We have ten months before our next furlough.
Just saying that makes my heart pound a bit.
*insert some deep breaths
We all have a million mixed feelings about this part of global work. It involves so much preparation and work.
You know you’re preparing for furlough when… all the things.
Whether you call it a home assignment or furlough or deputation, returning for an extended time in your passport country can be very busy, high stress, intense, full, and crazy.
Not to mention new cell phone numbers, finding a car, getting a place to stay, traveling and the emotions of reentry. If you have children, this all goes up a notch with schooling, parenting through transition, hauling them from place to place and guiding them through what should be home but doesn’t feel like it anymore.
Let’s not even get started on the many expectations from ourselves, our family, our organization, and our supporters.
It’s exhausting, exciting, and daunting, all at the same time. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s your first furlough or fifth, the challenge remains.
Furlough flies by and before you know it, you’re packing up to go back overseas.
That’s a whole other heart-pounding post but for now, let’s just talk furlough.
Without intentionality, you’ll forget important things that need to get done in your passport country or, you’ll know things need done and not have the time or resources to do them.
You might leave for the field after furlough with some regret for not seeing a grandparent or visiting colleges or finding a new tax person or setting up a time with that one supporter.
Honestly, we often underestimate what needs to be done, how to do it, the difficulty of the task and the intense stress we are under as we try to get it all done.
Just filling out medical paperwork can be difficult when you have unknown insurance, three addresses, a medical history spread out between countries and possible sicknesses they aren’t familiar with… raise your hand if you travel home with malaria or worm meds in your bag?
The things we all do that we never thought we’d do!
But, this is where the Global Trellis team steps in to help with lists and resources to lift a bit of the stress and guide you through the unique challenges of overseas life.
So, take a deep breath with me and let’s make a list.
This list won’t be in any specific order because it all depends on the time you have before your furlough, what’s needed for your season of life and what on this list applies to your situation.
From this list, I hope that you can develop a manageable plan with the time you have before and during your furlough to set yourself and your family up for a great time in your passport country.
My prayer is that this post won’t overwhelm you but that it will help you break everything down into workable, doable lists and timelines that bring peace and a little less stress. And at the end you can download notes for you to keep track of all 18 areas.
1} Rest, sabbatical and/or debrief time – I’m putting this as number one because for us, and I’m guessing for many of you, it’s needed. It’s time to intentionally plan a specific season of rest or sabbatical or debriefing. We’ve extended a four year term into a five year term, moved countries during a pandemic, left our oldest in the States for her first year of university, faced medical issues and persevered through a ton of stress. Because of all of that, we’re planning in a time of rest. We’re making sure a sabbatical happens. We want a real debriefing and processing time before we begin to fundraise and visit supporters. We want to begin with health. But, the only way this happens, is if you put it on the list, plan for it, research options, do the work and make it happen. Global Trellis’ Sabbatical Journey Course is a wonderful resource.
2} Vacation – I’m adding this in because your rest, sabbatical and/or debriefing is not a vacation. Repeat that with me. Not a vacation. To have a real vacation and make something fun happen for you and your family takes times, finances, planning and creativity so start thinking about it now.
3} Saying goodbye and hello – This needs to be on our furlough list because saying goodbye well takes some thought. Saying hello to your passport country also takes some thought. It’s different for everyone. What you need to say goodbye to or bring closure to or settle for a time away is different than what another family might need. What you need to re-enter your passport country will also be different from another family. There are resources available to help your family through this but it makes the list because you have to plan to do it. Otherwise, you leave and enter in a whirlwind that will take a toll on everyone.
4} Health and medical – Again, this is different between families, countries, situations, and organizations. You might need a physical, a basic check up, immunizations, maybe a chest x-ray for a visa or help planning for medicine while on furlough. For some of you, that will only happen in your passport country. If that’s the best place to get it done, start making those appointments now. It can take months to get in to a dermatologist or other specialist. If you can get things done in your host country before you go on furlough? Plan that now too.
