There is no feeling like feeling helpless. You are in a situation that must change, but you are powerless to do anything about it. If the situation becomes prolonged, the feeling of helplessness can turn into stress, desperation, and even resentment. Something must be done.
Missionaries around the world have approached their time for furlough, after spending three or four years on their present term, but they cannot leave the field. Their families need furlough. Their emotional strength is draining. Their supporting churches need visiting, but there is no one to take the work while they are gone. The work is not ready to become indigenous. Some missionaries have left their work for a year, only to return to a work that has fallen apart. They must begin all over again. To avoid this, some missionaries have gone six or seven years (or more) without a furlough. What can be done? What are some options that missionaries can consider?
Turn the work over to a national pastor – This is what every missionary wants to do before he leaves for furlough, but this is often not possible, because there is no one qualified or reliable.
Turn the work over to a fellow missionary – This is a great option, but is only possible if there are other missionaries, and if they are available to leave their present work or carry the load of both works.
Request assistance from a retired pastor – We have seen this work in fields that are English-speaking. However, with a qualified translator on hand, perhaps it could be an option in other countries as well.
Arrange monthly visits from another missionary or national pastor – If the work is far enough along that a lay leader can conduct Bible studies or even preach, this can be a workable alternative. The church can carry on temporarily and still receive spiritual guidance on a regular basis from a more mature and experienced pastor.
Take shorter terms and shorter furloughs – This is an option that has becoming more and more popular in recent years. For example, instead of four-year terms and one-year furloughs, some are taking two-year terms and four- to six-month furloughs. It has many advantages: the work is not left for such long time, the missionary family can see relatives on a more frequent basis, furloughs are not so draining on the family, and other missionaries can commit to helping for a shorter time.
There are no “pat answers” or perfect ways to take a furlough. Every term is different; every mission field is different. However, if one can plan ahead, there are often more options than one realizes. But that is key: plan ahead.
There are no convenient times to take a furlough. There will always be things to be done. There will often be a price that is paid in the work. However, we must remember that it is the Lord’s work and He will care for His people – even in our absence. We must be diligent in preparing ahead for when furlough time comes, then trust the work to His care. Whatever your situation, the Lord will work it out in His time.
What furlough options have you found to be helpful? Share them in the comments below.
2 thoughts on “Help! I Need A Furlough”
We don’t really take traditional furloughs. We go to the states for 2-3 weeks every year to year and a half maybe, but we really enjoy our life on the field. To take off for anything longer would so disrupt our real life that it is much more of a burden than anything helpful or refreshing. Also, most of our churches stay in contact with us through our blog and Facebook, to the point where a face to face visit is rushed and actually an expensive waste of time.
Another factor I’ve noticed is that the more a missionary is back in the States, the more likely they move back permanently. I think this is due in large part to the mental and emotional strain of adjusting to both cultures over and over again.
Our strategy with our family has been to not think of the States as home or as anything more than a vacation place where the grandmas live. Our home is on the field and just as nobody in the States would consider leaving their home and city and career for 3, 6 or especially 12 months, we would never think of that either.
Of course we balance this by celebrating US holidays and making sure our kids have a great education so they will succeed in the US as adults, but that’s a whole different thread.
Excellent thoughts! Thanks so much for your faithfulness and dedication to God’s Work in Guatemala!