December each year Australia sees many of its sons and daughters returning home for good having spent some years living overseas and there are some common experiences once home.
Our son spent seven years in England. He went over on a family visa as his grand-ma was British (to her bootstraps, supporting the English cricketers), and eventually was granted permanent residency. He came home on four occasions, two family weddings, a family holiday to New Zealand and a friend's wedding.
He finally returned home at the end of 2010 and his decision was based on his own thinking. First he saw so many younger Australians in that time come to England, spent two years and then head home. After witnessing this time and time again at farewell functions, home tied began to emerge.
Philosophically, he didn't really want to make his life in England, meaning a wife and eventually a family, he saw that part of his life in the free open air of life in Australia with its remarkable climate, open spaces, great beaches, long distances .... What's saying: You can take the boy out of the country but not the country out of the boy.
He had visited most of western Europe, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the Americas all those cheap airfares, playing soccer or even cricket on ice in Estonia, went to his ancestral country in Norway, but in reality his career path in England he figured did not have the same opportunity as in Australia where performance took precedence.
He did his homework about coming home to Australia. Many of his friends (boys and girls) over the last three years of his England sojourn had returned home and their experiences were varied. Some had family connections where they went straight into a job. Others went back to their original career and work places which they had retained connections and eventually found work.
But for the most part, his friends had struggled. There were emotional issues to deal with. The English pub is a social experience, a family amongst families, everyone came and chatted and you as a person became known as part of that family. There is no equivalent in Australia. That is a huge connection lost.
Friends of some years involving travelling, sport and work get truncated in an instant and there is no way such friendships and camaraderie in Australia can be reinvented in an instant. Those back in Australia have moved on. The returnee has experienced so much from their overseas travels that they too are different people.
Families are different. Family expectations are huge. Family members have got married and some with children, and now with very different connections. Parents have little idea of the struggles and dilemmas of those returning.
Yet there was a tug of home that became so overwhelming that returning was a no-brainer, it had to happen, a new life had to be forged, and regardless of the difficulties it was an old-new adventure. So many things are familiar, yet unfamiliar. So many unsaid expectations and social mores in England do not apply in Australia and vice versa.
Our son spoke of such things as he spoke to his friends. Being raised as a PK (Pastor's Kid) and ministering to such returnees over the years, he knew of my interest of such emotional issues and we discussed these at length on his return. It took him a little while, but as he was in banking in England, he slotted back into that industry and has been a branch manager now for some years.
Until they get home
It was therefore interesting as a Minister of 38 years to recently read an article in the Huffington Post by Lauren Baldwin. The title was "Not all who wander are lost (Until they get home.)" Baldwin identifies four stages of returning home.
I like her final sentence: "Your travel experiences become a part of you. As soon as you learn you don't have to leave it all behind, and simply add it to who you are, you'll feel better. You can move on and get excited about the next journey life has in store for you."
This is almost on cue for those people who come to refreshing new exciting conversion to becoming a follower of Jesus. Repentance to the Lord and His forgiveness changes everything and in some sense all that has gone before has become part of you, it is moulded into your new life in Christ.
Those young people returning home to Australia need some TLC as they readjust. So too new Christians, followers of Jesus, likewise need Christian nurturing – this transformation is exciting and challenging and a whole fresh encounter with life.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html