There and Back Again
I’m back and filled with gratitude: for the gift of a sabbatical this summer, to be home with family and church family, and for the obvious ways God has been at work in the body and through the staff and elders.
A friend who committed to be in touch with me through the summer started his texts with, “Where’s Waldo?” And many have wondered, “Where was Keith, and what was he doing?” Well, here’s a brief update.
The month of June was planned to focus on family, creating memories and disconnecting from the ‘to-do’ lists of ministry. We celebrated oldest son Isaac’s high school graduation, Beth and I went on a 25th anniversary cruise, we visited with extended family in Colorado, and then our family spent a fun-filled week hiking through the beauty of five national parks.
The next phase was to embark on some solitude time, which I’ve never really prioritized or planned. God provided two retreat homes offered by churches as places of rest in beautiful settings for pastors and missionaries on sabbaticals. So I set out hiking around the Canadian Rockies southwest of Calgary from the small town of Coleman, Alberta for one week, and then 10 days north of Seattle. The focus was rest and personal reflection on my family life and ministry. Most days I hiked in the morning, reading and journaling by waterfalls and mountain lakes, and getting my physical stamina in better shape. My mind clears when I’m physically moving. God was with me on the trails, led me to rest in some beautiful places, and met me as I wrestled with personal hurts, sinful tendencies, and clarification of ministry gifts and passions.
The highlight of this time, and reason enough to give thanks for a fruitful sabbatical was three days with Isaac hiking in Olympic National Park. I shared with him the gift of his life in our family and before God through highlights of 18 years of pictures, reflection on God’s shaping of his gifts and character, and reminders fitting every young man that 1) a life faithful to God is do-able, albeit challenging, 2) we are not alone in that journey--I am with him, and 3) I believe in him and God’s faithfulness to him in Jesus Christ. I also added another college football team to follow. Go Sooners!
In the final phase God brought refreshment and ministry refocusing through some extended time in Africa. I was privileged to represent Trinity Fellowship at the Women’s Leadership Training Institute graduation with the team of women from TFC. The African proverb capturing the moment was, “When you train an African woman, you transform a village.” What a joy to know that we were a part of training 55 women who will be a part of God transforming the country. I then spent several days with Celestin Musekura, meeting with pastors and leaders in Tanzania.
A goal I set early in the sabbatical planning was to end the time in Africa on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. God gave me enough strength and the support of a great guide and team for a successful summit on August 28.
One of the joys upon return has been to see how much of what God had been stirring in my heart about the future of TFC has been the same things He has been working in the unity of the elders and growth and service of the staff together. We are excited about becoming more intentional in making disciples and disciple-makers, who continue to move together in the remarkable love of Jesus Christ and into our community with the grace, hospitality, and joy we share in Christ.
Thanks again for your prayerful support and encouragement for me and for my family through the summer. There is more to share, and much more to enjoy together in the life we share in Jesus Christ.
Keith Hileman, Pastor