It is our hope and mission to foster transformation in every individual who interacts with Africa New Life. You will experience a refreshed desire for justice while in Rwanda and shortly after you return. But it is normal for this overdrive desire to transform your life not to last forever! Many travelers describe their experience as life-changing. During the turbulent few weeks after your return, think about exactly how you see your life changing, and what actions you can take to make this happen!
After experiencing Rwanda, it can be difficult to compare the experience to bustling American life. Use the resources available to navigate these spiritual and emotional battles a trusted friend, a good book, a culturally-aware pastor, and our merciful Father.
REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK
You may have read about or experienced culture shock while in Rwanda. Culture shock challenges what we accept as “normal,” from the food we eat to the societal norms that keep our community churning along. This shock can create unique feelings of uncertainty, excitement, or exhaustion.
Reverse culture shock is a similar experience, but it occurs within your own “normal” after you adjust to a different culture. You may have changed during your week in Rwanda, and now you are sorting out how to fit that change into your familiar life at home. This can cause frustration, disengagement, weariness, and a strong desire to return to Rwanda as soon as possible. This is normal!
You will recover from reverse culture shock. But use the experience to as a catalyst for lasting further change. Identify what you learned in Rwanda about yourself (or your community, your faith, your world) and what you are going to do with the responsibility of your experience.
We recommend taking time to do more learning that continues broadening your worldview and inspiring you for action. Try a few of our suggested books and media below. Afterwards, learn about tangible actions you can take here in your church, your neighborhood, and with Africa New Life.
Evangelism and Global Faith
- The Evangelistic Love of God & Neighbor: A Theology of Witness & Discipleship by Scott Jones
- Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman
Poverty, Giving, and International Aid
- Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo
- Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
- Giving Wisely: Killing with Kindness or Empowering by Jonathan Martin
- Interview with Executive Director of “One Day’s Wages,” Eugene Cho
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo
- Poverty Inc. (Film)
- The Poverty Puzzle by Joan McClane and Joy Smith
- When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert & Steve Corbett
- Africa New Life recommends re-reading this book post-travel, with your sponsored student and their family in mind.
- White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly
On Identity and Reconciliation
- Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
- Overrated by Eugene Cho
- Get involved with Be The Bridge, a racial reconciliation organization serving Americans
On Anthropology & International Relations
- A Problem from Hell by Samantha Power, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
- The Culture Map by Erin Meyer
- Foreign to Familiar by Sarah Lanier
- Post American World 2.0 by Fareed Zakaria
- Queen of Katwe (Film)
On Culture Shock & Short Term Missions
- 5 Things Not to do After a Short Term Mission Experience
- 15 Questions to Ask Someone After a Missions Trip
- Coming out of the Fog by Howard & Bonnie Lisech
- Equipping Parents to Help Their Students Process Their Mission Trip
- The Struggle to Return Home by Richard Stupart
TAKE ACTION WITHIN YOURSELF
No one is perfect, from the first-time traveler to the experienced ex-pat. We all have more to learn about how to convey respect, humility, and dignity in our interactions with others. Even more care should go into interacting with or speaking to groups with experiences or cultures different than your own. Below are the actions our team has found beneficial in growing ourselves as disciples of Christ in this way:
- Take advantage of your experience and vulnerability during this time to strengthen your relationship with the Lord. What questions are you grappling with? How did you see the Lord show up? Did He fit into the expectations you set? What did you learn about His character, His world, and His people?
- Seek out the Lord’s help and guidance through prayer and devotion. Will you allow him to change you after He brought you to Rwanda?
- Learn! Seek out books and media grappling with different perspectives on local and international development. Intentionally bring in voices that you do not normally hear.
- Evaluate your perception of others. You’ve gone on this big trip, embraced cultures and people who are unlike yourself, and likely fallen in love with the hard-earned beauty that is Rwanda. Now that you are back home, do you feel the same way about the foreigners and others in your community? How are you bringing about justice and relationship with these communities?
- If applicable, integrate diversity in your children’s lives. What groups are they not naturally interacting with in their day to day lives? How can you teach them about diversity of circumstance, privilege, background, and geography?
- Evaluate your word choice. What we say about each other has incredible impact! When you talk about Rwanda and the people that you met, what will you say to honor their accomplishments and place in the Kingdom?
