Prolonged Furlough

In Australia's Ambassadors, Good News From a Far Country by Debbie Wilhite1 Comment

One of the necessary blessings/burdens of missionary life is the loosely scheduled furlough. Our first furlough took place 3 years after our initial arrival in South Africa. The second one was 4 years after our return, and this one didn’t occur until 5 years after our 3rd term.

Fully expecting to be away a year, yet hoping for less, we bid adieu to the dear people and country we’d grown to love as well as several missionary friends. Here it is, well over two months beyond that planned year, and we still are awaiting the Lord’s “go ahead” to move on. Truly His timing is best–and ours must fall in line.
In looking back over the events of the past year, the Lord has made me aware of many blessings I would have otherwise overlooked. As I attempt to summarize a few of these, in no particular order of importance, perhaps it will make us all more attentive to the daily goodness of God in our lives.

*It is acceptable to skip or scroll to the bottom of this (lengthy) case for the rest of the story!!

Holidays

It isn’t often we enjoy July Fourth and Thanksgiving (two solely-American holidays) with extended family. Even on the field, these may be spent quietly alone. Christmas can be different as well, especially in the Southern Hemisphere where the seasons are opposite. It was a joy to celebrate these holidays with family.

Special Days

One year can see a LOT of birthdays and anniversaries! Within a month of our arrival the lovely wedding of Dyanna to Matthew Roy was ushered in on a cool, but lovely autumn day. Grandchildren have not only grown physically but numerically. These were happy times. Our church Missions Banquet/Conference occurred the weekend before we headed out on our travels. Appropriately, Earl Rosenbalm preached several messages on Faith. Yet, life also holds a sobering balance. We attended 2 funerals: the father of a dear friend; and my own father-in-law, who passed into eternity on our son’s birthday.

Spiritual Decisions

Two of our sons, bearing the heavy weight of the conviction of their own sins, were challenged by the messages of a supporting church’s Men’s Retreat and our home church’s winter Teen Camp. The culmination of the call of God and the convicting, convincing work of the Holy Spirit and the Word resulted in salvation decisions within 2 weeks of each other. Both have been baptized during this furlough. The last of our children to make a profession of faith did so early this year as well. These are invaluable blessings that cheer and comfort our hearts.

Family

Here are a few highlights of special memories: Harrisburg Farm Show with our granddaughters with both sets of grandparents … Father/sons brunch … Lunch with cousins Ed & Mary Beth in IN, and Tom & Lela in CA who faithfully pray for us … Visits to my dear, much-loved mom in Int’l Falls, MN, in April and August … Birthday parties … Special trip to Sight-and-Sound with the grandsons … A nephew and his wife even thought to spend the night en route home from their honeymoon… Jerry used airmiles (smiles!) to be a blessing to his mother.

Friends

We spent several hours one day in February with a family who had been in our first church plant. Don & Linda shared their loss–but heaven’s gain–of their special-needs-son’s life and lessons learned. They should write a book–what an encouragement! Families here were so kind to have us over for fellowship, out for an occasional meal, and in attendance at a special twin-ladies’ birthday party. Two memorable meals here were with a group of “single” men and some widow ladies. The conversations were priceless! Our children solidified good friendships within our church, our extended family, and in other churches.

LVBC, Schooling & Outings

I think of the opportunities our children had to attend and/or participate in basketball, volleyball, a homeschool picnic, chapel, classes, hikes, girls’ missions’ gathering, Bible Institute classes … Memories of mine are: a 55+ dinner … church workday … church and ladies’ visitation … Allentown Fair outreach … Ladies’ group prayer meetings and special fellowship … LVBC Bible Conference … teaching 2’s and 3’s … and all those impromptu visits!

Seasons, Travel, Meals

*S*N*O*W* greeted us in WI, MI, and MN in April! I especially thrilled at reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ladies along the way. On Memorial Day we traveled 700+ miles from TX to IA to be with Jerry’s mom. Chiropractic trips, walking, and exercising have aided in our attempt at health. The tours of Lane County Library (Wendy Pittman) and Stonewall Jackson’s House (Winchester, VA) were two of my favorites “extras.”

New Churches, New Pastors, & Co-Laborers

It was necessary as well as nice to meet the new pastors at a few of our supporting churches. Adjustments to our schedule also allowed us to be in several new churches. What a joy to visit some strong churches with faithful men leading a good congregation. What an encouragement to return to churches who have held the ropes and remained faithful to the Lord as well. I believe our total was 70 churches visited in 5 1/2 months, including services, missions and preachers’ conferences, block-classes Jerry taught, and camp. Whew!

Preparation for Field Change

Passports renewed in January made it possible for our survey trip to Sydney in February. We traveled west which enabled us to visit our granddaughter–and her dear parents! From there it has been a “do-the-next-thing/hurry-up-and-wait” process of steps all bathed in prayer.

The Lord’s Timing and Provision

That being said … as I wrote that menagerie of memories the email arrived: “Anticipation of an Immigration Application.” Today’s verses from Philippians 4:6,7 were almost a commentary as we have been tempted to worry and doubt. How good God is!!!

Time to start praising the Lord all over again!! Actually, while I do that perhaps I’d better start packing…
Debbie

Debbie Wilhite

Debbie and her husband, Jerry, are missionaries to South Africa. They have 11 children, 3 of whom still live at home, and 11 grandchildren.

You can read more about their ministry here and read Debbie’s testimony here.

Comments

  1. Wonderful! Can’t wait to hear how things go in the field of Australia.
    Praying for you dear friends.
    Have been following you all along.
    Friend of Leslie Federenic

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