This time? Anything but typical!

by Richelle Wright on March 18, 2015

What does your typical home assignment time look like?

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Ours has always looked like a whirlwind of travel – visiting with ministry partners, family and friends spread across several states – and a whole lot of busyness at our home church and the Christian school our children attend during those furlough times.

Of course, that meant that in the moments we weren’t wrapped up in all of that busyness and travel, we could and often would sequester ourselves in our home and doing little to build relationships and initiate contact with people outside our home assignment bubble. It felt very un-missionary like, and disturbingly uncomfortable – to say that we hardly knew anyone outside our church and family circle, that we were too tired to even try and get to know our neighbors…

…that almost everyone with whom we had contact looked and believed much like we do.

It was a total opposite picture of our life overseas… and I always felt a bit uneasy and unsettled about that particular status quo… but in the course of four plus home assignment seasons, I hadn’t done anything, tried anything, to change it

I justified the insulated life we’d lead saying we needed rest because…

  • we were too exhausted after several years of ministry and life overseas – a very true statement.
  • I’d claim that we were, really, too busy with all of our still-linked-to-our-overseas-ministry obligations to jump into something here because we wouldn’t have time to do it justice, and we were… very busy.
  • I’d convince myself that we weren’t around long enough to really make a difference…  another fact as our return date for when we’d be leaving to return to Africa (and home) was clearly in focus and always just months… then weeks… then days… in the future.

All of my rationalizing, however, didn’t convince my heart that the massive dichotomy between our lives in our two homes was right. Rather, it felt hypocritical. And then my kids started to notice… and ask questions.

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It was much easier to ignore conviction that came from within than it was to ignore the convicting voice of the young people who live with me.

So, I knew I wanted this home assignment to be different.

I didn’t want to be that missionary who invested in lives and could easily share Jesus while at those “uttermost ends of the earth,” but who was afraid to strike up a simple conversation with the lady on the mat next to mine in a Pilates class… or selfishly resistant to volunteering to help at an organization because it meant committing to that place every week…

Am I the only expat worker who has felt this struggle?

After all, what does it really say about what I believe about the message – if I’m willing to take it over oceans and across deserts… but not across the street? When I’m not ashamed to share with people who expect me to be different, but fearful when it comes to talking about Jesus with people who look just like me?

What does it say I really believe about the Giver of the message?

That target date IS still on the calendar – a clear reminder that home assignment is still a short, sometimes frenetic, yet temporary time – full of transition and change and new when a weary expat only wants to rest and recuperate. But that can’t be my excuse.

By God’s grace, however, this furlough has been different.

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Feeding an injured owl at an animal rehabilitation center.

Investing in this local community, for this season and despite the temporariness, has made home assignment actually feel like home. God has given opportunities that I could have never even imagined, much less foreseen or desired – and somehow, in those opportunities, He’s ministered to me. It’s kept me looking outward… and upward. In the obedience, He’s given rest. He’s shown me that He’s not just about the business of changing other people, but also working to change me while working through me… wherever He has me.

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How do you get involved in your community while on home assignment?

How does that help refresh you and prepare you to return to your “life overseas” place of service?

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About Richelle Wright

Disciple of Jesus, lover of God's Word, wife to one great guy, and mama of eight, Richelle has spent the past 13 years in Niger, West Africa. She and her family are currently in the throes of transition as they begin life and ministry (teaching, audio-visual production) in the Canadian province of Québec. |ourwrightingpad.blogspot.com|
  • Elizabeth Trotter

    Thanks for the question “How do you get involved in your community while on home assignment?” It brought back some warm fuzzy memories from our first home assignment. Home assignment was dauntingly exhausting, yet I was blessed to be part of the same community that originally sent us out. On Wednesday nights there was a ladies’ study that I went to each week, and was able to discuss and bond with them. Plus they let me share about life in Cambodia one Wednesday 🙂 We were able to spend time with dear, dear friends that we missed terribly, and most of the time, it felt like we’d never left. These people are so precious to us.

    Things have changed at our home church since then, though, and this coming home assignment may feel different. I don’t know what to expect or how it will be. All I know is that I’m a little nervous. Still, I was grateful for community the first time around. . .

    • Richelle Wright

      I totally missed that you’d responded here. 🙂 Been a crazy near three weeks. You were blessed to have those precious friends. Do you ever wonder if they get tired of your sharing about life over there… and are just too gracious to let you know?

      Each home assignment has brought different ones of God’s people to encourage and challenge me. The one thing that has remained relatively constant for me has been a ladies’ bible study – older women in the church and I continue to go every furlough just to connect with them. Several of the ladies have passed away. Some have moved away. But some are still there and their responses to me each time I come back seems to encourage other ladies to love on me and my family as well. Sometimes, I long for a bible study group with more of my peers… but I wouldn’t trade that group of women, for anything.

      • Elizabeth Trotter

        Yeah, I hate that whole sending-church-changing thing, but I think it’s unavoidable. No matter the congregation, there will be transition, people coming and going. Just read about that again in “Expectations and Burnout,” and realized my situation is not so very unique! The specifics may be unique, but the overall experience is not.

        I love that you’ve been able to attend the same Bible study for so many years!

  • Wendy

    We’ve found having our boys involved in a sporting club outside school has given us a chance to get out of the mission-focused circle of people we work among during home assignment. Also being as involved as possible in our home church, which has meant being in Bible study with ladies who haven’t a clue about mission, several who are new Christians (one who didn’t even know what the word missionary meant). Helping out at youth group and kids club at church is a way of giving back that matches our life-stage as a family too.

    • Richelle Wright

      Really great ideas! Thanks for contributing, Wendy!

  • PeruvianNomad

    I don’t try to get too connected while Home, but I find myself involved in ministry to Spanish people, and actively involved at our Spanish church while I’m home…(Well..in the states). Thanks for sharing!

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