Monday, June 3, 2013


Home is where the heart is, right?  What defines home for you?  Is it a place?  Is it your house?  City?  Country?  Is it when you are around family?  When you are around friends?  People who love their careers feel at home when they are at work.  Some people feel at home when they are eating the food they love.  Home can have a certain atmosphere or even a certain smell. 

For the missionary, home is a confusing question.  In one sense, home is where you came from.  In another sense, it is in the new country that you live in and minister to.  It’s not “either or”, but “both and”.  I can say home and mean Michigan or Ann Arbor.  I can also say home and mean Thailand or Korat.  To me, it has all become home and I would have it no other way. 

A new trend in missions today is to get rid of the word “furlough” and replace it with “home assignment”.  Furlough is an old army term used when soldiers would temporarily leave the battle and go back to visit family.  It is also used in the business world as a way to describe unpaid, temporary leave.  Why missionaries took up this terminology, I’m not sure, but it seems appropriate enough.  Comparing it to a soldier’s furlough is a pretty accurate assessment. 

Nowadays, home assignment is the preferred words of choice.  My mission agency, as well as many others, uses this vocabulary.  (By the way, I love my mission agency, so please don't take this one article I wrote and turn it into something its not.)  How this came about, I have no idea.  My guess is that it was either a conspiracy of the higher-ups, or the brilliant gem of some missionary who hated being on the field. 

For me, I can’t stand the language.  I find it insulting to missionaries and their families.  One of the biggest challenges a missionary faces, when first going abroad, is adjusting to the culture of their new society and turning a foreign place into home.  It is a difficult transition and many don’t make it.  But for those who do, they grow to love the new country they live in and consider it just as much home as where they came from.  To the missionary, home is this new place. 

Today we have this new jargon, “home assignment”.  To the non-missionary, this probably makes sense, but to us, it only adds in confusion.  Yes, home for me is back in Michigan, but it is also here in Thailand.  In my opinion, I’m on home assignment now as I type this in my house... in Korat... in Thailand.  I’m at home. 

While furlough is a borrowed word, it is a more fitting word for the missionary family.  To all the mission agencies and sending churches out there, try to be respectful of your missionaries.  Remember that “home” has a different meaning to them than it does to you.   


  1. Cory, I agree that the term "Home Assignment" has its problems. When I failed to define its meaning clearly during out time in the US, one friend understood that we were leaving the field permanently! Maybe my kids has a better perspective: when we talked about the reality that both the US and Thailand are our home, they often said, "Our real home is Heaven!"

    At the same time, "furlough" is also imperfect. The word often carries the idea of a vacation and, even though we did have a break from our field responsibilities during our time in the US, we were definitely working!

    So, I guess we need a new word, huh?

    1. I think we've had this discussion before. 555! I guess furlough does have that connotation to it. I do try to use half my furlough as time to recuperate. Honestly, I probably work more than half the time though. Maybe we should call it front-line reporting. Let me know if you come up with any good ideas.

    2. You're right, we have already talked about this. My family also had some rest time while in the States, but overall it was a lot of work.

      I like front-line reporting; it fits well with what Paul and Barnabas did in Acts 14:27, "When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles."

  2. Agree with your post. Lots of confusion out there about HA/furlough (which is why I wrote this post:

    Maybe deputation is the best word? Because I feel a lot more "at home" in Thailand, in many ways, because this is where my primary work, responsibilities, and friends are.

    1. Deputation's not a bad choice. The whole thing is kind of a mixed bag on what missionaries do. Don't know if one word can do it justice.

    2. Good point on the use of "deputation". Though it has sort of fallen into disuse in the last few decades.

      I agree with your point that Thailand is home now. It is for me as well. I feel more at home and more comfortable here in some ways. But in another way, we will always be farang outsiders here. The foreigner, no matter how brilliantly fluent in the language and customs is forever an outsider. Of course in the body of Christ there is evidence of the gospel's power to break down those dividing walls. But outside of that, I don't see how Thailand could ever quite be "home" to us.
      I'm kind of drifting off topic, but there's my two satang. I'm sure one could counter that for the Christian, the same foreign-ness is true in our countries of origin, and that would be true; though still to a lesser extent than in Thailand.

    3. Thanks for the two satang. (your opinion is definitely worth more than that) I do appreciate differing views on things. I don't know about you, but when I go back to America, I always encounter culture shock again. I agree that it is "home", I guess I just don't see it as any more home than Thailand is. Both places are a little foreign to me.


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