Someone has posted on my wall. “Oh, I didn’t realize you were in America right now! What are you doing home?”
Am I home? It doesn’t feel like home. I don’t even know where home is right now.
I respond. “We’re on itineration”
And there it is. That little red squiggly line. Windows’ way of saying “Hey stupid, you might want to look at this. That’s not a real word.”
Itineration is a word, Windows. I promise.
Admittedly, if you don’t live in my bubble, if you aren’t a born-and-raised Assemblies of God church-goer, (which I don’t think Windows is) you probably don’t know the word either. Maybe you might recognize another word. “Furlough.”
Only problem? We don’t like to use the word ‘furlough.’ It implies a vacation.
“Oh how nice. You get a one-year vacation every five years.”
Furlough doesn’t adequately describe what we are doing. It is not a rest, a sabbatical, or a vacation. In fact, in some ways, it’s more work than being on the field in our country of service.
So what is “Itineration?”
In order to understand that, let me explain how our work is funded. We are not hired by the Assemblies of God. We are affiliated and accountable to them, but we aren’t employees. As such, we don’t draw a salary from them. They don’t fund our projects, our work, our travel, anything, out of a general fund.
Everything we do, 100%, is funded by donors, and we have to raise that money.
Currently we have about 250 churches and individuals who donate to us monthly so that we can do what we do.
Itineration is about donors.
Donors need attention. They need to hear what we’ve been doing with their funds over the past four years. They need to know that we can’t do what we do without them.
We need donors to renew their commitments to us, so that we can go back to Africa for another four years without running out of funds. We need them to know that we can’t do what we do without them.
One year out of every five, we leave our field of service and come to the US to connect with our donors. That’s itneration, and it’s a real word.
What happens during Itineration?
We have one year to connect with as many donors as possible. One year to raise new commitments and new pledges that will keep us going for the next four.
How does that happen?
We connect with churches.
Churches are the bedrock of our donor base. Historically, they are the most faithful, long-term, and partnering with the church is the Biblical model for missions, all the way back to Paul.
The most traditional way of connecting with churches is to call them and ask for the opportunity to come and speak to the congregation. Speaking in services generates awareness of what we do. It promotes missions in general. It provides potential new missionaries the opportunity to hear about the need. And it results in offerings and new pledge partners.
On any given week, we usually speak at at least two different churches, sometimes more than that. Sundays are our busiest day, and we aim to spend the morning with one church and the evening with another.
We connect with pastors.
Since our time is so limited, our schedule fills up fast. Often if we can’t fix a date with a pastor to come and speak at their church, we’ll meet him or her for coffee or a meal. Even if this involves a drive across the state for a coffee date. It’s what we are in the US to do.
We connect with individuals.
Most of our individual support comes through people we’ve met at churches. Some missionaries are good at connecting with para-church organizations, business-people and groups like Rotary clubs. While we’d like to find these kinds of connections, we haven’t yet made much inroads in this area.
We speak at events that peripherally support our work.
The Assemblies of God has programs for both children’s ministries to give to missions, and youth ministries to give to missions. We speak at events that promote and raise funds for these programs. (And our ministry benefits too!)
We spend a lot of time on the phone and in the car.
Setting all of this up takes a lot of phone calling. Getting there takes a lot of driving. Our home district is the Oregon Ministry Network, which means that we can, and do, travel the entire state of Oregon. But we also have supporters in a number of other districts, including New Jersey, New York, Iowa, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Kentucky, Arizona, Florida, and Washington. So travel is a constant state of being during itineration.
We also eat a lot of fast food, make a lot of emergency stops at Walmart for things we forgot, and know most of the rest stops in the state. (The one on I-5 near Canby is my favorite, because it’s in a grove of old growth fir and it’s gorgeous.)
We keep doing a lot of the work we usually do while on the field.
In an ideal world, we are supposed to leave field work on the field, and work only on itineration. while we are in the US. But we all know the world isn’t ideal, and things like curriculum projects don’t just stop. So in a way, it’s a little bit like having two full-time jobs.
See? Not a vacation! And here’s the kicker. . .
We can’t go back until we have 100% of our budget accounted for with signed commitments from donors.
In theory, we are going back in August of 2018. We know God will provide and we aren’t worried about it. But if I’m being perfectly honest, this itineration period is really hard. It’s like trying to stand on a platform that keeps shifting underneath you.
So, to answer my friend’s question, “What am I doing home?”
I’m on itineration. And it’s a real word. I’m not sure I’m home, however. I am a wanderer, a vagabond who doesn’t even know what address to use when filling out a simple registration form.
I love you all. I’m incredibly thankful for your support that lets us do what we do. But I’m ready to go home.
Apparently I have a lot of homes.