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Welcoming Workers: Eight Ways to Bless a Worker on Home Assignment

Welcoming Workers: Eight Ways to Bless a Worker on Home Assignment

Workers periodically return to their home culture for a time of work and ministry called “furlough” or “home assignment.” This time affords a unique opportunity to connect with family, friends and their sending teams, those who pray for and support their ministry. It does what a prayer letter can’t do. It goes beyond an email or video conferencing. Workers can connect face to face, in the same time zone, in the same room!

Here are eight ways that you can bless a worker on home assignment.

Make it feel like home.

Helping with practical needs can be a great encouragement for workers trying to plan their visit. One family of workers fondly remembers returning for home assignment to a beautifully furnished apartment. It wasn’t until years later that they realized that another family had emptied their guest room and moved the all the furnishings and décor into the apartment. Instead of feeling like they were camping out for several months, these workers could relax in a beautiful space that felt like home.

Provide a vehicle.

Renting a car for several months is outside the budget of most workers. Receiving a vehicle on loan can be incredibly helpful—one worker serving in the Middle East was thrilled when a family allowed her to borrow a car for her home assignment. She was even more overwhelmed by their loving care when they continued to support her after the car was hit by a deer!

Stock the pantry.

When workers go on home assignment, they leave most of their belongings in their place of ministry. Stocking their refrigerator with groceries, putting soap and shampoo in their bathroom or filling the pantry with staples postpones the dreaded first trip to the grocery store. The comparatively high prices and the sheer number of options can be overwhelming after living in less developed parts of the world. Gift cards for local stores are another kind way to encourage a worker and provide supplies or groceries.

Walk with them.

Reverse culture shock is real! When workers return to their home country, they come back changed. And life back “home” has changed too. Fashions have evolved, roads are rerouted, children have grown and life has continued in their absence. Look for ways to come alongside workers in their readjustment. Taking a worker shopping for some new outfits or shoes, providing an invitation to a favorite restaurant or simply including them in cozy dinner at your house with friends may seem simple, but looking for ways to welcome workers back can help workers feel more at home, when they come “home.”

Offer rest.

Home assignment may seem like time off, but it’s far from a vacation! Home assignment packs in travel, family time, reports to churches and supporters, mobilizing new workers and churches, support raising, education, preparation and planning for a new term overseas. With so many responsibilities crowded into a limited time frame, home assignment can feel overwhelming and exhausting. Offering the use of a vacation home could provide workers with a much-needed retreat for rest and reflection.

Remember the children.

Offering baby-sitting, providing gratis medical or dental care or inviting workers and their children to a local attraction like the zoo or a water park can aid families in very meaningful ways. Children need help adjusting back into a place that they may not remember very well. Taking kids to the park or for a special adventure with other families can help children connect and feel more at home. When you hear that a family will be coming for home assignment, ask if they will need car seats, booster seats, cribs or a stroller for their children, and have options ready that they can borrow for their visit. Imagine travelling with small children for a continuous six-month trip. Lightening the load on parents will serve the entire family.

Listen.

Workers on home assignment need time to process and reflect on their last term of service. A listening ear and understanding heart are precious gifts that you can offer a worker of any age. Ask questions and create space for them to share. Workers are often excited to tell their story, but sometimes they need help finding opportunities in which to do that. You can partner with workers in celebrating what God is doing by gathering a group, providing hospitality and giving them the chance to share about their work.

Pray.

Workers depend on their support teams to intercede for them and with them during their home assignment just as they do on the field. It’s hard to be away from the people they serve, and the spiritual battles rage just as intensely in their absence. Pray. Ask for endurance and continued effectiveness for workers’ teammates, and for transformation in the communities where they serve.

This list is far from comprehensive, so ask questions and be creative! Workers rely on their sending teams for financial support, for prayer support, for news and communication from home, for spiritual encouragement and for fellowship. They may feel uncomfortable asking for “more.” Be sensitive to the challenges workers face in returning “home,” and ask how you can meet their needs.

When workers come for a visit, offering to help carry the burden, celebrate, grieve, listen or walk with them allows you to share with them in what God is doing in least-reached communities around the world. It affords a firsthand glimpse into their lives as people. Nothing magical happens on an airplane to turn workers into superheroes! Like everyone else, they need help and encouragement. Home assignments offer senders and workers the opportunity to live and share in daily life together.

Participate by Praying:

  • Pray for endurance for workers who are in the midst of their terms of service, asking that they will serve God faithfully.
  • Pray for travel arrangements, good flights and safe journeys for workers as they travel to the field and back.
  • Pray for workers returning for home assignment as they adjust to life in their home culture again. Thank God that He never changes, and ask that He would be a place of refuge and stability in the midst of unsettling change.
  • Pray for meaningful partnerships for workers preparing to return to their places of service. Ask God to provide needed prayer and financial support.

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