The guilt in returning home

Kerstin Prill

Kerstin Prill and her husband Thorsten are German born Brits who have served the Lord in England for 10 years and in Namibia for 9 years. Having received the call into a new ministry at Edinburgh Bible College they left Namibia in 2017 to serve as Crosslinks mission partners in Scotland. In this last of four blog posts, Kerstin reflects on her experience with guilt in times of transition and culture shock.

On my journey of discovering roots of anger I have reflected on the pain of missing what I loved and what had become a normal part of my life. I also considered the effects of shame leading to feelings of unworthiness and insecurity. Another fruitful breeding ground for anger, closely related to shame is the feeling of guilt: 

Feeling guilty because of having left behind a ministry and dear people with so many unmet needs. Feeling guilty because of the pressure of staying in touch and keeping up good relationships, but the new life in Europe is taking over. Feeling guilty for neglecting African friends and for not spending enough time investing in new relationships. Feeling guilty because we were enjoying the luxury of central heating, free health care and the occasional holiday, but knowing many in Namibia who do not have such privileges. Feeling guilty about not being fully settled in Scotland because we desperately wanted to avoid the misunderstanding that this might have anything to do with the country and its people. Also, there are trivial day-to-day guilt feelings such as throwing away empty yogurt pots because in Africa we would reuse them or pass them on to someone in need.

While all these examples describe feelings of guilt, not all of them are the result of having done anything wrong. They present dilemmas that are difficult, if not impossible to resolve. The response can lead to anger and frustration. Rather than internalising all those guilt feelings, suppressing them or dwelling on them, it is so much more helpful to verbalise them and bring them out into the light. 

What a blessing it was when after one Sunday morning service a lady from the church leadership came up to me to share some thoughts she had while praying for me during a personal quiet time. The Lord had given her insight into some of my struggles with guilt without me having shared it with her or anyone else before. Those of us going through culture or reverse culture shock need people like her who pray, care and encourage us to be open and honest. When we begin to run out of space in the cupboard because of the large stock of empty yogurt pots that we struggle to throw away, it is time to get someone else’s perspective. 

But it is even more important to seek God’s perspective, to allow him to correct and love us as we seek him in his word and in prayer. He can help us discern between misguided and real guilt. And while secular psychologists emphasise self-forgiveness, we have the privilege to turn to Jesus with all our burdens. His forgiveness is complete and gives us total freedom from all guilt through the power of the cross. 

Honesty with myself and others, openness about my struggles, a good measure of humour, prolonged times of reading God’s word as well as prayer of confession in the presence of another Christian have made a big difference in my journey through culture shock. My husband and I have also had the privilege of being showered with love and care from God’s people as they helped with housing, moving, transport, finances and invited us to meals and fellowship. But above all it was and continues to be God’s reassuring presence and faithfulness as he always loves, provides, cares and forgives!

Read more of Kerstin’s thoughts: Coming home as an angry alien, The pain in returning home, The shame in returning home.


Photo credit: vigilant20 (דָרוּך) licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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