Simultaneously, many of you have participated in missional service with me. Together we have held little children who--until they felt your arms--felt as though they had no hope. We have built homes so that others may live in peace and security. We have treated God’s people who suffer from all sorts of diseases and illnesses. We have removed trees from the homes of our brothers and sisters after storms. We have sat and cried together as a stranger went through the shambles of her home.
When returning from a mission journey people will often say, “I got more from those people than I gave them.” No doubt, serving others is a great blessing. We may all be poor in different ways--financially, spiritually, emotionally, physically, etc. By serving someone else, we often see our own poverty and those we serve minster to us with their abundance. I have seen it in many of you, many times over.
Now all of these experiences and desires are coming together. I have been accepted to study for a PhD in Theology at Durham University in Durham, England (www.durham.ac.uk). My family and I will move to England in August and study there for one year. For the two remaining years of the Doctoral Programme, I will study how missional service is working in the people of The United Methodist Church in the United States, while returning to England regularly for follow-up study. If the Lord provides, I will continue to study full-time. Or if He leads us to do so, we will serve a church in our Annual Conference while completing my studies part-time. My dissertation’s working topic is: "The Long-Term Effect of Short-Term Mission: The Relationship Between Holistic Missional Service as an Act of Mercy Upon the Recipients and a Means of Grace for Missioners." God is moving in the Church around the world. It is my desire to study how cross-cultural service is growing the Church at home and abroad. The world is getting smaller, and the Church needs to be prepared to minister to the increasing numbers of people who are within our reach. It is my desire to use my research findings to make a lasting and positive impact churches in the US and abroad.
I will continue to serve through the end of June. Bishop Leeland has appointed Rev. Laura Parker as the new Associate Pastor. She will begin in July. I look forward to all that God will do through Laura in the coming years.
Beth, Joshua, Meg, and I have been very blessed by our nine plus years at Fairhope United Methodist Church. You have been wonderful to us. I am not sure how we could ever express our gratitude. We look forward to how we might continue to partner together for the Kingdom in years to come. You will always have a special place in our hearts--and a place to stay in England!