Reentry Sickness

November 16, 2009 at 3:26 pm 37 comments

No matter how much I wanted to, I didn’t wake up in El Salvador today. My week with Compassion International is over, and I’m grieving that.

I got home Friday night around 11pm and woke Orison (our then-4-year-old) and he greeted me very drowsily. In the morning he didn’t even remember it! But when he woke up Saturday morning, he was FIVE! That’s right, I got home just in time for his birthday.

We spent the day pretty quietly together as a family. But Abraham and I were so tired that by about 5pm we both knew we needed to get out of the house or we were going to be miserable until bedtime. In some random moment of insanity, Abraham suggested that we take Orison to ride a few rides at the Mall of America (something he’s only done a couple times and would be totally thrilled by).

So… it was Saturday night at the Mall of America. Not for the faint of heart, my friends. I don’t think we’d ever been there on a Saturday night before. It was so.stinkin’.busy. So full of people with waaaay too much.

As we were talking toward the amusement park area, I told Abraham, “I’m feeling a little sick to my stomach.”

“Literally?” He asks. (All too often I’m actually sick to my stomach, so he has to make sure….)

“No… more heartsick.”

“So, you’re sick to the stomach of your heart?”


I mean, the day before I was still seeing tin-roofed, dilapidated shacks that people call homes. The day before I was still in the thick of El Salvador and it’s poverty. And I was still there in my heart and mind. But somehow my body was travelling through the Mall of America.

Walking paradox, no?

I keep thinking about objects in space, and how they have to very carefully calculate how the object will reenter the earth’s atmosphere, or else any number of catastrophic ends will result (blowing up, exploding, catching on fire). Perhaps a trip to the Mall of America wasn’t the best reentry strategy.

I’ve already cried a few times today, my emotions just barely below the surface. I feel okay with that, though. If I were just pushing it all down and refusing to let it touch me, that would be unhealthy. My mentor tells me, “Don’t be afraid of tears. Tears are often a sign that the Holy Spirit’s at work.”

So that, for now, is my reentry strategy. Try to let the tears come as they need to. Remember what I saw. And try to avoid the Mall of America.

My El Salvador Posts

Entry filed under: Compassion, Life, Orison, Spoutings, Travel.

What do a bunch of bloggers do in the airport? What’s Compassion’s Theology? Answering Your Compassion Questions, Part 1

37 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Laura @Texas in Africa  |  November 16, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Each time I come back from the Congo, I usually end up in the middle of Target in tears. There are just so many choices.

    Please know that I am praying for you as you re-enter. Not just because you have to function, but also because you need this holy discomfort. The world is not as it should be. You know this now, and you will never be the same.

  • 2. Kelly  |  November 16, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    I’m missing El Salvador a LOT today. I wish I was there right now more than anything.

  • 3. Cara Herzberg  |  November 16, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    It’s hard to believe that both of those worlds can exist at the same time, isn’t it? And now you have experienced too much to really be at home in either of them. Praise the Lord for that. It is his severe mercy that opens our eyes.

  • 4. Erika  |  November 16, 2009 at 5:29 pm


  • 5. Marla Taviano  |  November 16, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Ooooh, Molly. I avoid malls for that very reason. The overwhelming materialism makes me sick to my heart stomach. And that’s just a regular mall. After a normal day. I can’t even imagine the Mall of America after El Salvador. Ouch, ouch. ouch. Praying for you!!

  • 6. pendy  |  November 16, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    I like how Cara put it…that it’s hard to imagine those two worlds coexisting.

  • 7. Hannah Beth  |  November 16, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Praying for your re-entry, Molly. (But I hope your eldest had a happy birthday!)

  • 8. Abraham  |  November 16, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    I like how Erika put it. 🙂

  • 9. Kelly @ Love Well  |  November 16, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Re-entry is tough enough without a trip to the MOA, the “cathedral to materialism,” as my pastor father would say.

    I will pray for the stomach of your heart.

  • 10. Kristy  |  November 16, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Molly – thanks for sharing your heart in all your posts last week. It was a blessing to follow along with you. I was in Guatemala a month ago and I actually texted a friend about a week ago “I hate coming back from mission trips!” 🙂 I just explain it as this space where your heart is so broken yet so full, you are restless and you feel so unprocessed yet recognize that there is no way God can fully process everything you saw in a short amount of time. As much as I am not a fan of this space I’d have it no other way because I know God is at work. Let the tears come and rest in the space – it’s glorious on the other side (that’s what I keep telling myself :)).

  • 11. Monica  |  November 16, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    I lived in Nicaragua for two years and when I first returned to the States grieved the materialism of this “world” I now live in. I’m sad I’ve forgotten how very differently we live from most of the world…

    Thinking of Jose, the young boy, in Nicaragua of course, we support through Compassion and how his world looks. I doubt he has four toothbrushes like my precious daughter.

