Heading into a Whirlwind

We are looking at a whirlwind trip to the States. In the past our furloughs have been 9 to 11 months. This time it will be 6.5 weeks. It will have been 2 years and 8 months since our last furlough. Why did we decide to do a 6 week furlough? Why now? I promise it’s not because we are crazy. Read on . .

We are having to re-think how we will do furloughs after having moved our ministry to Portugal. In the past we’d stay on field for 4 years and then be stateside for 8 to 11 months. That kind of schedule is not going to work anymore for the following reasons.

1st – Our ministry here is quite different than in Mozambique. There we were working with leaders in existing churches – discipling and leading them but their churches and their ministry could continue under their leadership when we weren’t around.

Here in Portugal we are working on new church plants. That requires a lot of time building relationships. Trust and confidence are hard to earn within this culture. To step out and leave for multiple months would hurt and damage those relationships. Also we’re working with small groups with the goal to multiply those. It may be hard to step out and leave those groups for long periods of time. (Our colleagues can help with them groups in our absence however when there are several groups it would be harder for them to cover their own responsibilities and ours).

Another issue with taking longer furloughs has to do with our kids and their schooling. As you know our kids are in the public school system here but the system is so different – particularly for the older grades – the course and level of classes do not correspond well to the American system. It would be difficult for our kids to miss school here.

As we’ve processed through the school schedule we initially thought that’d mean we could only take a 3 month furloughs during the summer. However, we’ve since realized even 3 months would be difficult for the ministry and damaging to our relationships. Consulting with colleagues it’s felt 6 wks is most likely the most time we should be gone. Though this reality is not super exciting for us we do understand it may be what is necessary.

We’ve thought all along it would be next summer, 2017. Now, despite the extremely short notice, we’re wondering if we should come this August and part of September. That wouldn’t have been an option because Robin has to do the internship portion of the fitness course she’s been working on, however the gym there she wanted to do her remaining 300 hrs was hoping she could wait until September to start. With that in mind and this idea in the background we asked and her school is willing for her to delay the start of her remaining 300 hrs. With that permission it becomes more possible.

We know it’s late notice – it may be hard to schedule all the visits with our supporting churches but we could hopefully visit many of them. (Dan will be gone for part of that time if we do come – he had a trip to Brasil with our colleagues scheduled to get materials and meet with a church there who’s doing ministry similar to the model we would like to use – but Robin could continue to visit churches even if Dan isn’t around).

Currently we are leading 2 small groups (one in Alcabideche and one in São Marcos). The goal however is that those groups would multiply by the end of this year. More groups will be functioning by next summer (we pray). It’d be far easier to step away from 2 groups now than 3 or 4 or more next summer. At that point Dan will be discipling and training new group leaders. Also, depending on what Robin ends up doing with fitness, it could be trickier . . . if she has a part-time job (to build relationships etc) she wouldn’t be able to have a 6 wk vacation. That would mean she’d have to quit and if she has to quit that would break any relationships she might have made in that time. If she’s legally able to do classes through our church spaces it would awkward to stop classes for 6 wks without breaking relationships.

Our colleagues and teammates also see 2017 as being harder to “break away” for a time of furlough.

So will be we trying to see all 21 churches that support us in the 6 weeks and we would appreciate your prayers.