Furlough may seem like a strange thing to many non-missionaries. After all, most other people don't get to just take months "off" from their jobs and still get paid, right?
In truth, in many different ways, it's not really time "off," as we use this time to raise funds, build relationships with donors, and speak at churches so that we can (a) share what God is doing in other contexts and how the Great Commission is being fulfilled, and (b) go back to the field without financial worries about how our ministry programs will be funded, or where our next paycheck will come from and. Although we now have so many ways to communicate from a distance electronically, that's a mixed blessing, because it gets harder and harder to get people's attention in midst of the constant noise. We live in a world with unprecedented distractions at our fingertips. There's just nothing like face-time (not the app, but actually being together in person) for sharing your passion.
In addition to these aspects of furlough, we'll also have a formal staff role at JBU shepherding missionary kids and international students in attendance there, helping them with the myriad transitions that must be made in a move to the U.S. from outside the country. This role is called Missionaries-in-Residence (or MIRs for the hip), and while it doesn't pay a salary, we will be provided with a furnished house to live in and certain tuition benefits for our kids during the year we are there. While an official State-side role is not always an aspect of furlough, finding a way to bless those in the U.S. with all you have learned is generally considered a good way to grow God's kingdom during furlough, and this one really fits.
However, all that said, there IS also an aspect of "rest" to furlough in terms of getting some healthy distance from your sometimes-bizarre "normal." What do we have to rest from?
Undoubtedly, many people work very hard in the U.S. But adding the above stressors to a heavy workload can put missionaries into a tailspin if they don't hit the reset button every now and then. I wish it were different and we could perfectly follow Christ in selflessness, humility, kindness, and patience, without needing these crutches of security, comfort, and receiving from others. Certainly this life teaches us how weak we are, but that's not always a bad thing, since it is when we are weak that God is shown strong.
Quote of the month
""At the margins is the only place the Church will have credibility."