by Ralph B. Odman
The strategic person in the church to motivate the people of God in the homeland to fulfill their world-wide obligation of evangelism is the missionary on furlough.
The strategic person in the church to motivate the people of God in the homeland to fulfill their world-wide obligation of evangelism is the missionary on furlough. The following suggestions are offered to encourage the missionary to make good use of his furlough opportunity.
PREPARATION ON THE FIELD
If a missionary waits until his furlough comes to make preparation for his ministry, he will find himself limited, ineffective, and frustrated. Preparation for furlough should begin when one goes to the field and should continue during the term of service.
Taking pictures. An album of five by seven-inch black and white pictures is useful both for conversation and display work. You can make these from colored slides, but taking them with an inexpensive camera is easier. Take colored slides consistently. Avoid posed pictures. People enjoy people, and an audience appreciates pictures of people doing something.
Photographs should give an honest representation of the country. When there are interesting conversions, write out the testimony and take a series of pictures to illustrate the story. As one hundred and fifteen pictures can be used in a half-hour program, have at least three hundred good picturesfrom which to choose. The average missionary is quite unsuccessful in taking movies for presentation at home.Keep a notebook. This will help you to remember situations or objects of everyday life that illustrate some truth of the Word of God. Include a record of unusual testimonies and brief character descriptions. Keep a file of circular letters.
Tape recordings of singing groups, market noises, and testimonies can effectively supplement colored slides.
Curios. Use good curios to illustrate a story or to portray life and customs. Small, inexpensive items used as hostess gifts when one travels about in the homeland are appreciated.
Keep in contact with supporting churches and friends. Give notification one year ahead of the time of your furlough, so churches and schools may include you in their programs.
COME HOME EQUIPPED
Intellectual and spiritual preparation are necessary for a successful deputation ministry.
Spiritual power must be maintained to be possessed; therefore, the regular daily devotional time is of absolute importance. The missionary should give the impression of coming from God’s presence as well as coming from the field when he ministers.
Missionary messages that have been prepared in outline form will help. Have two on the Bible basis of missions; others on reports of what the Lord has accomplished to illustrate a Scripture text. Messages for children with object lessons or curios are necessary.
Intellectual stimulation. A returning missionary is expected to be an authority on his adopted land. Do enough research on the field to give accurate facts and statistics. Read monthly news magazines and listen to radio newscasts to view the position of your country in the world scene. Read Christian periodicals and selected books so you can return with an understanding of the theological and ecclesiastical situation at home.
HAVE A PLAN
Furlough is not all inactivity and rest. All boards want the missionary to rest, but in addition he has a special ministry to perform to the churches. Often neither rest nor ministry are satisfactory because there is no plan. This may be because no goals are fixed in the mind of the missionary.
Goals for furlough should include:
(1) A good home for the family.
(2) More prayer support for the missionary.
(3) More recruits for the field.
(4) Renewed fellowship with the *me church.
(5) Salvation of the lost (especially unsaved loved ones).
(6) Promotion of the ministry of the mission.
(7) Physical rest recommended.
(8) A project of study in self-improvement.
If such goals are to be gained, there must be a plan. Fix dates so that rest will be achieved, school attended,band deputation work done with the leastamount of conflict.
Plan deputation trips to include many churches and training schools. Answer correspondence promptly and systematically.
Because of possible irregularity of family life on the mission field give priority to the home during furlough, because the family may not be together again for sometime.
MEDICAL AND PHYSICAL NEEDS
Medical checkup. A complete medical checkup is necessary soon after arriving home to insure enough time for treatment before returning to the field.
Rest. Most missions require that the missionary take a two-or a three-month period of rest. If this is not taken at the beginning of furlough, it probably will not be found. The mental refreshment of getting away from the work will enable you *do more later in less time.
Dress. As you travel, beware of the missionary look. Your wardrobe may be limited, but it should be presentable.
