It Will Never Be the Same

Guest Post by Aaron and Bobbie Howley 

“It will never be the same.”

Oh how those words burned me! The it was my life. Two months earlier I had moved to Kampala, Uganda with my husband and three sons in a transition to mission life. When that sentence seared meanly through my brain, I was tired, sick, culture shocked, and quite tempted to abandon all I’d ever worked to do and be. But the truth of the hot whisper in my mind stopped me. Because really, quitting wouldn’t give me back what I wanted—my normal, comfortable, manageable life.

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I had to find a way through to a new normal.

For the next two years I watched guests come and go from the mission guesthouse we ran. Many came fresh off the plane, ready to save Africa, and fulfill their perceived calling. They often stayed with us as housing details were arranged, phones were activated, money was exchanged, and vehicles were purchased. Once all was set, they were off to what most believed was a wonderful experience serving the Lord.


For many it was wonderful, but it was also agonizing. They came back with stories of God working despite the illness, culture shock, and exhaustion common to missionaries. They struggled through like I had and came to peace with the fact that their lives, the very basis of who they were as people would never, ever be the same. Together we learned to embrace and rejoice in the new people God had formed in us and the actual callings He had beyond the perceived ones we’d brought.

This is the story for missionaries—learn the new normal of who you are in this new place and the work that needs doing while being at peace with what the Father is doing.

DSCN6878But then—depression, abuse, immigration laws, robbery, attacks, car-jacking, vandalism, persecution, anxiety, spiritual warfare, tribal violence, evacuation…

There are moments in mission life which are not standard, not feelings we all must face, and not issues each one addresses. There are moments that qualify as trauma, moments that cause deep, ongoing pain that needs professional intervention.

As we ran the mission house, we saw the need for such intervention to be readily available. Until this year, emotional and spiritual help for missionaries facing crisis in east Africa was hundreds of miles away on difficult roads.

Our prayer and plan is to return to Kampala in June to join a new missions counseling practice which helps people cope with the daily stress of cross-cultural life, as well as the intense, traumatic aspects. We believe God’s workers deserve a chance to find the new normal that comes after extreme circumstances, and our heart is to be with them in that process.


We are always happy to answer questions about our work and organization. Please email us at if you have questions or would like to connect personally over a cup of African chai!


Aaron and Bobbie Howley


Prayer Request

We have included specific prayer requests from several of the missionaries on the Updates & Prayer Request page. Please take some time and read those requests from the missionaries themselves! If you know of anything to add, please email:

Thanks for praying – and for all of your efforts on behalf of those living and learning abroad. 

And as always, we are here to help. If you are looking for new or different ways to support your missionary family, would like some insight or just need some encouragement, please let us know. As a core team, we are working this year to dive deeper in many ways, but your feedback is a valuable part of that journey.

The Core Advocate Team

Reasons to Hope

by Bob Honegger

As we read and hear about the bad things happening in our country and around the world, it is easy to have the attitude that the world is very rapidly falling into a state of deep despair.  A recent article written by Shane Bennett entitled “Five Reasons You Can Have Hope for the World” sheds a different light on the state of affairs in the world.  Shane is a missionary working with Muslims and is a dynamic mobilizer for God’s work throughout the world. Here is a short summary of his reasons:


1. God’s purposes are certain. The story opens with God telling Abraham and Sarah that they will get lands, children, a great name and blessings to give to all nations and people groups to accomplish His purpose.  At the other end of the story, John is given the vision of a great multitude that no one can count from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and before the Lamb.

2. Many things are better than used to be. According to J.D. King of World Revival Network, over 15% of the people in previous centuries, died from violence and war.  In the 21st century that number has dropped to less than 1%.  Since 1980 world poverty has dropped from 50% to 21%.  In developing countries it is projected that extreme poverty could drop from 16% of the population to less than 3% by 2030.  Infant mortality has dropped in the Industrialized West from 25% in 1800 to less than 4% globally.

3. Jesus is bringing fresh hope to new people. With current global refugee crisis, God is bringing people from unengaged areas right into access to the gospel message.  “It all looks like very much like Paul’s sermon in Athens.  Many are reaching out and finding life.”

4. The harvest force is growing. As the gospel goes out in new places, it is going in the hands and hearts of new ambassadors:  Chinese believers taking the gospel back to Jerusalem, Latin believers serving Muslims in North Africa, and Nigerian Christians going to Europe.

