We just got back from our most splendid, incredible and blessed vacation we've ever had. And as much as we love to share about all our adventures here, we were a bit hesitant on this one! Lately we've had a lot of fellow missionary friends talking about their fear of either taking or talking about vacation times publicly. There seems to be a stigma with missionaries that either they feel they are not allowed to take vacation; because they live off of other people donations and vacation is "not what supporters are supporting people for." Or that they do not deserve a vacation; because our job is so undefined, irregularly scheduled and abnormal that trying to take a time or season to rest would just be disruptive to the whole system. YIKES. Well, I chose to be bold and honest about our life through this blog so I decided to tackle this issue and share about our fun in the sun time through it!
For years Uli and I struggled with these issues ourselves. Taking a long weekend here or their made us feel guilty and the idea of actually taking a week or so off for a vacation seemed like the most selfish thing we could do as missionaries. We always feared people would judge us, criticize us or even drop us from their support if we took a break. We feared our ministry would fall apart while we were gone or that people wouldn't take us serious enough about our work. Constantly we felt the need to over communicate to people that even though we travel around the world to amazing places, we are not traveling for vacation and fun, but for our work in missions. All of these fears that grew out of lies, other peoples experiences and stories and our imagination of "what could happen" were crippling us. And inevitably crippling our work.
We allowed these fears to dictate our lives. We never took a vacation. We considered sick days as days of rest. Worked from home on long weekends. Designated vacation time (which our base DOES GIVE) to go support raise or speak at churches (which our base also gives time for). And all around would live an incredibly unhealthy life style that was on the constant go. Not only did we run our selves, health, mentality and bodies into the ground, we also breed a culture in our team that communicated to our staff that "vacation & rest= lazy missionaries." Because hey we must be tough and hard working for jesus right?! Wrong. All we were doing was leading out of emptiness, our own strength and out of nothingness towards the end. We had nothing left to overflow into our team and our ministry and we realized we were teaching the rest of the people around us to do the same. Not good folks.
A few years back God started convicting us of this mentality and started showing us that rest is not a luxury, rest is a part of work. REST IS NECESSARY FOR LIFE AND MINISTRY. In fact rest is such an important thing to God that He even commands us in His word to take rest. He showed us over the years how individually Uli and I need rest in different ways, together as a married couple and as well as leaders. Learning when to say no to things, when to say yes to ourselves and when to say yes to God's desire to fill us was a life changing concept for us. He showed us how he would provided finances, time and opportunities for us to be able to get away here and there , retreat and actually take some down time. We'd learn to extend a mission trip or tour for a few days and just rest and enjoy ourselves. To take a friday off here and there and to not spend our vacation weeks over the year just support raising. When we took this time, never once did we feel judged, or guilty. We felt liberated, spoiled like little kids, and found that people really encouraged us in doing so. We started feeling refilled and ready to get back to work. Back to pouring the goodness God was pouring into us, back out onto others. And you know what... nothing fell apart. Everything became stronger because we were stronger. Vacation and rest became part of our lifestyle and the more we learned to use it as a strategic tool, God strengthen us and our work.
This year, with pioneering, trying to rest has been a difficult thing. When you are pioneering your days are incredibly undefined. One day you are running around town like a chicken with your head cut off and the next day you are sitting on the ground hoping someone has something for you to do. Taking a vacation seemed to not be an option but still we felt we needed one. In the mist of all this, a lot things started happening to our ministry back in Herrnhut and in our personal lives. We were dealing with some pretty heavy situations and we're feeling pretty overwhelmed. All we wanted to do was escape for a while to get some rest and perspective, but had no idea how that could look or happen. And then my dad called….
