We’re back on furlough, and the question comes up, “What is a furlough anyway?” That’s a good question, and I think I have a slightly better answer than in 2009 when we were last on furlough. In a biblical sense, a furlough fulfills a similar purpose to that which Paul exemplified in Acts 14:27-28 (ESV) “And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.”
Nowadays this involves visiting all of your supporting churches, which in our case are sixteen. Our schedule is starting to fill up with missions conferences and weekend visits. We’re thankful for each of these churches. During our time with them, we report what God has done over the course of the last four years. We also renew our friendship with the people, and encourage them to continue to have a Great Commission mindset. Missions is not just something we do in another country but should be el pan de cada día (our daily bread).
We also use this time to renew our relationship with family members. It’s very important for our kids, who really are a mixture of at least two cultures, to know their grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. If they end up back in the U.S. for college, they will surely benefit immensely from these months here.
It’s also a time of personal reflection. What is my identity? If it’s tied too closely to a specific country or to a ministry, rather than to Jesus, I’m in trouble. I think that’s what happened to me last time. I felt out of place, inútil (lit. un-useful), and frustrated with almost everything. This furlough I’ve been more proactive and will be working here in Ames with our international student ministry. Our pastor also graciously invited me to attend the weekly staff meeting. Little gestures like that make a furlough a lot better!
We give God thanks for the opportunity to be back in the U.S., not because we like it better than Colombia, but because we’re learning to be content in whatever situation we are in (Phi 4:11).