My greatest desire for furlough is to reconnect with family. In May we had several opportunities to make joyful memories with my side of the family.
First, a very special opportunity: my sister invited us to dinner at her house along with missionaries to Cambodia who are also on furlough. They are finishing up their furlough as we begin ours. Both of our families are sent out from my home church, and we have communicated often about missiology and read one another’s prayer letters for years. This was quite probably the only chance we will ever have to meet in person!
We had a wonderful dinner that wasn’t long enough to ever talk about all the things we wanted to discuss. They left my sister in tears, as they were neighbors for the past year, and endeared themselves to her through their kind friendship. That is exactly what missionaries need to do: to form enduring relationships with supporting church members in America–friends who will truly hold the ropes and pray for them when they need it.
We then spent time with my sister’s church in northern Indiana. My brother-in-law pastors a small church in a farming community much like the church we were at on Mother’s Day. I found the similarities between these two churches a little ironic. Both church buildings are surrounded by cornfields; both use the same hymnal. Both churches served fried chicken for church-wide dinners. Both had the same exact bag of Tootsie Roll candy in their children’s church. 🙂
Our visit was encouraging. We aren’t supported financially by this church, but we have built a relationship with some of the members over the years that my relatives have served there. I was able to minister in music, and Seth preached the evening sermon. Our room was stocked with gifts –Bath and Body works for me, shirts and ties for Seth, and a large decorated bucket of candy for the children.
I made a Facebook friend a reality friend the following Monday, as my sister and I met with her and her kids for a play date. Seth and my brothers-in-law went to a pastor’s conference. On Wednesday when we left, I came away with almost all of the clothing I will need for my boys up through age 10. I can’t say what a blessing it is to have so many of my future needs for the children’s clothing met in one place like that! My sister and her husband have an awesome vision of how they would like to serve missionaries, and their missions’ “closet” reflects that. If you are a missionary, I wish you could see their closet. I was glad to also come away having built more of a relationship with our nephew and three nieces.
We attended my niece’s kindergarten graduation from the Christian school I grew up in. I felt a tinge of sadness that my children won’t experience a big to-do like that, being homeschooled. Kindergarten graduations at my home school are hilarious. About 200 6-year olds on stage and parents double-handed waving from all corners of the auditorium. South Africa calls itself the “Rainbow Nation,” but they’ve got nothing on Chicago’s multiculturalism. To hear so many nationalities on that stage singing, “Well, a cowboy needs a horse, needs a horse, needs a horse…” was ironic.
My sisters and I and our husbands took our children to Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. We’ve been talking to Caleb for a year about going to a zoo, so this was a major highlight. My nephew got lost for about 10 minutes. At one point, 5 adults were looking for him, and I was the only adult left with the other 12 children. In my opinion, my bag of jelly beans saved that moment!
Then my nephew graduated from high school. My first job was babysitting him and his sister when they were babies. I felt nostalgic thinking about how grown up they are now. All of these moments were more opportunities to spend time and make memories with my family and our home church.
Because of the combination of the graduations and a holiday on Monday, my family capitalized on the opportunity to spend time together. My sister from IN came up for the graduations, so my 3 sisters and I sang in church. We also celebrated the “Spring Birthdays.” My parents have 15 grandchildren, and it’s difficult for everyone to get together; so twice a year, once in spring and once in fall, the family gathers to celebrate the birthdays from that half of the year. We enjoyed being a part of that this time.
Family is so important. As much as possible, family members should live close to one another and foster loving relationships. I regret that missionaries by definition often must sacrifice this ideal. But we were thankful for the memories we made.