The pain 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 second of four blog posts, Kerstin reflects on her experience with pain in times of transition and culture shock.

In my first blog post I described how the acknowledgment of feeling angry was a helpful first step in overcoming it. I needed to stop analysing and blaming others. There is no better guide than the word of God to help in this process. It is like a mirror confronting me with who I am, but at the same time treating me with kindness, grace and mercy. 

Anger is a feeling that frequently features in the Bible. What a relief! I am in good company with kings, prophets, the disciples and even Jesus. If getting angry is part and parcel of life, who am I to deny it? However, in most cases where anger is mentioned in the Bible we are told to get rid of it. God knows that righteous anger is rather rare. It did not take me long to realise that my anger was more harmful than helpful. It was like a weed: finding its roots would be the first and most important step to control it. 

Jonathan Parnell says that ‘in one degree or another, anger is our response to whatever endangers something we love.’ This observation has really helped me to analyse and better understand the roots of my anger. It is helpful to ask, ‘what matters to me so much that I react so strongly?’ There are as many reasons to become angry as there are people. I have identified three common reasons: pain, shame and guilt. In this blog post I would like to focus on pain.

I expected the pain of missing my friends, routines, ministry and church. I knew I would be going through stages of grief and that anger was part of that. But it’s always the things that you don’t anticipate that cause you most problems. 

Africa is a young continent. The average age in Namibia is 21. At the age of 50 I was an old person. In the supermarket people would direct me to the till for the elderly so that I didn’t have to queue. Our social life revolved around those who were 10-30 years younger than us. Young people considered it an honour to spend time with us because they value the experience and wisdom that often comes with age. 

In Scotland, I quickly realised the difference in attitude. From being looked up to in Namibia and invited to give talks at young women’s events, I was now being politely ignored by young people. I went from being treated as a mother (because any married woman is considered a mother in Namibia) to being very conscious that I was not meant to attend any of the family events at church because I do not have any children. Since the average age in Scotland is 42 and the average age of churchgoers is 61, I am now being welcomed as a young-ish person.  

As I analysed the age issue, I asked myself what was at stake that I truly loved? In Namibia I loved the fact that getting older was considered a privilege, a true gift from God. Some women literally bragged about the fact that they had reached the age of 50 or 60. I also loved spending time with young people. It not only made me feel younger, I also loved being respected and appreciated by them. What was at stake was my attitude towards my own age, my need for love and acceptance, my fear of ageing faster than I wanted to.

This is just one of many examples of pain as the result of change and loss. Once a feeling is analysed and acknowledged, God can correct and comfort me through his word. I have since experienced his love and acceptance in a much deeper way than through any human being. This is an important step towards a healing process. I am so grateful to our friends who have patiently listened and expressed empathy. In processing these thoughts, I began to accept what I could not change and asked Jesus to show me how he wanted me to serve him in this new context. 

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