Change in Place and Pace


I have no idea how to accurately sum up the last three months of sabbatical for myself and my family. It was a gift for which we are deeply grateful.

The centerpiece of our time away was six weeks spent in Africa, both in Ethiopia, the home culture of the majority of my family, and in Kenya, where we have been blessed with some deep friendships. Our overriding hope in those six weeks is that we would have enough time and proximity for our kids to grow their connection with and love for their culture of origin and their ethnicity. It was an amazing experience full every kind of encounter that makes life in Africa beautiful, challenging, awe-inspiring, and, with enough time, a sense of normality.  


That central experience for our whole family was preceded by a trip I took to Colombia with Macon Hare, a friend and life-long missionary from Summit Lake Mary. He was kind enough to take me on a tour of church planting amongst indigenous people that he was a pioneer in and that is moving forward still today. Such work formed the backdrop to my call into ministry as a child and it was a privilege to experience this living history with one of it’s authors. 

Then after a few days sailing with a couple of my dearest friends and fellow introverts (you can guess how much talking there was—it would have driven even a mild extrovert insane), it was off to Africa. 

Upon returning to the U.S. and taking our kids to running camp in North Carolina, Brandy and I boarded a plane to Seattle where we spent the next two weeks camping on a Pacific Coast road trip. This time allowed us to really look at the first 20 years of marriage, the blistering pace of life with six kids, and the privilege of being at Summit over the previous 17 years. 

Now one week after returning, I am tracing the themes and takeaways from this season. I didn’t take this sabbatical to try to be helpful to you all or seek some big thing for Summit, but as God cements in lessons for me that I think may be an encouragement or opportunity in growth for you, I will be sure to share them. For now, here are a couple of personal reflections on the last three months. 

  • I love my family. In six weeks of living in super close proximity with each other absent from the distractions of things like internet, transportation, bills, school, social commitments, electricity, plumbing, etc., we found we grew closer and deeply enjoyed all the little moments. And Brandy—what can I say about her except that she is the best ever and, as I learned, is freakishly talented in spotting wildlife. 

  • It is OK to rest and not to labor continually under your own expectations or your perception of the expectations others put on you. This was a lesson hard learned in preparation for sabbatical but one for which I am very grateful.

  • I love the Church and I really love our church. However, it is not the love for church that God wants from me, but my love for him. This summer, he gently reminded of that, and I am grateful.

  • God is my protector and provider. In the last three months we were close to every kind of external danger from political coup to preying wildcats and everything in between. God protected us. And not only did he protect us, but he provided blessing for us well beyond what we can plan for or engineer. In big and little ways, he demonstrated his love for us, which is extravagant.

Finally, I am really glad to be back. As much as we have enjoyed traveling and reveled in our truly full summer, we never imagined not returning to our lives and to our church family. Being confident in the life God has given us is what gave us permission to enjoy the change in place and pace that we had during our sabbatical.

We are home and are happy for it.



John Parker is Lead Pastor at Summit Church.

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