Sabbatical Send-Off Morning at FBC Wheaton

It was Monday, September 22, 2009 at 12:35 PM when we got the news. Saturdays are my day off and Mondays are Mike’s, so I generally come home at noon every Monday so we can have lunch together. When our wonderful church receptionist, Gloria, called that day to say that an envelope had come from the Lilly Foundation, Mike dropped his soup spoon and was off like a shot. I immediately lost my appetite and looked desperately around for someone to pray with.

Finding no one available except for Kelli, our collie, I made her sit down and I grabbed her paws. Kelli doesn’t get the concept of prayer, but she’s great about bowing her head when she shakes, and that was good enough for me. “Oh Lord, “ I prayed, “You know how much it would mean to us for Mike and our church to receive this grant, and the decision is now in. Give us the grace to accept whatever news that envelope contains.”

The back screen door slammed and Mike rounded the corner into the kitchen with a huge grin on his face, waving an 8 ½ x 11” manila envelope. Rejections come in small envelopes but acceptances? Ah, it takes space to convey such expansively good news. First Baptist of Wheaton and my own Michael Rowe were awarded a 2009 Lilly Foundation Clergy Renewal grant. In practical terms, this means that the Foundation had approved Mike’s sabbatical proposal, and we would be studying and traveling during the summer of 2010 thanks to God’s provision through their funding. Best of all, the grant provides the means for our church to compensate the exceptional interim pastors who will be preaching, administering, supervising the staff and caring for our people while we are away.

Can you understand why I started laughing and crying simultaneously when I saw my husband of 34 years waving that large envelope? We love our ministry here and both our jobs; our desire is not to get away from something but to go to someplace to receive from God all that He might have for us in a new setting.

For us, that “someplace” is the Middle East. Tomorrow we board Turkish Airlines for our flight to Istanbul, where we will spend the next month in Turkey and Greece studying and traveling in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul. Our youngest son, Jordan, has a fulltime summer job and is working evenings as a lifeguard, and he is also making our time away possible by taking care of the house, yard and pets while we are away.

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Soli Deo Gloria – glory to God alone!