also titled ‘here are some reflections from the first part of the trip’, or, ‘for people without a secure income we sure do a lot of traveling.’ this is phase one of our two part tour that will eventually lead us to northwest washington.
st. charles, il to new albany, in; 331 miles, approximately five hours of driving.
we arrived with time enough to catch ben and crystal woods at home before they took off to a little thing they called the experiment. we tagged along. the experiment was an exercise in living generously. members of the college age ministry ben leads at northside christian church had saved up change and bills for weeks leading up to this, an opportunity to randomly bless others. steph joined crystal’s group, i ben’s; ours and several other groups went their separate ways. most went to restaurants and shared a meal and laughs. and then maybe paid for a family’s dinner. or perhaps left a enormous tip for their waitress. maybe both, maybe more. the idea was to practice and learn about generosity in a hopefully healthy way, that perhaps we can generally be a little freer with our finances in all sorts of circumstances. we hope people didn’t walk away thinking about all the great things they themselves did for others just to boost their self esteem. i think about the words of Christ, about not letting one hand know what the other is doing. and perhaps being generous is more of a mindset than an occasional compulsory action. ben puts it this way: ‘We didn’t set out to profile people or approach people as “projects,” but creatively share what we had with others in a way that gives God all the credit.’ in fact, he said everything about this much better than i, so just go to his blog and read about it: http://benjaminwoods.me/2013/03/18/the-experiment/
weather-wise new albany treated us well. at first. while waiting for the saturday night service to start, steph and i sat by a little creek behind the church in the seventy something degree day barefoot and loving it. there was still snow on the ground when we left st. charles. so to have a wonderful spring day was quite a blessing.
after the service we met with doug, the missions director of northside, at a nearby restaurant. it was an incredibly encouraging and insightful conversation, as we were able to hear from a guy who had been in the ‘business’ for a long while and could tell us, from a church standpoint, what is good and bad and awesome and helpful, etc. in the ways of church-missionary relations. it was simply a good conversation all around.
over a year ago ben and crystal moved their family from urbana to new albany to a new job, a new life. ben is leading the new college age ministry, as well as heading up the next steps program. we took part in the growing college age group, the return, and we also saw the fruits of the next steps with a renovated welcome room at the church, and got front row seats as ben baptized a father and son. it was great to see how much has grown with their ministry and their lives. as busy as they are, we thankfully got plenty of excellent time with the woods family, having great dialogues and playing with their kids. we are thankful always for their support of us as people, as a couple, as followers of Christ in this great adventure. we left them sunday afternoon after sharing a last meal together. always good to see them, always a bit sad to say goodbye.
saturday was spring, sunday opened to rain…and then snow. and then rain again. we drove out of new albany through inches of slush and crossed the ohio river into the constant downpour kentucky had waiting for us. i kid you not the rain only stopped once we crossed the border into tennessee.
new albany, in to nashville, tn; 180 miles, approximately 2.5 hours of driving.
in nashville we stayed with steph’s brother david in his old and bizarre house. i wondered about the chance that the building was not quite fit for human habitation without some serious renovations. david, if you didn’t already know, makes some pretty excellent music. feel more than free to go and listen here: sacredvision.bandcamp.com. and enjoy.
after hours with the woods’ and hours of rain driving we had a lovely spring evening getting tex-mex with david before heading to ethos church. now i could talk a lot about different styles of worship, but i will only comment (and not judge) on the differing styles of the two churches we experienced that weekend. northside has a big stage with a sharp big band and sung songs i didn’t know. ethos was a much smaller venue, usually used for weird little concerts (just ignore the long bar to the side), with quite a different sound. maybe it was the fact that they sang songs i mostly knew, or maybe that they used a mandolin, banjo, violin, and an upright bass, that the music much more spoke to my soul. or perhaps it’s just that, more than being ‘cool’, being all folk-y and indie in music (even worship) is more of an expression of the collective soul of our generation. but anyway, the worship was powerful, the message was deep and thought-provoking, and the communion bread was the tastiest body of Christ i had ever had. we sat down with david much later that evening and had a good long talk about what we thought about the service and the extended thoughts that grew in each of us afterwards. more on that later.
david introduced us to his friend madison who has been looking for a summer camp at which to work this summer. well firwood was most certainly on the table. the whole swick family is behind david heading off to camp this summer so steph and i had a lot of fun answering their questions, telling stories, and just generally talking up firwood as much as we could. we had great times at that camp, as one might imagine (we met there! goodness!), and are always happy to point prospective staff members in that direction. we hope our excited ramblings got them pumped up. you reading this, rob lee?
the next evening we met with friends from axiom and were treated to some of the most delicious hamburgers this side of anywhere. miles and jill, here’s to you. and caroline, thanks for the ice cream. the conversation and company all around was wonderful and a blessing to both of us.
tuesday turned out to be a bit of an open day and at the eleventh hour we decided to take a little side trip down to chattanooga to visit michael and carli, friends we met at international teams training. this was a great idea. we drove up lookout mountain, where carli and michael have fixed up an ancient farm house on the edge of a cliff overlooking…everything. it was good to be among mountains again, if just little ones comparatively. the six of us (they have two adorable little daughters) spent the afternoon wandering bridges and parks in downtown chattanooga, which is quite a lovely little city. what was really a boon to both steph and i was the chance to reconnect with friends who are in essentially the same crazy moving-to-another-country-and-fundraising boat as us. we got to laugh and swap stories of awkward meetings, the stresses of cold-calling people, and our mild frustrations with fundraising books. we smile and laugh because in sharing these experiences we realize we are not alone in the journey, that we have people we can connect with over this semi-ridiculous phase of our lives. so tuesday, while it necessitated a bit more driving, turned out to be a very filling day in terms of good friends and good sights and good food (another excellent hamburger.)
i’m reading a book now, the bishop of rwanda, which gives some of the most graphic and intense accounts of the rwandan genocide that i have yet encountered. i wonder while i read why such descriptions of the atrocities are needed. but then the author, who lived through such nonsense, brings the point home. yes the genocide was absurd and disgusting, and we need to know about it to know that when we talk about reconciliation and forgiveness we are not talking about a simple emotional, psychological, or political process; we are talking about miles of tears. the topic of reconciliation was brought up in the sermon at ethos last weekend and i had a chance to think more on that; reconciliation is an incredibly difficult process. we hear about how broken rwanda was, and now we hear about how far the nation and the people have come from such a dark past. and we realize that reconciliation on that scale is only possible through that power of God. i was immensely moved when i though of this, holding the communion bread in my hand that night at church, and thought about how stephanie and i are going to join in that story, to walk alongside rwandans in the task of taking broken things and giving them purpose in the Kingdom.
humbled. i feel ever humbled.
i am humbled and amazed to think that we are allowed and encouraged to disappear to the other side of the world with this purpose in mind. i remember why this blog is called ‘these frail hands,’ because i wonder what use my feeble abilities could be. and the more i ask the more i am humbled because God keeps answering.
and we are humbled because there are a lot of people in this country who love us enough to house us and feed us. we really don’t deserve any of it, but we are immensely thankful for every moment.
so. more stories to come from the second half of the trip (which we are still in), so stay tuned. and to all of our amazing friends and supporters out there, we thank our great God through Christ Jesus for all of you.