Oh, the days of getting ready for missionary furlough…
“Can you facetime?” came my sister’s text across my phone while I prepared for my daily run.
“I’m at Goodwill. 50% off winter coats and clothing.”
or something like the above conversation. It happened twice yesterday. Browsing through the clothing racks over the phone while my sister looks like she is talking to herself as she goes through the store.
And it prompted a funny list that has been building in my head for a while now.
You know you are prepping for missionary furlough when…
1} You are on facetime with your sister while she is shopping sales for you so you can have the appropriate winter wear when you get stateside and are trying not to freeze.
2} You have a cute little countdown app going on your phone and your mom asks each day “How many more days?”
3} You have a fight song to get you through the chaos.
4} You are trying to imagine your dog without his family for a year. Will he remember us all when we get back?
5} You wonder how on earth the ants, geckos and cockroaches will not completely take over the house while we are gone?
6} You are trying to eat down all the groceries in the house, gauge if you have enough coffee to make it 3.5 more months, and any hidden American treat stashes are getting ransacked for goods.
7} You say things like, “It’s ok. Just wear it with the hole in it. You’ll get a new one in America soon.” and “Sorry they are tight… I’m not paying $120 for something that I can buy in America in a few months for $10.”
8} You also say things like, “Girls, you will have to actually wear shoes soon, you realize that, right?” and “No, you won’t have super tall, super huge baobabs to climb on either.”
9} You and your husband have conversations about staying up all night long in the living room to watch TV with ZERO mosquitoes attacking you. Glorious.
10} You start taking inventory of everyone’s clothing and quickly realize that you really only need one, maybe two suitcases for clothes on the trip home to missionary furlough.
11} You remind the kids that they need to be thinking about what toys they are done with now that they are older. What toys are for giveaway. What toys do they want to store at Grandma’s and need to fly home. What toys do they want to leave in their room for when they get back? Tough stuff for these kiddos. Then, they remind you of which stuffed animals are the chosen few who will ride in the airplane with them and need a passport before we leave.
12} You are talking to 3 schools at once. The current European school in Africa about the girls leaving. The next school in Michigan about how potentially interesting my girls could be as students next year as they think 10 or 12 out of 20 is a good score on a test. And they haven’t really had homework in about 3 years. You are also talking to the school they will go to when you get back on field because you’ll have a high schooler and need to start figuring out how classes from the year in America will fit into the international school here.
13} You have a list of things to take back home. Itineration table decorations, small gifts, thank yous, preaching illustrations, kids camp displays, traditional clothing for missions conventions, an ataya tea set… some of the girls’ school work and projects, education history, medical papers from 3 countries across 2 continents to show doctors in the states, and on and on it goes.
14} You have a list of things to do before you leave. Work, house details, pastors to meet with, finance planning for the next 4 years, churches still to visit… plus a ton of goodbyes.
15} You have a list of things you need to bring back from America! And this list is constantly changing in your head. From “Ugh!! Next term, I want a REAL couch!” to “Seriously, we need a deep freezer. There are beetles in everything.” to sunscreen, bug spray, medicine, essential oils, vitamins, gluten free things, nuts, chocolate chips, taco seasoning… oh, and the girls need clothing and shoes for 4 YEARS.
16} You freak out because these lists mean money. And time. And shopping. That fits where in the schedule OR the budget? Seriously! We are on missionary furlough!
17} You fall on your face in praise and thanks because the family of God stands with you.
18} You get asked frequently, “Are you excited about going home?” And the word home is slightly muddied right now. As is the excitement because the to do list is so great, the schedule will be so demanding and different from life right now.
Also read… How to Drive an Expat Crazy by Jerry Jones
19} Your kids are pondering what this means for them… another new school, more goodbyes, another big transition, seeing friends they haven’t seen in a long time knowing so much has changed for everyone. They’ve grown up. They can’t wait. Yet, they love Africa.
