“Home assignment,” “home service,” “furlough,” or some other name: for most missionaries, periodic visits to their support base for face-to-face contact are a reality of life. Do we approach this portion of our missionary ministry with anticipation or dread?
Reducing emotional baggage
With good preparation, periodic returns to our support base can be an expansion of our ministry on the field. But before we go, we shouldn’t neglect any unfinished business. Dallman’s RAFT article provides a way to discover relational areas that may need attention. Reviewing relationships with others on the field and having a process to address any issues discovered can reduce or eliminate unrecognized tension that may sabotage the positive benefits of a temporary ministry venue change. Murray’s article, Looking Back Before Moving Ahead, helps us reflect on inner struggles that we may have avoided and gives hints for coming to resolution.
Having a good attitude
In addition to planning a healthy departure, we need to prepare our hearts for reentry into our passport culture. It may be important to devote some attention to reminding ourselves of the unique opportunities of spending periodic time in our passport cultures so that we don’t view our time away from the field as a “ministry interruption.” Marshall’s article on short vs. long home assignments can help us recognize the privileges of a particular type of home assignment in order to maximize the opportunities it offers.
There are at least four unique opportunities more effectively accomplished while in our passport cultures: recruitment, reconnection, reporting, and renewal.
There is no substitute for face-to-face contact with potential future missionaries. Does your mission organization have resources to help with recruitment? Make sure you take advantage of the tools they offer, and if they don’t have materials, prepare your own. At a minimum, be sure you have a simple, clear statement ready regarding the need for more missionaries and how they can serve.
The longer we’ve been on the field, the less we know about most of our supporter’s lives. If we’ve been faithful in our communications, they probably know us far better than we know them. By focusing on asking questions and really getting to know what our friends have been going through, we can enjoy renewed relationships.
Yes, we have much we would like to share, but if we can save our deepest experiences for the select few who really understand our multi-cultural life, we can avoid unnecessary frustration. Many people are supportive, but even so, 30 seconds about our ministry may be the limit of what they can hear and process in one sitting.
Depending upon your support base and the requirements of your mission organization (if you are a member of one), ministry reporting will take different forms. But it’s a great privilege to share what God is doing when time and place are right. Whether given a five-minute slot during a morning service, twenty minutes in a Bible study, or forty-five minutes with a Sunday School class, share both victories and disappointments without apology.
After several months—or perhaps weeks—of visits, we may feel the need to get back to Japan for renewal. However, if we deliberately schedule time at periodic intervals for renewal opportunities in our passport countries, we can find rest even during this time.