Furlough is a time that we as missionaries look forward to, and we should. It can be a great time for families to make memories and to get refocused on serving the Lord. However, like anything else, a good furlough takes planning to be successful. Honestly, sometimes when I have a day off, I fail to plan it well, and always regret it afterward. We can’t let that happen with our furloughs, so here are some tips that have helped me during my last two times back in America.
1. Be careful about making your furlough plans too long or too often. I realize that for the great majority of missionaries this does not need to be said, but if you stay in America too long, it can be difficult to go back to where God really wants you.
2. If at all possible, schedule churches for your furlough way in advance. Many of the churches that already support you will be happy to have you in on short notice, but one of your major goals with your furlough should be to raise more support for your ministry, so that you can be more effective at what God has called you to do.
This means you need to get into some new churches, the same churches that plan things a year or two in advance. I personally believe it is a good practice to schedule the churches that already support you first, and then new churches as the Lord leads. This means you need to start about a year and six months before you plan on being in America.
3. Plan a good chunk of time for vacation at the beginning of your furlough. Don’t overlook this. One of the major goals of your furlough is to get some rest and relaxation. This is your responsibility to your family. If after having spent some months back in America you feel more tired than when you came, it will not be anybody’s fault but your own.
4. Remember that America may be “foreign” to your children. On our first furlough, our kids had no idea what a drinking fountain was, or how to use the plethora of different hand drying devices in public restrooms. Take some time to train your kids about the differences between America and your place of service. Also, understand that this is your kids only chance to see our great country, so be sure to visit important sites between meetings.
5. Schedule a meeting with your Pastor.
- Be prepared to encourage your pastor with the victories that God has given.
- Don’t be shy about casting a vision for the future, and what part your pastor might want to play in that vision.
- Give him a written outline of your goals for your ministry for your next term.
- If you are having problems (personal, family, financial, ministry, etc.) don’t try to hide them from your pastor. He is God’s man to help you. Let him pastor you (Hebrews 13:7).
6. Don’t forget to be genuinely thankful to those who have a part in your life and ministry. No one owes us anything, and when people are constantly giving us things, it can be easy to forget that. We can begin thinking that we are entitled to special treatment. Don’t let that happen (2 Thessalonians 2:13–15).
7. Don’t exaggerate what God is using you to do, but don’t underestimate it either. Honesty is always best, and you need to be able to honestly speak with humble excitement about what God is using you to do.
8. Don’t ever stop learning. Being back in America is a great opportunity to improve yourself between meetings by gleaning wisdom from Christians in the ministry, construction, music, computers, and any other field that would be useful to you.
9. Don’t forget about the work in the country you serve. Before you leave for furlough you should have a plan in place to keep in contact with as many of your people as possible. It is wonderful if you can get someone to help with your people while you are gone, but if you can’t this is even more important. Remember holidays, birthdays, and special events. Stay on top of the work.
10. Being a missionary is the greatest thing you could ever do with your life. Don’t forget that. While on furlough, it has been our great privilege to see God call others to the mission field. While we are not the Holy Spirit, and should not try to coerce people to go to the mission field, we should not have an attitude that would discourage people either.
I hope that these thoughts help and encourage you to make the most of your furlough.