One challenge I discovered with planning sabbaticals when having a family is making sure to consider them in the plans. It would be one thing to plan a month-long hiatus from the pastorate in a secluded quiet place in order to study, plan, reflect, and pray; but if those plans come at the expense of my family, it defeats the purpose of a sabbatical. Sabbaticals should help pastors best serve their churches, and one of the qualifications of a healthy pastor is being a faithful husband and leader of the home. Plus, resting would be near impossible for me while away from my bride and kids. My sabbatical plans had to include serving my family’s needs.
So then, the other challenge is to plan a sabbatical that aims to help me return to serve the church well while not being so selfish that my plans bore my family. Even if I would love a month in a cabin in the woods with peace and quiet and a pile of books, this would torture my 10, 12, and 15 year olds. So after 8 nights in the woods (which I summarized in Part 1), we loaded up and headed to northern Kentucky to visit the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter.
I wanted this sabbatical to do for Mary and the kids what I hoped it would do for me. Part of this included hiking, canoeing, and taking in beautiful aspects of God’s creation. (By the way, the sound of Eastern Whip-poor-wills each evening in the mountains is amazing.) I also gave each family member opportunity to lead a devotion from their time in God’s Word. And one night we shared the top 25 things we wanted to experience or accomplish before we die. Caring for my family’s faith in Christ and spiritual growth motivated the trip to the museums. And this is the part of the trip my children were most excited about.
We visited the Ark Encounter first. It was Friday and the park featuring a life-sized Ark had only been open 7 days. The park was created by scientists who have found, despite popular opinion, that science actually does support the Bible’s claims. The Ark Encounter is devoted mostly to featuring the science and educating visitors with the biblical evidence of one of the most important events in history: the global flood recorded in Genesis 6-9. Every member in our family, from youngest to oldest, was completely engaged by the quality of the exhibits, and the depth of the scientific and biblical information presented.
The next day we met up with members of Mary’s family who live in northern Kentucky and Indiana and we visited the Creation Museum together. This is the original park, which is located about 45-minutes from the Ark Encounter, started in 2007 by scientist Ken Ham and the organization Answers in Genesis. And like the newer park, the Creation Museum was filled with great content and science that supports the Bible’s historical claims. Only this park had even more to see and hear because its now 9 years old. My favorite part of the campus is its planetarium. The majesty of God from what we know and can see in outer space is incredible.
After two great days in northern Kentucky which included encouraging and refreshing time with Mary’s older brother Matt, her cousin Jared, and their wonderful families, we headed for South Carolina. Mary’s mom and dad live in Abbeville where her father pastors the First Baptist Church. Thursday, after four days in SC, we headed back to Southwest Florida. It was good to be home for a day and sleep in our own beds.
On day 18 of the sabbatical we headed to Sanibel Island for three nights. There we were blessed by some friends to stay in their beautiful home just a 3-minute walk from the beach. This again provided me time to read, pray, and reflect while the family enjoyed extended time on the beach. This, I believe, was Mary’s favorite part of the trip.
The challenge for me during a sabbatical by this stage was the desire to get busy again doing what God called me to do and what I love: Preaching God’s Word, discipling, and shepherding. But I fought the urge to check in at the office and I tried to quiet my mind and rest. On Monday evening we headed 50 minutes west to Lehigh Acres to our home and I prepared to spend what would end up being my last day on sabbatical. Wednesday I would fly to Kosovo with another pastor for 10 days to serve alongside missionaries there.
These 22 days I was afforded for sabbatical resulted in me feeling rejuvenated, refreshed, and excited about what God was doing in and through the church I pastor. I was able to see better the larger picture and not just those day-to-day events that sometimes warp my perspective. Providence Church is a young church, and it faces a lot of challenges, but the gospel is powerful and God plans to use the church to make whats already true in heaven true on the earth. I was thankful for the ministry this sabbatical did for my soul, but it was time to return to my post to serve the church God has called me to pastor.