I am writing this at the Houston airport on my way back from Peru. By the time I get home tonight it will be a 36hr stretch of straight travel. Last year I spent 3 months on the road in 7 countries. As with Peru, much of this was leading teams on ministry and mission. People sometimes ask me why I travel so much, and if I ever get tired of it. I do get tired on occasion, but I never get tired of travelling. And as long as my wife is with me, I don’t really get homesick. So why do I travel so much ? Aren’t university profs supposed be be locked away in offices with bookshelves sagging from the weight of collected knowledge?
I do like books. They are the cheapest way to travel, but not necessarily the best way to learn. I believe in learning to do, but I also believe in doing to learn. Nothing beats experience when it comes to learning at a deeper, more permanent level. The best way to learn about God’s world is to get out into it and see what He is up to. And He is always up to something. Advent means He is present. Adventure means we are present with Him.
It is fascinating to realize that God prepares our family line, history, and temperament for His purposes. Nothing is wasted. I come from a line of Scottish pirates and Scandinavian vikings. Wanderers and adventurers all. Both of my grandfathers rode the rails during the Great Depression. And if there is one consistent vice in my family, it is gambling. There is a lot in my heritage that biases me towards rambling and risk-taking behaviour. When God redeems us He sanctifies our tendencies for a higher purpose. So I ramble and risk-take for Jesus now. But the reason I travel so much is more specific and spiritual than general and natural. It has to do with mission and calling.
Back in 1992 I was standing on a rooftop in Mexico early one morning. I was watching people who live in a garbage dump rise and begin their daily routine. I began to imagine poor and lost people all over the world beginning their day, with God looking down on them. I meditated on this for a while, and then the Holy Spirit spoke to me in that still, small voice of His: ” Do you want the world to be your parish ?” I had been reading John Wesley’s journals, so the phrasing of the question made sense at the time. I said an immediate “yes.” In retrospect, I had no real idea of what I was signing up for. We rarely do. I also have no regrets.
Since answering that question I have spent many early morning waking up in obscure places all over the world… the kind of places tourists don’t frequent, but Jesus sure does! I guess if I had a moment of “calling,” that moment would be it. A call to missional, itinerant ministry. When I am on the road speaking and/or leading a ministry team, that is when God uses me and I feel most alive. Fortunately, this dovetails nicely with my role at Kingswood, and the university has been very gracious and supportive of my call.
So in Peru this week I felt very alive presenting the simple gospel to 200 people in the central square of Huancayo, and watching 30 0f them respond. I felt very alive seeing an 8 year old girl open her heart to Jesus at a brand new house church in La Punta. I felt very alive when 11 more responded at a Saturday morning outreach. I felt very alive watching Rafael recommit his life to Christ in the mountain village of Anta. All the men of the church lined up to hug him back into the church fellowship, and all the women kissed his cheek. These were life giving moments. Even though I am getting old, these kind of moments never get old to me. We find life where our greatest gift meets the world’s deepest need. The world needs Jesus.
So I am going to go as far as I can, as long as I can, to as many people as I can, until I kick the can. No reserves, no retreats, no regrets. Adventuring with Jesus.