Minnesota is my current base of operation where I am having my first Home Assignment (or furlough) since going to Brazil in October of 2007, but the whole process of a home assignment feels a bit like being in the ‘land in-between’ – meaning not sure of where you really fit.
A Home Assignment, I have learned, is “an integral, inseparable part of the work of a missionary, to be entered into as seriously as any other part of his/her vocation. In the Church at home, there is not any recurring period in a career comparable to the missionary’s furlough. The man or woman who works at home has no opportunity each four or seven years to become a new man or woman, and perhaps this is one of the chief causes of the staleness amongst us which we deplore. For the missionary, home assignment is enforced because of the combined effect on body and spirit of alienation from home, climate and unequal battle against evil.”
For me, I personally experienced a strong spiritual battle in the last year that left me needing to come back to the States for a time of spiritual, emotional, and physical recovery. I needed rest, time with family, and time to get centered and re-focused on the next steps that God has for me. I have been blessed to receive wise counsel and prayers from close friends, family and supporters – without them, I would still be in the ‘desert’. I thank God for each and every one of these servants.
I imagine most of you have seen the movie “The Return of the King” (Lord of the Rings). The last segment of this movie shows the four Hobbits in a pub clinking their mugs together – no one else in the room had any idea what they had been through.
This is a great analogy of what missionaries coming together for a debrief session experience – we get together with our suitcases filled with experiences, feelings, hopes, griefs, uncertainties, and questions. And then those items get unloaded at a debrief session, amongst others who know, like no one else on the ‘outside’, what it is like to travel the road we’ve been on.
Debriefing is a Biblical idea, practiced by Paul and the Antioch church (Acts 14:27) Peter (Acts 11:4) and Timothy (from Paul, I Thes. 3:1-6) among others. I was blessed to be able to visit my mission headquarters in Colorado for a debrief session with other missionaries back in the States on home assignments. This was a great time to verbalize thoughts, feelings, experiences; to normalize in a group of people who understand what you have been through, and to contextualize – putting these experiences into the context of our lives and seeing how God is using them to prepare us for the future.
I have had the opportunity to share about my ministry work with church groups and some of my donors, as well as attend a retreat with Brazilian women who live here in Minnesota, which was really neat. At one event I attended, I went as a guest, but one of the speakers didn’t show up; the coordinator heard I was a missionary and asked if I wanted to share ‘last second’. The missionary motto “be prepared to preach, pray or die” certainly took on new meaning for me then! I enjoyed getting to meet new friends.
Brazilian Ladies retreat
College Missions Fair – talking to college students about missions
Enjoying time reconnecting with family
Enjoying my first autumn in 5 years!
I think missionaries have a unique perspective on time, as we regularly make transitions between places so different, seemingly popping in and out of a parallel universe rather than traveling across the same planet. These transitions are good reminders that we are sojourners engaged in eternal matters, aware of the brevity of life.