Missionaries generally view the approaching furlough with both excited anticipation and a certain dread. They may be stressed from an already busy pace of life and ministry, as well as frantically trying to tie up loose ends on the field, often packing away their entire worldly goods in storage for a year, or getting things laid out for the person who will fill in for them.
They are anticipating a time of rest and fellowship with friends and loved ones on the “home front”. However, arriving home, they know they may be confronted with a new set of obstacles: Who do we see and who do we not? How can we afford to travel all that way and report in person with what came in this month? More people want to see us, want us to serve with them than we can fit in the schedule. Our kids don't like the food, don't understand the language/accent. We don't have a vehicle/housing lined up. We didn't expect the weather/food/water to affect us this way. When do we rest?…. and the list goes on.
Here are just a few ways to bless missionaries relationally and help them to truly rest and make the best of their furlough experience/ministry time.
1. Give them time to rest/adjust. Don't expect too much of them. They're tired, overworked, maybe over stressed… They will more than likely be willing to help in any way they can, but need to know it's ok just to rest, study, regroup and be a family w/out the pressures of ministry for a little while.
2. Recognize the difficulty they (and especially their children) may have in readjusting to the US culture. They may not be up to date on all the politically correct social expectations. Give them grace when the inevitable fo-pah happens.
3. Bless them with family/couple time. On the field there is often not money, time or available opportunities for family or couples retreats, outings, camps, vacations, etc. Consider blessing them by making it possible for them to enjoy these things while “stateside”.
4. Be ready to just listen, fellowship, and counsel when necessary. Missionary life is often lonely, especially if not serving in a team. Missionaries need to know you are a safe and trustworthy friend who will listen freely without judging, accept them for who they are with their now-international quirks, and offer biblical and ministry advice when needed. Many missionaries also look forward to furlough as a time to sit under sound preaching (instead of preaching themselves each service). You will want to hear about their ministry of course, but also try to give them time to be fed from the Word themselves.
Please join us again tomorrow for part two: 5 ways to physically bless missionaries during furlough.
If you are a missionary, what would you add? What is the greatest way someone has relationally blessed you while on furlough in the past?