The journey home was fine. I left Iława Sunday night (the 22nd), wondering (by reason of my willingness to attempt to carry two large, heavy bags and two carry-ons by myself on the train) whether I had lost my sanity. It worked out rather well, but that may, I think, be largely attributed to the contingencies I took. I arranged for a seat near the entrance of the car rather than taking a chance of being placed in the center, and I bought a second (reduced) ticket for my baggage, but the rest was God's doing. I met a man on the train who was also going to Warsaw, and we helped each other with getting the bags off the train.
Once in Warsaw, I learned something interesting. I believe there must be at least three miles of tunneling under Warszawa Centralna, and a person in a wheelchair would have to travel the entire length to reach the street. I walked for what felt like an extremely long distance, turning left and right repeatedly to follow the wheelchair signs. Eventually, I emerged at the street level and went outside. I got a cab to the Methodist building, got the keys to the guest room, and went directly to bed.
In the morning, I rose early and went downstairs, where the Bishop met me and a visitor who was flying out near the same time. We went to the airport, said our good-byes, and checked in to our separate flights; the Bishop, incidentally, went to his office, I am sure. Once checked in, I sat with the other visitor and talked about various things. We ate breakfast in the airport restaurant and parted to catch our planes. I went through security and lost something. I had packed my shaving kit in my hold luggage on the way over, but concerns about electronic damage caused me to put it in my carry-on for the return trip. It contained a pair of barber's scissors. They now reside in the Warsaw airport, alas, or somewhere nearby. I hope someone is melting down and re-using the metals collected from airline passengers. If not, it is a terrible waste.
I arrived in Paris without incident, but while going through security there, I realized that I still had the keys to the guest room. I resolved to mail them back when I reached my destination. The trans-Atlantic flight was very long, and I was unable to be moved to Business class. The movies were both pretty good. I got to Miami and made my way through immigration and customs. I called my mother and talked to her for several minutes. Then, I went to my gate and paced, trying to stay awake. I had gotten up at 04:30, and it was now midnight where I'd gotten up, though it was only 18:00 where I was.
My mother and my aunt were waiting for me at the airport when I arrived home. I am very glad to be home.
I've just returned home from the UMVIM rally at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina. It was a wonderful time of renewal, even though I spent most of the rally rushing around behind the scenes working. I was full of energy (at least until the third day), and I enjoyed myself. I was in a panel discussion, and that was very interesting. I wavered between thinking I was talking too much and thinking I wasn't saying enough. Everyone who has commented on it has said I did a good job.
I was on the lookout for mission projects my church can do, and I found five countries I think might be good places for teams: Guyana, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Ecuador. I hope that we can organize a team (or teams) to these countries.
On July 4th, I went with my family to the Independence Day Review concert of the Junaluska Singers, a wonderful group of musicians. It was a great concert, and the meaning of those patriotic songs to me this year is something I cannot put into words.
One interesting thing that happened during the rally was on Sunday. At the end of the worship service, one of the pastors pulled me aside to pray with him. He knew I wanted guidance, and he asked me what was the desire of my heart. I told him it is to be a great husband and father. He prayed with me, and then he said, "Be picky and be patient," and that I would be pleased with what God provided. It was advice I did not expect, to say that I should be picky. I think it is good advice, though.
Now, I am back at home. Home; it is a wonderful word, for everything it means. I'll be spending the next week preparing talks on Poland for various purposes. I don't know yet what I'll say, but that's fine. I'll count on Christ to give me the words, and He will.
I've now given two talks on my experiences in Poland. Everyone who has commented on them has been pleased with them. I spoke to the Tallahassee UMVIM group, and I spoke to my home church during the summer Wednesday praise & worship service.
This Saturday, I will speak to the area's Emmaus reunion group.
I've emailed some Missions coordinators, and I expect responses by tomorrow. This prospect is both exciting and frightening, but I know that God is with me, and that He will take care of me.
Relational Mission Trip: 3-25-04 - 3-30-04
I and my friend, Robert, woke up at 3:30am at his house on Thursday morning and climbed into the van to go to Pensacola. There, we checked our bags and went up to the gates level. While we waited for the time to come, we had some orange juice and snack stuff. Then, we went through the security checkpoint and waited for a long time at the departure gate. We made the first leg of the journey in an extremely small jet, in which I could barely stand straight. When we arrived in Minneapolis, MN, we started walking toward the front entrance of the airport. After a five-hour layover, we boarded a DC-10, found that we had no overhead storage because someone else had filled all the space near us, sandwiched ourselves and our carry-ons into our seats in the center of the plane, and faced the ten hour flight to Amsterdam, Holland. There, we spent most of our layover talking with a man from Ireland who was on his way home from a business trip to Canada and a little bit of time talking to a Polish girl who was visiting her folks near Poznan`. Finally, we boarded our plane for the two hour flight to Warsaw.
