Monday, September 20, 2010

The Thomases have landed!

Missionaries coming home on furlough sometimes feel like they’ve landed on a new planet. David and Debby Thomas, with Breanna (15), Aren (14), Gwen (11) and Alandra (8) stepped off their space ship from Rwanda just a few weeks ago, so their impressions and observations are still fresh. Let’s let them speak for themselves.

Question: What, so far, has been strange, negative or scary about being back in the USA?

Alandra: The food. Not enough beans and rice.

Gwen: There aren’t very many people walking around outside. And there aren’t enough black people.

Aren: Too many new people. And lots of white people; they’re everywhere! But the scariest thing is going to a new school. Also lots of little things are strange. Like in restaurants, there are these big machines where you have to press on handles to get drinks and not knowing how to do it.

Breanna: The food hasn’t been amazing. And people are all in such a hurry.

Debby: We’re still in the honeymoon stage where everything is wonderful. Ask me this question in a few months.

David: I agree with Debby. It’s hard to think of negative things to say about being here. Let’s see. I guess I could mention being bothered by how much stuff people throw away. And that so much is automatic, and, well, you just can’t roll-start a car in automatic! But these are little things.

Q: What do you really like about being back in the USA?

Alandra: The food. And, while meeting new people is sort of fun, I really like seeing friends that we knew before.

Gwen: The food, stuff like pizza, bread and all the meat we can eat.

Aren: Being with relatives again—that’s the best part. Like Uncle Clyde. And seeing Mark’s sword-making stuff.

Breanna: The orderliness of life. I love the traffic here. And the phones. I love American fruit.

Debby: Life here seems so easy and breezy, like the driving and the availability of food. Everything works like it should, all the time: the electricity, the water, the Internet. Appointments happen on time. And people are so kind—in the stores, at the market, in the schools. The attitude of service is incredible.

David: I’ve noticed that people in Oregon seem to be exercising more, and there’s more emphasis on healthy organic foods. The other thing that stands out is politeness in traffic. During our first week here, my car broke down on a mountain pass and not only did someone stop to help me with his jumper cables, he ended up by giving me the cables, telling me to pass them on to the next person who needed help! Cars actually stop for people in crosswalks, and if someone wants to change lanes, other drivers give him space. Amazing!

Q: What are your hopes and expectations this year for the various ministries you left behind in Rwanda? (And how can we be praying?)

David: Our process of leaving went well, with good people in places of leadership in both the mission and the Rwandan Friends Church. We’re already getting good reports. We feel at peace about being gone for a year.

Debby: I agree. I think the Discipleship for Development program is not just going to hang on, it’s going to move ahead. As for the moringa tree business, I’m hoping and expecting it to make progress both in the government approval process and in actual sales. We need to find more investors in order to move to the next stage in the business, and that would be a good thing to pray for.

Q: What are your hopes and expectations for this year in the US? (And how can we be praying?)

Alandra: To make lots of friends

Gwen: For my dyslexia program to work and help me become a fluent reader. Oh, yes, and I want to make some good friends.

Aren: For me and Dad to go on a canoe trip on the Willamette River. Also I want to go snow-boarding.

Breanna: Good friends. I want to have found something here that makes me sad to leave.

Debby: I want to re-connect with the culture here, to understand the issues people our age face, what they’re thinking about, what their values are. I want for friendships to deepen. I’m also hoping for a good school year for the kids, that they can enjoy friendships and form positive connections to this culture. On a practical level, we need to raise our level of financial support so that we can return to Rwanda in a year. But the priority for this year is REST and rejuvenation.

David: I hope for excellent discussions with our Evangelical Friends Mission board on a transition strategy for the next five to ten years in Rwanda. I hope we can discern God’s leading for EFM’s future role in Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo. I’m also looking forward to developing friendships this year. But I agree with Debby that our priority for the year is rest. We’ve had an active and fruitful four years of ministry in Rwanda, and now we hear Jesus saying to us, just as he spoke to his disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31). I want to learn how to move more deeply in the rhythms of grace, to come to the place where my ministry flows from grace.

Interviewer: Nancy Thomas (mom--to David, grandma, and veteran space traveler)


  1. Wonderful way to help your family transition. Thanks for sharing this. I want to highly recommend The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan to David and Debby. It transformed my thinking and strikes me as something restful to read while resting in God's place for them. Thanks and love.

  2. Thank you. I love how so often you know just the right book. I will pass on your recommendation.

  3. I love that you did this. It records in time the initial emotions and feelings, things that might be forgotten in a year or years. The comment Breanna made about wanting to be sad to leave something nearly made me cry. The comments from all the children made Andrew reflect on his own experiences. It opens up their lives to us as well, who have loved them from afar and now have them near. It shares things that they might not have all had the time or desire to sit down and blog about themselves; it's like you've been an advocate for them. I want someone to do this for us one day. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Brittany,
    How wonderful to hear from you. Yes, someone will do that for you one day. I hope we can all get together soon.