5} Shopping lists – This one is very important. You will not remember how many bottles of pain or cold medicine you have stashed in a bin in your home overseas. I promise… you really won’t. When you get to the store in your passport country, you’ll have no idea and wish you’d made a list. Before you go on furlough, go through all your special stashes of medicines, clothing, food, shoes, and linens. What needs replaced? What is expired? What do you need to bring back with you? How many packets of taco seasoning or kitchen towels? Toiletries, school supplies, plastic bags, phone cords or winter coats? Go through each room of your house and see what you actually need. This will save time, mental energy, and a lot of money!
6} Schooling and Education – Whether it’s for you and you’re interested in starting a master’s program or for your kids, either homeschooling or registering them for a school during furlough, this takes time and a little thought. What time of year are you going on furlough? Where will you be living? Should you make contact with the school before you go back for furlough? Will they need records from your overseas school? Should you purchase homeschool material early or start researching master’s programs? There is generally a lot of paperwork involved in this process. We’ve learned that the sooner you begin researching, planning, making decisions and making phone calls on school options, the better for everyone. This is a hard decision and we tend to push off the hard ones. Don’t push this off.
7} More on schooling – Depending on the age of your kids, it could be time to set up some college visits. This is a great way to prep early for college! We had an opportunity to be in the states during a large conference for our organization when our oldest was making college decisions. She was able to talk to different colleges at the conference and even audition for the theater program at her two top school choices. Plan ahead for this even if you think your child isn’t there yet. You won’t regret taking time for an in-person visit. Another schooling item that can make your list is about special education or educational testing. On our first furlough, we were able to get educational testing done for our youngest that really helped us know how to move forward. The SPED teacher at the school she was going to be attending during furlough was able to make a plan for her and help get her to grade level in the areas she was weak in before we went back overseas. These kinds of tests can be expensive and take time to schedule. Start now.
8} Passports and VISAs – Check all the dates. Go over the paperwork needed to refile. What do you need to do before you leave? What will expire while you’re gone? Does someone need to get a stamp for you and hold on to something in case it’s needed? Check the embassy websites for changes that you might be able to plan for. Even if you think it’s all fine, check one more time.
9} Finances – If you’re going from an all cash country back to the states, you might need to pull out the credit cards, go over the debit cards, check dates, find out balances or policy changes. If you need to apply for a new card or get details in order with your bank before you begin furlough, a lot of that can be started online. You can order new cards or open new accounts before you get home with a million things going at the same time. With that, you might need to go over old accounts, update address information, change phone numbers or cancel things you aren’t using anymore. Some of this you’ll want to have on your furlough to-do list so you can give accurate information as you get it, like new cell phone numbers. Another little tip… change out the currency in your purse or wallet. I usually have envelopes of Rand, Euro, CFA, and US dollars, depending on where we’re flying through. A little extra Euro to spend on chocolate in Paris? Awesome. But this can be valuable whether cash is needed for tips at the airport or just to know you have some of the right cash in hand in an emergency. Make sure to bring some of your host country’s currency with you to change out your cash for when you head back overseas. There’s a special nostalgia that hits you when you see the little bundle of that currency at the end of your time on furlough.
10} Speaking of phones and other devices – Most of us need to update them after a few years overseas. Ours got particularly dusty in West Africa. In the time leading up to furlough, watch for deals and sales. We ordered early and had them waiting at my parents’ house when we landed. Also, think about new sim cards, research phone plans and have an idea of how you want to do that so it isn’t so overwhelming when you’re trying to get your people reconnected to the world while everyone is jet lagged.
11} Store cards – When we left for the field, stores all had little reward cards that I could add to my keychain. When we went on our first furlough, they’d changed from little cards to lots of apps. It was overwhelming. If you’re into having all the apps, getting the free birthday stuff, collecting points or watching for sales, start downloading and signing up for all your favorite store cards in the months leading up to going on furlough. If you don’t care about that, skip this one. But for my husband, it’s part of the American fun.
