Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World


Written by: on March 20, 2015

Reading Shelley Trebesch’s book, Isolation: A place of Transformation in the life of a leader is refreshing. Using various case studies and biblical and historical examples, the author describes the cruciality of “isolation experiences” for ministry leaders’ inward transformation. Trebesch cites Clinton’s definition: “Isolation is the setting aside of a leader from normal ministry involvement in its natural context usually for an extended time in order to experience God in a new or deeper way (Clinton 1989:274)” (p.10). In my culture, voluntary and involuntary isolation experiences are viewed slightly differently than how they are described in this book. It is not culturally common among most Ethiopian church pastors or evangelists to take time away from ministry to rest and renew their relationship with God. I do not know why our churches have not thought about pastors and evangelists need to take vacations. Instead, they expect ministry leaders to fit their prayer and solitude times in their regular ministry schedules. Thus, pastors and evangelists are always around their faith community unless they get sick or face some other personal problems. I have not researched how Ethiopian churches in the United States might differ on this matter, but I have seen our pastor at my current church in Portland go on vacation for a month every year.

Another important note from Trebesch is how “war or natural disasters” force leaders to be “set aside for periods of time due to events which they cannot control ” (p.31). In my country drought is a frequent calamity. Our society generally views drought as a result of societal disobedience of God. For instance, I remember decades ago when our country was struck by severe drought. Our church members gathered in the church every day to confess their sins to God and intercede for rain. After several weeks of prayers, the rain began to come and it was a big joy for the whole society whose livelihood depends on rain for farming. While I do not know if God brought drought to rebuke our community, I can see the incident brought our church families together to seek God’s face as a community. This experience also confirmed to them that God listens to their prayers and is in control over natural calamities. Their willingness to prayerfully wait upon God as a community shows their complete trust in God for their physical needs.

One interesting point the author highlights is the importance of having the support of a community of faith when in isolation. As I noted in my church, if ministry leaders fall into some type of sin and are removed from their ministry, they often undergo unfair isolation experiences. They often do not have a mentor or the support of their local church family. There are cases where some ministers end up not returning to ministry or the church due to unfair isolation. For this reason, I agree with the author that it is “helpful when in isolation to belong to a community of people who are committed to [the isolated leader] and vice versa” (p.65).

Personally I am in a voluntary season of isolation with DMINLGP. I am away from my family and friends but very grateful to have the great support from friends and my church community in Portland. Grateful to you all in DMINLGP4 and the importance of your perspectives to my ministry context.


About the Author

Telile Fikru Badecha

9 responses to “Isolation”

  1. Miriam Mendez says:

    Telile, I am so thankful that our cohort can be a source of strength and community for you while in your “voluntary isolation experience.” It is sad when going through, either “voluntary/or involuntary isolation experience” a person does not have a community. God’s peace be with you, my sister.

  2. Telile,

    Thanks for you thoughtful post. I love learning about your culture and about your ministry perspectives. What a joy to have you in LGP4!

    I also think that the “Isolation” book was a helpful read. I liked the Biblical case studies. I have experienced many “isolation” experiences in my years of full-time ministry, some chosen by me, others chosen by others or by God. As a teacher in a Christ-centered college — something I would still consider ministry — I have also experienced these “isolation” seasons. I believe these are important times in our spiritual development, at least that has been my experience. In 2009 I went through a very dark time spiritually that affected my teaching. It was at that time, a nine-month period, that I found God in a newer and more profound way. As I look back, this time was very painful (I even ended up in the hospital for a week), but it was also a gift from God to my life.

    • Telile Fikru Badecha says:

      Dear Bill! Thanks much for sharing you story. I am sorry for the dark time you went though. But thank God those critical times helped you find God in newer and more profound way. Blessings!

  3. Telile…
    I am so very grateful for you and who you are. Seasons of isolation even when it is voluntary do not mean they are easy. I am grateful that our cohort can be a part (even if we are a small part) of your support. You have reminded me that isolation may look definitely depending upon our cultural situation and within our societies. You live the tension of cultures in a way that I do not.

    Your two illustrations of isolation — one considering the response to drought and the other the response to leaders that “fail” helped me to see something that I hadn’t considered in the reading. First of all, we seem to make the issue of drought or other natural disaster an opportunity for spiritual reflection (I do believe this could be done in a healthy, respectful manner). And what if we took the time for spiritual reflection when a leader failed? What health and renewal might come if that took place. Certainly we have different cultures but your insights and reflections reveal your critical discernment and awareness. Grateful to be learning with you and from you.

    • Telile Fikru Badecha says:

      Carol, Thank you for your kind words. You ask a great question to reflect and think on. I agree with you, but the challenge is we make the leaders’ failure an individual issue that affect her or him only, whereas drought is presumed as something affects the whole society. I think health and renewal might come if we take the time for spiritual reflection on leaders failure.

  4. Richard Volzke says:

    Thank you for sharing the differences between the US and Ethiopian church when it comes to pastors taking time away from their ministries to rest and spend time with God. I find it interesting the cultural differences between Christians from across the world. We all worship the same God, but in many different way and it goes to illustrate that it takes all types of people to makeup the body of Christ.

  5. Once again Telile, you bring a great perspective from a different culture other than the consumer driven Western mentality that most of us seem to be living in today. That is unfortunate for your culture however, that they do not value the separation of the minister to a time of personal reflection and isolation with his Lord. Perhaps you will be instrumental in influencing this opportunity among your people. I commend you for undertaking the great sacrifice of higher education through this program. It is always wonderful to see other cultures especially from Africa and especially women who will rise up to the challenge and the isolation to pay the cost of expanding their mind. Bless you!!

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