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Rachel and Alan Howell stand with a few of the souls they and their three daughters served in the southern African nation of Mozambique.
Opinion
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Helping missionaries return well

The church's mission doesn't end when victorious warriors move back 'home'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The year was 2003, and a young couple was heading to Mozambique to share the good news of Jesus with the Makua-Metto people. 

Alan and Rachel Howell were expecting their first child. What adventures would await as they met with the rest of the mission team for ministry in Africa? 

Russ King | Views

Russ King | Views

In the years that followed, hundreds were baptized. Dozens of congregations were established. Lives were changed. The Kingdom grew. 

The Howells are deeply loved, gifted, and very effective. The shepherds and mission committee of our congregation, the Donelson Church of Christ, had clearly done an excellent job partnering with the Howells. The church has also done an outstanding job supporting this wonderful family throughout their ministry. In addition to periodic visits by various members, provision was made not only for their salary, but a working fund, health insurance, retirement and periodic sabbaticals.

Fifteen years passed. Alan and Rachel were blessed with two more precious girls.

The Howells recently returned from a decade and a half of ministry in the name of Jesus. Before leaving Mozambique, the brothers and sisters there had the Howells dress in traditional clothing and recognized them as “victorious warriors.” 

How appropriate. Yes, indeed, the Howells are victorious warriors — as are a lot of missionaries.

Our missions committee and shepherds made decisions that I wish more congregations would consider. They committed to continuing support of the Howells by providing a resettlement fund upon their return to the U.S. What a blessing! That means the Howells have time and space to visit family, friends, congregations and to adjust to American culture without the pressure of immediately having to decide where to live, get a job, where to send kids to school. 

Elders, mission committees, brothers and sisters, please consider how to support missionaries in tangible ways — not only when they are in the mission field, but also as they return.

“I bet you’re glad to be back home,” a few people said to the Howells’ girls. But the United States is not their home; Mozambique is.

And the U.S. is not the same country that Alan and Rachel left in 2003. Culture shock is challenging even for adults — let alone for kids. 

As a part of their return, our congregation saw the importance of sending the Howells to reentry debriefing and counseling. It has been a blessing for them to have some time to adjust.

Reflecting on the reentry process, Alan Howell said that the retreat, the resettlement fund and time off after arrival were all so important to his family.

Elders, mission committees, brothers and sisters, please consider how to support missionaries in tangible ways — not only when they are in the mission field, but also as they return. 

Mission Resource Network, a nonprofit associated with Churches of Christ, has a host of materials for helping churches do missionary care and reentry well. Learn more at www.mrnet.org.

May we celebrate our missionaries and honor them for the great service they give in the name of the Lord.

Russ King is minister of community outreach and church life for the Donelson Church of Christ in Nashville.

Filed under: missionaries and culture shock missionaries returning Missions Resource Network Opinion supporting missionaries Top Stories Views

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