12} Important stuff – This is one thing that none of us want to think about but it’s really, really important. While you’re on furlough, it’s time to update your will, make a decision on who will raise your kids in the event something horrible happens, plan for a power of attorney, write a letter so your family knows what to do if they need to make decisions for you, meet with your life insurance agent, put together all your accounts and passwords for a trusted friend or family member… no one likes to do these things but in the event it’s needed, you’ll be so thankful you did it. Call your lawyer, set up an appointment. Call the insurance agent and make sure you have your insurance all up to date for car, storage, health, life and whatever else you might need. When you’re on furlough, do the not fun things like this. They are way more “not fun” when you’re trying to do them from overseas. Plan now.
There are more ideas like this in this PDF – 10 Things to Ask Before you Move Overseas
13} Retirement and financial planning – Do you have a financial advisor? Set up a meeting. Go over where you are, what you could be doing or what you might need to change. If you don’t have an advisor, find one. Set up a meeting with your accountant and take the opportunity to sit face-to-face and talk about your situation. Kids going to college soon or saving for retirement or needing to sell a rental property… talk to professionals while you are in your home country to make sure you’re set up to leave again.
14} Prayer cards, family pictures, website updates, and ministry videos – Whether you decide to do this from the field or wait until you get on furlough, this step takes a little thought and preparation. Start planning for visiting churches, having a strong media presentation, and putting together your wording for describing, discussing and displaying your work overseas. This is changing in a post-covid world, so check to see what churches are needing, using, and wanting so you don’t over prepare or under serve those who support you. What can you bring with you from your host country to help share in a children’s service or youth event? What can you show pastors to help them understand where you live and work? Do you need raw footage for a video? Thinking about these things and slowly putting together pictures, videos, messaging, and materials for furlough will greatly lower the stress of the transition.
15} Check in with family – Are there reunions planned for your furlough time? Weddings? Specific holiday plans that can be settled now rather than later? Look at the year and add those things to the calendar. I’ve found that to be very helpful as I begin scheduling meetings, services and furlough events.
16} Settle housing and vehicle needs – Finding worker housing or a fully furnished rental can be a big process. There are often long lines for these resources so the earlier you start, the better the chance of one being available in the time you need. Decide if you’re living with family, renting an apartment, furnishing something yourself or what your housing needs might be if you choose to move around a bit. As with finding housing, finding a vehicle can also be a challenge and take some time. Send out a note to your support network and see how they can help!
17} Mental Health – I know I’ve already mentioned rest, sabbatical, vacation, debriefing and thinking through your goodbyes and hellos. But there is something different about making sure that you have the mental health help that you, your spouse or your kids might need in your furlough time. So many of us do not have access to overseas specific care from our host countries. Don’t miss an opportunity to process your overseas life and work with a professional while you can. Marriage counseling, family counseling, or maybe even a doctor’s visit to talk about your mental health challenges. All very good reasons to put this on the furlough list.
18} All the details – go digital. Get comfortable with online storage, sharing links, uploading files and scanning receipts. From keeping track of miles to organizing your supporters to planning your schedule, there’s generally an app for that!
But there are ways to prepare and things to remember and lists to make as we take our families into another transition.
I’d love to know what you’d add to the list or what things will make your personal list as you prepare for furlough!
Please share tips and tricks and your lists with us here in the comments!
Because a list of 18 things to think about can be overwhelming and you might not know where to start, we made you an outline of this article so you can re-read and start keeping track of these in one place.
Does this sound familiar? You’ve been pouring yourself out . . . for years and for good Kingdom causes. You’re depleted or conflicted at the though of leaving the field or overwhelmed by all that you’ve been through. We’ve got a road map for you. Enroll today and start your journey to resting, refueling, reequipping, and refocusing. Enrollment open until this Friday, September 23, 2022. Enroll today!