Tuesday Topic: Slowing Down on Furlough

From Phyllis in Ukraine: Does anyone have tips for how to slow down and not wear ourselves out while on those visits to the States?

Last time we tried to put a some space between us and our home base for a time, specifically to recharge, and it seemed to me like that backfired. It seemed like we were rushing even more, because the demands were still there, we just had to go farther to meet them! I’ve been thinking that for this next time, we just need to go for a very short time, pack it full, and then plan on crashing when we get back. Would that work?

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7 Responses to “Tuesday Topic: Slowing Down on Furlough”


  1. 1 Karen December 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    I think that is a common dilemma while on furlough – we need rest, but we need to spend time with our home church and with those who are part of our support team.

    I think that is possible is to explain the need for some down time, even scheduling it in so that it is on the calendar. Obviously we want to be sensitive to our home church and not schedule our vacation while our church’s missionary conference is going on, or some other important event.

    Burn-out is common, and we can’t just keep going without a break for rest. We need that time, and if we don’t get it while we are on home assignment, we won’t get it when we are back on the field.

  2. 2 Ashley L December 6, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    This is such a huge struggle for us every time. There are simply too many valuable and great things to do! I agree that we just have to say no to things for the sake of our family’s health. I am not good at this. I saw the toll that it took on me and my family when we failed to say no to things, and I saw the benefit when we succeeded in maintaining healthy boundarries. Also, another thing we try to do is to see people in groups. If you have potentially hundreds of people to see an only a period of months to do it, it is simply impossible to see everyone (or even half of everyone) one-on-one. We plan open-houses to see friends and ministry partners, and also go and speak at churches and try to have a tea or luncheon afterward to visit a bit more in depth. But like I said, our last furlough was a far cry from being slow or peaceful. I am so eager to hear other people’s ideas and encouragements.

  3. 3 Phyllis December 6, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Thank you for posting my question, and thank you for the answers so far!

  4. 4 richelle December 6, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    After doing this a few times and realizing we never, ever had any down time, we made some significant changes and set some boundaries – though we still have to work and struggle to maintain them. 8 kids and furlough can be a disaster – or an amazing experience – depending…

    We specifically plan one month to pack up and get ready to leave… turning over administrative responsibilities and only keeping one or two things we really love so that we can focus on leaving well. doing so makes the pace a bit more leisurely gives us time to store things carefully, have quality time and visits with our friends here before furlough – that way we don’t arrive home exhausted. When we come back to the field, we plan a month to get settled before diving completely back into ministry responsibilities.

    Then we take 3-4 weeks at the beginning while home that is reserved for family and our home church… take 3-4 weeks at Christmas and then and again right before we leave to return to the field. Those weeks are so important. Last furlough we went canoing with friends, saw the 4th of July fireworks, packed, hung out with cousins, played games, watched movies, ate at the food court in the mall way too often, went to a baseball game- got rained out-but stayed and played in the rain until we had to leave… and I’m so glad we did that, because those are the final memories we have with my mother-in-law. Some have criticized that we take that much time off in our furlough year – but since we really don’t vacation more than 2 or 3 days here and there throughout a 4 year term, we don’t feel it is unreasonable.

    We are often gone from our church on weekends, but are around during the week, so we try and participate in prayer meeting, visitation/calling ministries, etc. I love home schooling, but we’ve decided that furlough year our children will attend local schools and be a part of the community where we are – that gives me time to rest and invest in relationships that year – and gives our children some roots in their home country as they return to those same friendships each furlough. We are blessed in that our church provides missionary housing and helps with tuition to the christian school that is a ministry of the church – so I know that isn’t feasible for everyone.

    We have 30 supporting churches and at least that many individuals, so we begin planning our furlough about 18 months in advance, contacting the larger, more difficult churches to arrange visits first, get those dates set and then pull out the map and figure out how it will best work. That far in advance, we find that most pastors of most churches will say “No problem!” when Tim writes and/or calls and says: “We’ll be in the area, can we schedule a meeting here, here or here?” Or we’ll contact a key pastor in a group of supporting churches, schedule a meeting with him and then have him contact on our behalf the other churches… after we send them an email or something to let them know he’ll be calling. This puts our support team in touch with each other and we’ve had some unexpected blessings grow out of that. We also let our individual supporters know when we are in their general area – meetings, presentations, open houses – so they can attend. We do generally pull our children out of school if necessary to attend these meetings – although that is not written in stone, depending on the circumstances. People like our kids better than they like us!!