Most boards request that the missionary come immediately come home office when he returns to this country. There are reasons for this. First, it is valuable to the home office to the worker’s impressions and information while they are and direct from the field. Second, there is a staff at the office that has faithfully prayed for the missionary. They thanks and the pleasure of fellowship. Third, the mission office will have suggestions for deputation concerning iteneraries, methods, projects, new fields, priorities of ministry,literature and equipment. As these are days of change in many areas of finance and policy, missionaries should have the latest word from their office on these matters.
The missionary must inform the mission office of his address and movements at all times, since this is of great help to them in helping in deputation appointments.
Careful records of meetings and names and addresses of pastors should be kept and sent to mission headquarters. Most missions will require a monthly report.
THE HOME CHURCH
Spend as much time as possible in the church that supports you, Churches greatly appreciate your offer to help with visitation, Sunday school, men’s and women’s meetings, teaching and evangelism in. Churches have been contributing to you, and now it is your turn to contribute to them.
Don’t overlook the pastor’s need for blessing and encouragement. Any time spent in ministering to a faithful shepherd will be rewarded. His confidence must be kept as burdens are shared.
Furlough is also a time of self-improvement to enable you to return to the field more adequately prepared. Give attention first of all to spiritual needs-attend a good Bible conference where your soul will be fed.
Many missionaries report great help from attending the Missionary Furlough Institute, P. 0. Box 457, Farmington, Michigan. MFI is the only organized effort (to the author’s knowledge) that ministers uniquely to spiritual needs as well as provides a time of physical rest for the returned missionary. This is a two-month course.
A semester’s work in Bible subjects at a good Bible training school would be profitable for the spiritual welfare of a missionary and it would enrich his ministry. The discipline of preparing for the next day’s classes in an academic situation is an effective way to be released from thinking constantly about the work. Many missions are glad to grant an extension of furlough for educational purposes. Many Christian schools, as well as secular ones, offer a summer’s work, such as the missions seminar at Wheaton College, the Summer School of Theology at Winona Lake, or the missionary workshops offered each summer by Moody Bible Institute.
There are interdenominational conferences held on such matters as:
Literature: Evangelical Literature Overseas, Box 275, Wheaton, 111. (This conference is usually held the first part ofDecember.)
Radio: International Christian Broadcasters Convention, Talcottville, Conn.
Medicine: Christian Medical Society, 1122 Westgate, Oak Park, Ill.
Moslems: Conference of Evangelical Missionaries to Islam, c./o. J. 0. Percy, 261 Mary Street, Hackensack, N. J.
Bookselling: Christian Booksellers’ Association, 5611 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago 51, Ill.
Many Christian camps and conference grounds are happy to use missionaries on their staffs. This provides an excellent training experience for youth work on the mission field.
Missionaries interested in linguistic work will find another summer at Wycliffe’s Summer Institute of Linguistics most helpful (P. 0. Box 1960, Santa Ana, Calif.).
With all the courses available for self-betterment, it is a tragedy for a missionary to neglect such opportunities.
AN EFFECTIVE MINISTRY
According to J. 0. Percy’s report in the 1959 Missions Annual published by the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association, 62% of our missionaries received their call to be missionaries by the time they were teenagers. Therefore, it seems obvious that missionaries should direct the strongest thrust of their deputation work to the primary, junior, and teenage groups. The missionary who seeks as well as accepts opportunities to speak to children will be well rewarded.
Be prepared to give a missionary message from the Bible well as a clear, factual report about your work. Requests about type of message will vary. Generous use of illustrations from the field is wise. Ask what is expected about the message, *hat age group you are to speak to, and how much time you will have.
The Christian public is tired of jokes and excuses about the clock. They don’t enjoy being rebuked by being compared to ‘Ste people who sit for hours at services on the mission field. By all means, avoid being a thief of a fellow speaker’s time. Minister as one burdened about completion of world-wide evangelism, rather than about competition with others.
