My family furloughed from the mission field in 1985. “Furlough” consisted of returning to your ‘homeland’ for one out of every five years, and raising funds for the next four years’ ministry expenses. During this furlough my family was invited to be the ‘missionaries in residence’ at the denominational college in the midwest. We were provided a home to live in, fully furnished. And in return, my folks made appearances in chapel services, taught some occasional classes, and just generally were available for students to talk to. On top of these obligations to the local college, my folks traveled and spoke around the country, fundraising. Mom indicates she and dad were gone 47 of the 52 weeks that year. Meanwhile, my brother and I enrolled in classes in the local high school (he was a junior, I a freshman) and went about our business. We were quite independent by this point–largely because we’d already been at boarding school for several years.
My folks met all sorts of people as they traveled and spoke, and often they would drop by the house to meet my brother and me if they happened to be visiting campus. Neither of us kids found these little encounters much fun, as we didn’t know the visitors (we’d not previously met them) and often they were intrusive–assuming unwarranted familiarity. They would tour the house, ask us kids to speak ‘that language’ or to sing or ‘tell missionary stories’. We were much like a petting zoo–interactive yet none-the-less on display.
Mom phoned us and let us know one day that a couple they’d recently met would be coming up to the campus that weekend. All we knew about this couple were their names. Mom said she and dad had offered to let them stay at the house, instead of having to pay for hotel during their visit to campus. She told us she’d describe us kids to this couple, and they were nice and would enjoy meeting us.
My brother and I put our heads together, irritated that once again we were stuck entertaining the masses. Then it hit us: it wasn’t just that we didn’t know this couple–THIS COUPLE DID NOT KNOW US. We schemed with two of our highschool friends (a guy and a girl) to come spend the weekend at our house pretending to be us. They could tell “New Guinea missionary stories” and no-one would know the difference. They assumed our identities, and my brother and I headed out on the train for a weekend in Chicago–sleeping in the bus terminal one night, and O’Hare airport the second. We never said a word to anyone about the switch.
Then one day, months later, dad announced that we would not be returning to the mission field: instead, he was going to be taking a pastorate in the States. To our surprise (and subsequent horror) the church he was now going to pastor was this couple’s home church. My brother and I were now their pastor’s kids. We had a lot of explaining to do.
Indeed, “your sins will find you out”.