by Krista Horn
“They were old-timers: they still called it furlough.” We laughed a bit and listened to the accompanying story a woman wanted to share with us. We are currently on furlough for the first time after finishing our first term on the mission field. As we near the end of this time and prepare to head back to Kenya for our second term, I’m reflecting on all that it has been. And all that it hasn’t been. Sometimes more than we could’ve hoped for, sometimes less. But always stretching and molding me.
Our organization calls it HMA (Home Ministry Assignment). To make it slightly easier, our family just calls it Home Assignment. Whatever you call it, time “on the home side” is an important part of this missionary life.
We’ve been told that Home Assignment is meant for rest. We’ve also been told it’s meant for fundraising. And for reconnecting with family. And for sharing stories and photos at supporting churches. And for finding new people who might be interested in our ministry. And for reflection and prayer and rejuvenating ourselves before diving in again on the mission field. And…and…and…
Even though we’d been told by multiple people what to expect or aim for, I didn’t know what all Home Assignment would entail for us. Some things were obviously in the cards, like family gatherings and medical appointments, but others were harder to recognize until they slapped me in the face. Home Assignment did mean meeting with people and fundraising and traveling and speaking and all those outward things, but it also meant a lot of inward things – a lot of heart work which I didn’t expect.
For us, Home Assignment meant things like finding a pediatric dentist to pull two teeth for our son.
It meant helping our kids adjust to staying overnight at yet another new place.
It meant trying to summarize our entire first term in a few sentences for those who wanted the quick version.
It meant flying halfway across the country to celebrate my birthday with my twin sister for the first time in over a decade.
It meant discovering all the new books we wanted to read, and then discovering how little time we had to read them.
It meant watching our youngest son play in the snow for the first time.
It meant sharing our hearts and being vulnerable with complete strangers.
It meant enjoying “Mama’s Night Out” with my best friend.
It meant indulging in easy-to-make food like frozen pizza and take-out Chinese.
It meant realizing how much I think about food. Foods that I missed. Foods that I’ll miss again. Foods that I should take advantage of while I can.
It meant realizing my thoughts were not on things above, and acknowledging the idols still in need of tearing down.
It meant acknowledging my sin and repenting of it.It meant that despite all the glowing compliments from people at church services and reunions and Bible studies, that I am still just a woman saved by grace who happens to be a missionary.
And I am so thankful for that. For that truth and for the reminder of it.
I am not an old-timer and I do not call it furlough. But I think and hope it can be said across the generations that time away from the mission field, just as time on the mission field, is meant for further embracing our life with God. It is meant for growing in our love for Him and awe of Him. It is meant for humbling ourselves before Him again and again. It is meant, as the author of Hebrews puts it, for fixing our eyes on Jesus so that, as we consider Him we will not grow weary and lose heart.