I was reading some re-entry resources, and came across one that talked about why missionaries leave the field. In it, a returned missionary said something very powerful:
There’s the reason you tell your supporters.
There’s the reason you tell your church.
There’s the reason you tell your agency.
There’s the reason you tell your teammates.
There’s the reason you tell your family.
There’s the reason you tell yourself.
And there’s the reason you tell God.
Truer words were never spoken. The process of and reasons behind moving from the mission field are rarely straightforward or simple. One reality that complicates this is the fact that the question of when or if it's time to "go home" is a recurring one for missionaries. I don't know of many people on the field who do not occasionally check job boards or keep their ears open for opportunities back in their home country. This doesn't mean there is a lack of faithfulness to the call. In fact, in many ways, we found it to be a healthy exercise that reaffirmed that we were in the right place. After all, it is in the presence of choices that decisions become most powerful, not in their absence. This time around, though, we really weren't looking for something else. It was more looking for us.
We had been sensing change for a long time - months, really. We love the work we do here, but just knew it wasn't in our future anymore. That was a hard thing to even admit to ourselves, let alone to one another, which probably delayed us a bit in even being willing to pray about doing something different. But, pray we did. Earnestly. Individually. Corporately. In the interest of transparency here, I will admit that situations like this can be difficult for missionaries. We needed to have people praying for and with us, but had to be selective about who we asked and how. There is a reality that donors can get spooked if they perceive as a lack of commitment or faith in missionaries. Because of this - especially since we didn't know what, if anything, would come out of our search for what was next - we selected a few folks to pray with and for us, but were otherwise vague in our general communication. I don't know if that was the right thing to do, but it felt necessary.
Anyway, we thought God was leading us to a different part of Guatemala, not away from it entirely. We visited the town we thought we would be going to. Started learning more about it and making connections. We were keenly aware of the tremendous need and felt burdened for the people there. I'm still not sure why that wasn't where we ended up. That's hard, and it hurts. I imagine it will for a long time. In the end, the doors just weren't opening for that place, and we were forced to really get down and dirty honest with ourselves and God.
We looked at our finances - the good and bad, what we lacked and what we had and were having faith for - and then we laid it all down at God's feet.
We looked at our abilities - what we're good at and what we're not, what we can do and what we can't - and then we laid it all down at God's feet.
We looked at our relationships - the ones we had lost and the ones we had gained, the ones here and the ones there - and then we laid it all down at God's feet.
We looked at our family - what was working and what was not, where we were broken and where we were strong - and then we laid it all down at God's feet.
We looked at our emotional health - the ways we'd grown strong and the places we were weak, the hurts and the victories we'd had - and then we laid it all down at God's feet.
We looked at our spiritual lives - the ways we were closer to Jesus and the ways we had wandered from Him, the things that were working and the ones that weren't - and then we laid it all down at God's feet.
If that sounds repetitive and mundane, that's because it was. It was a painful daily process of taking stock and letting God ask all the hard questions and probe all the hidden places in a more honest and complete way than we expected. I don't mean to suggest that we hadn't been honest or realistic all along, but this was different. Exhausting. Revealing. In the end, what we were left with was nothing, because we'd given it all up to Him, and that's what made us know - beyond a shadow of a doubt - that God was behind this move. (The jobs, housing, finances required to get us back to the States, etc. all lining up at the same time was further evidence of that.)
This difficult process, though, is also what gave us a list of reasons (layers of reasons, in a way) - the ones we tell our supporters, church, agency, teammates, family, ourselves, and God - rather than just a single, simple one. Please know, though, that there is no artifice or duplicity in this. It just means that different nuances or facets of this complex decision will connect more with different people. Will make sense to them in ways the others wouldn't. And that some - many - of our reasons will always be just between us and God, and that's ok, too.
So, that's why. The easiest answer is that when we were willing to lay it all down before our Father, the thing He asked us to pick up again was a return to the States. That's not what we thought He would say or what we were seeking or even wanted, but that's what He wants, and that's enough for us.