I have been in Uganda, E. Africa nearly 5 ½ years now, working as a medical missionary. About every 2 years I go back to the USA for about 3 months of furlough. What is a furlough and what does a missionary do on furlough? Most people think it is a vacation. Some think it's a periodic escape for a quick snatch of "civilization." But really, what is a furlough?
A furlough for me is not a vacation, it's part of the job. In some ways it's a harder part of the job! It requires re-entering the complex American lifestyle after having adjusted to the more simplistic African way of life. I have to readjust to the myriads of choices offered in the USA, such as 2% or whole milk, x, y, or z phone services, and so on. In Africa, the choices are: Do you have it? Yes or no. There is catching up to be done for the 2 years I've been gone. In other words, there is a certain amount of reverse culture shock.
There is lots of public speaking, traveling, networking with people, and so on, as this is what provides my financial support to be able to live and work in Africa. There is time with family, time with friends, and meeting of new friends. There are business meetings, dinner meetings, planning meetings, and keeping up with what's going on in Uganda in my absence. This year I came home one month earlier than planned to spend time with my ailing mother in California. I have even learned how to edit my Africa home videos, learning much more about computers than I ever dreamed!
By the time I return to Uganda in about 2 weeks, I will have flown about 29,000 miles in the past 4 months of furlough. I have driven about 3200 road miles, and that does not count the "around town" day to day travel. I have spoken at 6 churches on Sunday mornings, 4 smaller church groups, one grade school, and had numerous other small group meetings to talk about missions in Uganda and/or our orphan ministry. There have been planning meetings for such things as a women's radio broadcast for Uganda, an emergency medical system for Uganda, and for the orphan ministry.
Do I do fun, vacation stuff? You bet! I've been camping twice, once on the Deschutes River in Oregon, in a tent, the other time in a 5th wheel camper on the Rogue River, also in Oregon. I had 2 of my grandchildren traveling with me for 3 weeks. We went on a jetboat tour down the Rogue River. We drove up the Oregon Coast and looked at sea lions, played on the beaches. I've been shopping a few times to pick up clothing items I need for Uganda. And I've eaten about 15 pounds-worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners with good friends and relatives. (And hopefully that will all come off when I get back to Africa!)
How do I live when I'm on furlough? God provides what I need in the USA just as He does when I'm in Africa. I've had a base from which to travel, in the home of Denny and Diane Long, who've so kindly let me park my bags and my body in an extra bedroom of their home when I'm in Everett. Thanks to New Life Center Foursquare Church and Rob and Kristi Knowles, I have had excellent vehicles to use for my entire 4 months here. New Life Center has also provided me with a cell phone. My financial supporters have remained faithful to send their usual support and other funds have come in as needed, through speaking and such. And of course, as I've traveled, many have opened their homes to me along the way, so I've never needed a hotel, other than on my flight from Uganda (and even that was paid for by friends!).
On July 26th, my long-ailing mother went home to be with Jesus. Of course that necessitated another flight down to California for her funeral. Although there was sadness, my heart was full of joy, knowing her suffering is finished and she's in a better place. I had a wonderful 4 days with family and friends before returning to Washington.
On August 17th I will fly back to Uganda, arriving there on the 20th. Please pray for me for 1) a safe trip, and 2) that I will be able to sleep as I travel. I have a 5 hour flight, then a 16 hour flight, followed by another 4 hour flight, with layovers in between. I find it extremely difficult to sleep in such an environment, but I travel much better if I can. I have found in the past that when people pray for me for sleep, I do sleep on the flights, and if I forget to ask, I do not sleep and grow exhausted by the trip.