Culture is nuanced. As missionaries begin to learn the ways—spoken and unspoken—of their host country, it is kind of like peeling an onion. You pull back layer after layer, discovering, “But wait, there’s more!”

When missionaries re-enter their country of origin, it can feel like all those layers of cultural understanding that were painstakingly gained are now sidelined. Meanwhile, their home culture has also changed in their absence—things have shifted, changed. There are new norms that the missionary may not be aware of, and there are embedded norms of which the missionary may have grown wary.

Working through all these layers of culture—and feeling like an outsider where one was once an insider—well, it can be frustrating. It may involve tears. Just like peeling an onion.

Giving our sojourning friends the space and grace to process all these layers is a great gift—for them, and for us. May we welcome their unique perspectives. May we make room for their wrestling with curiosity and care.