leave of absence.
a temporary release from a place of employment.
Most overseas workers, be they humanitarian aid workers or military people or folks like us, have a designated time period every so often when they are released from their station. In some workplaces, this time is called “furlough”. Because most people have only used that word in the military sense, it conjures up the mental picture of rest and relaxation and soldiers on vacation. Allow us to share what furlough is for us.
Furlough is a four letter word.
Actually, furlough is a series of four-letter words.
Rest: Yes, this is a time of rest for us. Rest from our normal routines and roles. In a perfect world, we will have actual physical rest during this time. But we all know that this isn’t a perfect world. So rest takes serious intentionality and planning and work.
Work: We actually do have to take care of some business and work while we are in the States. Our care roles have not stopped, because people don’t stop needing care while we are in Texas. Billy continues to meet with his coaching appointments and counseling calls via Skype. We continue to work with the Member Care Team and the TMS Europe team. And we keep touch with the work and relationships we have back in Spain. We even continue to host people in our home.
Host: While we are in Texas, we are also hosting a family in our home in Spain. They are on sabbatical from the work they do in Ethiopia, and we offered them our home as a place to escape and rest during the summer.
Chat – Meet: This is a time of meeting up with people, going out to lunch or dinner or out for coffee. It’s a time of reconnecting with friends and partners. It’s a time for long chats over good food and drink. It’s a time of laughter around the dinner table. And it’s a time to meet new friends.
Team: This is also a time for us to meet with our existing team – the people who partner with us
financially and prayerfully, the people who are the backbone of the ministry. Without these heroes, we could not do the work we do! This is a time for us to speak to the church congregations that support us and a time to meet with the individuals who partner with us, to hug necks and say thank you and share the stories from the field. It is also a time to find new partners, a time to meet new people and share the vision and the work and give people the opportunity to join us and become members of the best team around!
Road / fuel: While we are in The States, we are not static. We have friends and family and partners all over the place! The home office is in Atlanta. We have family from Colorado to the tip top of Texas to all the way down to the coast and everywhere in between. We have ministry partners in even more places than we can count. And we do not own a vehicle. Thanks to a wonderful friend and team partner, we have a truck on loan for our time here. We cannot take a loaned vehicle to all the places we know folks, so we are consolidating visits to keep the mileage down and the fuel costs lower. Even so, we will log at least 2500 - 3000 miles in our few weeks here. Thank goodness fuel is cheaper here than in Spain!!!
Help / give back: This is also a time to help and to give back to our community and to the churches and people who are so faithful to our team. A couple of our partners are active in local missions and have asked us to visit and to help them by giving them a different set of ‘eyes’ on the situation. We are helping to facilitate some coaching conversations around next steps for those local groups.
Bottom line – our time in the States is not exactly a time of release from work. Is there any time for rest and play? Yes. We have carved out time each week, time that we have intentionally protected and put boundaries on so that we can get some rest and some down-time. We have a great partner who hosted us at their ranch in the country for a couple of days, and we will be headed off for a few days of Texas country time in North Texas next week. We were in the USA for the 4th of July for the first time in ten years, so we took advantage of time to enjoy picnics and fireworks.
Body: Our bodies are paying for all this USA food! Texas barbeque, good hamburgers, Mexican food, and Blue Bell ice cream. It’s all just too good, and comfort food is usually not great for the waistline. PS…it’s HOT here! Like, ridiculous hot! Our daily walk and exercise routine has taken a major hit due to heat and humidity.
Haze: If we look like we are walking around in a haze, we probably are. Things feel a little fragmented during this time. Our normal routine is off. We’re trying to juggle family and friends and speaking and work roles. For some reason, everything seemed to hit crisis mode just as we packed to come back to the States. Our water well at our home in Spain is at a critical state – it’s almost dry. Our landlord was murdered the day before we left. We are hosting people in our home in Spain while we are 5000 miles away. Our sons here both have their own issues with vehicles and jobs and living arrangements. Both our mothers are moving households. None of those things are within our control, but that doesn’t make them less stressful. There is a lot on our plate, and trying to balance that with meetings and speaking to groups and get some rest and renewal… it’s just proving to be a little difficult. Busy is not good for the soul. Fear is not good for the soul. Stress is not good for the body for the soul. So, yeah, we might look a little hazy.
Love: We love Texas. We love our families. We love our team and our partners and all the folks we represent, the people who pray for us, the people who recognize us and run over and hug our necks. We love being here. We also love Spain. We love our friends and our church family there. We love our leadership development work. We love caring for people in far away places, people who put their life and love on the line every day for the sake of others. This time of ‘furlough’ is about telling the stories, about sharing with friends and family, about being present and listening. And, as always, it’s about LOVING WELL.
Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ~Matthew 22: 37-39
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the princess Sarah (13) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in el campo in Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!