Good ol' PeePaw invited Uli and I on an all inclusive vacation down the Adriatic sea, on a sail boat with the rest of my family…. HOT DANG! We couldn't even fathom the idea of being able to go on a vacation, especially not trip like that. But how could we resist : )
Our leaders were incredibly supportive of us getting away for a week. The timing of the trip almost felt like it was pre ordained. Up until the day before we left we were feeling so overwhelmed and were even loosing sight of God's vision for us and our ministry. So Jesus kind of just plucked us up, plopped us on a sail boat and said "cool, lets take a little break, relax and get you back your perspective"… and you know what, we did : )
We met up with my sister, brother in law, dad and his girlfriend in Dubrovnik, Croatia. We tooled around the adorable city for a day or so until we set sail on our little sail boat for a week. We sailed up and down the Adriatic from Dubrovnik to Korcula, Croatia. Then to Bar, Montenegro, to Paxos Island &, Corfu, Greece. To Sarande, Albania, then Kotor, Montenegro and back to Dubrovnik. We spent the days walking around old historic towns and ruins. Swam and kayaked in clear blue oceans. Hiked up mountains and big walls of forts. Celebrated my 30th country (yahhhoo) Photographed Misha (my brother in law) rock climbing as well as all the beautiful lands. We met amazing artist, guides and people along the way. And of course... stuffed our bellies with incredible food, gelato , drinks and lot and lots of baklava! OH THE BAKLAVA!
For me... the best part of the whole trip was just sailing. The freedom and rush that comes with being completely surrounded by the water is something that always inspires me. At nights we would lay up on the top deck gazing at the stars. In the early mornings I would spend some good quality time with jesus on the front of the boat as waves crash onto me. There is a dumbfounding peace and beauty that is felt when you are moving to and fro with the waves of a great big sea. It was unmistakably inspiring. God ministered to my heart with through this as He reminded me that we are all like the ship and God is the ocean. We are strong, powerful beings that have a course of direction we are passionately and aggressively moving towards. We are designed to move through and with the water…but we are nothing without His sea that leads and guides and controls where we need to go. I once wrote this idea in a song lyric:
In this time Uli and I were able to take a step back from our work. Talk about it with people who were not directly involved and actually got a lot of clarity, perspective and inspiration back. We remembered why we do what we do and started getting excited to get back and power through the next season with passion, strength and full hearts. I believe God calls us to rest because some times we need to step back and out of things in order to really see what He is doing. Some times you have to leave the forest in order to see the trees. And man were things starting to look blurry for awhile.
All in all our time was incredible. We still can not believe we were blessed with such an incredible vacation. Perhaps God honored our conviction about vacation. We still don't think we deserved such a luxurious trip, but ya know, we took it with big grateful smiles on our faces and we are now excited to share with you all about it. But before you scroll down and through the pictures I'd like to say one more thing.
Uli and I have never once been convicted or discouraged from ANY of our supporters about taking a vacation. In fact, our supporters are usually the ones encouraging us and reminding us to take time to rest and be refilled. We know that we have some of the most killer- awesome- kick ass people supporting us, that spoil us rotten with their love and their care for us..If you are reading this and you are a supporter- ya, you know who you are... you rock :) Thank you for your encouragement. May God also bless you with a beautiful vacation this summer because you are all carrying us so much through our missions and we know we are a heavy load (yes, total fat joke.)
If you are a fellow missionary reading this and you are struggling with the idea of taking a vacation because you fear you will be, or have been convicted in the past, then here is my advice to you: stop being stupid. (like we were.) You are human... take a dang vacation. Get rested. Get filled. But then, please go back to the field. Pour out. See change! Forgive the people who have hurt you and take this time to explain in a mature respectful way to people who might not understand why you are taking rest why it's important. Chances are they also want rest in their lives and also need encouragement. Don't allow fear or other people to potentially damage you, your body and ministry because you didn't take time to rest. If you don't, then we will most likely loose you one day on the field because you've exhausted yourself to the end. And ain't nobody got time for burnouts... we got a lot of work to do for this kingdom and we need you all rested and rejuvenated :) Jesus loves you. isn't that fantastic? hurray!
Ok, enough of that….. picture time yay!