My family didn’t really take vacations growing up, so it wasn’t a habit for me when I went to the field. My teammate and I pushed hard until we figured out we needed to create some better rhythms. It started out by taking Saturday mornings off of language study, instead sipping lattes in an air-conditioned coffee shop and talking to our families on good internet.
Several years in we realized that we needed to actually leave the country every once in awhile. Sure, we went back to the States for home assignment but those weeks were full of travels to visit supporters and fill every moment with precious family time (and important grocery shopping to pack those suitcases for the return trip!).
About two years ago, my teammate and I intentionally left Cambodia and flew to Bangkok. We stayed in a five-star hotel, the kind with a big bathtub and fancy breakfast.
I’m almost afraid to admit this out-loud. I want to give you all the justifications—it was a sweet discount on a booking site, during a hard season. We needed to be in the big city anyway to meet with doctors, and our usual guest house was full. We had to stay somewhere, right?
But honestly, it was glorious. We walked to Starbucks and people-watched, marveling at the way our names written in Thai on our cups matched the language we had grown to love. We walked through the large park nearby full of green grass and tall green trees, watched runners and walkers and weight lifters and cyclists. All things absent in our little rural Cambodian town.
After mornings drinking decaf coffee with a view of the city, sleeping in icy AC, and celebrating successful doctor’s appointments, I found myself echoing the words of David Tenant’s 10th Doctor: “I don’t want to go”. That’s a Doctor Who reference, in case you’re curious. I wanted to stay in the comfort, stay in the place where life-giving activities and amenities were easily accessible. Getting back on the plane was hard.
But that’s the thing with vacations. They should be refreshing and fun and lovely, and then they are done. They don’t last forever and that’s a good thing. We step away for a time, find space for our souls and our bodies to breathe. Then we step back into the fray, into the battle, into the ordinary.
I hear justifications related to periods away from our fields all the time. And rightly so, we all want to be good stewards of the caring financial support of our partners. The time is short and we want to do our very best for the people we have come to serve.
But we need a different model, and Jesus gave one to us. He got away. Mark 6:30-32 says, “The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone.”
Not every attempt for quiet was successful, and Jesus was full of compassion even when his alone time was interrupted. But I think in his humanity, in the need for sustenance, he gave us a pattern to follow.
Our souls are precious and they need to be fed and nourished. Introverted or extroverted, in a hot or cold climate, in a place you love or a place you dislike, we all need this space. We all need to experience rest, to find those places where we can do all the life-giving things and have fun and laugh and sleep.
We are better Kingdom workers because of it.
- I’m joining in the discussion this week on Velvet Ashes for the theme of Vacation