Talk about extremes. Laura and I went from one kind of boat ride to another. We went from a Sunset Cruise in Naples, FL to a fishing boat “cruise” toward a remote island called Palma Real, Ecuador. We went from a tour of $20 million mansions lining Naples Bay to a tour of what we would call shacks, and what their owners call homes, lining the island coast.
We have now turned the first corner of my sabbatical—from rest and renewal to service and missions, and it couldn’t have come in a more dramatic fashion. And for this, we are grateful.
One can only sit on the beach, sit by a pool, and sit in comfortable condos and palatable restaurants for so long. That’s a lot of sitting. Many of us might think we’d love to retire to a life of luxury where we can spend the rest of our days shopping, dining, golfing and eating. Laura and I did that the last few weeks . . . minus the golfing . . ., and though enjoyable, it was a “stepping out” of real life, a vacation—vacating the premises of normal living.
One can only vacate so long before missing the life left behind. Vacation becomes exile when we live too long in the surreal existence of self-focus.
“Where are we going to eat today?” “What would you like to do today?” These are questions that reflect an infinite amount of possibilities to satisfy self. These are vacation questions. Real-life questions take the focus off self and place it on others. “What can I do today to make a difference?” “How is my job making an impact?” “How can I serve my family and others?”
This is why I am grateful for rounding the bend in my sabbatical season, for now I move from self to service. There’s good to be found in taking care of self, and we need times of rest and renewal. But barracks exist to get you ready to go back to the front lines. The only reason to stay in the barracks too long is because of illness. When you’re back to health, you’re ready to “get back at it,” which is exactly where true fulfillment is found.
So, Laura and I have “gotten back at it” by joining an E91 Missions Team to serve in Ecuador. We’re visiting our E91 church plant in Palma Real, Ecuador, which is in partnership with Compassion International and Stadia. And we’ve been blessed to visit our Compassion Sponsor Child, Elian, and his family.
Every time I’m on one of these trips, I’m amazed at the love and joy of the children. Although they live in extreme poverty, they live with extreme joy. Talk about contrasts. While seeking the latest fashion and the latest phones, many of our middle-class American children have lost the beauty of simplicity, that life does not consist in the abundance of things but in the abundance of relationships.
I’m grateful for the reminder. I need it. We live in a world of extreme contrast—rich and poor, spiritual bankruptcy and spiritual wealth, the need for vacations, and the fulfillment of purpose in real life. I pray you help bridge the gap so that, as has often been said, you can “live simply so that others can simply live.”