After completing our Bible study for the week, a young man in his 20’s said to me “Don’t go, Pastor. Don’t go.” I have been meeting with him on a weekly basis for the past 16 weeks. We were just discussing the next steps of his discipling when I told him that I would be stopping for about 6 months due to our trip.
Another friend and partner in ministry commented “Pastor, is it already time for your to leave us? And how soon will it be until you return?”
One more example: a brother with whom I have been developing a ministry for men during two years looked at me with a bit of sadness in his eyes after I commented that I did not know what the future holds after our 6 month home ministry, who then said “…but you are returning to our Church, right?”
God has called my wife and me to serve the people of Chile. Some times that is easy and joyful. Some times it is not. But people are people and they come complete with their warts, their baggage from the past and they have their quirks. But love them we must and love them we do.
What do I say, then, to those that we have come to know and love after working for three years? How do we explain the life-long dilemma of the missionary? One missionary statesman summed it up this way: “The two words a missionary uses the most are: ‘thank you’ and ‘good-bye.'” I cannot just say “oh, don’t worry. It will be alright.” Nor can I say “we will be back sooner than you think.” These are people who have come to mean something to us/ We mean something to them.
I think that both my wife and I have come to accept the inevitable: furlough or home ministry is necessary. And all the more now that we are grandparents! But we still struggle with the distance and the fact that we will loose touch to some degree with those we have been shaping and mentoring.
Let’s face it. Leaving the country where God clearly directed you is not just a “quick trip to the States.” It’s not like we are just going away for a trip to the beach and back. The travel means, among other things, setting up house back in the USA. It also means transferring schools for our children still in school. It requires finding a renter of our home in Chile. Often times we must sell car to buy one there in the USA. The list of tasks is not short!
Getting read to return to the USA entails many challenges. We face the issues of not having a license to drive (both our licenses expired while in Chile), of not having a place to live (sometimes) and we also face the matter of needing to be ready to speak in a number of churches. Traveling means, in some sense, a restructuring of our lives, our family and our ministry.
These things can be and are often good. But, we are not “returning home” since we have now lived in Chile more than we have in the USA. In all reality we are really leaving home our home in Chile.
We love many things about our birth homeland. We have many loved ones there. We still keep in touch with a few close friends. But returning to the States is not easy. But the negative side is that we know the ministry here will slow down too. It all requires adjustments, ministry shift, change of paradigms, and even acting, thinking and dressing a bit differently. This transition reminds us we will ALWAYS be strangers, always be foreigners, no matter where we actually hang our hats.
The key is: keep our minds and hearts set on the people and the needs of those around us, NOT on ourselves. I pray that we can make the transitions smoothly…other wise we will end up needing to rethink about which country is actually home.
David L. Rogers, M.A.Min.
Wow. This is a powerful email. Dave, I lived in one town for 18 years, spent one year at BJU in Greenville, SC, got married, and moved 3 miles from my birthplace, and have not moved since. I cannot really imagine what You and Ruth Ann are feeling.
You are coming to USA for 6 months furlough. You are returning to Chile after that, aren’t you? Something about your email made me ask that question. Keep us posted on how the Lord is leading you and Ruth Ann at this juncture in your lives.
On a more personal note, our son Dan, wife Vivian, and 2 little girls have moved to Massachusetts from Hawaii. So we are thrilled to be able to visit back and forth MUCH more often. Dan is now with Lincoln Labs in Weston, Mass., which is affiliated with M.I.T. He just started this new job a month ago, working with their telescope. We went to Hawaii in January and it was a l-o-n-g way to fly. Of course, it is still in the USA. Chile is even that much farther away. I’m starting to ramble, so better get to bed.
Thanks for the email!
Your friend in Christ,
Llevo 42 años de cristiano y he tenido que despedir en mi vida a muchos misioneros y pastores que han sido ministros para mi, desde los 10 años de edad en que el primer pastor que conocí en la vida fué trasladado a Uruguay, mi padre espiritual.
El otro lado de la moneda es la situación de orfandad en que queda el discípulo, situación ya vista en las cartas del Apóstol Pablo , así que nada nuevo bajo el sol.
Creo que lo fundamental es dejar bien preparado para continuar la posta a los que siguen en casa, y enfatizar en que el modelo es Jesús y por otro lado que ya nos veremos por un “poco” mas de tiempo en la vida eterna.
En todo caso es interesante el fenómeno socio espiritual involucrado.
Fernando Cortés R.