Be optimistic about the work of God in the world today. Some prophets of doom, telling of doors that soon will close to missionaries, have lived to regret their statements, because of the chilling effect they have had on prospective candidates and prayer warriors. Many of these doors still remain open, but there is now a lack of candidates. Draw attention to the fact that there are more open doors than the Church has been able to enter. Haranguing the faithful who come to meetings about the indifferent church at home will hurt rather than help.
Ask yourself after each engagement, "Have I glorified my Lord? Have I encouraged the people of God? Have I given due credit to the work of national brethren?"
As you give reports, be sure your facts are straight. Be careful about discussing foreign governments. Missionaries have been sorry to see statements appear in newspapers, as quoted from their messages, that would not help fellow missionaries still working in that country, and that might hinder their own return.
Be extremely careful in presenting financial matters. Missions have varying policies, but in any case sincerity and honesty are essential. The step between a Spirit-blessed ministry and a financial racket is a short one and should not be taken.
All ministry should be bathed in prayer. Seek the Lord daily for fresh blessing. Otherwise, deputation can become a routine, perfunctory service.
The missionary on furlough ministers to give to others and seeks opportunities to be helpful. The greatest ministry might well be the one with smallest attendance, and a brief conversation may have eternal results. Every opportunity is significant. May an honest concern for lost souls be revealed by a spontaneous witness to unsaved in the homeland.
Your conduct and speech should reveal a burden for lost people and an enthusiasm for that which God is doing.
Give priority to contacts with students. After speaking, try to remain in the area for a few days to be available for consultations. Any prospective candidates should be followed up and their names and addresses turned over to the mission office for further contact.
Some helpful books in the matter of recruitment and counsel are: Missionary Life and Work by Harold Cook; Missionary Principles and Practice by Harold Lindsell; Missionary Opportunities Today by Leslie Lyall; Missions in Crisis by Arthur Glasser and Eric Fife; Strategy of Missions by Harold Cook; A Spiritual Clinic by Oswald Sanders.
Display material. Almost every church conference desires display, so a good selection of enlarged black and white picture of the work, a world map, and some cut out cardboard letters from an art supply store will help you to prepare sometbing quite effective. A few well-chosen curios are also helpful. The added cost of seeking an artist’s help is worthwhile.
Literature. Every mission board has literature for free distribution which should be kept clean and attractive. Unless the literature is presented from the platform, very few will bother to pick it up. Literature should always be placed in a conspicuous place where persons must pass in leaving the meeting. When there are good books to sell, the missionary’s ministry is enlarged greatly. You can get subscriptions to the mission magazine and names and addresses of those who will join your prayer fellowship.
Color slides. Use only pictures that you are proud to show. Enough pictures for the occasion should be chosen and carefully gone over before the service. Show at least three slides per minute. If someone else is to operate the projector, be sure 0 is in readiness. Set up and focus before the service.
Allow slides to illustrate the story you tell. If you give a character study, many pictures should be shown about the individual. Don’t say, "This is," or, "Now we see". Don’t talk too long about one picture.
According to ability and availability, use object lessons from Curios.
THE GRACIOUS GUEST
The best opportunities to relate information about the mission field and to minister are often found in the homes where you are a guest. Spend a few hours with a book on etiquette to renew your American manners. Punctuality at meals and the effort to fit into the family schedule of your host’s home will be appreciated. The least you can do is to keep your room in order and offer to help with kitchen duties, or perhaps run an errand. Here again, the furlough missionary will seek to give and be helpful. If there are children in the home, be doubly careful not to overlook an opportunity to win a friend and perhaps a future missionary.
Happy is the missionary who returns to his field of service leaving behind a trail of blessing.
When it is time for you to return to the field, your home church should be proud of you and glad to send you forth again New recruits should be considering the fields. More people should be praying, for your work. Your board should be encouraged, and new stewards of the Lord’s money should be sharing in your ministry. You should return to do a good job better, refreshed in body and soul.
EMQ, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 35-42. Copyright © 1964 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.