02 September, 2014

OMF Australia's National Conference 2014

The morning was spent travelling, we left home at 6am, snagging some breakfast on the run out the door, and in the car. Actually we ended up grazing most of the morning on the healthy food we'd packed for breakfast and snacks. It was a long morning, ending with a significant wait at the airport for the van to the conference centre on the other side of Sydney. 

Thankfully we had some "new" friends to keep us busy. A young man, 12 months of age, needed some help in staying patient. His parents were headed to the same conference as us, so it was lovely to "be family" to them. No one told our boys off for playing handball next to the luggage carousels (when they weren't in use), bonus! 

Actually it is much more pleasurable travelling with older children. I bought them some puzzle books (logic, sudoku, etc.) as travel entertainment and it worked like a charm! I love it, though it has been quite a wait.

Then from 2pm till 4pm we had a home assignees gathering. There were 17 of us. Most of the others we'd never met, so it was interesting sharing stories and praying for one another.

From 4pm for an hour we "experienced missionaries" got to share advice with the appointees (those who've been accepted by OMF Australia, but haven't yet gone to the field because their waiting on clearances like finance and medical).

Then we spent a couple of confusing hours getting our luggage and selves 1.3 km down the road to the conference centre, finding our rooms, locating my parents who'd flown down also, and getting some dinner from a local take-away shop. In the midst of that we discovered that we were supposed to bring towels, but must have missed that communication.

Oh, did I mention that it was cold and the younger boys managed to get soaked from the waist down, including shoes, within minutes of seeing the ocean?

We had a meeting that night, worship time plus a message from OMF's General Director, then supper (Australian for late night snack time). I was so tired, but there were many people to meet and talk to. Lots of old faces and some new ones. The main reason I persevered was the promise of towels, and I was desperate for a shower. Eventually at 10pm, we got towels and I showered and crashed.

This was the big day. 200 stayed in, but 100 visited for the day on Saturday. It also was the morning that we had to do our 5 minute presentation up the front (if we went overtime we got shot by a water machine gun). 

After lunch we ran two back-to-back workshops about support ministry. I enjoyed that much more than the 5 minutes up-front. It is always risky partnering with a seasoned teacher in up-front things, however, they tend not to want to plan things in detail and then just run away with things once they are up front. At least in the workshop we could confer a little, but in front of 300 people there is no margin. It's scary!

While we were running the workshop, I was simultaneously trying to dry out some of the boys' clothes in the laundry next door. Most of Saturday it drizzled and we were quickly running out of clothes.

Saturday night we ran an origami table at the 150th anniversary party. Our boys are so good at this that I actually had free time to go and sample other Asian crafts. We also dressed up in our summer kimonos (as I mentioned yesterday). It's the first time we've
done that as a family, the boys aren't usually up for "dressing up on demand" it was fun!

Thankfully in between the previous two paragraphs we had some free time. We hunkered down in our room and recharged.

Do you remember what it was like when you saw relatives at an event after a year or two when you were younger: "Oh, how you've grown!" Well the weekend was full of that kind of thing, in fact this whole year is a bit like that. People who've not seen our boys for five or ten years usually start with a comment like that!

This day was a bit more laid back, but still there were many people who wanted to talk with us. Thankfully, though, we had no official duties to carry out, so we could relax. After lunch we headed back to the airport and made it home by 7.30.

Phew! What a weekend. It was hard to get up and get going on Monday morning. I was starting to feel a bit more normal this afternoon. Hey, I even did some baking, gardening, and we ate dinner at home (first time in five days).

It's exciting, but also weird being a part of a "special" group of people called "missionaries on home assignment" at an event like this. The sad side of it is that if you're not part of the "elite few", but once were, you can feel very sad. 

There was one former missionary there who's resigned from OMF (as far as I know, anyway). I'm not sure of the reasons she's returned to Australia, but I do know that she was upset on Sunday morning. Re-entry is very hard. She felt like she was a "failure" and said her heart was still in her country of service, not Australia. I prayed with her and hope that some people in her local area will reach out to her in this grieving and adjustment time.

The difference in a home-side conference and a field-side conference is that the field-side ones are supposed to be refreshment, fellowship and teaching in English. The home-side ones are more reporting-back and recruitment. We certainly didn't get much refreshment!


Sarah said...

A good friend of mine's sister went to serve in Cambodia last year. She is single, in her late 20s and had desired to serve overseas for most of her life. She ended up returning home to WA after six months due to homesickness and other issues. She said in her prayer letter that she felt like a 'failure' because she had told everyone she was going indefinitely. Gradually she learned that she had not failed at all - our ways are not always God's ways and He had a purpose for her time there, even if it wasn't what she had planned.

Wendy said...

Absolutely Sarah. It is a hard lesson to learn, though. Have you come across Naomi Reed? She was a missionary in Nepal and has written a book called Heading Home. I haven't read it, but have heard that it is good, looking at what "home" is and the process of returning. I'd love to read it someday (along with her other books, she's a great Australian author.) http://naomireed.info/product/heading-home/