Building a RAFT before a transition

This is the time of year when many people prepare to leave Japan—whether they are missionaries on home assignment or ending their service, or missionary kids returning to their passport country for college. The late Dave Pollock,an authority on third culture kids (TCKs), transitions and internationally mobile families, prepared very helpful transition materials including this tool to help missionaries and family members leave well.


Imagine building a raft lashing the following four “logs” together before we leave:Raft-Boy




Think Destination


Reconciliation—Any time we face a move from one place to another, it’s easy to deal with tensions in relationships by ignoring them.  We think “I won’t see these people again, so why bother trying to work out our differences?”  When we refuse to resolve our interpersonal conflicts we ignore the whole process of closure and are unable to move on and build the rest of our RAFT.  We carry with us the mental baggage of unresolved problems.  Old discontentment can interfere with starting new relationships.  Reconciliation includes both the need to forgive and be forgiven.  How that is done depends on many factors, but we have to be sure we are doing all we can do to reconcile any broken relationships before leaving.

Affirmation—Acknowledge that each person in our relationships matter.  Do things like tell your coworkers how you have enjoyed working with them, your friends how important their friendship has been, give a note of appreciation to your neighbors for their kindness, reassure your parents and siblings of your love and respect and that you don’t leave them lightly.  Part of closure is acknowledging our blessings—both to rejoice in them and properly mourn their passing.

Farewells—Saying goodbye to people, places, pets, possessions in culturally appropriate ways is important if we don’t want to have deep regrets later.  We need to schedule time for these farewells during the last few days and weeks.  Openly acknowledging this time as a true goodbye is important.  If you have children, be sure you schedule time for them to say goodbye to these significant ones in their lives, as well.

Think Destination—Even as we are saying goodbye, we need to be thinking realistically about our destination.  Where are we going?  What are some positives and negatives we can expect to find once we get there?  What are our external support structures and our internal resources for coping with the problems we might find?  Who can help us adjust?


There is no way we can avoid the chaos and confusion of the transition process.  We can keep in mind that it is normal, and that it will pass if we hang on long enough.  Keep this in mind: Leaving right is a key to entering right.  By preparing our RAFT we can go through proper closure.


For more materials on the transition process see Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worldsby David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken,published by Intercultural Press (available on


About Faith

I serve from Charlotte, North Carolina as the Vice President and Chief People Officer of SIM USA and am acting Director of Member Care. I previously served 30 years in Japan as a missionary with Asian Access. My desire is to see resilient missionaries, prepared, equipped and flourishing as they work out the call of God in their places of service.
This entry was posted in Missionary Care, Reentry, Transitions. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Building a RAFT before a transition

  1. I really benefit from the article.Truly thank you! Keep writing.

  2. Pingback: The best time to start building your RAFT is 4am | everything glorious

  3. Pingback: Transitioning | Planted in the Sky

  4. Pingback: Rafts and Routines: How We are Surviving This Transition – AMY REASONER

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