The link between respite and reflection is well tested and proved.
Since 2011 the Laguna Quays Respite facility on the Whitsundays mainland has been available to missionaries and ministers (pastors) for respite and in 2016 a second facility was being established at Aldinga Beach a little south of Adelaide.
Mr Basil Sellers AM has again sponsored this second facility which is designated for triage missionary respite. Basil Sellers visited Laguna Quays Respite in 2015 and from that visit he requested four missionary executives meet with him in Sydney to discuss triage respite.
The rest is history. Dr Omar Djoeandy (SIM), Reverend Canon Malcolm Richards (CMS), Reverend Ken Clendinning (Global Interaction) and Reverend Viv Grice (Clergy and Missionary burn out) met with Basil Sellers. Omar took the proposal to Mission-Interlink who endorsed it at their October with a formal set of parameters and personnel based at Aldinga Beach.
On the 14 January 2016, Basil Sellers along with my wife Delma and I, South Australia's Mission-Interlink's Geoff Colan visited Aldinga Beach under the guiding hand of Ben and Robyn McLean, former missionaries.
Another respite house has been opened on Bass Straight from Launceston’s Well-Being Australia Steve and Debbie Suba - and - now a MissionsLink SE Asia Australasia regional is being set up in Cairns at the MAF centre.
There has been much media comment on the enormous benefits for the nation when political figures have 'thinking time', and the obvious question for Christian ministry is whether parishioners and missions likewise provide permission to their clergy and missionaries to stop and think and reflect.
This all came to a head in the media some 5 years ago, and has continued since, when the former Treasurer Peter Costello made the point that 'thinking / reflection time' was essential for national decision makers. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating has always maintained that 'thinking time' is more than essential.
President Barack Obama has consistently been on the same track - "The most important thing you need to do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you're doing is thinking." Christian ministry / missions add the words 'reflection', 'ponder', 'prayer', 'supplicative'.
If these successful politicians of all persuasions recognise the innate value of this type of personal "reflection", why is it, that so many local Christian congregations think so poorly of their Minister / missionary taking time out for being physically "still" but mentally active, and "thinking"?
Critical to ministry / mission
In Christian circles, particularly within my experience of evangelical and likewise pentecostal practices, reflection and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit for directional guidance is advocated, yet the 'actions' of clergy do not necessarily match the 'words' in this regard.
The perceived sentiment in the 'free church', the 'non-conformist' traditions, is that the Minister should be busy doing Christ's work; particularly that of evangelism.
This is sad. It has become code for getting out and about, and telling people about Jesus and Salvation; the converse sentiment is the silent code that emphasises that a Minister who is 'not' engaged in these activities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is viewed negatively and condemned as being idle. It is considered that he is being paid by the congregation to be active.
Why is the rhetoric that is so keenly espoused for 'thinking time' not translated into action, and its importance emphasised to those sitting in the pews, so that they can celebrate the wisdom of their pastor / missionary?
Three reasons for this dichotomy
The non-conformist philosophical tradition has not placed a high practical value on 'thinking time' as they have on 'out-there evangelism'.
In non-conformity, there has never been an academic tradition where 'evangelism' is intrinsically linked to a priory of 'thinking time'.
The non-conformist historically is linked to the Protestant work ethic, where idleness is considered to be at the root of evil thought, leading to wickedness. Therefore every effort is made to be active (or to be seen to be physically active).
Yet, in complete contrast to this way of non-conformist theological thinking, the greatest of all the evangelists since the Reformation in the 16th Century have been people who had taken time out to 'think' and actively reflect.
The difference between these two is that those great evangelists on the one hand ignored the silent pressures to 'conform to being busy' and on the other, were great leaders and could demonstrate that they had earned the 'right' to have time to think."
My conclusion is that, in our present society, unless the clergy can prove themselves in the market place of evangelism, they have not earned this 'right' to take time for stillness and quiet reflection. Consequently, the clergy follow the pathway of Christ, ignore the criticisms, be faithful to their calling and take time to listen carefully and thoughtfully to the voice of God.
In some strange sense these past nine years of the Laguna Quays Respite ministry has developed so well and with such an amazing visitor rate that this in itself has provided the where-with-all that reflection and thinking time is indeed a vital part of the evangelists' weaponry for the spiritual battle. Aldinga Beach Respite has added greatly to this essential ingredient as has the Bass Straight respite house.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 25 books, and enjoys writing. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded ‘The Gutenberg’ - the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. He and David Chang editor of Christian Today together bought the young writer ministry into fruition in 2009. In 2011 Mark established Laguna Quays Respite (Whitsundays) for missionary respite and replicated at Aldinga Beach 2016 (Adelaide) and Greens Beach Bass Straight (TAS). His ministry is honoured all these years by Christian philanthropist Mr Basil Sellers AM. He is married to Delma (44 years), with four adult married children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/dr-mark-t.html