Sunday was a VERY emotional day for the Hankey family as it was our last Sunday in Hill City Church, at least for quite a while.
From July 1st I will be taking a 2 month break from ministry (I believe the posh word is ‘sabbatical’) and when that break is over, by God’s grace, we will be living in a different home, in a new city, with a fresh adventure ahead of us. It’s the first such break that I have taken in almost 17 years of full-time ministry, and to be honest, it’s much needed!
The last 18 months have been the toughest of my life and I’d be lying if I said that they haven’t taken their toll emotionally, spiritually and physically. Not surprisingly I have been encouraged to take a sabbatical by friends and leaders who have walked this challenging season out with me (and for whom I am so thankful to God for!)
Preparing to move back to Cardiff to plant a new church in the inner-city was always going to be a daunting prospect and less than 4 months ago it seemed like an impossible dream:
- Hill City Church had been reduced to having only one serving elder – me!
- There was no sign of a house in Cardiff that was suitable for our family.
- Not only did we have no school places for our kids, we were told that we were bottom of the list as we didn’t have a Cardiff address and that we had twins in the most over-subscribed year group.
- Personally I was floundering, confused, emotionally drained and (probably) depressed.
But 4 months on I am able to write this and testify that God has been unimaginably faithful to us and His grace unfathomably sufficient for us. In the space of a few mind-blowing weeks in April it all changed. I want to share something of the story as, frankly, it’s gloriously encouraging…
I had told Michelle that I didn’t think we would get any clarity on the move to Cardiff until the leadership situation at Hill City was sorted out. Therefore you can imagine our joy when, the day after announcing the 4 new elders who were going to be inducted at Hill City, a house came on the market in Cardiff. And not just any house – this one had briefly been on the market last year and was the only house we had seen that Michelle had been taken with. Naturally we booked a viewing and, long story short, that house will soon be our new home!
And you can also imagine our shock and amazement when a week later we had a phone call from Cardiff admissions to say that we had places for all 4 kids in our first choice school! It really is a miracle!
On personal level, while I’m still very much aware that I’ve had the spiritual snot kicked out of me this year, right now I am honestly in better shape than I have been for a long, long time. I’m so thankful to have handed the church on to 4 godly elders who are now in place and, I am convinced, are the right guys to lead the church forwards.
Furthermore, the outpouring of love and goodwill that the saints of Hill City have heaped on us as we prepare to move on has blessed us beyond measure. We were given many incredible gifts at our leaving lunch on Sunday, but for me the greatest gift was the gracious way that our church family have released us for the purpose of mission, despite the obvious sadness that departure brings. Gospel goodbyes are so much better than grievous goodbyes!
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, I can honestly say that for the first time I am truly excited for the move to Cardiff and the new church planting adventure that lies ahead.
Faith is rising for the next chapter (more about that in a future post).
So what will the next few months look like for me/us as I take this ministry break.
- The kids will be finishing school here in Pontypool.
- We will be visiting friends and churches that we haven’t been able to visit for ages.
- We will be praying and dreaming together as a family.
- We will be moving house.
- I will be reading lots of books.
- I will be writing poetry.
- I will be riding my bike (to prepare for this crazy ride in August).
- I will be heading to the USA for the Acts 29 pastor’s retreat in Longbeach, CA.
- We are not having a family holiday this summer so will arrange lots of fun day-trips.
Friends, please do be in prayer for our family and for the community and mission we are about to step into, and for Hill City Church and the new leadership team. Thanks so much for your ongoing love, prayer, support and encouragement.