It is Saturday morning, 5:30 a.m. I am waiting for the sun to peak over the horizon and glint off the white sands of Orange Beach. This has been a vacation week. Donna and Emily are in Vancouver on a mission trip. Rae and I headed east last Monday to visit family and pick up Hannah from the WMU camp in South Carolina where she is serving as a summer camp counselor. On the way back to Texas, we’ve taken a detour south to spend a day or two relaxing at the beach. It’s been a good week.
So, why am I awake so early on vacation? I believe the Lord woke me up early this morning to pray for our senior worship minister, Andre, and his wife, Ronna. We are at the half-way mark of his sabbatical. I have resisted the strong urge to call him and see how things are going, and I’ve resisted the urge to reach out and get his opinion on a couple of decisions I’ve needed to make in the last few weeks. Andre’s presence is definitely missed.
Why then, should I pray for Andre and Ronna (and Andrew) this morning? And why am I encouraging you too to pray?
1. This sabbatical is a critical time for Andre to get re-energized for the work of the ministry at FBC Nac for years to come. Ministry is rewarding, but it can be draining. It is draining for two primary reasons. First, there are few breaks. I know that even though I’ve been on vacation for the last week that I’ve spent at least an hour or two a day on the phone encouraging people or solving problems. This isn’t a chore. It is the heart of every minister to pour into the lives of the people the Lord has given him or her, and we love the church. But the constant pace can take a toll on energy, health, and relationships. Few people work as hard as Andre Simon. Few people take as few real days off as Andre Simon. Pray that this sabbatical is a time for him to truly disconnect for a few days and experience a new rhythm that will bring true rest.
Ministry can also be draining because it is easy to give out more spiritual nurture than you take in. Andre and Ronna have such a heart for those in our church and community. I’ve had many opportunities to witness that over the last year and a half. Andre’s heart is one of the primary reasons he is so effective in his service for the Lord and his work in the church. But one of the most important purposes of this sabbatical time is for Andre to pull away and take in the Lord’s goodness and sufficiency for a season. I am praying this morning that Andre will gain a renewed sense of what Jeremiah says in Lamentations: “The Lord is my portion.”
2. The second reason I am praying for Andre this morning is for his preparation for future ministry. Andre is a key piece to the leadership and work of our church. I am anxious to hear how the Lord speaks to him through these weeks of sabbatical for our future ministry strategy and direction. When I was blessed to enjoy a sabbatical a few years ago, I discovered that there was a clarity that only came from pulling away from the daily details of managing the ministry. I was able to see things we needed to address or readdress that I could never have seen in the midst of the work. The same thing will happen with Andre. I am praying that the Lord will give him clear wisdom and vision to benefit our joint work.
3. Finally, I am praying for Andre this morning that his relationship with Ronna and Andrew can grow even deeper. There is a closeness that comes from doing ministry together, and Andre and Ronna show us that closeness every week. But there is also a closeness that comes from resting together. Wherever Andre is this morning… Whatever are his plans for today… I pray that he and Ronna can experience an even greater level of oneness for the glory of the Father.
I hope you will join me in prayer for Andre and his family in the last half of this sabbatical as we eagerly await his return. Don’t forget to pray for Austin, Andre’s associate music minister. (Austin is doing a commendable job holding down the fort.) Let us thank the Lord for this man and his ministry in our church and ask the Lord to give us many more years of Andre’s Spirit-filled leadership.