Cross Points 10.16.20

Discipleship Afoot:  Walking With Wanderlust

My wife and I love to travel.  Maybe you’ve guessed.  Through the years we’ve made saving up a priority and have tried to focus mostly on mission-oriented trips.  We want this money to be about more than a fun vacation, desiring to honor God and serve people through missionary endeavors.  As a result, we’ve been places we’d never chose to go “on vacation.”  Juarez, Mexico; Kherson, Ukraine; Pristina, Kosovo; Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
In each of these places foot travel has been a common mode of getting around locally.  In Juarez we ran.  We’d get up each morning and go for a run with our mission coordinator Scott Springer.  We’d hear the water truck traveling through the neighborhood playing La Cuca Rocha on its loudspeakers.  We’d smell fresh tortillas cooking at the stand just down the block.  We’d see the big stone letters on the side of the mountain to the south that said, “La Biblia es la verdad, leela” which translates to “the Bible is truth, read it.”  “Who put that on the mountain?” we’d ask, and “Why do so few pay attention?”  We had VBS type activities for the kids, I preached on Sunday, we worked on a new church construction by day.  Plenty of steps, both physically and spiritually. 
One evening while in the Ukraine town of Kahovka, our group split up to stay with families for the night.  Rexanne and I were dropped off in the dark to a couple we’d never met who lived in a small upstairs apartment.  They spoke no English; we spoke no Russian.  Through hand gestures and pictures, we crudely communicated about family and faith.  The next morning, I decided to go for a walk while Rexanne got ready.  My clue should have been the foot-thick metal door with crank style bolt locks on it.  I stepped outside and stopped to take a picture.  Our host suddenly appeared and motioned me back inside, saying, “Not safe!”  Another night on the Black Sea we stayed in a quaint but makeshift hotel that was not 50 feet from the water.  We walked the beach then gathered with our Ukrainian ministry team to sing hymns we all knew in our two languages.  Other guests in the hotel came outside, or sat on their balconies, listening to us sing.  Our driver told us about “the Soviet time” when his grandmother had to pretend to have a birthday party with decorations, just so they could have a Bible study and not be turned in to authorities.  Who’d have ever thought we’d be behind the old iron curtain doing such things?
We walked and talked with Skender Zeqiri in war torn Kosovo as he told us about his own frightening walk out of his hometown, driven out by the Serbs who were invading.  Skender (pronounced Skendare) was a Muslim who converted to Christianity, and now serves in Christian ministry, much to the frustration of his Muslim family.
So many stories from these trips.  Walking is always a big part of them, whether “unter den linden” in Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate, or across the Charles Bridge with its many Christian statues in Prague.  We are in these places to help others walk: the missionary leaders, the local Christians.  But we always come away strengthened in our own spiritual walk; so maybe they’ve helped us more than we helped them.  We are constantly amazed at the joy these Christians have, despite their meager living conditions.  “Make us more like that?” we pray.  And I sense God responding, “Learn the lesson and make yourself more like that.”
We’ve helped build a church, we’ve taken clothing to remote villages, we’ve cataloged and inventoried books, shared with patrons in Christian libraries, we’ve taught lessons, preached, played with the kids, provided financial support.  And yet as I set here and write these words, we haven’t done much, not really.  We are truly humbled by the missionaries we’ve met and served alongside.  They deserve the credit, for hard work with preparation, language, relationship building, etc.  To paraphrase Paul: they planted, we sprinkled some water, but God causes the growth!  Yes, we have wanderlust.  We only hope with some purpose.  Walk with us, as I share from trips in the next few articles.  And find your ministry walk, you have a place and story, as well.  May our walks lead to heaven!      
Cross Point: “You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you…” (Deuteronomy 5:33).    
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