A Sabbath Year

Rest, Reward, and Repair

2017 was a Sabbatical Year for the Company. Over 125 employees chose to participate in the 30-day Sabbatical program. During this time, they had the opportunity to step away from their regular busy days to find spiritual renewal and rest, strengthen relationships with family and friends, and give back to causes that were meaningful to them.

Helpers of People

Giving Back

Throughout the year, employees raised funds, donated items, and gave of their time to over 50 charitable organizations, including KIPP schools in Houston following Hurricane Harvey.


Abilene Food Bank

Alzheimers Association


AYSA Sports Expo

Base Camp

Boots on the Ground

Camp Able

Camp Agape

Camp Courage


Childen’s Grief Connection

Christian Service Center

Comfort Keepers

Crossing Borders Ministries

Eastridge Baptist Church

Foodbank in Dayton, OH

Freedom Reins Ranch

Free SPIRIT Riders

Global Samaritan

Gold Monarch Healing Center

Grace Museum

Grant County Rescue Mission

Habitat for Humanity

HOPE, Inc.

Jim Ned Valley Heritage Preservation

KIPP Houston Public Schools

Loaves & Fishes

Love and Care

Matthew 25 Ministries

Meals on Wheels

Mobile Loaves & Fishes at St. John Neumann Catholic Church

Mountain High Camp

MS Muckfest

Oklahoma Career Tech

On The Way Home Ministries

Palette of Purpose

Pioneer Ministers

Pregnancy Assistance Center North

Pregnancy Resources

Ronald McDonald House

South Point Church food pantry/clothing closet

Spring Arbor of Greensboro

St. Vincent de Paul service center

Sunshine Food Pantry

Super Summer

Taylor Humane Society

The Gathering

The Hunger Task Force

The Salvation Army

The Well

Veterans of America

West Central Texas Food Bank

Yankton Food For Thought Program

Our Sabbatical Travels


Sylvie Cottrell

“In my last post, I explained the history of the school Salaamom, a school that my husband and I started in Cambodia, where we lived for ten years.

This month I have been able to go back to the school and spend time with the teachers and with the director of the school Mrs Vannear Khoek.

I was able to spend some time in Kampot, in the South of Cambodia, a small town nestled between the Elephant Mountains and the Gulf of Thailand.

My family and I lived there for several years. Seeing that issue, we decided to transform our outreach to street children into a full fledged school and called it Salaamom.

We started small, only 4 classes at first. It was a place where kids could have a normal school day, with less students, learn English and also the Bible, as well as have a decent meal at lunchtime. ”


Emily Beeksma

“I’ve been in Hawaii for 4 days now and it’s going to be so difficult leaving. Everything about this island is breathtaking. Yesterday we drove up to North Shore with the windows down, music blaring, sun on my face, and I swear I haven’t felt that relaxed in months.”

Seattle, WA

Most Visited Place
Allison Condry

“After traipsing the city for 4 days my feet and legs were worn out! I was a little worried how I’d do with my 1/2 marathon after all the hill climbing we’d been doing. I never knew streets could be so steep! Thankfully, I had picked the flat (compared to the rest of Seattle and NOT Abilene, TX) Orca Half Marathon. It was about 5 min over my PR. However, it was 2hr 29min which made it under 2 1/2, so I was pleased with my results. I did not see an Orca, but it was by far the most beautiful run I’ve ever done! And later in the week I got to “ride” an Orca….”

Matt Waldrip

“We wanted to expose our daughter to big city life and also wanted to do some hiking and enjoy the great outdoors. My wife and I love the beach, but our daughter Lucy is not a big fan so we thought perhaps she likes the mountains. She does. We had a wonderful time. ”

Ryon Williams

“To kick off my Sabbatical, my husband, Anthony, and I took a trip to Seattle with his best friend, who ironically enough is also named Anthony, and his new wife, Monica. It was crazy you were practically eye level with mountains from the plane.

We made it back safely and were not eaten by any bears! (Note: We did not actually see any or were near any bears but it sure felt like we should have been). Let me tell you it was absolutely BEAUTIFUL there, I didn’t know trees could be that tall! Okay I did know, but I had never been around any before. Oh and let me tell you the weather was perfect. We got lucky and it did not rain once while we were there, and humidity? It doesn’t exist up there! People had told me about that before going, but I didn’t actually understand it until we were there. Though because of that I did manage to get a sunburn in only 68 degree weather… On the bright side my husband likes to point out it was the longest I had ever been in the sun before burning!”

Trevor Rupe

“During my volunteer work at camp, I got to know the awesome staff there and they took me around Seattle. Went to a couple coffee shops, checked the out Pike Place market, and walked around downtown. Key takeaway from this experience is that Seattle is definitely different from west Texas! One aspect that I enjoyed was their attitude about the world we live in. From all the fresh organic produce, the 4 different trash bins to separate your trash into, the amount of people who ride bikes, and the strong affiliation with the mountain/outdoor culture, its hard not to acknowledge their desire to protect and be good stewards of the world around us. Seattle would definitely be considered a more “progressive” culture in many ways, but I think this is something that everyone, especially us Texans, could do a little better.”

