Is a missionary furlough just an extended vacation?

This is the season of the year when many missionaries are putting the final touches on their plans to take a break from the field and return back to the states for a specific period of time that has historically been referred to as “furlough”.

When most church leaders or members hear that a missionary is coming back for a furlough, they tend to limit the meaning to something they themselves are familiar with–a vacation.

And they’re partially correct if that is what think.

Missionaries are accomplishing some form of work on the field and they do need and deserve a vacation, just like everyone else.

But while a missionary furlough certainly does include what most people understand as a vacation, it accomplishes a number of other purposes that combined with the vacation component all contribute to sustaining the spiritual, emotional, and even physical health of the missionary.

The bottom-line is that furloughs are much more than a vacation, and the reasons why are fairly easy to understand:

–Missionaries do the work that God has given them to do in another country, and among people whose language and culture are very different than their own.

–Due to this reality, they live every moment of every day immersed in unique challenges that generate what is known as culture-stress.

–Their obedience to His calling means they are seldom able to participate in many of the important life-events of their family members back home in America.

–They navigate life in a constant state of complete dependence on God to supply their financial needs through both churches and individual brothers and sisters in Christ.

For these reasons and many others, here are three of the most important goals a missionary furlough accomplishes:


This is the vacation portion–a time of disconnection from stress producers along with an intentional focus on resting and doing those things that the missionary knows are both enjoyable and relaxing for them.

For the optimum benefit to be received, missionaries need at least two-three weeks of refreshment for each year since their last return to the states.


Because God has created us in His image and likeness, we are relational.  Another significant portion of a furlough should be dedicated to reconnecting face to face with family members, home and supporting church leaders and members, and as many financial supporters as possible.

Even though missionaries are the ones that go, meaningful relationships are the fuel that makes impacting the nations for Jesus possible.


 By God’s design we experience joy and thankfulness at their fullest when we tell others the incredible things we’ve experienced and seen God do.

As important as this reality is for all of His children, it’s absolutely essential for missionaries.

Ensuring that they have an opportunity to give a report to God’s people is a special blessing to both the missionary and those who hear them.

It could be with the church leaders and staff; a children’s ministry class; or a youth group gathering; women’s or men’s ministry meetings; at the church’s community groups; or even for a few minutes during a Sunday morning service.

Encouraging  missionaries to take a furlough with these goals in mind, along with educating their church leaders and members about what a furlough is, and why they are so important, is a simple way for every Christian to participate in God’s global purposes.

Photo by:  Link Hoang  on unsplash.com

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