What Missionaries Ought to Know about Home Assignment

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What Missionaries Ought to know… does not mean that the author sat down and decided what missionaries ought to know, but that missionaries themselves asked about these topics. During the author’s 35 years of college teaching he learned that if one person asks a question, others probably want to know the same thing—and if two people ask, it was certainly a topic that others need to know about. These are things missionaries need to know because several missionaries have asked about each of them at one time or another.

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Andrew, a TCK, wrote, “I’m really struggling with HMA. It’s just so hard. Fish bowl. Being on. Travel. Exhaustion…. we are going for 6 months. Starting in summer. I dread these times. For me after 26 years as MK and missionary. I struggle most with leaving my family, raising support, and keeping my family and myself healthy.”

Furlough & HMA

Until the middle of the 20th century, missionaries often returned to their passport country on a regular basis. The usual pattern was four years on the field followed by one year of “furlough,” at “home”, and this was repeated as long as they served overseas. They usually literally went “overseas” because they often traveled by cargo ship. There was no other way to get there.

When they went to the field, and when they returned home, they were in transit for several weeks, often with other missionaries on the ship. They had time to talk with the other missionaries in this small group of a dozen or so people. So they arrived home debriefed and somewhat rested.
Today missionaries can board an airplane and be “home” within 48 hours from nearly anywhere in the world, but with no opportunity to rest and debrief. It is called Home Ministry Assignment with deputation to raise funds and prayer support. They may be expected to “hit the ground running” with meetings scheduled the weekend after they arrive.

Missionaries will probably always be asked, “How is your vacation going?” by someone at a meeting, but agencies should be understanding enough to have their missionaries take at least six weeks off (preferably three months) after they arrive home. This time allows the missionaries to get settled in, rest, and greet friends and family at home.

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