by Jarrett Meek, Founder/Pastor/Executive Director
Effective ministry often requires approaches that blur the lines between personal and professional life. For many reasons, this integration is both a gift and a challenge. Because of this dynamic, I learned early on that long-term effectiveness in ministry meant developing healthy, sustainable rhythms. Staying in the race over a lifetime would bear more Kingdom fruit than a short-term sprint. And, the things the Lord intends to do in me and in my own family require seasons of deep engagement in balance with times of retreat, reflection, and renewal. This rhythm of work and rest is built into the fabric of creation and codified in the 10 Commandments as a mandate to work 6 days and rest on the seventh. Far from a legalistic demand, this rhythm of work and rest was meant for our well being!
In 2013, after seven years of service with Mission Adelante, our board granted our family the gift of a sabbatical. We spent the majority of this four month season in Costa Rica, resting, reflecting, honing our Spanish skills, and reconnecting with friends. Now, five years later, we are preparing for our second season of sabbatical, which begins next week and will last for three months. Each sabbatical season is unique. In 2013, our oldest daughters had still not yet entered high school; now they've graduated! Our younger kids were early in their elementary school cycle, and I still had a decent amount of hair! A lot can change in five years! We're so grateful for this gift and the health it brings to our lives.
As I look back over this last five years of ministry, a couple of themes are evident. When we left in 2013, Adelante Thrift was still just a dream. We had formed a board of directors for the new entity a couple of months before leaving, but the work had not yet begun. Through 2013 and most of 2014, we were laying groundwork and looking for an adequate location for the store. In God's way and His perfect timing, He provided our space in Tower Plaza for Adelante Thrift. The window to launch was brief and included fundraising, ramping up donation collections, developing systems, mobilizing volunteers, building out the space, hiring staff and more. During the first two years, Adelante Thrift struggled financially, as we learned and established our business model. In 2017, we finally saw a turn-around and some modest profit. In a beautiful piece of symmetry, this week, just before my next sabbatical begins, Adelante Thrift made its first contribution back to support Mission Adelante's Community Development ministry! The launch and early growth of Adelante Thrift has, in part, defined much of the last five years, since I returned from sabbatical.
The second major theme has to do with the concept of moving from an "us serving them" ministry to becoming "a new we". Over these five years we've transitioned from being primarily a "gringo-led" ministry serving immigrants to a ministry that is integrated on all levels, with immigrants, refugees, and native-born Americans serving together as volunteers and staff, forming a "new we". Five years ago we had no immigrants on our staff; today, 40% of our staff come from different countries! This transition has required a sustained effort and constant evaluation on every level. While one would like to believe that this kind of thing just happens naturally as we pursue Christ and as the ministry matures, we've learned that it actually takes deep conviction, frequent repentance, and disciplined commitment to create an inclusive culture that welcomes people from all places into leadership roles. We still have a lot or growing to do in this area, but the Lord brought beautiful fruit in this area over the last five years.
When a leader is absent for an extended time, the organization has the opportunity to grow and be stretched in ways it wouldn't otherwise. My sabbatical is providing that opportunity for Mission Adelante. Yanelis López, our Ministry Director, will be filling my role while I'm gone. Her strategic leadership, ability to create healthy team dynamics, and her expertise in discipling and developing leaders will be extremely valuable during this season. Others on the team and in our church community will step up in new ways as well. When I return, it will be exciting to see how the Lord has worked, and how He would have me re-engage. I fully expect that my job description will change as a result of the Lord's work during my absence!
As you pray for Mission Adelante, please pray for the staff team and all the ways the Lord will shape them during this time. And please pray that the Lord would give me rest and a renewed vision for the next five years at Mission Adelante!
Enjoy these pictures from our last sabbatical!