Is it time to go home?”
That question has come up frequently lately, both in personal conversations and in blogs and articles I’ve read. This is not just a question for those who have spent their whole adult life in His service to the nations. My family faced this question after two years of international service, and again after four years on the field.
We had pastored for 11 years before going to Africa. Though we loved the work in Africa, it was not the right fit for our family. We believed God was sending us to Asia, but needed approval from our board to make such a drastic move. Our board told us we could sell our belongings in Africa, but with the agreement we could buy them back, if we should return after meeting with them. We didn’t know if our time overseas would be over should we decide not to return to Africa. After meeting with us, they agreed to let us move to Asia, though it was a very unusual move. Who changes continents after only two years?
Then, after two years in Asia, we were scheduled for a furlough. We had only been able to stay in our Asian country by leaving every three months and getting a new visa upon return. That was very unsettling. So troubling in fact, that we wondered if we would return there after our home leave.
This time, God used the wise counsel of a local Asian friend, confirming it to us with the words from John 9.4:
“As long as it is day, I must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work.”
In our adopted country night (the time when present modes of ministry would not be possible) could come at any time. Believing that God wanted us there as long as we could be there, we returned and worked for an additional five years.
When we returned home for a six month furlough, I realized I was exhausted and needed more time before returning to our place of ministry. It can be hard to admit that, but better to admit it than to die a premature death.
With our board’s approval, we based in the US and made two trips of two months each for the next 14 years! It was time to see our sons finish their schooling, begin their careers, and meet and marry their wives. Through all of those years God faithfully met our needs. Our supporters continued supporting us, and we continued serving God’s people in any way we could, wherever we could.
At the right time God directed us to return to this country that we love so much. We have been back, working full time now for 10 years. We are past retirement age in the US, but are healthy and have plenty of work to keep us busy here. We have no plan to leave before we must, yet several times a year people ask us, “When will you to go home to America for good?” They do not want to get rid of us. They are just a little curious.
So, what are the reasons it is time for a PW and family to return home? Here are some of the reasons to consider:
· The board or sending agency we work with has decided to change their direction and our kind of work is no longer needed by them.
· Overwhelming needs of family in our home country. (Aging parents, children needing special help, etc.)
· Our home church loses its pastor or other leaders and needs us to take up the work there.
· Our own physical, mental, emotional, or financial needs.
· Civil war or other emergency in the country we’ve been serving.
· Our need for further education in order to continue in our calling.
· When the type of work we have been doing can and should be taken over by local believers.
Any of those could mean it’s time to say goodbye. But not necessarily. We really have to pray and ask God what we must do. There may be another solution rather than leaving the place where God has sent us.
Here are some things to consider when confronted by situations like those.
· What is your calling? Can it be done at home? Can you do it remotely? Can it be done on short term trip.
· Is there some adjustment we should make in the way we do our work that would make it possible for us to continue, or to return after a furlough?
· Is it possible that the local believers will never take up their positions as long as we are there to do the work?
· Although we know God is directing us to go home now, is it possible we will return later?
· What is the most God-honoring decision we can make at this time? He gives us the grace and provision to do what He wants us to do.
· It takes as much faith to return home as it took to go out to the nations. Trust God every step of the way.
The decision to go home has so many ramifications for you and your family, for those you have been working with, and for those in your home country. We cannot make these decisions lightly. But we can know God’s direction for each step of the way. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is our mighty Counselor and our Prince of Peace.
To read more on this topic or related topics, check out the following links:
From previous Peter’s Wife articles:
If you have comments or questions about this topic, please email me at: Diane