    Your time in El Salvador has challenged me to reevaluate our life. Thank you…

  • 12. Nikki  |  November 16, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    ooohhhh…that WOULD be hard. I sometimes have a hard time with that kind of stuff and I’ve never even seen true poverty first hand!

  • 13. Gaby  |  November 16, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    Thank you for help my country! Is so encoraging to see your servant heart working in God`s kindom! I bless you my sister… 😀 May God Bless you abundantly !

  • 14. Vanessa  |  November 17, 2009 at 12:52 am

    You’ve reminded me of returning from a Compassion trip to India back home to Australia and the disgust we felt at the materialism around us. It is shocking though to think how easily we slide back into our comfort and richness. Thanks for the reminder of how most of the world’s precious people live. I enjoyed your posts very much and had tears remembering our visit to our girl Devagalla in India. we no longer sponsor her as her project closed down, and the grief of losing her came back as you wrote about saying goodbye to your boy during your trip. goodbyes are so hard when you’ve said goodbye to your own child. I understand.

  • 15. Sara Hintz  |  November 17, 2009 at 1:01 am

    Molly, heartsick… I believe it. Wow, what a whirlwind of emotions you still must be feeling. I will pray that you will find a way to balance it all. God will continue to use the experience that you had for His glory I am sure.

    I have to tell you the video of you meeting Hector was just precious. Wow, the love he felt for you and you for him, was so obvious. I am so glad you got to meet him in person. We have a sweet little girl in Ecuador and a boy in the Phillipines. It would be so special to meet them someday… I am so glad you got the chance. Now rest up and enjoy the time being back with your sweet family.

  • 16. whittakerwoman  |  November 17, 2009 at 7:49 am

    My friend, I miss you! I was wondering how you were yesterday. Just continue to process it and talk it out. All of this is normal. I miss seeing the energy that those people gave you. The joy beautiful. It was so great to go along side of you on this trip and get to meet Hector! H

  • 17. Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks&Me  |  November 17, 2009 at 10:04 am

    I remember reading a book by a former missionary who moved back to the United States. She said it took her weeks to get over the culture shock (albeit she had been living in a third world country for awhile).

    She said once a person has seen the poverty elsewhere in the world, they can never feel comfortable in the midst of such waste and materialism as she found when she came back home.

  • 18. greenchickadee  |  November 17, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    happy birthday to orison!

    and I can completely relate to that sick feeling. truthfully, it’s the holy spirit pulling your heart. i grew up a missionary kid and although I love nice things and live in a very blessed world, I never ever forget how others are living. ever. it pulls at me often. just keep listening to that “sickness” and don’t let everything else blind you to the cotton-candy world we live in here in America.

    your kids will grow up with a deep appreciation of others plight too, especially knowing about your personal experiences!
    blessings to you this holiday season! glad you’re back safe!

  • 19. Juli Jarvis  |  November 17, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    What a great way to explain this paradox. I remember feeling the same way in the Miami Airport after returning from a Compassion trip to Haiti and the DR. I literally felt sick at my stomach. Such a huge contrast; who can understand it unless you’ve been there for yourself?

  • 20. MrsMK  |  November 17, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Oh, Molly!

    I am often sick with this feeling…and lots of times it is directed at myself! It has been almost 10 years since I was in Nepal, and sometimes I take a mental trip back there to recover a sense of reality.

    We are

  • 21. Shaun Groves  |  November 17, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    I love you and I’m praying for you. If it’s any comfort: I’ve been on six trips with Compassion and every time I come home I’m a little sick to the stomach of my heart too. Actually, I don’t know that this sickness ever goes away between trips. But it’s the sickness that fuels my passion for those kids, their moms and dads, and their Jesus. It’s a productive ache.

    p.s. I’m renting The Sound of Music just because of you ; )

  • 22. Mel  |  November 18, 2009 at 6:15 am

    My husband and I are anticipating “reentry” next summer when we leave Indonesia, where we’ve been for almost five years, and move back to the U.S. I can’t even begin to imagine it. Living among poverty truly makes you stop and reevaluate what’s important. I’ll be praying for you as you process the life-changing things you’ve been blessed to be a part of. As my heart aches for those around me, I am reminded to stop and thank God for the opportunity to be part of what He’s doing. Allow this experience to change you forever; I know that my hubby and I are changed–and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks for sharing your heart and your tears.

  • 23. Elizabeth Esther  |  November 18, 2009 at 11:07 am

    For me, the mall is a bad idea on a good day.

    On emotional days, the mall is just about the worst place on the planet.

    I know it might sound morbid, but on really hard days I go to the cemetery or a Catholic Church. The quietness restores my soul. And if anyone sees you–they almost expect you to be crying.

    Hugs to you, precious friend.

  • 24. Ann Voskamp @ Holy Experience  |  November 18, 2009 at 11:39 am

    And Jesus sees El Salvador… and Jesus sees us in North America.