20} You start thinking about how much help you need to keep life going here while you are gone. Someone to hold money so the guard can pay the water bill. Someone to take the dog. Someone to have money for my sweet friend who will fight back the ants while I’m not here. Someone to randomly drive our truck. Someone to keep our papers up to date. Someone to…
21} You start thinking about the reports that say going home is the hardest thing to do. Harder than leaving, harder than staying… re-entry is huge. That Walmart will be overwhelming, we won’t know how to order at a restaurant, we won’t know how to reconnect, we will be strangers in our own land, we will have bits and pieces of language running through our mouths at odd moments, we will need time… And I wonder if it will be true for us? for my girls? And can we do another “this is even harder” thing?
22} You dream of Chick-fil-A sauce. And Chili’s chips and salsa.
23} You pray that your fridge stays alive while you are gone.
24} You have to prepare way ahead yet you really can’t actually DO anything for awhile. It’s all in your head and then all of the sudden you realize “Wait! That paper is due!” or “Yikes… we can purchase airline tickets now.” or “I need to call the school about fall 2018 for Elayna!”
25} You take a peak at Target.com just to browse and see what is actually in style right now. And you kind of freak out because your whole family has no idea about fashion anymore.
26} You dress up in business casual for prayer card pictures, feel way overdressed and, after realizing it is the first time the kids have worn actual jeans (and only two are in jeans because only 2 had a pair that fit. 1 single pair of jeans that fit) in a VERY long time, say, “Girls, we will actually dress like this almost every day in America… can you believe that? Like do our hair every day? Match and wear shoes?” and they look at you like that is the weirdest thing ever.
27} You’ve called the dentist and made appointments for all 5 of you and told them its been 3 years since we had a good cleaning.
28} You have a list of more doctors to call… eye checks, ENT, physicals, immunizations…
29} You have the passports out one day and see the dates. You’ll all need new passports, as they expire when you are home. Also, an updated driver’s license… yep.
30} You can’t look at the picture of you leaving for your current term. Your heart can’t take the picture of your family walking away at the airport. It reminds you that this is temporary. There will be another leaving, another transition and another long set of years away from home in our new home.
31} You dream of hitting Chicago, getting through customs and setting feet on American soil. All without any of these problems from our last big continental flight.
32} You have a bunch of different conversations going at once. Email, text, messaging… trying to find them all, keep them straight and make sure all the info from each conversation is correct. Who are you waiting on a response from? Who do you need to respond to? And on what avenue of social media? Scheduling Skype meetings to plan summer events.
33} You start to memorize your upcoming year on missionary furlough as the dates fill in, the places get confirmed and events get scheduled.
34} You smile just thinking about dinner with friends who know you and dessert at Cold Stone. You feel cozy just thinking about snow falling while you sip coffee in Panera. You get excited just imagining this year’s Thanksgiving with family. You can’t wait to wake up to your mom making coffee and FoxNews on the TV. Your dad asking for big breakfast and the girls snuggled in their beds at grandma’s house. Plenty of s’mores this fall.
With real American marshmallows and graham crackers… delish.
35} You feel the immense weight of trying to explain our lives here, what we do here, how we live here, the darkness here, the deep need for Jesus here, the obstacles in the path of the gospel and the job it will take to break through.
36} You already have plans with your missionary friends stateside and can’t wait to see them.
37} You are sad that some of your missionary friends won’t be stateside when you are which means another long set of years before you see them again in person.
38} You start to get very excited thinking about church and worship in ENGLISH. And have a feeling you’ll just plain cry through the whole thing.
39} Your kids ask things like, “When we are in America, will they have Vimto?”
40} You ponder all these things and treasure them in your heart. The questions, the process, the wonderings, the excitement, the sadness, the friends in new places, the decisions, the blank space, the adventure, the journey, the lessons learned and the missionary furlough lessons still to come our way.
And so many more things could be on this furlough list.
The constant transition of life is a big part of a missions journey and a missionary furlough.
Lisa Bevere says, “Transition. That awkward moment, season, or chapter that occurs BETWEEN where YOU ARE & where you WILL BE. Any woman who has given birth will remember transition as that SHAKY time period when the process threatened to OVERWHELM you. Be still lovely one. He is with you in the process. Be patient & let Him do a deep work in you that is without rival.”
The awkward, shaky time between.
Been there. We are there. We’ll be here again.
What is something that shows you are prepping for missionary furlough… however far away that furlough may be?
What is something on this list that made you smile, laugh or cry with knowing?
When is your next missionary furlough?