First Furlough Checklist
It seems as though we’ve been talking about our first furlough since the day we arrived. First it was praying about whether to take a furlough after two years or four, then it was the timing of it, and for the last several months, it has been arranging the details.
- Make sure tickets are in hand, and that we have a vehicle and a place to stay lined up for when we get there.
- Prep Katie (age 4) on being able to identify aunts/uncles and cousins by photo, with information on where they live, what they do, etc.
- Talk to the pediatrician about how to help the baby (14 months) through the plane trip, given his frequent ear infections and other health issues.
- Pack away valuables downstairs, preparing the house for house sitters.
- Make veterinarian appointment for Saturday, buy three months worth of dog food, and give her a bath.
- Oh, and work on talks for first conference, develop children’s program, and make list of current prayer needs. Where is the ministry in all of this mania?
Lord, help me to keep my focus on You, in the midst of the craziness, in the midst of the details. Help me to remember that we’re not doing this on our strength. This is Your furlough – Your time to use us to bless people at home. Help us not to have unrealistic expectations about the interest of others in what we’re doing – but help us to go with the expectation that we are going to listen, to love, and to learn – again.
Yikes. It’s almost here. And yet we don’t have our schedule filled out for what’s happening three weeks after we arrive. There’s pressure from the in-laws about needing to spend more time there, and yet we need to visit a new church who has invited us. The details are set about the housesitting arrangement, the utilities are paid up for the next three months, but I haven’t had a quiet time in three days – how can I? I feel so unprepared for what we are about to do.
- Finish up translation of fundraising packet
- Make sure the nursery coordinator at church knows I won’t be there to work for the next few months
- Catch up on 10 e-mails with questions about furlough
- Spend some time in prayer
Lord, it’s just a whirlwind. I know I’m only leaving for three months, but I feel like my entire life is on “hold”. To the various ministries, I’ve had to say “no.” To my children, I’ve had to say, “In a little while, when I finish this project.” To the cooking and my husband, I’ve had to say “Is it supper time already? Let me quickly defrost something.” Help me to put this all back into perspective – Your perspective. People have survived furlough before – and many have come back mentally healthy. Help me to rest in You. Give me just a few moments of Your peace today, where I can sit and enjoy Your presence. Remind me again how much You love me and how much You take care of each and every detail. And remind me again that what happens during this furlough is in Your hands.
It’s almost time! The clothes are mostly packed, the carry-on bags are ready, the supporter gifts are packed up and labeled. I’ve got a supply of thank you notes handy for the first few days, before I get to a stationery store. All of our necessary paperwork is together on the desk downstairs. The dog has had a bath. Our families and those meeting us at the airport know the arrangements, and our first three weeks’ schedule is firm. The talks and kids’ programs are more or less in our heads or on paper. The craft and cooking projects we will be doing in schools and AWANA are all organized. The pastor’s bulletin is ready for press, and the next issue is set. The survey for the research project that will take place while we are gone is in the right hands. I think we’re almost set!
- Spend time reading stories with Katie and Benjamin; if extra time permits, play Barbies
- Have an extra moment or two with God while the house is quiet and everyone’s outside playing
- Make last minute good-bye phone calls to friends
- Confirm flight information
God, I know You are in control. I know that the next three months will be crazy. I ask Your hand of blessing upon my family. Protect these precious children of mine. Help them to realize that their ministry is obedience, loving people, and sharing their stories. Help us to realize that our ministry to them is discipline, love, and giving them extra time whenever possible. I pray for Your divine appointments during this furlough. Help us not to feel the pressure of what we need to accomplish or the monies that we need to raise. Help us to just constantly be reminded that You are the God Who provides, and that You are the One who will speak during each and every meeting we have. We pray we will be tools – that we will be totally moldable in Your hand, and that we will be a blessing to each and every person with whom we come into contact. Thank you, Lord, for furlough.
Laura Eller is on her first furlough with her husband, Kory, and their two children, Katie and Benjamin. Upon their return to Guatemala, they look forward to getting back into ministry and then welcoming their third child into their home in February. They serve with OC International in Guatemala City.