5. God continues to use “dopes like me. “ (For all of you who have had the opportunity to hear Shane, you can just hear him saying that). A direct quote: “It never ceases to amaze me.  God took this beautiful creation and entrusted it to a couple who traded it away for a piece of fruit.  Then he turns around and entrusts an apparently pretty big part of the rehab project to people like you and me.  Sometimes I’m tempted to say, you’d think He would learn.”

What a great God.  What a great hope.  What a wonderful time to be alive.


Live in Such a Way to Make Missionaries’ Lives Intelligible

by Nick Steffen

“Lance and Carol were missionaries to Brazil, where they ministered to street children. After two years of service in Brazil, they returned home to New York for Christmas. Their first evening home, they drove to a local mall to do some Christmas shopping. Carol had looked forward to this moment for a long time.

They stood together at the entrance to a large up-scale department store and stared. The sheer choice of products and the amount of people buying things overwhelmed them. Everything glittered and glowed, lights flashed on and off, numerous displays seemed to say, “buy me.” They watched as people wandered aimlessly, wallets at the ready, looking for anything half-acceptable on which to spend their money. Carol saw one man take a $50 bill out of his pocket and buy a bottle of perfume without so much as looking to see what brand it was. She remembered Brazilian mothers who would give their souls for $50 worth of food to feed her children.” – Re-entry 79 Peter Jordan YWAM Publishing 1992

We should all be well aware of the privileged position we have been given growing up in the United States. If we forget and begin to complain about small stresses and frustrations consuming our mind, others may remind us that these are “first world problems.” In other words, our concerns would likely pale in comparison to the sheer gut-wrenching poverty experienced by so many people in this world. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), our lives are structured in such a way that we rarely have to experience the distance from our world into the other.

To do so would quickly give us vertigo.


Missionaries try to straddle these class divisions by maintaining lives both in the world of their supporters and the one where they live. But they often suffer the attempt to transition from one to the other. What would we say to Carol in the story above? How can we support her when we know that the larger systemic issues she is struggling with are bigger than our conversation?

I suggest that the issues missionaries are struggling with are not “their” issues, but “ours.”

By transcending the boundaries between one group and the next, they are seeing the boundaries that we use to make our lives intelligible, to identify whose ‘world’ we’re in. By trying to see the world as God sees it, they undoubtedly become sensitized to the ways that men have tried to create the world as their own.

Carol’s concern above is not simply the reaction of an overly-sensitive person, but one who has been re-sensitized to the truth. Our responsibility as the church is not to coddle or console them, but to share their concern.

The church’s job must be to live in such a way as to make missionaries’ lives intelligible.

Finding Hope & Healing

Guest Post by Rich and Amber Pfister

Its been over two years now since we have left the mission field.  As I think back, I have a vivid memory of one of the first couple trips to our local grocery store in the US.  It was wonderful and overwhelming all in the same.  As I was in the store, the contrasts of my life on the field and what I was now experiencing filled me with a deep sense of thankfulness as well as loss and grief of what was gone. 

I strolled through the floral department pushing my cart ahead of me.  It was no longer a crowded, humid isle with a shopping basket on my arm and the noisy babbling of hagglers at the register.  Stopping at the flowers, I saw a small stone that said “Hope” on it.  I picked it up and looked at the bright colors and glittery butterfly on it and thanked God that He always gives hope in our time of loss.


I bought the stone as a monument for myself and my time of grieving my mission and my country that I had so suddenly left.   I realized that it was ok for me to be sad and to miss everything so dear in Haiti, yet is was important to look for the hope in the new day and in the new circumstances of my life.

Time passed, and healing began to take place and new normals were established again.  The journey of life on the mission field is a beautiful one, with great joys and gains and also deep sorrows and loss.  May God be praised for His mercy in our lives and may we always stand in the strength of His Name and on His Word.

“So then neither is he that planteth is any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.  Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.  For we are labourers together with God; ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” I Cor. 3:7-9

We’d love to hear your thoughts: 

  • What can you do to help your missionary through seasons of grief and loss? What are some ways you can help them process their emotions from afar?
  • What are some ways you can help your missionary (or others) when they arrive back in our home church/community (whether short-term or as they re-enter)?

Cultivating Relationships in 2016

by Klint and Sarah Fiechter

What are your New Year’s resolutions for 2016?  It seems like we all have situations in our lives we want to improve.  The new year is a great time to take inventory: What will we change? Will the change be lasting?   

