Thursday, June 8, 2017

What on earth is "Home Assignment"?

I’m not sure what my Christian brethren think of when they hear that a missionary is on “Home Assignment”. Many people are unfamiliar with what a modern-day Christian missionary does on the field and may even wonder what on earth they do on “home assignment”. Maybe they just get to put their feet up and rest for a bit? Maby they think it’s the missionary’s holiday? Maybe missionaries work for three years and then take off six months? The questions may be many but I’ll try to explain what a home assignment means for us. I think it will mirror what other missionaries do in some ways and in other ways it may be different.
Feeling at home under the Maple Tree
Well, I guess if I am to explain what we do on Home Assignment I should explain why we do have Home Assignment. Our family normally spends about three years serving in Uganda and then comes back to Canada for half a year to a year. Canada is our sending country and Abbotsford is our home town where ouor home church is that we are sent from. The word “home” can be confusing for us -- since we have a church and relatives in Uganda it is also called home. Our home in terms of our mission work has mostly to do with our sending church and sending agency and financial and prayer supporters being (mostly) from Canada. So, Canada is our base where we are sent from. This means that we are sent out from Canada to Uganda to do Kingdom work and return to Canada to report and gain support for that work.
Family time travelling together.
Lots of great adventures!
People invest thousands of dollars in the work we do and I’m sure thousands of hours (collectively) in prayer for us and the people we serve in Uganda. This is an investment in the Kingdom of God. Our friends are using earthly wealth for heavenly work. I believe firmly that our supporters, just like investors in a gold mine, let’s say, deserve a report on how the work they invest in and care about is going. We send quarterly newsletters and post on social media from Uganda but that’s not the same as a personal report where investors can look you in the eye and ask tough questions.
Canadians support us -- we support Canada with red hoodies!
One of the main reasons we come back on Home Assignment is to give a report on our work. We meet with people in formal and informal settings, giving them a personal account of our last three years. People are free to ask questions about any aspect of our work that they like. This provides needed accountability but I think, most importantly, it provides great details for effective prayer by people who labour on their knees on our behalf. Our family will travel close to 10,000km visiting churches, friends and supporters in western Canada this year; this effort to meet supporters in person is part of building a family of people who care deeply about building God’s kingdom through the work we do. I know many people are called to work hard and earn money to invest in the Kingdom and they depend on people like us to leverage that money into Kingdom work.
A picture with one of our faithful supporters on Vancouver Island
Secondly, the purpose of our Home Assignment is for rest and family time. Our home in Uganda is a very busy place with lots of visitors. We would have it no other way! We also spend a lot of time giving to people spiritually. This means we often get emotianally a bit worn down. We are also under a lot of spiritual attack in Uganda as the enemy does not like his ground being taken from him. In order to recuperate we intentionally try to block off chunks of time here in Canada to have family time that builds us spiritually. The mere fact that there is only our core family members around the dinner table here in Canada is a major benefit to our family’s health. Long hours of travelling together and experiencing Canada together are sometimes trying but really do help to build a great bond as we experience God’s goodness to us as a family. When we receive a new member on our support team or stay in the home of a generous family the children all get to see God’s faithfulness to us through His people. We will go on walks and hikes together, travel together, grocery shop together, play together, eat together and pray and read God’s Word together. We need this time to bond tightly as a family unit. We need this time to build our physical and spiritual strength for the term of work ahead and to recover from the challenges in the term past.

We love Sweet potato fries and Chipotle at White Spot!
Thirdly, the purpose of our home visit is to get the children caught up with Canadian education standards. Most missionary families struggle with education options on the field. Many missionaries have to leave the mission field early because they have run out of options for their children’s education. We got behind last year as we had gone a full school year without a volunteer teacher (most missionaries rely on volunteer help around the home to help with child care and/or education) to help with the children’s distance learning. Now that we’re back in Canada, we will spend time getting the kids back on track with their Canadian education while we are here. This allows them to stay on track with their post-secondary education options here. The level of education in African universities is very low and the system is still stuck in learning by rote and critical thinking is not a skill developed in the education systems there. This means our children will be looking to finish high school with the Canadian high school system. In order to do this we take time to put them in local schools and meet with local educators.

The fourth reason for Home Assignment that I’ll mention here is connected to education. We desire that our children, all of them Canadians, be able to navigate Canadian culture when they leave our home. They will need to be familiar with Canadian culture and nuances to help them be successful in life in Canada in the future -- whether they just live there a few years or the rest of their lives. Time in Canada allows them to see many aspects of Canada with our guidance as parents on how to view and handle the post-Christian culture of Canada with a biblical world view.
Our supporters have lots of character!
The last reason (that I’ll mention here) that we come to Canada is to widen our prayer and financial support base. Our family needs continue to grow with larger teenage appetites and increased costs of educating them. Living costs and airfares continue to climb. In addition, our work continues to grow with a larger scope and more influence both in Uganda and in Africa at large. Unlike most people a missionary can’t put in overtime to meet some extra needs or pay for unexpected bills. We rely on the generosity of others to live and work! So, we spend a lot of our time trying to connect with new people so as to widen our support family. Team building is an essential part to our Home Assignment.

*for more info on our work visit us at

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