Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Countdown Begins: A Home Assignment FAQ

This has nothing to do with leaving PNG...
but it's a cool piece of driftwood from New Ireland!
21 days. 3 weeks. 504 hours. A fortnight and a half. 30,240 minutes. It’s the length of time that it takes to form a habit or hatch a chick. And in my case, it is how many days I have left before I leave Papua New Guinea (PNG).

While my time in PNG has sometimes felt like a lifetime and other times like a brief moment, it’s actually been two years, and thus it’s now time for me to return to the US for what missionaries call “furlough” or “home assignment.” On July 29th, I’ll say my goodbyes in PNG and spend two weeks travelling before I ultimately land in Minnesota on August 9th.

Because this is my first home assignment, I know we both have lots of questions! Here are a few common ones—please feel free to ask more in the comment section.

How long will you be here? I’ll be in the US for about six months; I plan on returning to PNG in Jan/Feb 2014.

What will you be doing in the US? In addition to spending time with family, reconnecting with all of you, and doing necessary paperwork to update my visa/work permit, I will continue serving with Wycliffe in the work of Bible translation. This may include speaking and travelling on Wycliffe’s behalf, meeting with as churches and groups to share what God’s been doing, receiving further training, writing articles, and much more! It’s my privilege and honor to continue in ministry—to the people groups of the US!

A lovely sunset from New Ireland

Isn’t this your vacation? Actually, no. For most missionaries, “home assignment” is just as busy as our work in PNG (and for some people, even more so!), and only a portion of that time (just like in a “regular” job) is allotted for vacation. In fact, going from a quiet, slow country with limited choices and minimal sensory input to a high speed, highly populated, high choice, and high sensory input location can be extremely stressful. In addition, in order to reconnect with all of you, I will need to be travelling quite extensively, as well as trying to accomplish all the tasks that can only happen in the US (such as certain health services or things that require better Internet, etc.).

Will you come to visit my area or church?
I would love to! I plan on spending most of my time in Minnesota, but I may be visiting a few other states. Contact me ASAP to get your church or group on my schedule.

Do you still need our support of prayer and finances? Most definitely! The transition back to US culture is often a challenge for overseas workers, and a common occasion of spiritual warfare; your prayers are extremely valuable! In addition, your faithful giving remains my primary means of financial support as I deal with the higher expenses of life in the US (everything from doctor visits to vehicle needs to housing expenses).

Why is it taking you two weeks to go from PNG to MN? Because I’m making lots of stops! On July 29, I fly from Ukarumpa to Sydney, connecting in Port Moresby and Brisbane. I then spend 24 hours in Sydney before I catch my flight to Hawaii, leaving late on July 30. Thanks to the dateline :) I arrive in Hawaii before I left Sydney, and there I plan to have a brief holiday and culture-adjustment period (where I can begin dealing with reverse culture shock, such as when I walk into a large grocery store for the first time, wear jeans, make eye contact with a male in conversation, observe more than two cars etc.) Then, on Saturday, August 3, I fly to Orlando, connecting through San Diego, and spend a week at the Wycliffe headquarters, where they have a program to debrief missionaries after the field assignment and provide services, like health care, counselors, financial advisors, etc. Then I fly back to MN on Friday, August 9!

Will you keep blogging? Of course! I have tons of stories and blogs about life in PNG that I haven’t had a chance to share yet. And besides, don’t you want to follow my amazement and shock as I see snow again or eat sweet corn on the cob...?

What foods do you want to eat in the US? Bacon, blueberries, apples, lunch meat, real ice cream, steak, pizza, peaches, sweet corn on the cob, hamburger, sour cream, real maple syrup, sausage, juice, lasagna, apple pie, nectarines, almonds and walnuts, salad dressings, peas, various cheeses, spinach, anything grilled...

I’m going to be blogging about the oddities of home assignment every Sunday night until I leave—stay tuned for next week’s post on how to help your missionary when he/she returns home.

What other questions do you have?