Saturday, June 1, 2013

This summer is not the time for furlough!

As the summer rolls in the reality hits that the furlough we planned is not going to happen. Over the years, as my husband and I have served as missionaries in East Africa, we would often talk about what it would be like if we ever moved back to the U.S. I remember that I always said if we do move back to  America we will have to furlough in Africa! So last year as we were planning our return to the U.S for a season, we also began to plan our first furlough.

For those of you who do not know what a furlough is let me help define it for you. I do not really like Webster's definition--"leave of absence; temporary release of imprisonment ( unfortunately, I think some  of us missionaries have related to this during our early years); temporary layoff'.

Let me first say what furlough is not...a vacation! Although it can be a break from your work in the field that you are serving in, there is a lot of work one does on furlough as you speak in different churches sharing about what God has done since your last furlough; reporting on what has been done and assessing future goals and dreams;discovering much needed funds:depending on the ages of your children....looking at potential universities they might want to attend, taking care of doctors visits you may have to supplement, health issues--i.e. surgeries,  shopping for supplies until you return next, and reconnecting with family and friends. I am just tiered thinking about all the different things furlough is.

 I always would have mixed feelings about furloughs. I would look forward to connecting with family and friends and enjoying many of the foods and entertainment  etc ...we missed.... but would dread living out of suitcases; dealing with the stress of communicating well so that there was some understanding of what you were doing. Early on most of our furloughs were crisis management rather than proactively planned. This added a whole new level of stress to furloughs.
What we felt we looked like as would show up on someones doorstep!

We have also dealt with more than our share of health challenges on some of our furloughs. Many of our furloughs were spent either living with family or on the road staying with supporters or as our family grew --crammed into hotels. We had some furloughs that we had the luxury of having a furnished apartment or house to ourselves. ( A big thanks to all those families and supports that made this a possibility!) Those times worked best...even though we would be in someones home for dinner ( or out to eat) each night we would have a place to come back to and just be our selves. It is hard sometimes always being 'On" --telling the same stories over and over. Our family has some great memories from all of our furloughs through the years. I think it brought us closer and we have bonded through both the good,bad and the ugly...that only road trips can bring. I remember once when our oldest was preschool age and was asked to draw her home as we were on a furlough, she drew a picture of our van!

There is a lot  of different practice out there amongst  evangelical missionaries as to how long and how often one should take furloughs. We did all sorts through the years.  Our longest tour we did was 3 and 1/2 years but usually they were 2 years and our furloughs have ranged from 3 months to 12 months. I noticed a new trend towards the end of our time of short 6 to 8 weeks furlough every year in the summer time. I can see especially with school age children that this makes things a bit easier.

As we were planning our first furlough back to East Africa , I thought this new trend might work best for our family. We could return during the summers back to Africa. At the time I think this was the only way we could leave Rwanda was knowing we would be back for a visit in one years time. Well lots of things have been differently than we had expected for our transition. ( I will save that for another blog)

We are going to have to move out of our temporary furnished Missionary Furlough home on July 15... We have some ideas of were we are moving to and some on going conversations but nothing for sure yet. I know if we were going on furlough back to Rwanda  this summer we would not return back to the States so I hear the wisdom of Mission organizations and old - time missionaries that would advise that you try and have a longer first tour and discourage going on a furlough after only one year.

We are still finding our way here and looking for our place ....learning about the culture here....trying to meet as many folks as we can and asking the missionary questions where is God working and where does he want me to join him in here? As much as I am sad about not going "home ' now I know that this summer is not the time for furlough!