A montage of photos showing work

What Home Assignment Means for a Missionary – “New” Job

Part 6

If you’ve followed this series from the start, it won’t be a surprise to learn that missionaries arriving back in their home country will not spend the whole time lounging around on a beach or binge-watching all the shows they missed while away. There’s work to be done. Quite a lot as it turns out. OMF Japan missionary Wendy Marshall wraps up this series by sharing what life is typically like for missionaries on Home Assignment.

(Listen to the companion audio discussion of this series featuring Wendy Marshall and Kesia Pain.)

By Wendy Marshall

After a settling-in period, missionaries have to start a “new” job—the job of talking to people about life and ministry in the country where you’ve been serving. This is different from what they’ve been doing for the past few years, so it really is a change in job description, and with this change comes stress. It’s not easy to summarise a full life of several years into the short space that most churches expect: “Tell us about your ministry, you’ve got seven minutes.” That sounds reasonable, until you have to think about how to summarise, perhaps four years of your life, in such a short time in a way that engages your audience and conveys a balanced truth. It’s practically impossible, yet the impossible is what missionaries are tasked with doing during their home assignments.

We have around a dozen supporting churches, and roughly three quarters of them are within a day’s drive on the east coast of Australia. All the rest, barring one, are in Perth, on the west coast, about the same distance as from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles. We spent six months on our last home assignment and managed to get to all the churches that support us prayerfully and financially, but we missed out on seeing many of our 200+ individual supporters. This time we’re looking forward to spending a lot more time with individuals, couples, and small groups. We’d love to spend longer amounts of time with supporting churches too: time spent with a church’s small groups is much more valuable than seven minutes reporting back in the Sunday service.

Kids making origami
Showing kids how to make origami.

Some of the preparation for those meetings necessarily takes place before we even leave our field of service. We write stories, prepare a sermon, think about photos to share. In our small storage container, we have a couple of boxes of “deputation stuff” that we use to put together a small display at a church. It includes Japanese “things” like a doll in a kimono, origami, a fan, a map and Japanese wrapping cloth called a furoshiki. Each time we refresh our display with up-to-date photos and books.

These days most speaking appearances require a slide presentation. Because we rarely speak in the same place twice on home assignment, the slide show we prepare when we first begin home assignment can be reused many times (with variations as needed). And the same thing is true for the sermon and various short stories we’ve prepared. But first, it all needs to be prepared.

Each speaking opportunity is also unique. In March we received an email about a young adults mission evening we’d agreed to speak at in September. The email explaining the leader’s expectations ran longer than a single sheet of paper. Obviously, that is really different to a seven-minute slot in a Sunday-morning church service. Over the years we’ve spoken to many types of audiences, including school groups, Sunday schools, youth groups, nursing homes, and at missions conferences.

Neither of us is a public speaker in Japan, although my husband’s job as a school teacher comes closer than my job as an editor and writer! Our jobs in Japan are approximately office hours: Monday to Friday. On home assignment that is turned on its head and we’re working nights and weekends. My husband no longer has the regular school routines and I no longer sit at my computer working with the written word and communicating with writers, editors, and designers.

I would venture to say that, in general, we’re more comfortable doing our jobs in Japan than we are doing deputation in Australia, and, by the time we’re finished home assignment, we’re more than ready to head back to do the work that we’ve been talking about.

(Editor’s Note: We can’t thank Wendy enough for taking the time to walk us through Home Assignment. Our hope is that, through this series, you’ll be better equipped to pray for and support missionaries during their Home Assignment. Read the prior articles in this series: Part 1 – Advanced Planning; Part 2 – Preparing to Leave; Part 3 – Emotional Toll; Part 4 – The Actual Move; Part 5 – Arriving “Home”)

Kids making origamiAbout the Author: Wendy Marshall is an Australian serving with OMF. She has been in Japan with her husband David since 2000; they have three young adult sons. Wendy is a writer and editor. She’s the managing editor of a magazine for and by missionaries in Japan called Japan Harvest. She’s also the editor for OMF Japan’s social media and blog. She and David love to camp and have set up their tent in more than 30 places in Japan. You can follow Wendy on her personal blog: on the edge of ordinary.

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