Two years ago, Janell and I began taking steps to do ministry in a healthier way. I took a two month Sabbatical. We brought on more volunteers. We slowed down in the amount of monthly outreaches. We even took this entire year to pause our outreaches completely and work on building the foundational infrastructure and people-parts of the Dream Center.
After making these changes, things got a little better, but I still felt very weary on the inside. Each time we would try to take steps forward this year, we felt like we were bumping into a wall, that we were forcing something. We began to see that God’s grace was lifting.
After much prayer, journaling, talking and listening to friends and mentors, we have decided to take a two year-long, complete sabbatical. Please understand, I still adore East St. Louis, but currently I don't have the passion or the energy (at least right now) to continue plowing through. During the sabbatical, I will be pursuing other work and traveling. Janell will be doing whatever God leads her to do and also working at Crossfit Edwardsville, where she has been working part time for over three years.
If I had a solid answer for the question of, "What will happen after this sabbatical is over," I would most certainly share that with you. But, honestly, I don't know. I still have a dream to see East St. Louis radically revived from the inside out, from the ground up. During this time of rest, I also want to be open to the Holy Spirit leading me in a different direction or right back to doing the work of “pioneering an East St. Louis renaissance,” the words we have written in our vision statement.
When it comes to what God has put me on this earth to do, I sense that I might be in the beginning stages of a redirected, reformed and renewed calling. It would be presumptuous of me to say that 100%, without a doubt, after the sabbatical we will be starting ministry back up in East St. Louis. I really believe we need to leave the answer to that question open-ended, something I haven't been willing to do before now, because it scared me.
What I do know, is that with or without the East St. Louis Dream Center doing outreach in East St. Louis, God still has a BEAUTIFUL PLAN for the city. The verse below has been an encouragement to us over the years concerning East St. Louis and the young people.
Isaiah 54:11-12 (Msg) Afflicted city, storm-battered, unpitied: I’m about to rebuild you with stones of turquoise, lay your foundations with sapphires, construct your towers with rubies, your gates with jewels, and all your walls with precious stones. All your children will have God for their teacher— what a mentor for your children! You’ll be built solid, grounded in righteousness, far from any trouble—nothing to fear!
Friends have told me, "Rachel, this isn't the end, it's only the beginning, the beginning of the next phase for you." I believe this. This is where the excitement comes in.... I feel like my life is an open book right now, ready for anything new or different that God places in my path or in my hands.
Two years ago, a friend sent this verse to me. I began praying it over my life then. Now, when I look up, I see this is exactly what God has done and is currently doing in my life…
2 Samuel 22:21-25 (Msg) God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before Him. When I cleaned up my act, he gave me a fresh start. Indeed, I’ve kept alert to God’s ways; I haven’t taken God for granted. Every day I review the ways he works, I try not to miss a trick. I feel put back together, and I’m watching my step. GOD REWROTE THE TEXT OF MY LIFE when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.
Janell and I will be working on wrapping things up at the Dream Center at least through the end of January. Because of this, we are asking our financial supporters to continue giving so we can finish strong our assignment for this season. At the same time, we also wouldn’t want anyone to feel obligated in any way to continue to give, but we ask that you pray about continuing to give throughout this time.
We ask that you keep us in your prayers as we navigate through more decisions in the coming months. I'm very excited about traveling and seeing how God will use my experiences, adventures and the people I meet along the way to plant seeds in my heart about my future and the next phase of what I was born to do. I don't have concrete travel plans yet, but I will be posting on my personal Facebook page (Rachel Buttig) and Instagram (@rbuttig) if you would like to keep up with my adventures.
We also believe this is not the end for East St. Louis, but really only a BRIGHT BEGINNING. In the past, we've experienced that when we step out of the way and lay something down that God isn’t asking us to "handle" right now, it opens the door for God to do His thing, better than we ever could.
Someone recently told us that we have planted a “wonder seed” in East St. Louis. We couldn’t have planted this seed without you! We believe that even while we're not ministering during the sabbatical, God will be watching over, watering and causing that seed to grow into something solid and strong. East St. Louis, the Dream Center, and the youth all belong to Jesus; they are safe in His care, watchfully and affectionately being crafted into His WORK OF ART.
Thank you for all that you've done! You've invested so much into the Dream Center, young lives and coming alongside of Janell and me with amazing and unforgettable support and friendship.
LOVING East St. Louis,
Rachel and the East St. Louis DREAM Center Team