My mother was waiting in the airport with a sign that said "UMVIM" on it. We hugged, went up to the departures level (better prices on taxis can be had there), visited the bathrooms, and went out to get a taxi. We went straight to the train station, Warszawa Centralna, and missed the 12:47 train by only a few minutes. The next train was at something like 14:27, so we ate at a couple of the shops beneath the train station (but above the tracks) and went down to the platform to await the train. The train ride was uneventful, though I kept trying to nap, and the heat in the compartment, for the heating was on, was making me slightly nauseous.
Friday night, some of my former students, some of mom's students, and a friend of ours who lives there met in the classroom to have a small party. We sat around the tables and talked of many things. The students were interested in what I'd been doing and various other things. After the others went home, the three of us had supper. When supper was over, I set up my mom's computer so she could get online with it. She and I talked over the news here and there, and then I went to bed.
In the morning, I, my mother, and Robert walked into town for some shopping. Shopping there was part of our mission trip, because everything we bought contributed to the Polish economy. Later, we showed Robert around the basement and talked about Pastor Kris' vision for the space. He wants to have classrooms so that the English school can be expanded, a meeting area where the church can offer meals to the hungry and to children of alcoholics, fellowship activities, and other community outreach. In the afternoon, we travelled in the pastor's car to Siemiany, a small village about 20km away from Iława. There, we visited the Catholic church building the Siemiany congregation uses on Sunday afternoon, looked at the graveyard there, visited a family, and talked with the people there for a couple of hours about various things, including our hope for a strong relationship between our two congregations. In the evening, we went over the order of worship for in the morning. We found three hymns that are equivalent in English and Polish and selected one hymn each in Polish and English only.
In the morning, we went to a joint Iława/Siemiany service at the chapel in Iława. When the hymns were sung, the congregation sang in Polish, and we sang from our English hymnal the same song. It was a wonderful statement of our sameness in Christ to be singing the same concepts to the same tune, with only the words of our languages differing. When the Scriptures were read, Robert and I went up separately and read the English from our Bibles, and after each, Pastor Kris read the same fragment in Polish. Then, Pastor Kris invited us up individually to give greetings from our congregation and say a few words. We extended the greetings and expressed our thanks for the hospitality of the church and our joy at being there, as well as our hope that the relationship between our congregations will grow strong. Then, the three of us got up and sang "'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" to the congregation. After that, there was another congregational hymn and the sermon. After the service, we went into the classroom for a party/meeting with the members of the congregation. We had tea, coffee, cookies, and other munchies, and the congregation asked and told us many things. After that, we had a small lunch and prepared for our return to Warsaw by train.
Monday morning, we got up and visited the Methodist office and spoke to the Bishop's secretary. Then, we were whisking off to the airport and checking our bags for the flight. A final wave good-bye to my mother, a moment at the passport control station, and we were in the concourses. Robert and I walked around, looking in the shops while we waited for our gate to open. Eventually, we boarded our plane and travelled back to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, we barely had time to walk from our gate to one of the shops, buy a few things, and walk to the departure gate, where we stood in a long line that got much longer behind us. The security people checked us over and asked us questions, and then we were on the plane. It was another DC-10, but this time, we got seats on the right side, where there was more room, and we found our stowage space empty, so we weren't scrunched together without any legroom at all. I took advantage of the three plane rides to do some important reading and letter writing. Sadly, though, I only completed one letter between the reading, napping, and in-flight movie. Mostly, I napped, trying to catch up on sleep. In Minneapolis, we had to walk a fair piece of the international terminal to get to immigration and customs. Then, when we had retrieved our bags and passed through customs, we walked quickly to our final departure gate, stopping only for a few minutes to make a couple of phone calls. We had only been at the gate for about four minutes when they started the boarding. We had pretty much the same types of planes going both directions.
Finally, we were back in Pensacola, and we rode home to Crestview. I crashed at Robert's house, because I didn't figure myself fit to drive after being out of bed for 22 hours. In the morning, we had a leisurely breakfast, and I headed home. It was a good trip. Both of us wish we could have stayed longer, but I think this was a good trip. In the hands of Jesus, little can be much. May God richly bless you all.