I am writing this as we fly from LA to Chicago, at which point we catch a flight to Warsaw, and then on to our final destination, a capital city east of Poland. I had a few reflections on our trip so far. Some of these I have found myself sharing with friends who have asked about our first month's trip, and I thought I would share them in this post, which I will do when we land.
- People have asked, "What did you enjoy most?" Lisa and I have different answers to this question. Lisa is usually quick to speak about the wonderful and inspiring people, both students and staff, that we met and got to know everywhere we went. She's not wrong, and we've both written of some of them in our posts. But I usually say something like, "I enjoyed being with and traveling with my wife." When we were married, we were in ministry together for a long time, and of course raising our children was a shared effort. But the last few years, while we have certainly enjoyed time together, we haven't been in ministry together in quite the same way. The trip was very encouraging, because it made me think, "I will enjoy traveling with my best friend and ministry partner for a year." Of course, both of us will also enjoy continuing to meet inspiring and wonderful people along the way. But we so very much enjoy the friendship that 27 years of marriage has built.
- We will not be bored. Every place we go it is a little different, even when we are teaching similar things. In the next five weeks, we will teach a student leadership conference, a graduates conference, a staff team retreat, a church conference, a couple of church leaders' events, and two international student conferences. This will all happen before the end of September, and then we go to Armenia for 3 weeks and meet more great people and do more cool stuff.
- We are bringing material, Bible study and leadership training, that is very helpful to people and they deeply appreciate it. What people in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union often know about us first is that I teach Images of Leadership, a leadership curriculum. We taught this twice in July and will teach this material in many of the places we will be going. I don't mind teaching Images and other material I have taught before because I know these things are helpful to people and important and often fresh Biblical and practical insights for the hearers. I do like going back to places a second or third time because then we can get beyond Images to other topics, but staff feedback continues to encourage me that it is relevant and helpful.
- If you put together all the minutes that each of us will be speaking or teaching and put them back to back, over the course of the year it would probably not even total up more than about a week or two... Everywhere we go, we will only be speaking or teaching for a small fraction of the time we are there in that place. Most of what we will be doing is just talking with people, sharing meals with them, getting to know them and being open about ourselves, in ways that communicate that we are glad to be with them, not just to teach them, and that they are more important to us than just as willing listeners to our great insights. We love this aspect of our trip. While the content of what we share is not unimportant, we could share the content more efficiently (start a YouTube channel, perhaps?). But as Paul's letters stress (and his speech in Acts 20:18-38 emphasizes), it is not just the content that we teach but the way we share our lives that matters as we try to live out, as well as proclaim, the gospel message.
- Finally, on an unrelated matter, we continue to marvel and be grateful for the technology changes that make going overseas in missions something much easier than in centuries and decades past. We said goodbye to our kids and parents in the last week, but we can count on checking in with them more often than weekly for the most part, at least by email and often by video chat on Skype. So we are still active parents to our adult children, and active caring children to our aging parents, at least in the ways we can at a distance. How many missionaries around the world today are so grateful to God for the gift of Skype!
We are always eager for news from home, so feel free to email us, or message us on Facebook, and we'd relish the chance to catch up with you via Skype as well. Thanks for your interest in our ministry, and here's specifically how you can pray for the weeks ahead:
- We have just arrived in a country that we cannot name here to do student leadership development training, using Images of Leadership. They are expecting as many as about 45 students and staff at this event. But this week, Lisa has been asked to teach a group of women leaders and key disciples in a local church one of the evenings we are in town, and she is working to craft a talk that calls these women to confidence in God in the face of seasons of drought. Please pray for her investment of time with the dozen or so women expected to be at this event on Tuesday, August 26.
- We fly from here to Latvia on August 28 where we will teach a conference for graduates. One seminar Lisa will teach there is a parenting seminar called "Story Formed Families," where she will talk about the ways stories of the Bible, our own daily stories shared during family meals, and shared adventures like mission trips and service projects can shape the character of our kids and through the creation of an indelible kingdom-oriented family culture. Lisa will be sharing this material several times on our trip, and it seems to really address a big need here in Europe for Christian families in a hostile culture.
- We will then fly to another country that is European and nominally Muslim, and will be meeting with the staff team for several days. Please pray for our time with them, September 2-7, would be encouraging and equipping for the team there, as we talk about suffering and persevering in faith from Romans 8, and creative gospel communication and other student ministry skills.
- Please pray Lisa's health especially. These first days of jet lag, together with a recurring infection, have left her uncomfortable and quite tired. We know that in a week we will be time-adjusted to this part of the world, but these first days will be difficult.