After every ‘term’ of three or four years in East Asia, OMF missionaries return home to reconnect with family and mission partners. It’s a time for rest and refreshment, but also for encouraging others to engage in God’s mission.
It follows the pattern of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14:26-28: they ‘returned by ship to Antioch of Syria, where their journey had begun. The believers there had entrusted them to the grace of God to do the work they had now completed. Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too. And they stayed there with the believers for a long time.’
When they return to Antioch, Paul and Barnabas
- Gather the whole church
- Report God’s activities
- Stay for a reasonable amount of time
These are still some of the key features of OMF workers’ home assignments. While reports of what God is doing can be shared much more easily today, there are still things that can’t be done through prayer letters. After so much time away, missionaries are excited to give hugs, share meals and talk about the things you can’t always include in a prayer letter. It’s also a good time to engage with everyone in sending and supporting churches, not just individuals who receive their prayer letter.
OMF missionaries typically spend a year on home assignment. We asked Peter & Renate (from the UK and Germany respectively) about their experiences and how we can pray for missionaries on home assignment:
How long are you on home assignment for?
Peter: ‘this time we’re doing a six month home assignment and we’re already finding it to be too short. Previously we always did a whole year, but that was because we had children who needed schooling in one place or another.
We also do deputation in two different countries, the UK and Germany, visiting supporters and prayer groups.
What’s the first thing you did when you got back?
When we came back from Japan we just about did nothing for two weeks. We were just really, really exhausted, we needed time to do that!
What does home assignment involve?
Renate: ‘It’s a time to catch up with friends and family, but also our prayer partners. Many of them have prayed with us since we went out to Japan 30 years ago. They have prayed with us through good times, but also when we had sickness or other difficulties.
So they have kind of become family too! We love them very much.
We’re often surprised by the questions they ask us – you realise they’ve been ‘living with us’ through praying for the different situations we’ve faced.
Many of our prayer partners have prayed with us since we went out to Japan 30 years ago.
It’s so encouraging to hear how they pray for us. We used to say our prayer partners are our back up, but we now we call them our team members. Their prayers are so valuable to us.
Peter: Visiting our prayer partners is much more like visiting family!
You also visit churches on home assignment. What’s the aim of those visits?
Renate: One of the things I’ve been emphasising on home assignment this time is that we are not here primarily to recruit for mission – but of course we are happy if people become missionaries! The important thing we want to encourage people to think and pray is ‘what does God want me to do with my life?’ We want people to see if they are in the right place or whether God wants them to do something different with their life.
We are not here primarily to recruit for mission…we want people to think about what God wants them to do with their lives.
Nowadays we meet more people who ask ‘how can I have a spiritual conversation with a foreigner?’
We’ve found that showing hospitality is the first step, that people feel welcome, feel loved, feel recognised. Then you just see where the conversation goes. We recently went to a baptism service for three people from different countries in a church in the UK. All of them started their testimony by saying ‘I came to this church and people welcomed me warmly.’ That welcome was key.
Will you pray for OMF Workers?
From Peter & Renate:
- Pray for strength for all the travelling – we cover many miles on home assignment!
- Pray for us to be able to connect with our prayer supporters well and to be able to see how we can pray for our prayer partners – the prayer support works both ways, they pray for us, but we also pray for them.
- Pray that we would get a feel for what the Lord wants us to teach in the churches and groups we go to. We need his help and insight to guide us as the churches we visit have often changed quite a lot in the four years since we were last there.