So far, we have looked at the benefits of furlough to the missionary and to the missionary’s family. Furlough also is a benefit to the missionary’s relatives.
Jim Eliot said, “The cross of Christ falls hardest on the home,” and the departure of a missionary family costs their extended family the most. I once asked Bro. Dean Hamby, assistant director of Macedonia World Baptist Missions the following questions: “Is it harder going to the mission field yourself or having your children and grandchildren leave you and go to the mission field?” Having been a missionary in Africa and then having had his children go as missionaries, he could speak from experience. He said, “Saying goodbye to your children as they go is harder than being the one who goes.”
When the missionary and his family leave for the field, it is difficult, but they have the field, the work, and the new culture to look forward to and to get involved in. The parents and relatives of missionaries stay behind and live goes on as normal. They don’t live on the mission field, they don’t know the new believers that get saved, and they often struggle to appreciate why their family “loves” being on the field.
I think furlough is good because it benefits parents, grandparents, uncles/aunts, cousins, and other relatives in the follow ways:
- Helps them know better how to pray for their family who are missionaries.
- Reconnect them to the missionary family and helps build stronger bonds.
- Lets them know that, though they must take second place to God’s will and plans, they do have a place and are loved by the missionary family.
- Allows them to invest in the missionary and the missionaries children.
- Makes it easier for them to allow the missionary family to go when they know that they will be every so often.
- Encourage them to want to go visit as they develop a growing relationship with the missionary family.
From personal experience, it is not always possible for our extended families to come visit us on the mission field and that they really appreciate it when we make the effort to come see them on furlough. Our children have really enjoyed getting to know their cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. We have had the opportunity to give a presentation of our ministry to several groups of our relatives, and we look forward to spend more time with them while on furlough.
You may think this is a small thing and should not factor into the missionaries priorities. Let me just encourage you to talk to a grandma or grandpa who has grandchildren on the mission field, and you will find out how much it means to them to get to see those grandkids every couple years.
Yes, we need to be willing to put Christ first and to forsake all to follow Jesus, but that does not mean that we cannot make time to honour our father and mother, to spend time with relatives, and to seek to involved them in the call of God on our lives.