This year of transition or furlough…has been a very weird year for our family. We have to recognize that it is a fundamental year, leaving a stage of ministry and starting another stage in a new organization, reconnecting with family, friends, and home church. However, what does a furlough year look like for a Latin American family? (They did not explain this to us in any of the missions courses or in seminary, someone please write something about this!…)
After eight years of being outside of your country, you wait very excitedly the return to your country and the feeling of being one more instead of being seen and standing out like a foreigner. To say “Pura Vida” like any good Tico. However, after you arrive, you realize that it is not this way and that in many ways you are now a foreigner in your own homeland.
At first, you fight with your memory that stayed behind in your last country, in your last house, in the streets where you used to drive to avoid the taxis and bus drivers, in your church, in your daughter’s school, in the route to the office including your work schedule, in the supermarket that became your favorite and the one that you could drive to with your eyes closed, in that shopping center or mall where you discovered that you could buy anything from some buttons to that special detail to give to someone special as a gift.
One morning, your new neighbor asks you if you have baking pans to make cupcakes and very pleasantly you answer that you do. Next, you quickly go to your kitchen , happy to be able to serve your new neighbor with whom you want to become friends, and after looking through every single one of your drawers, you discover that, yes you had those pans, but in your last kitchen. You go back outside trying to find the way to explain to your neighbor, without appearing too crazy, that yes you had those pans, but they stayed in your last house in Nicaragua…
Or, at the beginning, your husband wakes up bright and early one morning showers, eats breakfast, gets dressed, and then you ask him: “Where are you going?” He makes a sleepwalker face trying to establish a logical thought to answer your question and says, “Well, I think I was going to the office in Colonia Independencia…”, which appears completely normal unless you know that the office is now 550 kilometers (340 miles) away from your new house.
You are also happy to spend time with your family and to be able to find what your place in it is again. However, your little siblings have grown up and your parents have grown up too and you have to accept that it is not the same family that you left and that there are new things some that make you happy and others that make you sad. And, you think that you have leave your family all “fixed” before you leave again. However, this is not possible, your family is there, everyone right where he or she is and you have to love it as it is now.
Your church is full of people that you don’t “know” and you ask, “who is that?” “That’s that son of Brother Eduardo” to which you answer, “the son! But, I took care of him in the Sunday school nursery…”
In brief, in the beginning, you spend a lot of time looking around with lost eyes in a sort of limbo trying to change your hard drive to this new program.
Then, you spend a lot of time trying to establish what should be your job while you are in furlough. You discover, with a lot of worry, that you can no longer do your work just like you used to in your last ministry, and you put forth a lot of effort to work hard because you do not want to appear “lazy” and you start a sort of “marathon” of things to do, until you stop and ask yourself, “Where are we going? What are we doing?”
In the end, you discover that your current job is to move to your next job. This requires a lot of self-discipline, organization, logistics, and a lot of faith.
You buy a notebook to make lists of the things you have to do, and this becomes your step of faith with which you show God that you are believing and trusting Him. This notebook is like your emblem that represents you walk by faith and not by sight. The new budget looks like a scary haunted house, your future responsibilities make you feel small, your future city scares even the bravest that asks, “Where are you going?”, in brief, it is a mountain that requires faith to move.
Around half way through this year, you also face situations you did not expect: the cost living has almost doubled since you left, you get sick, the car needs fixing and you no longer have the mechanic you trust, the budget seems like some sort of roller coaster, your daughter doesn’t find that one friend that she was waiting for in her new school, you get disappointed , you have many questions for God, and most of the time you receive for an answer a deafening silence.
Nevertheless, in the end, God, like always, is working in the midst of this whirlwind, in you and in your family. Putting the foundations for the new ministry that for now is only a beautiful light at the end of this tunnel that is the famous furlough, and you thank God for this opportunity and for all the people that accompanied you in these months of furlough.