on the way back from chattanooga we took a little side trip just across the boarder into alabama, a state to which neither of us had before been. we used the facilities at a gas station that was also a hunting supply store, then we drove back out. another state checked off the list…mostly.
nashville, tn to st. louis, mo: 309 miles, approximately 4.5 hours of driving.
we took this drive first thing in the morning, saying goodbye to david and his dusty, old house and its dusty, old smells at the glorious hour of 5 in the am. we drove through dark hills and blasted music and sipped coffee to keep awake. our goal was to meet steph’s old youth pastor and wife at a coffee shop in st. louis. and meet them we did. they caught up with steph, told us about their life with a fairly new church, and we told them about up-coming rwandan things, all while their kids went back and forth from the convenient play-place and watching thomas the tank-engine on the iphone. much excitement about life was had by all. we mentioned the city museum and they insisted that we had to go before we left st. louis. i have been told by a number of people over the last couple years that i needed to go check this place out, and so this sealed the deal. we looked up directions and stumbled our way through the city after saying our goodbyes.
the city museum, for those unfamiliar, is less a museum and more a giant playground running all through an old building near downtown st. louis. tunnels welded together through trees, caves, airplane fuselages, towers of steel, and even whales create a maze of pathways for kids and adults to explore, get lost, get stuck, and find themselves in a whole new and awesome area. we didn’t even know there was a cave section underneath it all until we got a little lost. the cost of admission wasn’t too steep, and the experience was pretty darn fantastic. i can see why people enthusiastically encouraged me of all people (who likes to climb things) to go there.
st. louis, mo to urbana, il: 186 miles, approximately 3 hours of driving.
this is the last leg of the journey until heading back up to chicagoland. and let me tell you, after a full day already of driving and talking and climbing things, these three hours to champagin-urbana seemed absurdly long. we may have gone a little crazy. we thought, oh, three hours, no big deal. but baking in the winter sun, re-entering the land of endless cornfields, it got a little tedious. first world problems, i know, stop complaining, robbie.
this is the last we (or at least i) will see our friends in the c-u probably until the fall when we hope to swing by before leaving the country. if all goes according to plan. saying goodbye to thad and then heather the other morning made me not want to come back in the fall, that this goodbye – after the goodbye back in january – was enough and maybe too much. do we really have to see people just to say goodbye again? but then i thought that it isn’t about one last goodbye, but rather the fact that some relationships worth having are defined by times of great distance punctuated by occasional meetings. and then seeing people again briefly here and there is about meeting with a friend while we have the chance, about furthering the friendship, because the relationship means enough to us to meet in the first place. not to say goodbye, but to say hello, and if even for a few minutes or hours re-connect and share a moment of life. that we say farewell at the end of that time doesn’t mean it is only about going separate ways. i think this is similar to the phenomenon of the last things, when you know your time somewhere is ending and you silently, or perhaps not so silently, keep a tally of the last time this or that will happen. i thought that walking out of salt and light in january, but have been there four times this week. anyway, this is just me wrestling with having and keeping long-distance friendships, which seems to have been a theme in my life for the last few years, and, well, will continue to be one for perhaps a very long time to come. so here’s to all the friends out there we keep leaving.
on that note, it was a bit strange to be back in champaign-urbana after being gone for about two months. this was our first time seeing the place since we moved out and up for training. but weirdness aside, it was a great week and some. we stayed with friends, hung out with friends, generally hung out all over the place, and met with as many people as we could. the central event of the visit to chambana was telling a shortened version of our story at windsor road christian church. it was ‘africa day’ and the main speakers were a man from togo who has worked with windsor for years and his wife. crazy thing: there is an app now where you can get the Jesus film and readings of the new testament in over one thousand languages. that really doesn’t suck. the speaker, boniface, was one of the first people i have heard from in a long time who praised america – mainly for coming up with the technology to create such a thing as mentioned above. but he also thanked the west in general for sending missionaries to remote locations. he used to worship a snake, and now he is working to spread the name of Jesus. this is because of a white man coming to his village. kp yohannan, who started gospel for asia (gfa.org), has a similar story. but usually these days we get a whole bunch of negative vibes towards america, so such comments actually surprised me. boniface also gave us a great shout-out during his talk, even though we had met him only just before the first service. he learned we were going to rwanda, got super pumped, and told the entire church congregation to dump their money in our pockets. they didn’t, but we still got to talk for a few minutes about what we are going to join in rwanda and then pray for the offering. we even had our own table set up and had a bunch of really encouraging conversations. some people we knew, some we didn’t, but all who came up to talk with us were excited, interested, supportive – in a number of ways.
that afternoon and evening it snowed several inches. we thought spring had arrived, but it seems that we brought the winter with us.
and then more days of meetings and visiting friends. on good friday, early afternoon, we packed the car and drove north.
champaign, il to st. charles, il: 162 miles, approximately 3 hours of driving.
so here’s the plan. after an easter spent with the swick clan we get a few more days in illinois before heading out on the great road trip west. we will pass through colorado, arizona, into california and up through oregon, eventually landing for a while in washington. we will visit many friends and family members, including a couple key old friends, grand canyon and joshua tree, maybe you’ve heard of them. and that’s what’s next on the docket.
so please remember us and go and tell all your friends about the great things God is doing in rwanda and these silly kids you know who want to be there in the thick of it.
again, we have so many to thank for meals and hospitality and abundant generosity in so many ways. this dream would not be in any way possible without the support of our loving friends. we are exceedingly thankful. and yes i tear up every time i write stuff like this.
peace to you all.