    We’ve found an open invitation to drop in and visit us at our house during the week is also a great thing, especially since the kids are at school. It gives us time to visit and then a neat treat for kids when they come home and visitors/friends are there – and we can always rustle something up to share for meal – that way, people feel we are accessible and so far, it has not backfired on us with too many people showing up, all the time.

    We don’t say yes to every offer… we try and take time to pray about it and then get back. Since it looks like the nature of our work will be changing in the not too distant future, our next furlough will be spent expanding and focusing our support team – finding new partners and saying thank you and goodbye to others.

    Wow… I really rattled on quite a bit there – hope someone finds some seeds of ideas there that might help them. Those are some ideas of what we’ve found that works for us.

  5. 5 Liz K December 6, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    We are 2/3rds of the way done with our time at language school and anticipating the birth of our third baby in June. We plan to head back stateside for the birth and recovery time and I have been wondering how to best utitlze the time home but also make sure we have a break. Thanks for some great ideas Richelle!

  6. 6 Shilo December 7, 2011 at 1:48 am

    Phyllis, this is such a challenging question, because it is such a challenging reality. Just last night my husband and I were discussing doing something that we had already said we would not do for the health of our family because we felt like there wasn’t any other option. We ended the conversation just praying that God would provide another option rather than us having to sacrifice our families mental and emotional health by being too thinly spread.
    This time home, the one thing that I have found to be really useful is that Monday is my Sabbath day (since Sundays are full of ministry responsibilities, even if it isn’t a speaking engagement). I don’t schedule anything socially for Mondays and I don’t do a lot of work other than maybe a load or two of laundry and getting supper on the table. I do whatever is restful to me, no guilt, be it reading, writing, a movie, a phone call, Scrabble, crafting, whatever. It really helps me to have vision and energy for the rest of the week.
    I really agree too with Richelle’s idea of making the last month on the field and the last month of home assignment being really light months as far as ministry requirements. Moving and goodbyes take so much out of you and so many last minute things seem to pop up, it seems really wise to have that practice. Thanks, Richelle.
    We have found is that no one else will set boundaries for you. They will keep asking as much of you as you will give them. Only you know your limits and can do what is right for you and your family. May God give you wisdom and may you have the courage to hear His voice and let Him be your judge. I add the part about allowing God to be our judge because we missionary women are always worried about what other people are thinking about us! 🙂
    Blessings to all!

  7. 7 RebeccaC December 8, 2011 at 1:30 am

    Ah, furlough. In my opinion, that’s a misnomer in the first place! The word “furlough” implies vacation, taking a break, rest and relaxation. A dear friend of mine who works with Wycliffe in PNG calls it “Home Assignment”. I think that name really fits better.

    Reading all the comments, it sounds like most of us struggle with similar issues and we have our ways of dealing with them. Probably every situation is different, but some things stay the same: the need to visit family we don’t see often enough, the need to reconnect with church family we don’t see often enough, the need for a bit of focused family time we don’t get enough of…and then there’s school.

    For our family, we decided to plan in a few of days of actual vacation during our home assignment. Generally, we try to have a couple of days at the beginning and a couple of days at the end to recharge. Our home assignments usually only last a month or two, so a few days is about all we get.

    We set priorities of visiting parents/grandparents and siblings. Other family members have to either come to a church where we’re sharing or meet us at Grandma’s house.

    When we share at a church, we try to dedicate the whole day to that church — 1st service, 2nd service, potluck lunch, evening service — and we invite all our supporters who live in that area to come visit us at some point during that day.

    We cancel school during home assignment. If we were living overseas and only returned to the US for 6 months or a year, I’d still cancel school during home assignment. I’ve seen the end result of too many cases where missionary kids left their “home” (in some other country) and then tried to adjust to life in the US school system for a year and then left again. I wouldn’t subject my kids to that. I’ve talked to my kids about it, too, and they agree: they don’t ever want to enter the US public school system and are glad that we don’t try to do school while on home assignment. (I know that I’m weird about this. I’m just old and set in my ways. lol)

    Wow, I just wrote a blog post as a comment! Sorry I tend to go on and on! Hope this highly opinionated comment is helpful to someone! ;^)


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