A few thoughts on the last 4 years


I can't believe it!  I'm home.  On September 31st , July 31st, we returned from Spain and came home to Berlin.  Since we took this job in 2010, my schedule has been absolute madness.  For those of you that follow the diary, you are quite aware of that.  Much of this was due to the need to introduce Three Worlds to the countries in our region (all 18 of them), meet the national leaders, and visit our 3W team on the field.  At points over the 2 years (really only 2 times) I tried to carve out a 4 to 6 week stretch of being at home.  I think it only happened twice in 2 years.  Once something came up and interfered with that "break."  All the meantime, the regular paperwork and correspondence is constantly ongoing.

This most recent stretch (May-July) has been brutal.  Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Florida, Indiana, Ukraine, Egypt, and Spain with only a handful of days "at home" in Berlin.  To be honest, Berlin is like Heathrow Airport to me.  It's a place where I transfer from one plane (or train or car) to another, buy some snacks, and pick up my luggage.  I hardly know the city at all.  When I am home I have a lot of paperwork to catch up on, and I just want to be at home NOT moving anywhere with my family.

Prior to taking this job, I spent 2 years on the road writing "Mosaic" which meant going to a new country or city every 10 days for 24 months.  Yes, it was quite the adventure as you know if you followed this blog or read the book, but that means that i'm going on 4 years of this kind of insane schedule.  I'm not complaining (really I'm not)-- just saying that it has taken its toll and it can't go on like this indefinitely.

So now with 3W celebrating it's 2nd birthday and the team growing, I can finally slow it down.  Teammates have covered for me in Russia and Greece and with the Care-a-Van this past year which greatly helped (thanks Philips, Varners and Simpsons), and I envision that continuing as we add the Kihms and Langfords.

All that to say that I am now in Berlin for at least 7 weeks  (if you don't count a short 36 hour trip to Western Germany).  It has been years since I've been home for 7 weeks.  Even in Hong Kong, there were frequent trips to China or other parts of Asia.  And overall, I think fall 2012-2013 will be more reasonable than the past 4 years.  I cannot even fathom not having to pack up a suitcase (actually Jamie packs it, but you know what I mean).

Do I love travel?  Absolutely.  Has the novelty of visiting other countries worn off after visiting nearly 70 on 6 continents?  No.  Am I tired of traveling?  Yes.  Do I need a break? Yes.  I think the body can only handle so much.  Constantly being in different cultures and languages every few days, and in constant transit is a weird, weird way to live.  It's become normal for me, but it's also incredibly strange.  It has to take a toll on your psyche and your body one way or another, even if it's in your subconcious.  I think it does because I do feel completely worn out.

But you know, I've never met anyone that loved traveling more than me.  I know that's saying a lot since many people love to travel--but really--since I was 4 years old, I had a deep passion and obsession for the countries of the world.  I memorized city maps at 4, drew world cities all over my desk in elementary school, and knew all the flight schedules of every airline by 6th grade.  It was a COMPLETE and TOTAL obsession.  So I never take it for granted and I thank God for this amazing opportunity.  Do I deserve the good fortune of so much travel.  No.  But I'd like to think God gave me this opportunity because I absolutely marinate in every experience wherever I am.

I've tried to use this honor of traveling so much to do good in the world.  I've worked for the church, written books to help the church, and tried to bring love and appreciation to all the cultures and people I've visited.  I hope I'm living up to my end of the bargain.  Many years ago when I was 19 or 20, a Pastor came from out of town into our church, put his hands on me, and prophesied and told me this was exactly the kind of life I would live.  I didn't know the guy from Adam (much like the woman in the Ukraine), but little did he know that that was my greatest desire.  Anyway, it has come to pass and I hope I've done positive things with this great opportunity.

My greatest desire at this point in my life is to see the younger generation take the global stage in the church.  I have high hopes for the Kihms, the Langfords, and others coming up behind.  I hope they go farther and accomplish more than I have.  That shouldn't be difficult, really.  They may not match the miles, but they can easily surpass the impact.  I just hope we are constructing something here that will be an avenue for the next generation to do global ministry.

The "Mosaic" experience exposed me to a lot of dysfunction.  I was very candid about that in the book.  I wrote in there that it left me depressed.  It was an emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausting experience.  I have not recovered from that even though the writing of the book finished nearly 3 years ago.  I met a lot of very lonely pastors, missionaries, and broken churches on every continent.  There was a lot of unnecessary damage and brokenness.  It ripped my soul to shreds in many ways.  However, it has helped us to try and focus on health in the last 2 years and to create space for the next generation to take us some place better.  Neither Jamie nor I have a desire to be at the center of Three Worlds.  We're Gen-Xers.  We think that kind of obsession with position, power, and legacy is moronic.  We really don't get it and it's been horribly destructive in the church.  If that becomes the case, then 3W will have been a failure.  We'd like to see God lifted up and our regional missionaries (whatever their age) flourish as they empower the church and make the world a better place.

So I really hope that I have reached a place where I can regain my center of gravity after 4 years (minimum) of total upheaval.  It will not be easy.  This job (the mission-field) is not made for people that crave stability and predictability.  It is a job of extremes by nature.  But I would like to recover that center of gravity---some semblance of stability.  So this August, I hope is a bookend.  Hopefully, what comes after this is a different kind of season.

August will not be work-free.  Not in the least.  Both Jamie and I have a back-log of work due to our trips.  I am especially behind on a number of projects which I have not been able to deal with since hitting the road hard in May.  And we have a lot of things coming up such as our 3W Staff Retreat, 3W Roundtable, hosting visitors from around the world in our home, and dealing with the many work issues and requests from our region that have piled up over the past few weeks.  Much of 2013 will be mapped out in the coming weeks as well.  Hopefully it will be sane.

While catching up on work in the coming weeks, I plan to listen to a lot of 80's music, ride my bike, spend a lot of time with Jamie and Marco, actually do exercise, and continue to read books that lower the stress level instead of heighten it.  A little less "War and Peace" and more "Anne of Green Gables." Although my next book is about the Vietnam War so...

T0 my two diary readers left after 10 years of writing here (Dad and Charles Manson), thanks for going on this journey with our family.  We appreciate your love, support, and belief in us.  There really are a lot of people, hundreds if not thousands when you factor in the churches, who support us and make all of it possible.  And thanks for supporting our 3W Teammates.  They are amazing and gifted people--every one of them.

So now...Back to work....with some bicycle rides to the lake thrown in for good measure.