Zach Sims

“For my last day in Washington, Anna and I had decided to travel back down to Seattle and explore some of the tourist attractions in the city. We traveled down there in the morning and after a lunch of world famous Ivar’s clam chowder we set off to Pike Place Market. At the market, we saw the many shops that line the interior and exterior, the first Starbucks, the legendary gum wall, and of course the famous fish throwers. Having never been to Pike Place before, Anna kind of just let me stumble through it and take in all the sights, sounds, and smells. What I really had my heart set on finding when we got there was the fish market and I knew I was there before I saw the boisterous employees due to all the shouting. After observing their operation for a few moments, I started to realize how the fish throwing attraction works. The employees wait around for a largish crowd to develop and then one of the throwers stands directly in front so that the flying aquatic creature gives the illusion that it will hit the crowd. Almost immediately after coming to this realization I look up and a Pike Place fish market employee is standing directly in front me screaming the fish summoning chant. I start to panic at the realization that I could potentially be smacked in the face with a 20-pound king salmon. Fortunately, these guys in the fish market got hands like Julio Jones and never did drop a fish that day, although secretly the pessimist in me was kind of hoping they would lose one.”

Galveston, TX

Cruises From Galveston
Ben Ciani

“This week we were able to enjoy our honeymoon. We took a cruise out of Galveston and visited both Cozumel and Progresso. It was a lot of fun spending all the time alone together and learning a lot about each other. We each forced the other to try and do thing out of the normal. For example, Chelsea is a picky eater so I forced her to try some different foods while we were on the ship. While she forced me to just relax and sit since when I’m on vacation I like to be doing something the entire time, like going to a show or swimming but always something. However a few times she forced me to just sit with her and we would lay out on the deck of the ship.”

Christy Bechtel

“On August 6th my husband and I left for our 7 day anniversary cruise. We left out of Galveston and ported in Honduras, Costa Maya, and Cozumel. The first two days were great. We were at sea and enjoyed the ship and loved the group of people at our dining table. To me, that’s one of the most fun parts of cruising. Our table consisted of 4 couples and we all hit it off on the first night and became instant friends. On days 3-5 our ship hit a tropical depression with ten foot waves and horrible rocking. It caused me to be super sea sick and get very little sleep. We almost didn’t get to port in Costa Maya because of the swells but it cleared up enough for us to port. That was my favorite of the three destinations so I’m glad it worked out. We completed the cruise on August 13th and were excited to make it off the boat and to our truck by 8:30 am. We were excited to get home to the kids and sleep in our new bed.”

Theron Holladay

“For the last ten years my mom has dreamed of taking a trip with all of her grandchildren. She has said many times that this was a “bucket list” event for her. This year we arranged a cruise with my mom, niece, nephew and my family. During this time, we enjoyed some amazing family time and were also able to check off a second “bucket list” item for my mom by riding horses on the beach. My children have been blessed and had the opportunity to travel to many countries. For my niece and nephew it was their first time to see the beach or another country and helped create memories we will all remember for a lifetime. Seeing their faces as they experienced new opportunities was truly amazing.”

Manaus, Brazil

Robert Finley

“Exiting Manaus by water, you are eventually greeted by “The Meeting of the Waters”. This is where the Negro River and the Amazon River run side by side for about 3 miles without mixing together. It’s quite a sight!

Our first night on the river, we visited a church and had a service. It was actually pretty neat seeing the families pull up in their boats wearing their Sunday finest. Dads, moms, and kids of all ages travel by river. When we were having service, Pastor Aurino called us up to sing a song for them. (we didn’t know that we were going to sing until that moment!! He totally surprised us!! Hehehehe……but, it went just fine! On the way up, it was decided that we’d sing “Good, Good Father”)”


Michael Garcia

“I started my week in Barcelona taking in so much of what this Spanish city had to offer. I was able to see and pray in Segrada Família, the chapel in Barcelona that has taken over 140 years to build and STILL is not complete, but will be finished in 2026 (talk about a long project!). Along with meeting interesting people from around the world, I’ve been able to create stronger relationships with some of the friends I came with on this trip.”


Marcus Wilson

“The church service there was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. The congregation worshiped with a vigor and utter gratitude to God that blew my mind; they smiled, danced, and sang at the top of their lungs the entire time. Here was a gathering of people who live off of just a couple of dollars a day, yet they were far more exuberant and thankful than pretty much any American I’ve ever met. They’re joyful people!

At one point during worship the power went out, rendering the microphones and keyboard inoperable… yet the songs continued without missing a single beat, and what followed was one of the most powerful moments of worship you could imagine. By “coincidence,” we began singing a song that simply said “I just want to say thank you, my Lord.” As we sang this over and over again, the presence of God in the room was palpable.”


