I recently came across an interesting situation. I met three different couples on the mission field who were heading back for furlough soon. I spent some time with them and was able to observe very different approaches concerning their return. I am aware that each situation is different and yet sometimes we are burned out and need to return. Other times we see it as a burden to go back and leave our work.
Some use the furlough as an excuse to let their guard down and begin to show signs of burnout. Some let these emotions control them and forget to let God rule the situation.
We are dealing with different organizations too, so that was a factor. We are dealing with different age groups, which is also a factor. We are dealing with different lengths of time on the field, which is also a factor.
One couple was ready to go back and see their grandkids. Another was ready to go back and introduce their elementary age children to family and friends whom the kids barely remembered if they remembered them at all from their previous furlough. The other couple was more recently married and have not had any kids yet.
One couple had a house to return to and family and friends in the area. One couple had two different home churches and no idea where they would live after the first few weeks where they will crash in a family member’s basement. The other couple had lined up to stay with family for the duration of their stay.
One couple had plans already laid out to travel to supporting churches for more than 60% of their time home. Another couple had only 4 churches to report to in their time home. The final couple fell somewhere in between the amount of travel expected.
One wife was stressed out worrying about how they would fit in all their family and friend visits between churches and doctor’s appointments. One family was concerned because a close family member is in the last stages of a terminal illness. One couple was concerned about whether they could raise their needed support. One couple had scheduled a debriefing time with their organization. One couple had found an outside organization and signed up for debriefing.
One couple is burned out and finding themselves curt with nationals and frustrated by little things. One couple is seemingly depending on the Lord and not showing signs of burn out. One couple is just coming into their own in their ministry after several years of laying ground work. They are worried about handing things over during their absence.
Some are excited to be in the US, some are scared. Some are happy to leave their host country for a time, others are content in both cultures. Some are starting to miss family and friends as the time is approaching, others are stressed about getting into family politics during their brief time home.
How do you prepare for furlough? Are you ready emotionally to leave and “get out of here”? Are you stressed out about what’s coming or are you excited? Are you stressed about leaving your work behind or feel relieved to have a break? Are you physically exhausted before your return? Are you spiritually hungry to be fed in your own culture and language?