Frequently Asked Questions – The First Year

Answers to some questions several people have asked…

“What compelled you to do this?”

Our initial discussion came because of the sabbatical year command in Scripture. God tells his people to take their hands off the plow for a year and allow the land to rest. We began talking about three important components if we tried to follow a similar principle for a year:

      1. Ceasing from normal activity for a year, and devoting that time to a special service to God;
      2. An increased focus on our kids;
      3. Trusting in God’s provision for our needs.

The plans we’ve made are our best attempt to be faithful to all three of these. To see more about some of our earliest thinking and conversations about this, see “In Emily’s Words — ‘From A to C (we’re nowhere near Z yet).'” For more about that initial motivation, see “Sabbatical and Scripture.”

“What will you be doing?”

The short answer: we’ll be living in Algete, Spain, just outside of Madrid. We’ll be serving and learning alongside Paul & Sylvia Cummings, who have been in Spain with the One Mission Society since 1984. Our work with them will be heavily focused on developing relationships in informal settings and through formal programs and events, sharing the gospel, and discipling several of the new believers in Algete.

A lot of what we’ll be doing will be learning from Paul & Sylvia, who have had great success in evangelism in an area where it can be very difficult to effectively share the gospel. We’re excited to learn from them. See more at “Madrid, Paul & Sylvia Cummings, and What We’ll Be Doing” and at “Why Spain?”

“So are you going as missionaries?”

Technically yes, although that is not a title we’ll use about ourselves.  Most Spaniards associate missionaries with people who go to undeveloped areas of the world. Regardless of our official titles, we’re interested in developing relationships with new people and, in doing so, opening the door for the gospel.

“Are you raising support?”

We initially planned to self-fund this year from savings. We still expect to self-fund most of it, but we’ve also had church and several friends say that they’d like to support us, and that has become a bigger blessing and vote of confidence than we had anticipated. See more about that in “Sabbatical Year and Money.”

“When are you leaving/coming back?”

We expect to leave right around the end of July 2013, and to be in Algete until the end of June 2014.

“How do you think this will affect your kids?”

We think this will be an experience our kids look back on very fondly. See “Kids and Sabbatical Year” for more specifics about their school, some of the difficulties we expect, and some of the ways we’re hoping to make this a special year for them.

“Do you know Spanish?”

The short answer: nope.

We had actually considered another ministry in Spain that ended up not working out because they thought the language barrier would be too great. Everyone agreed, though, that this setting would be appropriate. We’ll be near Madrid, where much more English is spoken, and where we will have easier access to language school. And much of the ministry is actually in English.

Right now, we’re trying to study as much as we can. Our family is attending a Spanish-language worship service weekly, we’ve been watching and translating movies dubbed in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. (We’re currently able to get through about 6 minutes of the movie in a half hour.) We have several Spanish children’s books we’ve been reading as a family, a verbs workbook, and an online course. And we’ve been having several Spanish-speaking friends over for help. Once we get to Spain, we’ll begin taking language classes there.

“What are you doing with your house/stuff/cars/dog?”

We’re hoping to rent our house and ideally store most of our things in the basement. For anything that can’t stay (which could be everything), we’ll sell it or put it in storage.

We’re still making final plans for cars and dog.

Anyone looking to rent a nice family home in Lexington for a year? Looking to adopt a sweet, well-behaved poodle for a year?

“Are you coming back to your old jobs when you come back?”

We haven’t made any arrangements to come back to our old jobs. We don’t think that would be most helpful or healthy for either of our workplaces, and it also prevents us from going into this year with open minds about where God would direct us next. We’re certainly open to coming back to First Church and St. Joe East if the right opportunities are there when we come back.

“Isn’t there enough need here? Why go somewhere else to do ‘mission work?'”

There’s plenty of need here – and anywhere you look in the world. If we waited to go anywhere else until all was done where we were, none of us would ever go anywhere. But needs are different in different places. And we think a few things happen when we travel somewhere else to do “mission work.”

First, we’re able to learn a lot. A new context affords lots of new learning opportunities. We expect that we’ll likely learn and grow far more than we’ll contribute in this year. And part of our choice of Spain was because that context looks similar to how many people expect the US context to look in a few decades. We hope to learn from some people doing good things in that context.

Second, “outsiders” are sometimes able to do things differently than “insiders.” We’ve all experienced that. Sometimes a new person – someone with a perspective that’s a bit different – has opportunities to make observations and share things in a way that those closer to the context can’t. In this particular situation, we expect opportunities to share about our faith that we wouldn’t as easily have in our home context.

“Will you still be able to be in touch with things like e-mail, major American news, play fantasy football, etc.?”

Yes! As much as we want, at least. We want to intentionally disconnect in some ways, but thanks to this modern marvel that is the Internet, we’re still able to be in touch and up-to-speed with the happenings of the world.

“It seems like _____ is just hitting a crucial point. Have you thought about putting this off a year or two?”

There are a number of reasons to stay. But isn’t that just always how life is? Always something (or two or three things) hitting an exciting or crucial point. We expect there would be at least as many reasons to postpone in a year or two as there are now. And so, the decision was really about whether we do this at all. We regret some of the things we know we’ll miss. But we also know our leaving opens up new opportunities for others here and new opportunities for us in Spain and when we return.

Those are the most common questions we’ve received so far. Do you have others? We’re trying to share the most important things without sharing too much. We’d be happy to answer any other questions, though.

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