Since were only halfway through our furlough and I’m already behind on the blog, I’m going to combine weeks 3 and 4 into one blog post.
First, a quick report on where we were and some of what we did: week three started out with us in Jacksonville OR, the recipients of the wonderful hospitality of our friends Rich and Stacy Owens. We then headed over to Brookings WA (right on the CA/WA Border) to a vacation rental that some other dear friends let us stay in for a few days. Our wonderful hostess, Lori, took us over there and showed us all of the cool spots to visit. This was really the first time (and not the last) that we learned that you can indeed freeze to death on the Pacific Coast in the middle of summer. We went to a beach where we learned a new definition of playing on the beach. Where we come from, when you play at the beach it includes going in the water. Here on the Pacific Coast, you don’t go into the water unless you are a walrus or unless you have a wetsuit on. Just walking into the water caused our feet to hurt and caused Marinajo to make some pretty incredible faces! We then drove down Hwy 101 to Mendicino CA – which is now on my personal list of most beautiful places on earth – and then on down to San Francisco! Wow, we were so blessed to stay at the home of the sister of a dear friend of ours. They were then able to find us a beautiful home in San Francisco to house sit while we were there. Can you believe that? San Francisco was like nowhere we had ever visited before. Beautiful, charming, international and just an amazing place to visit. We really enjoyed our three days of touring there and were just completely worn out when we left. We then drove over to Reno where we spent a wonderful night with my Aunt Helen, telling stories about her and my dad when they were children and working on our family tree. I can’t emphasize enough what a blessing it was for the kids to meet Aunt Helen and to have them hear firsthand some of her stories. Beside the stories of family life, she told Mariah about the time that she heard Fred Astaire live and the time that she saw he husband’s ship on the newsreel at the movie theater during WW2! Wow!
I also wanted to continue my short series on “why we do furlough.” My hope is that we can communicate this, and in so doing, help you understand our lives as missionaries a little bit better. Reason #1 (not necessarily in order of priority), from the last blog post, was to be able to listen to the “buoys” that God puts in our lives and to remove ourselves from the business of Honduras in such way that allows us to hear those markers “ringing” in our soul. Reason #2 is to be able to spend time as a family and let get “reintroduced” to the USA culture every few years. The first part of that is easy – we all are too busy and we have to get out of our normal routine in order to be more “present” with our families. The second part of this is more unique to our lives as missionaries. One thing that can be a real challenge, especially for longer term missionaries is when their kids (who grew up in the field) move back home. They have a special name for this group of kids that grew up outside of their “first culture” and in a “second culture”. We sometimes refer to them as “third culture kids”, meaning that they don’t ever really fit back into their first culture (the USA, in our case) and they don’t ever completely fit into their second culture (Honduras for us) and so they end up forming a third culture of kids that grew up on the mission field or kids of expats and so forth. I know, for our children, Mariah especially, identifying as a third culture kid has really helped her with her feelings of not fitting in. The problem is this; she is now moving back to the US and will need to fit in here as best as she can. For this reason, we try and do furlough (an extended time of 10 weeks or so) back in the US ever three to four years. The last time we did this was 2012 and we moved to Honduras in 2008, so this is our second in seven years.
One of the big benefits of being here for a more extended time is that it helps get the kids reoriented to the US culture and it isn’t as much of a shock the next time we come back for a visit. I guess this is important for us adults, too, although it is less certain that we will come back to the US or when. Let me give you one example. While we were in San Francisco a friend introduced us to an “app” for our smartphones called Yelp. We were able to review all of the restaurants within a mile or two of us, and then order our food online and have it delivered without ever talking to a soul! Wow! This may seem silly, but it is a way that the US culture has changed that we were just totally clueless about. Yelp, and the changes that it brings, are, more importantly, a good indicator of something much larger that is changing in the US culture – it is becoming even more isolated. We do more online and we communicate more online to the detriment of our face to face interactions.
While it is not an important life skill for my kids to be able to order food with their smartphone, it is important for them to recognize this titanic shift in the culture here so that that will understand the feelings of loneliness that they will experience when they come back. You see, our culture is one of infinite personal contact. We often choose to go seem someone rather than calling them on the phone or on the ham radio. Big difference and one that it is important for us to talk through with the kids and help them to recognize.