In my last post, I wrote about my recent sabbatical/silent retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Kentucky.  It was my second retreat there in as many years.  Among other blessings, the week provided me with an opportunity to work through some inner conflict, turmoil, and anxiety that I didn’t even realize were affecting me so significantly until I was in a context where I could be still and focused long enough to reflect on it and face it.  I spent a lot of time in reading, prayer, reflection, and introspection.

Among the issues that I wrestled with that week was the concern that I feel for Kim and Coleman while I am away from home.  While Kim has been nothing but encouraging and accommodating over the last nearly 21 years of Coleman’s life in regard to my traveling great distances for mission trips, revivals, seminars, and now sabbaticals, I always experience a sense that I have left her with a significant weight of responsibility to bear alone.  We are so blessed with dear friends and church family members who would be there (and have been) at the drop of a hat to assist in whatever ways may be needed, but that does not alleviate the sense of responsibility and angst that I feel.

My resolution of the conflict was to determine that, for the foreseeable and indefinite future, I will not make foreign mission trips.  Foreign trips, of necessity, require a greater amount of time away from home  than do domestic destinations.  Also, the time and logistics of returning home in the event of an emergency are just too great.

I have been greatly blessed over the last 30 years to share in the work of Christ and His church in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, England, Scotland, Mexico, Honduras, Nigeria, South Africa, Estonia, and Ukraine.  Seven years ago, I had the joyful and enriching experience of traveling to Israel with my daughter Hannah.  Even if I never travel abroad again, I will be extremely grateful for the opportunities that I have had up to this point in my life.  Our son’s special needs and unique circumstances just necessitate a change of itinerary.

There are so many other people who can go (and will gladly go) to minister to others in the name of Jesus and share His love and message of salvation.  Not only can they accomplish exactly what I would hope to accomplish, they can likely do so far more effectively, creatively, and fruitfully than I would be able to do.  I will focus more in the months and years ahead on supporting others to go and encouraging those who have been sent.

Kim has already tried to get me to reconsider this decision.  That is noble of her, but her efforts will be unfruitful.  There is so much that I can do here and from here.  I currently teach via Skype each week with a small group of Christians in Guyana, with plans to add a second congregation later this week; no airfare, no ground expenses, and no travel time required!  Domestic mission destinations, seminars, sabbaticals, etc., will remain on the books, but only to places from which I could be home in a matter of hours versus days.

Is there any disappointment in this decision?  Only that I may not have another opportunity in this life to personally see the smiling faces and enjoy the sweet fellowship of people that I have come to know and love in other places, most recently in Estonia and Ukraine.  I had also hoped to return to Nigeria this year or next and to include a stop in Liberia where I lived for a while when I was a boy.

So, yes, a bit of disappointment, but no sense of defeat.  This is just another lesson in learning to live joyfully and gratefully within my limitations.  It’s simply a situational adjustment, just like the multitude of adjustments and accommodations that all of us have to make in response to circumstances in our lives.

Just keeping it real (for me) and close to home (for now)!