How about cultivating relationships within your church family — specifically your international church family (missionaries)? Does this ever make the resolution list?  

Attractive woman reading a book

Here are some practical tips on strengthening relationships with missionaries.

 1) Develop (creative) communication routines that work for both parties.

With the accessibility of international calls, Skype, Face Time and social media, try setting-up an intentional time to connect with your missionary. (Remember to give grace for possible pitfalls: spotty internet connection or ministry, cultural and language strains which may sometimes inhibit them from connecting)

2) Send care packages or personal letters.  

This personal touch helps them feel connected and loved by their church family. Encourage others (Small Groups, Potlucks Groups, Sunday School classes, etc.) to do the same! 

3) Prayer.

This seems obvious, right? Set a clock in your house to match their time zone or put a reminder on your phone to pray for them during your busy day. Staying connected to your Missionary through prayer WILL strengthen your the relationship with them even when you are unable to contact them personally.


Do you have any things that have worked for you?  Feel free to leave them in the comments.

When the Holidays Hit

by Amber Steffen

We are heading into the holiday season and before the rush sets in, let’s talk about missionary care during Thanksgiving and Christmas. I don’t know about you, but when schedules get hectic and there’s a million things to plan for, this advocate role can easily take a back seat… but I’m also convinced there’s probably not greater time when these expats need the personal connections and support. (Read When Eid Makes Me Homesick to get a better idea of what special holidays might feel like away from home.) 

Two hands creating a heart

Here are just a few ways you can let your missionary know they aren’t forgotten this season:

  • Make sure they’re on your Christmas Card mailing list. Consider collecting cards for them from friends and family or their prayer team and send them in a bulk package.
  • Send a Holiday Care Package full of things for the whole family to enjoy. Whether it’s a new book, Christmas CD or movie, non-perishable dry-goods that remind you of Christmas, or a cinnamon candle, they all can help bring a bit of “home” to your missionary. This is something to plan ahead for NOW depending on where you’re sending the package to. Sometimes international shipping can take months! (Note: I tried an “assemble yourself” Gingerbread House Kit one year for the family to do together… somewhere in between countries, the icing exploded over the entire contents of the box before it arrived (three months late). Choose carefully and send it ahead of time. A dry box mix of gingerbread cookies sent in October may have been a better option. 🙂 )
  • Tell them specifically why you are thankful for them and what they are doing. I’ve sent a series of quick emails to missionaries and friends around the world on Thanksgiving and just shared a simple note of why I thank God for them. It doesn’t take a lot of time, but I guarantee that it will touch them to know they are remembered.
  • Help your missionary write a year-in-review newsletter for the church and ask to include it as an attachment in the church announcements or have handouts printed at the bulletin board. That can be a great encouragement for everyone as you see what God has been up to! You can also encourage people to send in their family’s Christmas card, package them together and send to your missionary. How encouraged would you be to receive 500 Christmas cards from your home church knowing they were praying specifically for what was going on in your life?

These are just a few starter ideas, but I know a lot of you are great at staying in touch with your missionaries. What ideas have you found helpful in supporting your missionaries? Please share them with us in the comments!

Re-Entry: Part 2

by Klint & Sarah Fiechter

Click here to read Part 1

How can we practically help our Missionaries who are trying to assimilate back into the American culture (the process known as Re-Entry)?

Relationship is key. If you already have an existing relationship with the Missionary, then you are ideal to be that “safe place”.

praying together

1. Debrief

By understanding your missionary most likely experienced some form of trauma on the field, you can play a vital role in their processing. 

Listen, listen, listen. More often than not, people who are hurting aren’t necessarily seeking solutions as much as someone willing to listen. Let them to tell you everything – the good, the bad, the ugly. Don’t be surprised if there are undertones of bitterness, disappointment or cynicism. All these things must come to the forefront in order for rebuilding to begin. 

In some cases, professional counseling may be a necessity. Encourage them in this step – it could be monumental for them.

Keep in mind that healing may take years…and that’s okay!

2. Material Needs

In cases of abrupt re-entry, the missionary may be coming home to nothing. You can relieve much stress by researching housing, job opportunities, & transportation for them.

Depending on what part of the world your Missionary came from, something as simple as going to an American grocery store (all the options and choices!) can be overwhelming. Stocking their cabinets & refrigerator/freezer before they come home will help ease that initial shock of stepping into a store.

