Why time away from your church is a good thing

Today finds me sitting on a lava rock in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. More specifically, in Reykjavik, Iceland. But, considering I am surrounded by lava fields in most directions I look, this volcanic island sure feels like a lava rock. Me, my husband and our four kids have been living here for almost two months, which you might find strange since my husband is the main pastor back at Pillar Church in Northern Virginia.

What are we doing here? Funny you should ask.

Well, it all really began a decade ago, and it’s quite a long story. Our church in Stafford, Virgina, decided that since there were no IMB missionaries there at the time, our church would adopt Iceland as a people group and take responsibility to start something there.

There were four staff members at Stafford Baptist Church, and we decided that each staff member would spend three months in Iceland (with their families) to see how we could join God in what He was doing there. Our family was a part of that rotation, and after those three months, we felt a burden to return long-term as IMB missionaries.

So, we packed up our life and our two daughters and moved back to Iceland. During our time in Reykjavik as missionaries, we shared the gospel with those we came in contact with and tried to start a gospel-centered, reproducible church. Nothing went as planned, and we actually had to go home a year and a half later because of a medical emergency.

Since returning home to Virginia, God has continued His work (imagine that…) and called an Icelander (Gunnar Gunnarsson) to plant a Baptist church here. Our church in Virginia has supported him and his sweet family the past three years as they go about planting the church we dreamed of starting.

God burdened our hearts to return to Iceland this summer, and the elders agreed that this would be a good move. A week before we left, we got the news that Gunnar and Svava’s son had just been diagnosed with leukemia. This news confirmed that supporting the work in Iceland this summer was God’s plan. Here are three benefits for taking a step of faith no matter the outcome.

Our time away has been good for the church we left behind.
Colby was admittedly nervous about leaving Pillar for almost two months, but instead of making our church suffer, it has actually made it stronger. Leaving holes means someone else feeling the responsibility to fill them. Our church has grown because people have stepped up where maybe they didn’t see the need before.

Our time away has been good for the mission in Iceland.
This summer we have been able to support the work in Iceland in various ways by meeting with church members, hosting an ESL camp in the community, making new connections, Colby helping with preaching and me helping with worship. Gunnar and Svava and the small church here know that they are not forgotten and that we have their back through our intentional support.

Our time away has been good for us personally.
Getting away is always good. It’s been five years since Colby accepted the main teaching pastor role at Pillar. Being out of the daily routine has given us some fresh perspective and some much needed rest.

What about you? Have you had time away from your church? What have you learned about God’s provision in your absence?

Published October 31, 2016