Burn Up or Splash Down

Marion Knell

More than sixty percent of former missionaries report that they found returning to live in their 'home country' a negative experience. Many go further, saying that they felt 'devastated' or 'bereaved'. For their children (known as 'third culture kids'), the experience is often even harder. Despite this, relatively few resources exist to help ease this transition. The few resources which do exist tend to be written from a North American perspective.

'Burn up or splash down' helps to fill this gap. The first five chapters describe 're-entry', and provide practical advice on how to prepare for moving back to the passport country, as well as suggestions to assist with coping on arrival. The process of debriefing is also outlined.

Then follow four chapters written especially for 'third culture kids'. As well as telling them what to expect and normalizing their reactions, Marion Knell offers tips about things that will help them to fit in, and provides a list of useful websites. This section may be especially useful for teenagers returning to start university.

Part three of the book contains recommendations for those who can help the missionary family on their arrival home - including people in the organization, the church, and extended family and friends.

The final chapter, on 'pilgrim community', offers biblical examples and principles.

'Burn up or splash down' is clear and easy to read. As such, it should be accessible for older children as well as adults, and for people who speak reasonable but not perfect English. The book contains useful quotes and examples - it is based on the author's own experiences as well as her research and contact with many adults and children who have gone through the process of 're-entry'. It will be especially helpful for people returning to the UK or to Europe. It is practical, realistic and up-to-date.

This is a book which should be given to all returning missionaries - ideally at least six months before their return. It should also be read by all those at 'home' who can offer help. Following the guidance in this book may help reduce the number of people who 'burn up' or 'crash' when they return 'home', and help to make the experience a more positive one. We owe it to missionaries and their families to care for them when they return from serving God overseas. This book will help us to give them the welcome they deserve.

Reviewed by Dr Debbie Hawker

Debbie and her husband David are Christian clinical psychologists who specialize in offering help to missionaries and their families. They are based in the Midlands (England). They can be contacted by email: doctors_hawker@yahoo.co.uk