“Mom, furlough isn’t really less work than when we are in Papua New Guinea, right? Maybe it’s more.” I thought for a minute and realized my son was right. Furlough has been full of speaking opportunities, visiting friends and relatives, getting caught up on much needed medical and dental work, staying in touch with our team, and doing translation remotely. Oh, and I can’t forget about homeschooling our five kids!
In spite of these things, we began our year long furlough intending to make time and space to recuperate from our last four year term in PNG.
Ben and I focused on our marriage and have spent time working through ways that we communicate with each other. When we were overseas, it was rare to have date nights or even significant time to focus on our marriage. It feels good to not just be surviving life together as roommates (and parents of five kids!) but to actually be ‘us’ again.
We’ve also benefited from pastoral care from our sending churches, and encouragement every time we share about our work in Papua New Guinea. When we arrived, our ‘tanks’ were nearing empty. But every interaction has been filling us back up so that we are feeling excited about returning to Papua New Guinea. When people approach us and say that they are praying for us or that they ‘get’ our heart for Bible translation, it encourages us deeply. We’ve been soaking up sermons and worship music in our mother tongue, English, which has helped our thirsty souls get much needed nourishment again. We have been so thankful for the new friendships we’ve made this year and the chance to renew old ones.
In my roles with my family and our team, I have been doing some deep soul searching, asking God to renew my purpose for being in Papua New Guinea. I felt like I really needed to hear something again from Him. I’ve been consumed with being a mom to my five kids for the past 15 years, so in a way, I felt like I had lost myself. So I prayed, and waited. If you saw me last year, you’d have likely seen me with a dazed look in my eyes, completely overwhelmed and focused on survival.
During the course of the past couple of months, the theme has been “feed my sheep.” Over and over, in the books I’m reading and the sermons I’ve listened to, God has been confirming His purpose for me. Then the question that follows is, “how?” He answers, “I will show you” and “wait.” I don’t have to have a plan. In fact a plan would mean I could easily slip into following my own thinking. I’m continually learning to listen for the Holy Spirit speaking to me, rather than going about my business as I want. I am choosing Him every day, even every minute.
At the same time, God confirmed to Ben that his love for translation and Biblical exegesis is where he should be spending the majority of his ‘work’ time. As we head back with our (emotional/physical/mental) tanks full, we plan to continue using the new skills that we’ve learned this year to keep ourselves focused and intentional on loving God and others.
This last week has been full of doctor’s appointments and a missions conference but as we take one day at a time, I’m reminded again and again that I’m not in control. This handing over of myself is something I have struggled with my whole life. Although it is scary at times (because I don’t know what is going to happen!), I am secure in the One who loves me.
At Houghton, we used to sing this scripture, and it has been playing in my head this week. It’s amazing how God uses Scripture to give me strength for the next thing…
We wait in hope for the Lord
He is our help and our shield.
In Him our hearts rejoice
For we trust in His holy name.
May Your unfailing love rest upon us, oh Lord, even as we put our hope in You. Psalm 33:20-22