09 September 2008

rustling of my heart

The challenge of coming home outweighs the challenge of traveling. Now I can sympathize with missionaries & volunteers who live overseas for years, become comfortable in their "home away from home", and then have to return to a changed community in a distantly familiar culture that cannot grasp their own shifted perspectives. I'm thankful that my "adjustment muscle" has been well-conditioned over our world journey but I didn't expect that coming home would rustle my heart so much.

I said good-bye to Hope a few weeks ago, not knowing when I'd see her again (maybe late October). It makes me sad but I feel I'm truly blessed to have a sibling who is also a best friend & encourager of my faith.

The last 2 months were filled with blessed reunions of family & friends (both old & new), some domestic travel, and times of sharing in North Carolina, Maryland, Connecticut, & Massachusetts.

Our home in western North Carolina is called "Rest & Be Thankful" and this summer we often reflected & were thankful for family, God's creation, & community... however I wouldn't necessarily describe the summer as being restful. One of the many highlights was spending quality time with our family, particularly our niece, Madilyn. It was obvious that we'd missed a very formative year in her life.

Connecting with old friends & community has been both wonderful & challenging, especially to be gone for a year - everyone goes on with life & has gotten used to my absence. After more than a month of family time & then a short, road trip to the northeast, I'm back home trying to unpack, involve myself in community, yet not "settling down" too much. Instead I'm hoping to keep my feet light on the ground, ready to shift as God leads me.

Less than 2 weeks upon our return home we hosted our first visitor from our international journey - Ivan Kelly from Logosdor in Sydney. The timing of his visit included wonderful conversations with our family, a restful retreat on our porch (with a gorgeous mountain view), connecting with other Salvos at my former place of work (The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club), and even an authentic, American baseball game (although minor league). Just after dropping Ivan off at the Charlotte airport, we squeezed in a short visit with Terry Williams of Scripture Union who helped to host us in Brisbane, Australia & who happened to be in town visiting with the Billy Graham Association. We hope & expect to have many more visitors from our global journey in the future. We miss all of you!

Our trip to the northeast satisfied some of my desires for continued travel & connection to the family of Faith on a domestic level. Hope & I continued to feed our interest in ministries by connecting with the Body of Ashland Presbyterian Church (north of Baltimore, Maryland) and by visiting the Hartford City Mission (who work & live incarnationally in the urban community in north Hartford, Connecticut). I also helped to facilitate a "group" ministry visit (5 of us from Hartford area) to the Kids Games in Boston. I pray that the experience of observing a Kids Games event in action along with the discussion led by Dan Williams (Kids Games regional facilitator for the Int'l Sports Coalition) planted some seeds for future events in the Hartford area.

Finally, we're extremely thankful for all the opportunities to share our experiences & lesson from our faith journey... especially by way of preaching a "trialog" sermon with our father at 3 different churches (with multiple services), a dialog sermon (just Hope & I) at Ashland Presbyterian Church, and an evening of storytelling with slideshow at my father's church in CT. You can check out an audio file of our "trialog" sermon given at my father's church (First Church of Christ): "The Adventure of a Childlike Faith" (08/17/08). Soon I'll be sharing through another evening of storytelling at my church in Montreat, NC on 6:30pm, in Gaither Chapel's Fellowship Hall. All these opportunities are very important in "processing" & keeping us in touch with the journey that is slowly slipping into our past.

I'm continuing to practice what I preached by learning to trust God with childlike faith. I began classes again at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS) but I'm not sure how quickly the degree will come... I'm taking one semester at a time both financially & vocationally. GCTS is supporting my design of a creative "internship" this term which involves organizing & consolidating my research from this journey while converting the experience into "talks" to share with young people & potentially some articles. I'm also hoping to add some research/resources to the Center for Youth Studies website's "encyclopedia"... so please let me know if you have any ideas or input to expand their world-wide database of information around youth issues, culture, studies, & work . Actually, I encourage people from all backgrounds & cultures to look over the topics ("information", "resources", & "action") to see if & how you may be able to contribute to this free online resource!

Please continue to pray for Hope & I as we work through our "re-entry" of being "home". This process will take more time than our actual year-long journey 'round-the-world! We both seek to understand how God desires to use our unique experience and we're trying to keep our hearts in tune with His...continuing to stay open & flexible.