We recently announced that we are planning a one-year ministry home assignment next year. While this is still nine months away, we wanted to share how we are making plans for this intentional time in the United States.
First, let me say it has been almost nine years since we last spent significant time in the States and thirteen years since we have lived there. Thirteen years ago, we left the United States to serve in church planting in Papua New Guinea. Nine years ago, we were on medical leave in the States, which led to our transition from serving in Papua New Guinea to serving in Mexico.
This does not mean we have not traveled to the U.S. for nine years. We are able to travel up for different reasons because of our proximity to the U.S. (a four-hour drive from Chihuahua to El Paso!). For example, last spring, we went to California for my seminary graduation and Missouri for a language coaching workshop. Over the past few years, we have traveled up to Beth’s parents’ house on the border of New Mexico for Christmas. Aside from these short trips, we also spent a month and a half in Oregon one summer and then two months in Michigan another summer. This would have been impossible when we were serving in Papua New Guinea.
In any case, why are we taking a yearlong ministry home assignment? The primary purpose of this time is to reconnect with supporters and supporting churches and to trust the Lord for new ministry partners. It will also allow us to spend quality time in our sending church, Grace Point, give our children a chance to experience life in the American culture before leaving home one day and take a long rest from the demands of cross-cultural ministry.
Our organization recommends taking one-year ministry home assignments every four years (or six months every two years) for the abovementioned purposes. We have never done this because it is difficult to uproot for a year, especially with the kids’ schooling.
To prepare for this home assignment, we are working on the following areas:
- We are currently in the process of planning for how to hand off our various ministry responsibilities before we depart.
- We need someone to live in our house in Chihuahua while we are away, including paying the monthly rent. (Thankfully, the Lord has already provided a place to stay while we are living in southeast Michigan!)
- We are most likely going to be homeschooling Jude and Iris. Jude will be in tenth grade, and Iris in eighth grade.
- We are working with a partnership development coach helping us prepare for support raising again.
Here are some answers to questions you may have:
Is this a One-Year vacation? No! Though there will be built-in time for extended intentional rest, we are still working as full-time members of our mission organization with specific responsibilities while in the United States.
Will You Still Be Missionaries? Yes. We will still be members of Ethnos360 serving the field of Mexico, but we will be focusing on a different ministry assignment for the year.
Will You Get a Job While You Are in the States? Ministry home assignment functions as one part sabbatical and three parts partnership development. Because of this, we will still be working as members of our mission organization.
Will You Still Need Monthly Support? Yes! While on ministry home assignment, we are still working and will still have the same needs as when on the field.
What are we looking forward to most about our yearlong home assignment in the States?
- Tom: Being back with our home church, Grace Point, and hanging out with old friends.
- Beth: Reconnecting with friends and our church. Experiencing drastic season changes again (especially fall!). Catching up on American culture and relearning how to live in the USA.
- Jude: Being in an English context. Going to youth group at our church.
- Iris: Being a part of youth group, getting involved at church, and being in a place where everyone speaks English.
We appreciate your prayers for our family as we prepare for this one-year ministry home assignment. There is some trepidation in it because we have never done it before. We do not know what the Lord has in store, but we are confident that we rest in His loving hands. It will be a big transition for our children, and we do not know how they will adjust, but He knows them and how to love them well.
Feel free to ask any question in the comments below, or if you are a missionary yourself, what have you learned about home assignment, and what advice would you give? Let us know!