Argh. The last post is dated April 13th. I apologize.
So, since that last post, we flew through the last weeks of the semester at the seminary and for Abigail at Kyiv Christian Academy, attended three graduations (two of them our own daughters, in different countries!), prepared for and left for home assignment, and helped Mary and Elisha prepare for and then get married. To all who are expecting them, we’ll share pictures when they’re available!
And now we’re starting our long vacation… not! That’s what a lot of people think we’re doing when we leave the field, and we take pains to disavow them of that idea, usually defaulting to these words, ‘Well, actually, we’re doing a different kind of work…’
When we are in Kyiv, Mark teaches and that is a tangible thing people can relate to. We’ve been pretty excited that in the last several years, that has meant teaching at a number of different schools in different places beyond the seminary in Kyiv. And people can relate to me being involved in a variety of projects, most often related to the seminary or to the kids’ school.
But home assignment or furlough as it’s sometimes called is several things rolled into that one term. The most obvious is that we use the time to report to the families and churches who support us. We want to thank them for their investment in the ministry we’re involved in, and we want to give them a glimpse of what the Lord has been doing through their investment in us.
More than just reporting, we want to gain an understanding of what is going on with these friends and church families. People change. Kids grow up. Ministry teams transition. And because we see these people as people, and people with whom we have a relationship, we try to do our part to connect well, to ask how folks are doing, to talk about things which are challenging them, and to just listen.
That actually represents a pretty big chunk of the job, made up of a jillion variegated pieces. It’s a pretty cool part of the job, because it means that we get to see what the Lord is doing outside of our context. We get to see how people are experiencing the Lord’s presence and work on a more personal level.
We also spend time doing ‘administrative’ work. This can be catching up on paperwork, reviewing and renewing documents like passports or visas, getting physicals and taking care of medical or dental questions, or going to our organization’s debriefing session, which is where we’re at now. Physicals and dental work people can relate to. Discovering fun follow-up issues – also relatable. Passports – mostly relatable.
If I’d never been to one, I’d be at a loss to explain what the debrief entailed. Let me just say that our organization is pretty amazing. They take really good care of us, and one way we experience that is in the debriefing they ask us to do every so many years.
This time consists of hearing from our organization, whether about changes or updates, as well as reconnecting with staff and meeting new staff, the incredible people who are taking care of so many things in the home office in our behalf. We hear about issues which are on the radar, meet new appointees, and hear about the work the Lord has called them to. We hear about what the Lord is doing in other parts of the world through colleagues who are also on furlough at the same time as we are. It’s a cool time, if I’m honest. It broadens my vision of the body of Christ as I see how the Lord is working around the world.
Debrief means we also take care of any administrative stuff that needs to be done. A meaningful part to me is spending time with the home office people who do so much on our behalf. Another part of the time entails spending time with other overseas workers, both informally over meals and coffee, but also in structured discussion times where we talk through some of the highs and lows of our recent time in ministry in the countries where we are located. These people, even though they are in contexts that are very, very different from our own, understand this crazy life we live. They get us. They have wrestled with the same things we have. And this, too, broadens my vision of what the Lord is doing around the world. He is working so very personally.
So we catch up with supporters, we do admin work and get caught up on health stuff, and we debrief with our organization. And we ask the Lord to allow us to connect with new people and churches who might also be interested in supporting the work we’re involved in. In practical terms, this is the asking the Lord to provide for our financial support.
It’s work that we usually enjoy. Seriously. It’s very different work from what Mark does in Kyiv. At the same time, it’s actually just a different manifestation of that work. His heart is to create understanding and point people to the Lord, to raise and promote awareness of what God is doing, how God works in the our lives, and how God manifests his presence in the world. And visiting supporting friends and churches and even the debrief gives prime opportunities to do just this.
One thing that will be challenging this time around is the introductions – the talking about ‘our family.’ So much has transpired since the last time we formally did this – 2015 – and we are still needing to find a way to tell the story in the way that accomplishes what we want to accomplish, but which incorporates the really big things into the telling without them swallowing it whole.