Dear Friends & Family,
It seems that it was just yesterday that the sabbatical journey conversations were starting to take place between The Elgin-Portland Pastoral Charge and I, but that was more than eighteen months ago.
August 26 marked the last Sunday Worship Celebration for me to officiate in 2018, before beginning this sabbatical journey on September 1. Between planning the trip to Lebanon and Armenia, and balancing curve balls of family duties, I have had the privilege to be with one hundred and seventeen amazing women at Quin-Mo-Lac (A Bay of Quinte Conference / United Church of Canada Sponsored Camp), in the beautiful province of Ontario.
September 7-9, 2018, the Bay of Quinte United Church Women gathered to reflect on “Life’s Journey” – I was honoured to be their theme speaker. Taking an introspective of a life lived, to the life being lived at this moment and of course looking ahead with Hope, Perseverance and Courage. We Laughed, Loved and Lived every moment of the weekend with the Joy of the Lord. It was truly a weekend of being grounded for me and Gary, as much as for the others, before Gary and I leave for our trip on September 11, 2018.
When I first started my seminary journey, I heard of sabbaticals, but I had no clue what it was all about. I remember a colleague once telling me that a sabbatical must have three dimensions: Rest from your everyday responsibilities; Reflection on what God is doing around, in and through you; and Rejuvenation in practicing ministry in different ways. So, I am looking forward to this time of Rest, Reflection, and Rejuvenation, at a place that I once called home and a place where my heritage is rooted in.
As I shared with the councils of the churches my desire to make this sabbatical not just about me, but a time to make a difference with an initiative, so we set in place “Peace Through Education-Lebanon” and it became a reality. The Elgin-Portland United Churches and the surrounding extended communities, near and far, showed generosity beyond my comprehension. We raised over $23,000.00 Canadian which is being forwarded to different schools and churches who are embracing displaced students, no matter what their faith or ethnicity is.
As Gary and I pack away to take this journey, questions, and apprehensions arise, however the feeling of joy, wonder, and excitement, supersedes these feelings. By God’s Grace, I am going to be going back to my place of birth that I left thirty-five years ago, almost to the day. I am looking forward in sharing The Word, at the church I grew up in, sharing a few days with the refugee students at different schools… All these things are mind-boggling, and I am pinching myself.
I was ordained on May 28, 2011, and now, after serving EPPC for 5 years, the sabbatical has arrived … in a way, my sabbatical arrived to me on the seventh year after my ordination, a parallel with the stories of Ancient Israel when the people took time of rest on the seventh year – Just like God rested on the seventh day – The Creation Narratives tell us. For me, this is truly a time to be PRESENT, to me, to my family, and God’s extended Family who live across the ocean. However, I look forward to coming back home to Canada, where the Path of Love has led me to this amazing, hospitable, country who has helped me to belong and have a place to call home.
There is a mixture of feelings percolating in me. My thoughts flood with memories of the one-bedroom apartment that I grew up in at Bourdj Hammoud (Greater Beirut) where nine of our immediate family members lived. I am looking forward to visiting my birthplace, after being away for 35 years. Go visit the school I attended, the church where the seeds of faith were planted in me and visit the grave of my father. I know he is not there, because all the good that was in him now live in me, my brother and my sisters – love, courage, bravery and perseverance, as he was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide and worked hard to feed all the hungry mouths. Burial places remind how fragile and temporary life is and get us to work alongside with God to make a difference in this world and help transform it.
Thirteen years ago, when I started my journey to ordination, or even seven years ago, when I was ordained, there was no war in Syria, and not many talked about refugees, even though the refugee crisis has always been around. However, today, a wounded country like Lebanon, has become the wounded healer for Syria and I am reminded of Esther 4:14, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
As we begin our journey to Lebanon and Armenia, I echo with Mordecai and encourage all of us to be the voice of the voiceless and the channel of God’s Peace, even if we do not personally know the ones we are reaching out to. At the end of the day, all are created in the image of God and ALL are Beloved.
Love unconditionally, Live Faithfully and be Grateful with every beat of your heart.
Thanks be to God.