Can you imagine trying to hold your family together when everyone is going, doing, and living different lifestyles, each with unique routines and individual plans?
“So what’s new?” you say. Family life for the vast majority of the people in the United States revolves around juggling schedules. But, more than just dealing with schedules, a missionary family wrestles with changing addresses, both their own and that of siblings, parents and other loved ones. They work through finding a common thread to hold the family together, as the fabric sometimes begins to unravel due to everything from job hunting to finding adequate furlough housing for 6 or 12 months. “What’s new” for us is that every year brings sweeping changes in a missionary family.
Another factor touches those children that have become adults. Our family may struggle to find a sense of stability that enables the the grown children, as adults, to maintain a sense of permanence and unity. We are walking through some predicaments this furlough. A few examples will help you understand what that feels like.
- Our youngest daughter said good-bye to all her friends with whom she had grown comfortable. When she returns to the country we call home (Chile), some of those same friends will be preparing to leave the field. The gap of time to pass between before being together again could be 2 years. That’s tough on any friendship, much less for a child.
- Our third daughter in just one summer will move four times: once from college, another to a summer address for work, a third to the home of a friend after the job ends, and a fourth when she moves to our furlough address.
- One week for entire year is all we may see our married children. Not out of the ordinary for most, the additional challenge is that factor of distance, with the issue of the cost of travel, even if we want to, making a trip to either North Carolina or Kentucky puts a major strain on the family finances.
These is a small glimpse of what our family will work through, we hope, during the months called “home ministry.” The joy of serving and the burden of the call to represent the Lord and Savior brings satisfaction and a strong sense of purpose that makes this travel worthwhile. While we transition, travel and try to adjust, our family will be learning about life “on this side of the equator.”
Home ministry is about more than travel, however. In addition there is the matter of setting up home. Not all missionaries have this issue, but since we own a home in the country where we serve, when arriving in the USA, we have nothing. Not even a potato peeler! The household utensils, the automobile, the clothes…all of this is back to ground zero.
For instance, when we arrived at the wonderful missionary home that we rented in New Jersey, the house is fully furnished. But, what about a desk for working at home…where I can fit my knees under it!? Or what about toys for our 10 year old? The house is warmly decorated and furnished, even though most of the furniture is vintage 60’s or 70’s. No problem with that! But will we fit into the space? Do we have the things necessary to live without thinking, “Oh, I wish I could have brought my potato peeler from Chile.” Of course, what becomes necessary is…yep! Go buy another other one.
On this side of the life as missionaries, our move means more than just packing a suitcase. It is all about packing and unpacking our thought processes, our routines, even our preferences. But thank the Lord that we have friends who try to understand and who show their concern.
One such friend was the brother from our sending church (we will call him Larry), who thought of the problems and the issues related to returning to a home that isn’t really home. He mobilized a group of people from our that church. He bought the basics for the household needs, and then brought them and the people to our rental home to clean, repair things and just get the place “ready” for us to settle in! Now that really made us feel welcome!
We thank the Lord for others who look at a missionary’s return as not really coming “home” but rather as a temporary stay in our home land. Even though we return to our city and address from the United States, the point is, we return as pilgrims and travelers with a mission and with a purpose. Life is always lived between TWO LANDS when being a missionary.
I guess that is in part, what Christ had in mind when he said, “So send I you.”
Serving the King,
David L. Rogers, M.A.Min.