Coming Home – A Difficult Decision

Since the news first broke about the decision to bring 600-800 IMB missionaries and staff home due to on-going budget shortfalls, I have heard from a number of our missionaries. Those who fit the parameters of being offered the Voluntary Retirement Incentive (VRI) are agonizing over what they should do. One missionary wrote the following which I asked if I could share. I have edited somewhat and will not identify the individual. But I have heard these same sentiments from many. Please pray for our missionaries, pray for their decision making process, pray for those who decide to come home at this time, and pray about what you and your church can do to assist in this time of transition.

Thank you for praying for wisdom for decisions during this time when I and so many of my coworkers are considering the Voluntary Retirement Incentive (VRI) for early retirement.  I have heard from a number of you assuring me of your prayers. Thank you.  Several have asked if I have reached a decision and for more about my thinking process in all of this.  So, I thought I would share more with you in this update.  I’ll give you the short and longer story for your choice.

SHORTER UPDATE – For a while I have had a sense the financial situation would soon hit the crisis time.  I thought we would be in a situation of some being offered an early retirement package.  I never thought it would be as wide in scope of who would be considered.  But this has led me to prayer and seeking Him about how to respond to possible changes coming and my future service for him for several months.  I have been drawn to a deeper hunger to know Him.  He has answered and several close prayer partners have confirmed He has spoken the same word to them for me.  I completed and sent in the Letter of Intent for the VRI package with a ‘Yes’.  I am accepting the offer and beginning the process to work out the details of returning stateside.

PROCESS TO REACH A DECISION AND HOW TO MINISTER TO MYSELF AND OTHERS AS WE COME HOME – I write this from both a personal perspective and from the general perspective so you may also relate and minister to others who are also in the process. I hope it encourages you and those you partner with as they are on this journey.

My/Our call and faith in the current decisions being made. – For those of us who are being asked to consider the VRI offer know that we have been and continue to pray unceasingly and begging God for a clear word of what He wants for our lives and focus of continued service for Him. For many of us we have struggled as hard over this as any other decision we have made during our journey of service for HIM.  Whether Yes or No I know of no one taking this lightly and not struggling and grieving over the need to make a decision and what we personally should do. For those who say YES I/we have not given up our faith, rejected our calling or stopped our fight for bringing souls from darkness to light in HIM. I/we have laid it all on the altar before Him again.  We say “Yes Lord” before knowing the answer.  Our greatest desire is to know Him and obey His word of direction for our lives. Do I understand all the decisions?  No. I do trust that the leaders are seeking God first.  And I trust who I know my God to be, His character and leading in my life.  He is faithful!!  And I willingly choose to say “Yes Lord”. Thank you to the many who have and continue to pray for me/us as we move thru this process.  Thank you to fellowships who have had focused times of prayers for me/us.  Please do not stop as many are still making decisions and my ‘Yes’ is just the beginning of so many other decisions to come.

Personal Grief in the Process – While I say ‘Yes Lord’ it does not mean I do not grieve thru the process.  He understands my grief.  Someone who loves me said recently ‘there is a time of adjustment. It takes a little while to get use to not going to the office each morning and finding new routines.” I love that they love me and want to help me process. But know that my/our grieving goes much deeper. Once again to obey His leading I will move to the other side of the world.  I am to leave my home both the structure and the city. I am selling almost all of my belongings except what fits into a few suitcases and a few boxes.  I am moving almost 10,000 miles from my neighbors and friends of the last 11 years…. Be patient with us as we grieve the loss of home, regular contact with friends and a ‘normal’ that is to be no more.  Some days we will be fine but a memory will hit and tears may flow.  New homes, friends, ministry opportunities and normal will come but it will take time.

Ministry grief and hope – I/we came to these places and peoples we now call home because of a deep calling to take the Good News to a people who have never heard and do not know Him.  While victories have been won in some lives, so many others – millions – still live in darkness.  And we grieve and wonder why we must leave now.  And yet there is HOPE.  Pray for the believers who we have worked with in our respective people groups.  Ask for deep faith, maturity in their walk with HIM, perseverance in times of persecution, and boldness to continue to take the Good News to others in darkness. I ask that He would make the smaller group of my coworkers like Gideon’s final battle group.  And may the national believers take up the task of the Great Commission to even a greater measure.

Who am I now is not who I was when I first accepted the call to the nations. – I was raised in America and lived there till I was 37.  I am American.  But for most of the last 23 years I lived overseas in different cultures, languages and among a different people. I/we love our home country but our adopted culture is also home.  We are no longer fully American.  We are not fully our adopted country. We are Third Culture people, a mix of 2 or more cultures.  We view things differently.  We have changed. As we return to our ‘homeland’ please be patient as our ‘homeland’ has changed in the 5, 10, 20 or more years we have been gone.  For years my/our daily life has been in a different culture, land and people that we have adapted to become our own in many ways. Please be patient as we process and as we re-learn America and find our way to a new normal. Pray we make the adjustments but do not lose the edge of our boldness for lostness and discipleship toward Kingdom matters.

Practical ways to support those coming home – Several have asked what you can do for those who accept the offer and come home. So, I will share some thoughts in a general sense for you to consider.
– First, pray!! Send prayers written out in an email. When you are present with them, pray for them and not just say I will pray for you later in my quiet time. We need that too, but the personal prayer is meaningful.
– Second, ask us what the situation is for our leaving the field as to what will be brought home. Some may live where they cannot crate and bring things out of country. Others may choose that after years of many moves, the furniture is not up to another big move, so will come home with only a few special items. Others will bring most things home.  ASK.
– Third, ask what their plans are for coming home. Do they have a place for the short term and/or the long term? What can you do to help them find a home that is something they can afford.
– Fourth,  what other needs might they have to begin life all over.  This includes car, home furnishings, basic kitchen supplies, clothes, etc. Let me say a word on clothes.  Some of us come from tropical places and will be coming home in December or January to cold weather.  For me the only shoes I have here are sandals or tennis shoes. I do have some shoes/clothes in storage from being in the States in 2012 for cool season.  So, this example is that some folks will need some help with clothing items if they are coming from different climates.  For us as adults, we are more likely to have clothes that fit in storage from past stateside times.  For families with children, I am thinking that they have grown and will need some other sizes.

You as SBC have given and the retirement package is generous. THANK YOU. As you consider these things, ask Father what He would like for you and your faith family to do to offer additional support.  A few practical things might be gift cards, a pounding for workers once they have a home to move into, assistance with the purchase of a car or house furnishings, or help in finding a job. For many of us finding the job is a major priority that other long term decisions will be made from. THANK YOU for all your prayers, love and support over the years! You are awesome partners!!  Please keep praying for I need you in this transition.  I’ll try to keep you informed as things progress.  And will soon be sending more stories of God at work.

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About Joy Bolton

Joy Bolton is a life-long WMUer! Through Woman's Missionary Union, Joy has has served as a church, association, and state leader. She has coordinated many international missions teams and is available as a conference leader, speaker, Bible study leader. Joy is now retired and lives in Summerville, SC.