If I rewrote part of Tevye’s song from Fiddler on the Roof for global women, it would go something like this…

Transition, transition! Transition!
Transition, transition! Transition!

Who must know the way to make a proper home,
a stateside home, a foreign home,

Who must learn other tongues and teach the kids,
So Papa’s free to run the mission work?

The Mama, the Mama! Transition!

Of course, these days, the mama does so much more outside the home. Even so, transition seems to be the theme of furlough retreats, far more than international retreats.

Jillian has been back in the States about 10 months. “I wasn’t initially interested in coming to the retreat, because there’s too much to do during this short year in the States,” but her friend Rhonda convinced her to come. “I now realize how much I’ve needed this,” she said with leaky eyes. Re-entry was harder than she anticipated, much harder than acculturating to the country where she serves. “No one wants to hear about the place where we’ve chosen to spend our lives.”

At least Jillian knows where she’s headed and when. Many other women are in a season of limbo, not sure where they’re going next, or even when. This is true of five of the six women in volunteer Judyann’s small group.

Volunteer Becky wept a she admitted, “I was not ready for the pains and concerns of women on furlough versus overseas retreats.” Volunteer Mary Wilhelm echoed that: “I was overwhelmed to feel the sadness and pain of the women I’ve prayed for this week.”

Frances, a mother of 7, is dealing with her own feelings about transitioning in addition to those of her kids. “My youngest, age four, loves America, loves Target.” But Frances doesn’t share those feelings, at least not yet, and neither do some of her other kids.

Transition means more than a change of address; for many it means re-establishing one’s identity. After 30 years abroad, Belinda is back in North America, and this time she’s caring for an aging parent. But God is at work. “I saw a glow of peace on her after our personal sanctuary and prayer time,” says volunteer Sarah. Another attendee, Becky, had some space to grieve and process her retirement during our first evening together, and the next day was able to verbalize some of this process in her small group. And Judyann can see God at work in her small group: “These global women don’t feel alone. They feel God has brought them other women who understand their lives and their feelings.”

In the midst of transition, we pray these women would find true community with one another—with others who truly understand their lives.

©2015 Thrive