Mark Childs

“Preparation for travel to Europe. Spent some time visiting sites in Philadelphia prior to Flight. Rocky sites, Independence Hall, Liberty Bell and Burial site of Benjamin Franklin were all part of the tour.

We arrived early in the morning. It was nice to be greeted by a friend from San Angelo. She and my daughters shared time in the ministry together in San Angelo. It was nice for them to be able to get together again now at her home in the country in Germany. She and her husband have been very hospitable to us.

We enjoyed some very nice sites that young girls dream of, Castles and Von Trapp family home.”

Norfolk, VA

Sherri Miller

“This time tomorrow I will be in the air on my way to Norfolk, VA to spend a week with my best friend, Mona Carter. This journey has been 15 years in the making and I am soo excited I CAN’T STAND MYSELF!!!!

Mona and I met online on a Vin Diesel fan site. ( Yes I know but it’s ok, Trust Me! {:^D ) We became friends on the site and started talked off site as well. This went on for about 5 years and after the site closed we remained close. We have been there for each other through some dark days. She was not a Christian so I shared my faith and the promises of God with her. She begain to do the same and became my sisters as well as friend. This made our friendship even deeper and opened up another dimension for us to grow together.

We will be attending a seminar about Women’s ministries and administering to women in crisis. We will also be volunteering at a Women’s shelter for at least 16 hours as part of the seminar. We are both so excited and can’t wait to serve the Lord together, worship together then CUT UP FEROCIOUSLY! In a perfectly respectable manner of course. (prayerfully) {:^D !! {:^D !!”


Aaron Taylor

Catch of the Day

For: Shark Hunting in Destin, Florida

Alec Hartman

Most Adventurous

For: Staying the night in a genuine, Native American tipi

Nathan Bachert

Coolest Ride

For: Sitting inside the DeLorean from Back to the Future

Sylvie Cottrell

Most likely to travel the world

For: Traveling the farthest on Sabbatical. Destination: Cambodia

Josh Koehler

Best Teacher

For: Teaching a friend how to do taxidermy

Jeff Stewart

FDLIC Beard Champion

For: Sabbatical beard growth and inspiration to all aspiring beard growers

Suggested Books

Reflect and Restore

Sabbatical participants each chose a book to read during their time away from work. For many, this was an opportunity to reflect on their walk with God and gain a renewed sense of vision and direction.

Jefferson Bethke

Jesus > Religion: Why he is so much better than trying harder, doing more, and being good enough

Bob Goff

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

Max Lucado

Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference

Matthew Kelly

Rediscover Jesus

R.T. Kendall

The Parables of Jesus: A Guide to Understanding and Applying the Stories Jesus Told

Bruce Wilkinson

A Life God Rewards: Why Everything You Do Today Matters Forever

Mark Batterson

Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn't Scare You, It's Too Small

John Eldredge

Moving Mountains: Praying with Passion, Confidence, and Authority

Jen Hatmaker

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Bill Hybels

Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul

Thank You

To Kris and the Board

The Sabbatical experience came with its ups and downs, unexpected twists and turns, and unique experiences for everyone involved. And through it all, our employees never stopped expressing their gratitude for the journey.

Jennifer Flores

"I am forever grateful for this experience. Being able to spend time pausing for prayer, reflecting, and reprioritizing my life has taught me what is truly important in my life which is God, family, and health. "

Alvino Sanchez

"This sabbatical has been totally different from the first one. I made time to rest, relax, and enjoy family and friends. Thank you, FDL, for making this sabbatical possible for the rest of my coworkers and me. I am truly blessed to work for such a great company."

Lee Carson

"All in all, it was a good experience. I feel rejuvenated in mind, body, and soul. Thank you, Kris, for the opportunity to get closer to God!"

Vicki Dickson

"Again, I want to thank Kris and the Board of Directors for allowing us to have the opportunity to be a part of God’s work in the Helpers of People program. It is always a good time to reflect and refocus on the bigger picture."

Sonia DeLeon

"It has been nice to take a step back, relax and reset. These 30 days of Sabbatical our Company has provided me have encouraged and strengthened my relationship with God, family, and others. "

Robert Finley

"Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to invest in the lives of families in the interior of the Amazon. There are SO many stories to share. It would take a novel to capture all of them."

Alec Hartman

"Thank you all for keeping up with my adventures throughout my sabbatical. I couldn’t have asked for a more delightful experience. What a blessing this time has been!"

Annette Parmelly

"I’ve really enjoyed being able to take this sabbatical. Thank you Kris and FDLIC for giving me this opportunity. I would also like to thank my co-workers in the accounting department for taking on my responsibilities so that I could take this time off. I know they did a great job."

Rebecca Browne

"This sabbatical was such a rewarding experience! Thank you, Kris, and FD, for being such a blessing!"