- Get out of the way! Look to see whose voices are not being heard in your life. How will you recognize and amplify others, and bring them to the table?
- Give! What will you do with your finances to help Africa New Life, or other organizations that benefit others?
Take Action with your Church
- Speak with your pastor about your experience and seek their guidance with any questions you may have.
- Introduce your senior or missions pastor to Africa New Life if your church is not yet a partner. Unsure how to do this? Contact Jeremiah Smith, Church Partnerships Manager, to learn more!
- Serve within your church! Reflect on how well this is modeled in Rwanda.
- Not currently attending church, but inspired by faith in Rwanda? Consider seeking out a church in your local community, and don’t be afraid to try a few before committing to one. Already attending? Consider how you can be involved with your church in a new, fresh way.
- Identify an outreach opportunity your church is already engaged in and learn how you can support it. How are they advancing justice locally or internationally?
- Sort out the biggest lessons you learned while in Rwanda. Was it about injustice? Reconciliation? Worship? Creation care? Equality? Speak with leaders at your church about how to engage your congregation in these areas in a new way, and/or organize your small group to begin a new outreach effort.
- Attend a new church serving a demographic different than the one you currently attend more than once, and more than one! You’ll be better equipped to serve your home church with a rich range of experiences.
Take Action with your Community and Family
- Speak with your local community leaders, from a take-charge neighbor to your elected official, about identifying inequality or injustice in your neighborhood, and action steps you can take together to reduce it.
- Try having “Rwanda Night” once a month where you cook a traditional Rwandan meal, pray for your sponsored student and their family, and reflect on any commitments you made to yourself after your trip. Be patient with your family if they did not travel to Rwanda with you; they may need time to come on board with your ideas.
- Seek out a local organization working in community restoration to volunteer with or support in another tangible way. Consider what you are passionate about and how you can use this passion for good!
- Discuss what actions you can take as a family. How can your children, spouse, or parents engage with your broadened worldview? Can you intentionally cut down on food waste or generating trash? Can your children write the next letter to your sponsored student?
- Go out for coffee for your community leader or a leader representing a social group different than your own. Learn about their experiences and perspectives, and how you can foster relationship.
- Turn your home into a conversation piece. Place Rwandan souvenirs in visible places to encourage questions about your trip. Hang up a photo of your sponsored student and their family from your visit!
- Combat White or Western Savior Industrial Complex when you see it. Challenge yourself and your community to not swoop in with “the solution.” Exert humility and a coachable attitude in all service. Seek feedback directly from the people you seek to serve.
- Vote! The best way to enact the reconciling change you want to see in your community is to vote in every election, local or national. Rwanda’s average voter turnout is 97%! If you are a U.S. citizen who is not yet registered to vote, you can do so here.
Take Action Internationally
- Learn, and keep learning! Dive deep into the perspectives, experiences, history, and socio-political infrastructures of any foreign nation you want to be involved in, even casually. Remember, you will never know more about a culture and its underlying currents than a local citizen will. Learn with humility.
- Re-read When Helping Hurts and similar literature with your sponsored student and their family in mind.
- Give responsibly. Before contributing money to an international operative, research more about the organization. What safeguards and checks do they have in place to ensure they are serving carefully and with minimal damage internationally? Consider:
- Are the leaders of the organization locals of the country where the organization operates?
- Is the organization financially accountable?
- Have they been accredited by an independent auditor?
- Dig beyond the percentage given to programmatic operations. Remember, “overhead” keeps non-profits operating efficiently and salaries paid. Locally employed staff use these salaries to lift their families out of financial instability and return their disposable income to the economy.
- Is the organization meeting grassroot needs, or are they attempting to redesign the political or economic operations of the country to be more like the West?
- Is the organization speaking of and reflecting local culture in a respectful, positive manner?
- Is the organization seeking feedback from program participants, not only high-level stakeholders?
- If you have the resources, commit to and visit a country many times, within a ministry context and outside of it. Foster rich relationships with the people you wish to partner with. Consider the skills you are qualified through education or experience to offer, and offer them with the understanding the answer may be “no thank you.”
- Print photos and send them with a letter back to your sponsored student family. Read more about writing to sponsored students here.
- Host a dessert night with friends and family to share your photos.
- Meet with your team over a meal to reconnect and share memories.