    Does He too feel sick?

    I think your heart beats with His, Molly….

    Tears brimming….

  • 25. bobsouer  |  November 18, 2009 at 12:27 pm


    I try to get back to the third wold every 5 years or so, just to make sure I never forget that all we have isn’t the way most people live. And to remember that there’s a great spiritual poverty here in the USA that many of your brothers and sisters in Christ in the third wold don’t have because they’re not drowning in all this stuff.

    God bless you,

  • 26. Lauren  |  November 18, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    If you can, I’d also suggest avoiding Cub Foods for a few days. I lived in Ethiopia last year and just about had a panic attack when I walked back in there for first time. Maybe hit up one of the little Latino markets on Lake Street to ease your way back in to American grocery surplus. 🙂

  • 27. Tara  |  November 20, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Don’t you know that you’re supposed to try to avoid the Mall of America at ALL times? The kiddie play area at Southdale is entirely less stressful! 🙂

    But seriously, thank you for this perspective-giving post. I’m sure I will think of this as the Christmas shopping season is upon us.

    • 28. nmwally  |  November 20, 2009 at 2:30 pm

      There is a kiddie play area at Southdale?!

  • 29. deb t  |  November 22, 2009 at 11:57 am

    I’ve only been to the MOA a few times and I couldn’t help but think of Vanity Fair in Pilgrim’s Progress.
    Thanks for being so honest and real. It challenges me and encourages me at the same time.
    Blessings to you!

  • 30. Ken M.  |  November 22, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    I returned from a tour to Brazil with Compassion International about 5 weeks ago and I’m still missing Brazil. I am longing to see my 5 sponsored children again. I miss the sights, the smells, the food. And it really touched my heart to be around their parents who are thankful for everything I am doing for their children. Even after 5 weeks, when I tell others about my trip I still cry.
    After I stepped off the airplane, took the metro home and walked into my apartment, I felt a lot of anger. I work in a local school system and many of the parents have high profile jobs: doctors, lawyers, government workers. Many of them will not hesitate to sue the school system if their don’t get that extra 1/2 hour of Special Education services or other services that they feel their child is entitled to receive. They will keep you in a meeting up to 2 hours even though it takes away the service time of another child. When I was in Brazil one of my children’s mother was thanking me because she was able to buy her son a pair of shoes with the money I sent. When I compared the families on my job to the families I saw in Brazil I couldn’t see the fairness. One group appreciates everything you do while another seems so ungrateful.
    I have been praying to use the anger and my experience in Brazil in a positive way.

  • 31. MamasBoy  |  November 22, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Are you going to answer the questions from the beginning of your trip?

    • 32. Molly Piper  |  November 22, 2009 at 11:13 pm

      Yeah, I hope to get to those questions soon. Thanks for your interest.

      • 33. MamasBoy  |  November 24, 2009 at 12:34 pm

        Thanks for taking the time to do so. I’ve been sponsoring one kid through Compassion for nearly a decade now, and still don’t have a clear picture on some things.

  • 34. Becky Howell  |  November 23, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    I read your post with tears in my eyes. I can completely relate. I remember returning from Nigeria and opening my fridge for breakfast the next morning and being bowled over by emotions. I have a fridge.. full of food for me to choose from… and electric to keep it cold. I was grateful for seeing my surroundings with fresh eyes upon my return, but it wasn’t without heartache. And sadly enough, my eyes dim to what we have around us, I grow accustomed to our prosperity and lavish lives as Americans. Thank you for renewing my ‘fresh eyes’ – what a timely gift as we celebrate Thanksgiving this week.

  • 35. Allen  |  November 24, 2009 at 1:05 am

    I’m going to sponsor a child starting in January 2010. Thanks for you and Abraham’s posts the past few weeks on the needs of these children through Compassion. Thank you so much.

  • 36. Kristin  |  November 24, 2009 at 11:40 am

    The worst for me (after coming back from Africa) is always the grocery store. We have hundreds of different styles, types, bakes, etc of bread, for cryin’ out loud. Just the bread aisle is enough to do me in. That’s before we get to the meat aisle…all that meat. And then the produce section sends me over the top. Vegetables of more than two varieties…amazing.

    Last trip, I came back and was absolutely both fascinated and enthralled by the street sweeper that cleans our (paved) road without fail every Monday between 7pm and 2 am. People here get paid to sweep our (paved) roads. Wow!

    But…I always realize how much we lack here too. In joy, in community, in strength of family, in depth of conversation. Hm.

  • 37. Kristin  |  November 24, 2009 at 11:47 am

    PS — totally, completely unrelated…do you ever do book reviews? i’m reading 3 cups of tea…noticed you are too and wondered if you had ever thought about reviewing the books you place in your sidebar — i am always interested in recommendations and you tend to read a pretty good variety it seems…? just curious!


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