual battles going on in the world, I’ve found myself thinking the same thoughts. We have so much to be thankful for. With great power comes great responsibility. Thanks for sharing, I’m sure it’s difficult!

  54. A Musing Mom says:

    Met you today – quite by accident and was inspired to write because of you. Thanks.
    See my blogs….
    two are very new and one is a transcript home, but I’m hoping to grow in this new journey.
    Thank you for your humor and honesty,

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