With only one month left until we return in Papua New Guinea, we are wrapping up life in the US and getting ready to transition our family once again. As always, we do this with a mix of sadness at leaving, but at the same time with anticipation for what the Lord has in store for us in PNG.
We recently came across an interesting blog post that we thought would be helpful to share. Since we are nearing the end of our furlough, we are posting this not so much for our benefit but more to give you ideas on how you can understand and be a blessing to other missionaries you know. While we can’t vouch for other things this author (Jason Carter) has written, he does a good job here of explaining what missionaries often go through on furlough.
In my own experience, church members often appreciate missionaries, admire their sacrifice for the Gospel and think highly of their ministries. Yet it’s hard to understand that returning for furlough to one’s “home” country can be a highly exhausting and stressful experience for many missionary families. Between the tension-filled task of an international move, setting up a new place to live, a frenzied travel schedule and finding one’s missionary budget stretched to the limit, a missionary faces a multitude of challenges during furlough.
Many missionaries that I know get reprimanded by their mission leaders to physically rest, spiritually recharge, invest in their marriages and reflect on ministry practices during furlough. These are formidable challenges amidst busy schedules. To borrow a phrase from Henry Nouwen, many missionaries come home on furlough as “wounded healers” who desperately need the body of Christ during their home assignment.
Recently, Jason Helopoulos challenged us to be like Philemon in encouraging the hearts of the Lord’s people. The apostle Paul commended Philemon as embodying traits which refreshed the body of Christ: “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people” (Philemon 1:7).
What would it look like for the body of Christ to refresh the hearts of missionaries on furlough? Here are a few practical ways that you can serve those who serve:
If you would like some ideas of how to encourage and bless a missionary that you know, you can read the rest of this blog article here.
Please continue to pray for us as we pack, say our goodbyes and prepare to fly across the ocean to our “other home” in PNG. And to those of you who have been a blessing to us while we have been on furlough – we say a very big “THANK YOU”!