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REST FOR THE WEARY

SHEPHERDS CARE OFFERS A PLACE OF ‘EXTREME’ HOSPITALITY FOR PASTORS, MISSIONARIES

After more than two decades in ministry, Paul Cheshier, a pastor at First Bible Church in Decatur, Ala., was feeling exhausted — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

It’s a common occurrence among pastors and other clergy members, who give all they have to serve others. They have to deal with horrible situations and keep it all confidential, which over time can lead to feelings of discouragement and burnout.

Joe and Patty Friesen of Bluffton can empathize with Cheshier. They have worked in local church ministry and overseas missions for 41 years. They understand the need for a break.

“People don’t realize how undervalued the concept of rest is in American culture and especially in American Christian culture,” Joe said. “God, all along, has commanded us to take rest, and we don’t do it.”

Much like the prophet Elijah, who felt he was at the end of his rope, pastors and missionaries need a break from their work to rest and recharge. The Old Testament tells the story of Elijah hiding in the wilderness and feeling so desperate that he asked God to take his life.

Instead, God gave Elijah a chance to rest. Then he sent an angel to feed the prophet. When Elijah felt restored, he was able to continue his work for the Lord.

This is the idea behind Shepherds Care, a nonprofit organization the Friesens started 3½ years ago to provide weary pastors and missionaries with some much-needed rest and relaxation.

Shepherds Care partners with churches, organizations, local businesses and individuals to provide a weeklong stay in a beautiful home in the Lowcountry, along with gift certificates for restaurants and activities in the area. This is what the Friesens like to call “extreme hospitality.”

When the Cheshiers —Paul and his wife Hope — arrived on Hilton Head Island for their time of rest through Shepherds Care in November 2020, the house where they stayed in Port Royal was fully stocked with food and everything they needed. There was a basket of goodies in the kitchen, a journal and a basket of toiletries in the bedroom and an envelope with spending money.

Paul and Hope mostly stayed at the house during their time on Hilton Head, but they did go out to eat a few times and go on a dolphin cruise.

“It gave time for my soul to breathe and for my soul to catch its breath because physically I get worn out,” Paul said. “Man, it sucks the life out of you, and it’s not anybody doing anything wrong. It is the work that is demanding.”

Josh and LaKisha Clemons were also in need of a break when they were given a weeklong stay in Bluffton thanks to Shepherds Care. The couple runs a racial reconciliation ministry in Atlanta called One Race Movement. They were feeling particularly weary when they visited Bluffton last July.

“All the racial violence, the racial tension, the unrest — it really amped up our work,” Josh said. “We found ourselves extremely busy during that season. In addition to our normal workload and the wear and tear of the ministry over a few years, we found ourselves in a state of exhaustion.”

Josh and LaKisha enjoyed their time. They played golf, slept, went out to eat and went to the beach. It was the rest they desperately needed. 

“What Patty and I get the privilege of doing is setting the table for a feast,” Joe said. “It’s not even our food. It’s not our china. It’s not our table. God gives it to us through people, and then we set a feast for weary people. They are humbled and stunned by it every time.”

For more information about Shepherds Care, visit shepherdscare.info, email joe@shepherdscare.info or call 843-384-1994.