Wednesday, June 13, 2012

{furlough is about} Family

A missionary family's furlough can be overwhelming, glorious, chaotic, restorative and bone-wearying all in the same week. This little series called {furlough is about} is a meager attempt to capture snapshots of our own first furlough experience by way of words and pictures. -Stephanie 

our kids with extended cousins on Pedro's side

Sometimes as we visit churches, we are asked to speak with the children about "what it is like to be a missionary." I always try to include in that topic "what it's like to be a Missionary Kid" because I feel it is valuable for the students to understand that our kids are really kids just like them - with a few extra challenges and a great deal of blessings thrown in! 
our kids with extended cousins on my side
One challenge in particular that I share with the children as a way they can pray for MK's, is the fact that when missionary children go to another country they do so without taking along "grandma and grandpa" and other special family members. Often their eyes widen and they nod their heads soberly as this realization sinks in. Indeed, leaving family behind is one undeniably sad fact of missionary life - but conversely, reuniting with family on furlough is one especially delightful aspect of furlough!

my sister Terri and I with our cousins
We are so thankful that already this time of furlough ministry has afforded us multiple opportunities to reconnect with family. Some of those reunions have been at bittersweet moments such as my grandmother's funeral (picture above) but others have been in comfortable, pleasant settings such as extended family birthday parties (picture below.) Whatever the occasion, we grasp the opportunity gladly and enjoy the chance to re-introduce our children to the wonderful family God has given us on both sides of our marriage.

Pedro with his cousins and grandmother
Our kids have actually been wide-eyed as they realize their family is quite expansive! Each time we introduce new cousins (often the children of Pedro's cousins or mine) they are surprised to realize they are related to yet another fun group of kiddos. Thankfully they seem delighted to jump right into the fray and make friends most of the time. They do get confused occasionally (especially the younger boys) and we've had some amusing times trying to explain that this or that person is actually NOT a cousin after all! 

The cutest story so far involved a fun-loving pastor who along with his wife hosted us in their home for a weekend. When it was time to go Alec cried out, "But I want to play with the cousin!" When I asked, "What cousin? It's only us and the pastor," he nodded his head. Emphatically he exclaimed, "Yes, the DADDY-COUSIN!" (meaning the pastor.) It was so funny!

our children with Great-Grandma Old
With furlough ministry every four years, we do not take lightly the privilege of time spent with our children's great-grandmothers. Recently we explained to them how blessed they have been to know all of their grandparents as well as several great-grandmothers, because both Pedro and I lost most of our grandparents at a young age. We are so thankful to have been able to spend time with Meemie, my grandmother, one last time before her Homegoing. In the past few weeks, our children have also met their other great-grandmothers (Pedro's Grandma Garcia and Grandma Old, pictured above and below.)

our children with Great-Grandma Garcia
As we have spent time with family, I marvel at how different each member is and yet how creatively and colorfully God weaves our lives together with one another. I am most blessed by the tremendous testimony of faithfulness by those who have walked ahead of us on this life's journey. We had the privilege of hosting Grandma Garcia for several nights and each night as others prepared for bed or "relaxed" with some form of technology, she quietly opened her Bible and sat at the dining room table for some time with her Savior and His Word. Her gentle and loving spirit reflects those moments spent daily with Him and encourage us to follow her godly example.

I thank God that in large part, {furlough is about} the great blessing of family.

Other posts in this series:

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