Furlough Life: A Missionary Perspective

On my first Sabbath back in my hometown, I walked into church and was immediately greeted by a friend I’ll call Cheerful Church Member.

“Oh! I’m so glad to see you again. You must be so relieved to be back in the USA and taking a break on furlough!” Cheerful said with a smile.

That statement is a very common theme. Here is a bit of a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what furlough truly looks like to a missionary! (Hint, it isn’t exactly a break, but I am definitely glad to be here).

Furloughs begin with debriefing, where we sit down with the leadership at AFM and answer questions like:

“How are you really doing?”

“What are your goals?”

“How do you see the Ama project progressing?”

“What steps need to be taken so that the project can be more successful in reaching people for Christ?”

In these meetings, we are encouraged to share our personal struggles as well as successes and plans for the future. We left this last meeting feeling energized and ready to resume our work in the village.

As the core of our furlough is ministry, our ability to live and work in Papua New Guinea (PNG) relies on the faithfulness of our supporters. We invest a large portion of our work during furlough in reconnecting with people, strengthening relationships and making new friends.
Here are some of the types of supporters we have:

Financial: Whether it is a faithful monthly gift or “when God impresses,” the financial support we receive is what allows us to pay for the things we need to do our work.

Prayer: Many are the prayers that daily ascend to heaven on our behalf. I thank God for each man, woman and child who prays for us and the many other missionaries around the globe.

Awareness: When one of our supporters shares our stories with others, we gain friends, prayer warriors and new supporters.

“Required tasks” is another part of furlough. It includes such delights as routine medical and dental checkups, ensuring that all of our legal paperwork is still in order, ongoing training, and a psychological evaluation to make sure that we are still crazy enough to be in the mission field.

Throughout furlough, we enjoy shopping at well-stocked stores to carefully choose what to take back overseas with us as well as setting aside some restful time with our families.

Returning to the conversation with Cheerful Church Member, I am always encouraged to hear, “We have been praying for you every day in family worship and always look for stories from you!”

This encouragement is naturally followed by questions about the Ama people and where they live. Yes, they are definitely remote!

What is it like to live two days from the nearest commercial airport? You must plan well.

Have I seen crocodiles in the river? Yes, I have.

Do I like eating their starchy staple food called sago? Yes, but I am still pretty slow at chewing it!

Do the Ama people really still make canoes out of a tree? Yes, they do, although I see fiberglass boats, too. The wood canoes all start out vertical, and the finished size is directly proportional to how long it grew before beginning its life as a canoe.

What a wonderful experience it would be to introduce Cheerful to my friends from the village —who could explain village life so much better than I can ever hope to. My village friends could talk about how to guard your garden against meandering destructive wild pigs, what type of leaves to use for wrapping food, or how to shape a wooden paddle. I don’t know how to do any of these things.

Thank you to each of you who have been Cheerful Church Member this furlough, taking notes for your prayer list, asking questions, and giving us small gifts, a check or a pledge to support the Ama project. It is energizing to know that you are here and that you care deeply for us and the people we serve.

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