Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
(Psalms 127:5 ESV)
A missionary furlough is not an extended vacation. On the contrary furloughs are full of adventure, new sights, new sounds, and lots of work and travel. Schedules, transportation and lodging are a big part of setting up a furlough. For our first furlough one church provided us a nice home. No rent, furnished, and the only bill we had to pay was the telephone. Go figure.
The first few weeks of furlough we didn’t occupy the house, we traveled. We retrieved the old car we left with friends. Next we drove around the eastern USA visiting friends and churches. As we drove from place to place Beth didn’t feel well.
We thought she was having problems with jet lag. We visited a pastor friend and his family in Georgia and they also noticed Beth was having difficulty. The wife, Susan, worked in a pregnancy counseling center and made a suggestion. Maybe Beth wasn’t sick. Nope, couldn’t be. At least it wasn’t what we were planning.
With a simple test we discovered our third child was on the way to join us during furlough. As we say, designed in Hong Kong and assembled in the USA! With this mystery resolved it was easier to deal with the travel schedule.
Eventually we rented a truck in Kentucky and piled it full of our belongings then drove to our furlough home in Missouri. During our stay in the missionary home I learned how to use a riding lawn mower and even how to re-roof the house along side the church members. Our children attended the Sunday School and Awana clubs when we were in town, and friendships developed.
Since furlough is a time for raising funds and partnering with new churches I disappeared for days at a time to visit other cities. There I tracked down churches and shared the ministry with pastors and anyone willing to listen. Slowly our support was pledged and our son’s arrival approached.
In March of 1986 we were scheduled to participate in a special missionary service in the church that provided our housing. Beth wasn’t feeling well enough to attend the service so I took Ellice and Joel. Sunday School went well as I taught a lesson. In the worship service I sang special music and led the congregational singing. As soon as the special music was over someone came down the aisle and informed me it was time to take Beth to the hospital.
I left the children with friends and headed home. We were quickly off to the hospital and found it was a booming day for babies. There was no room at the inn so to speak! The first half hour Beth occupied a gurney in the hallway. Finally we received a private room because all the semi private rooms were full.
The labor hall was bursting at the seams so when it was time for the big event we stayed in the room where James Alexander was born at just before 1 p.m. I watched a Star Trek episode on the room’s television and held Beth’s hand at the same time. I really did pay attention to the birth but it was nice to have a distraction when things were boring! HA!
By late afternoon Beth and James were comfortable in their beds in the hospital and everything was in order. I hurried back to pick up my stuff at the house and then was off to church for the evening service.
To start the service I read the passage: “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest indeed is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray therefore that the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers into his harvest.‘” (Matthew 9:37 38 WEB)
I preached in the evening service and started with a poor joke about bringing more workers into the harvest field! Timing is everything they say and this was a day of good timing.