For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; (Philippians 3:20 NASB)
Furloughs are a mixed blessing for missionaries. Beth and I returned from a long, blessed, fun, tiring, calm, and exciting time in our homeland. We prayed that we were an encouragement and blessing to everyone we met on furlough.
We returned to a foreign land. It always took time to reorient our thoughts, cultural responses and language. A few days rest was helpful after the busy filled work schedule of furloughs. Preaching, teaching, sharing, answering questions, living out of a suitcase, all were fun but tiring.
We dragged our overweight bags up the fifty-nine stairs, through the doorway and plopped them in the living room. “Whew, home at last,” I thought. Our colleagues brought a few foodstuffs and we were more than ready to settle back into the ministry.
A shower, nap and snack later we were awake enough to look around the apartment. Four months away, with only one short visitor in our apartment, and things didn’t look quite right. A cloud seemed to settle over most of the windows. We stepped closer and the cloud moved. It was alive! They were flies! Hundreds of them were on the windows. Hundreds of them were dead on the window sills. Hundreds of them were dead on the floors. We were now Lords Of The Flies. This was not something we aspired to in life.
We vacuumed, we washed, we swept, yes I know how to use a vacuum, and still there were more. We had to make a bus trip to town where we miraculously found the right bags for our overfull vacuum cleaner. Our neighbor attempted to tackled the problem while we were gone with her vacuum and bug spray. The evidence of genocide streaked down the inside of the windows and had to be cleaned off. Her own vacuum filled twice to keep the piles from growing.
We were not alone. The plague, reminiscent of Egypt, had infested most of the flats in our building. In a land without screens the insects found ready access to our living quarters. The ingenious ones found ways to climb between the double paned glass in the windows and now lay with their dead feet pointing heavenward. Now I know how the Egyptians felt that fateful day while Moses pled for the freedom of the Israelites. Clean, suck, dismantle the window, clean suck, reassemble the window, it went on for days.
During a break from fly gathering I enjoyed fixing the clothes washer since everything needed washing. Then it was time to fix the vacuum after a large spark flew from the electric cord, a sure sign that something was a miss. The vacuum repaired, with a shorter cord, it was back to sucking up bugs and cleaning house.
Three days later we put plants back on the window sills for decorations and not as miniature cemeteries. I started a fire, using wood from an old shelf and waterbed I demolished, sat across from my lovely wife and relaxed. Everything was almost in order. Then we started discussing the work necessary to move when a smaller apartment was available. . . . that is another story waiting to unfold.
We often think of coming home as the answer to difficulties. Someone once said, “You can’t go home again.” I guess he experienced a fly farm in his life. Returning to the past never provides the results we imagine. The preacher once wrote, “Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10 NASB) That preacher is one smart man.
Our family, our churches, our friends were all different when we returned to our homeland for furlough. The folks at home think returning is simple and easy. But it isn’t. It takes a lot of work to put things back in order. Most missionaries discover this after their first furlough.
We look forward to the comfort of our apartment after furlough, our shower, our bed, our stuff. But, it takes a lot of work to put things back in order. We’re reminded of this after each furlough.
But this isn’t our home. Our homeland, is not our home. Our home is in heaven and we anxiously await the day we’ll enter the door of that special mansion Jesus prepared. After all these years I’m sure it’ll make Buckingham Palace look like a shanty. No flies to kill or suck up in a vacuum. Everything will be prepared and ready. There we can finally find rest.
Next time you come home, and things just aren’t in order, remember, this is not your home! Remember an eternal fly free home is ready and waiting our arrival.