Dale Barlow
Linear living, pizza and gnomes!

About 18 months ago I was in the shower when my mind drifted again to the question of whether I should have a sabbatical or not. A good friend of mine had recently retired from full-church work and, when I asked him if he would do anything differently, he said, “I should have had a sabbatical or two over the last 25 years!” This got me wondering and praying, but if I'm honest, more making excuses as to why I shouldn't have a sabbatical, rather than asking the question: “Does God want me to have one?”

And so in the shower I felt God tell me nicely but firmly to stop pontificating and have a sabbatical, otherwise I would be being disobedient. That’s when I began to make plans my autumn 2017 sabbatical. I felt God impress upon me three things to do with my time; firstly to study;  secondly to build relationships; and thirdly to poke my nose into some other church/sphere situations and listen for what He wanted to teach me.

So I decided to spend a month in an Airbnb flat in the city of The Hague, The Netherlands, which gave me opportunity to spend time with the folk from Redeemer Church as well as the Berlin, Brussels and Maastricht church plants.

Whist in The Hague I put to test the Bible verse that says man cannot live by bread alone. On the first day I spent about €40 in the supermarket and gathered a collection of food ‘wot I like’ but couldn't make a meal if you paid me. And then, after three days, I picked up a pizza for dinner, but my plan failed when I realised that the cupboard I had assumed housed the oven was actually empty, and I only had a hob to cook on!

After The Hague, I had a few weeks at home and then headed to New Hampshire on the east coast of the USA to stay with our friends, Ian and Emma Ashby. Ian leads the local church and looks after the Newfrontiers churches on the east side of the States, which gave me opportunity to see how part of another Newfrontiers sphere operates.

My wife Jayne joined me later and we enjoyed thanksgiving with the Ashby family and friends in November before setting off on a two week road trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. This took us through New York, Washington, Virginia, the Carolinas and Florida.

Overall, I felt I spent my time well doing the three things God had told me to do during my Sabbatical, and one thing I definitely learnt from being away from my church friends and family for that length of time is to appreciate the people God has put in my life.