3. Advocate the Missionary

Here are some practical ways to mobilize the church to get involved:

-Protect the missionary by shutting-down rumors that may be circulating.

-Without breaking confidentiality, educate others on the difficulties of Re-entry. 

-Get a few people around to clean the missionary’s house or do light yard work before they come home.

-Ease the possible financial strain by raising money to pay a month’s rent or utility bill

-Does the missionary have children? Find other children in church the same age & plan play dates or get-togethers to connect them.

3. Prayers

Prayer is huge in Re-entry because often there aren’t “human answers”. God is the True Healer!

Thanks for taking the time to read about Re-entry. You will be blessed for being used in this way – playing a role in God’s Great Commission to spread Jesus’ name to all nations! 

Gaining a Christian World Perspective: Opening Our Hearts to Others

by Bob and Mary Honegger

One of the advantages of supporting missionaries abroad is the expanding of our personal ministry horizons. In 1990 we first started to help with the shipment of the sea containers from the Apostolic Christian World Relief to a variety of ministries in the Caribbean, primarily Haiti and Jamaica.

Communication with the various missionaries was limited to their visits to Bluffton in the summer. There was no email, no letters, no phones, etc. We shipped items that were listed on their needs lists and hoped that they would still need them when the containers arrived three months later. We first made trips to Haiti in 1992 and have continued to travel there as needed. We slowly learned more about each country, the history, the culture, and their needs, both spiritually and materially.

Over the years we have hosted various missionaries from a variety of denominations as they were on furlough and brought supplies to Bluffton to be shipped. Additionally we have organized work teams and have served on boards that made decisions on World Relief support for missionaries and their ministries. Today, missionaries going from our various churches, have open communication lines with us through email and phones and we can learn almost immediately of their needs and concerns.


We have gained immensely from this experience and as missionary support advocates, you will also gain a heart for other cultures, a concern for the unreached throughout the world, and a world knowledge that will broaden you spiritually.

The following are some strategies for growing in this world perspective:

  1. Learn as much as you can about the country where your missionary is serving. This helps to understand some of the situations your missionary is encountering.
  2. Don’t assume our way of doing things is the best. In many situations, it probably is not. Be open to understanding differences in the cultures.
  3. What can we learn from those in other countries, especially those with a much lower standard of living? Maybe contentment, wisdom in using natural resources, a better appreciation of building relationships over getting a job done, to name just a few?
  4. Learn to be more hospitable and to be open to new experiences, whether it is trying new foods, making friends outside your normal circle of acquaintances, or just thinking (and praying) outside the box.
  5. Pray for the unreached in other countries. Pray for those you read about in the news.
  6. Learn another language. Understand how difficult this is for your missionary to converse about spiritual concepts in a second language or just adjust to living situations.
  7. When it is possible, visit the country where your missionary is working. Enter into their world and be a sounding board.

Your support will encourage your missionary and you personally will be blessed with a much broader appreciation for how God is working throughout the world.

Re-Entry: Part 1

by Klint and Sarah Fiechter

If you read “missionary care” books you’ll inevitably come across the term “Re-entry”.  Re-entry is the action or process of re-entering something. In our missionary’s case, it is their home culture. Missionaries re-enter their home culture for various reasons.

On the surface this seems like a heart-warming event.  Home is normally where traditions, love, trust, safety & peace exist.

Doesn’t every Missionary long to “come home”?

In actuality, this is not normally the case. Missionaries’ experiences on the field are completely life-changing. They leave the field a different person and in turn, do not view their home culture through the same lens. This reality can be a very difficult and overwhelming to process.

After all, they may have experienced or seen…

…women sell their bodies on the street in effort to feed their children

…serious conflicts with fellow missionaries

…altering differences with their sending organization

…hard cultural adjustments for their own children

…contracting a foreign illness that is not recoverable

…conflict with foreign governments 

…extreme poverty

…demonic conditions


…feelings of failure because they didn’t “finish” what they came to do.

The difficulty of re-entry is often (innocently) misunderstood and can be handled poorly by people in the home culture. This only adds difficulty to the Missionary’s overwhelming re-entry process. Many times the Missionary feels isolated and alone.

Re-entry is hard.

How can we as “Senders” support our Missionaries in their Re-entry process?

Stay tuned for Part 2 🙂