Monday, March 11, 2013

Three months AND three days AND counting...

...with both a sense of anticipation, nervousness and,
depending on the day,
either a little bit or a lotta bit of dread!

We've accomplished a lot since Christmas (in no particular order):
  • Home assignment housing secured?     
  • Plane tickets purchased?     
  • Hotel reservations made?       
  • Travel vehicles, where required, rented     
  • Furlough vehicle purchased?     
  • Sell list/spread sheet made?     
  • 3 major recording studio projects?     1.5 
  • Plan for the studio while we are gone?     
  • Homes found for our pets (43 goats, 54 pigeons, 3 cats, 2 dogs)?         
  • luggage that could be sent on ahead?     
  • Final packing lists?     
  • Brendan's senior pictures?     
  • College paperwork completed?     
  • Scholarship paperwork completed?     
  • Drivers' licenses renewed?     
  • Family vacation scheduled?     
  • Family vacation planned?     
  • House repairs and walls painted?     
  • Sell vehicle 1?     
  • Sell vehicle 2?     
  • Home school curriculum sorted, stored or delivered?     
  • Educational options/possibilities for our 8 children explored... discussed... evaluated... decided?     
  • Schedule meetings with home/sending church     
  • Schedule meetings with financial and prayer partners     

In some senses, though? Those are all the easy things. They take time, but they are all relatively concrete and tangible. They can be put on a list and checked off as they are completed... and completion is usually pretty cut and dried. Either it is done or it isn't.

What about the intangibles that we have on our list?

Photo by Jessica Neff
Of course, many of those "intangibles" have to do with people - colleagues, friends, neighbors... all those dear folks we've come to love over the past years, those people who've become our family when we weren't near to our blood families.

Photo by Christine Banke
Whether or not there is the intention to return after a time of home assignment, preparing to leave well and recognizing that there is no guarantee for what the Lord might bring into our lives underscores the importance of ending well each term we spend in this expat world. Those preparations will inevitably include asking some probing, uncomfortable or even downright hard questions: 
  • "What has/have been the high point/s of this term?"
  • “What were some of the most difficult experiences?”
  • "Where do I feel I've succeeded?"
  • "How do I feel I have failed? Is this failure due to sin?"
  • “How have I spied God working in my life personally, professionally and spiritually?”
  • “What did I hope to achieve - long term goals and short term objectives?" 
  • "Did I accomplish them, have I not yet achieved them, or are they currently in progress?”
  • “The activities I have been involved with during this term - would I describe them as satisfying or fulfilling?  Are they consistent with my reasons for becoming a missionary in this particular place? Am I doing what I told our partners back in my home country I'd be doing? Do my activities apply to my specific responsibilities?"
  • “What did/is God accomplish/ing through me?"
  • “What have been the greatest roadblocks and frustrations I have encountered?"
  • “Are there unresolved on-field relationships (expat and local colleagues) I need to reconcile before leaving?”
  • "What goodbyes need to be said, how do they need to be said and what memories do I hope to make in the time remaining? How do I say goodbye well?"
  • "What will I miss most when I am not here? How can I treasure that unique aspect of my life in these final times?" 
  • "How do I help my children to ask, work through and answer all of these same types of questions?"

Photo by Sally Manhard 

What intangibles and questions to ask would be top of the list for you and your family... if you were leaving for home assignment this summer?

Other posts in this series of preparing to leave the field:


  1. This is a great list of questions to evaluate with. I think I need to save it somewhere! :)

    1. Thanks Beth... certainly not exhaustive, though. I'm hoping folks will add at least a few!

  2. Wow, that second list... definitely need to save it for future reference. I think it would be good to ponder some/many of those before leaving to live overseas too...

    1. I hadn't thought about it from that point of view, but? Perhaps they are the kind of questions we need to ask ourselves before any move... or leaving.

  3. Wow, Richelle! That is a great list of questions. Really thought provoking.

    I might add, "How I given appropriate priority to caring for myself and cultivating my own spiritual life?"


    1. great question! especially for those who tend to always put themselves last and ignore their own needs or forget to care for themselves. hadn't thought of that one...

  4. Ok- so we're attempting to start the transition! Made a Missionary Mom's Packing Planner- FREE to download and print!

    On our "Goodbyes to People" checklist I left a spot for "Sorry", in case we need to say sorry and resolve conflict before we leave.

    Would it be possible to add your questions to the end of my Planner?

  5. Such great questions!

    Do you mind if I ask a practical one? Do you have a certain order that you try for when planning the big variables for your time in the states? What I mean is, that we go round and round with our relatives before every trip. We'd like to have housing and a car nailed down, then set specific dates and buy tickets. They tell us to buy tickets, and then they'll start looking for what we need.... and that has led to several times without transportation and just staying with relatives every time. :-( Any thoughts?

    1. because we are a larger than average family, plane tickets must be taken care of at least 6 mos in advance - otherwise we end up paying 5-6000$ more. so we buy those plane tickets and then get to work - it keeps us motivated and plugging along. we also tend to take care of as many of the details as possible ourselves. the housing is easy because our church has missionary homes and only one is "legal" for our family. we usually have to reserve it 1.5-2 years in advance. as far as the vehicle, we work through MATS and my husband has had an account at the same credit union for over 30 years, did all of his school loans there, etc., and so they are very willing to work with us. my mom has poa in case we need something signed, but after our first term, we found that it was simpler and better on relationships if we took care of as much of that as was possible from here and only gave very specific tasks to family members (i.e. like asking my mom to stop by the credit union and sign the paperwork sometime during the week.) this process does sometimes result in hurt feelings, but that tends to resolve itself more quickly than the issues that came up with asking others to care for business specifics like cars, etc.

      additionally, to schedule meetings with many of our partnering churches, we need to be making up the calendar 1-2 years in advance or we can't get into the churches. so sometimes it seems like we just get back and get into the swing of things and we already have the next home assignment marked on the calendar. our african - live in the moment friends think we are nuts.

      on the furlough housing tues topic that was up recently, i commented with some links. you might check those out and bookmark them. and when you google missionary care resources, there are tons of links that come up in regards to housing and transportation. just takes a bit of time to sift through them and find what is beneficial or useful to you.

    2. Thank you. That helps a lot. Yes, last time we just kept repeating that we were working on it in our own time and way, and that seemed to work better than asking them to help. They'd say, "Get your tickets, and then we'll start helping." And we'd say, "No, thanks. We're working on it." :-)

      We have found a car place that was perfect for us (Macedonian Call South Carolina). Hopefully that will be an option next time, too. We absolutely cannot find housing, though! Of course, nothing is impossibly with God, and we're not planning on anything soon, but really, I have searched and searched the internet and all those links and talked to people every time, and there's just nothing in our areas! I even went through the links again when the topic came up so recently, and still nothing. Oh, well.

      Thanks, again!

    3. Mainly Charlotte, NC. We did stay once at a beautiful place about 2 hours away, but the driving back and forth ended up being too much for us.

      I need to look more in Central Florida, too. That's our other base, but I've never looked into staying longer there.

    4. i don't know if siloam springs was the place you stayed before... but have you tried contacting them and asking if they have names/emails of other groups, closer to charlotte, where you might be able to stay? what about contacting SIM - their headquarters are in Charlotte - you may find a misso looking to rent their home for a year, etc.