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Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Ever notice how a year in a persons life can be looked at in the same way as a good book? Everyone's story is unique, but the elements of these stories share similarities.

It's January 1, the year begins. The setting and current events are given. The main character is introduced doing everyday things like going to work, seeing family, and going out with friends. The months continue and the chapters progress as our main character experiences a wide range of events as he pursues his goals and ambitions.

Our character goes to events like birthdays, dinners, weddings, and conferences. He may travel for work or pleasure and encounters new settings while many new and interesting characters are introduced into the story. Some interact with our character just for a moment at a bar or bus stop while some linger and add a certain richness to the story that can't be found any other way. Projects at work come and go. Maybe our character loses his job and several chapters of the novel of his year describe his search for new income and perhaps chronicle his thoughts about his newfound opportunity to potentially change the direction of his year dramatically with a new occupation.

Sometimes our character gets into trouble. He loses his temper and starts a fight. He says something to a loved one that he regrets almost immediately but can't undo. Sometimes the trouble is from nothing he's responsible for; a car accident or a sudden injury or death of a loved one. Maybe he's the victim of some horrible crime and he's left beaten and crushed physically and emotionally. Time and chapters continue to pass and he reflects on these events from a philosophical and spiritual point of view and reaches out to people and ideas outside of himself to try to grasp an answer to the questions of "how?" and "why?" that consume his soul. Through these events the reader is shown a darker side of our main character as he is sometimes the cause and sometimes the victim of the evil in his year.

Romance develops. The reader learns of the character's history with relationships and that some of those young ladies are still in his life and bring complications to his current romantic interests. Our main character goes through alternating periods of heartbreak and joy with his attempts at finding someone he can love and will love him in return. A couple potential love interests are introduced but our character seems to have settled on one lovely young lady in particular that he remains intent on pursuing.

The year, and thus the book, begin to come to a close and the intensity of the story builds. Deadlines at work are closing in and projects and papers need to be finalized before the year's end. The holidays are upon our character and on top of the stress of work comes that of coordinating visits with family, both hosting and being a guest, and socially tiptoeing around those whose company he doesn't enjoy but is forced to endure. Perhaps the ghosts of trouble in earlier chapters continue to haunt our character and confrontations with these bring further complications and stress to an already hectic chapter in the year.

Then he breaks through. The holidays have gone, the events finish, and life calms down again. It's the end of December and our character reflects on the highlights of the year and the dark memories begin to lose their intensity. Our main character has experienced much throughout the story of his year both in victory and triumph, joy and pain, rest and stress, but he has made it through and is a better man for it. His story has crossed paths with that of many other characters, each leaving a memory and perhaps a lesson with him, some more fond than others.

The year closes, the book ends. December 31 has come and the story of the year has concluded yet the reader is left curious about what new things may come with the next book which begins on January 1.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Weekend Warrior

My work keeps me on the base most of the time but weekends offer excellent opportunities to jump on my Suzuki and head out to the bush to meet up with an expedition team. Here's the story of one of those weekends.

It took longer than expected on Friday morning to finish tying off loose ends with work and prepping the bike for the ride out to Simwamba village. I got moving not long after lunch but I wasn't quite satisfied with how the morning had gone. Work had been hectic, I wasn't happy with my recent modifications to the bike, and I was a little nervous about finding the expedition team before dark. I made good time with the first 75 miles of asphalt road though and I took a short break before tackling the next 35 miles of dirt road. However, my day did not improve.

Before I got to sleep that night, I had crashed the bike twice and managed to get lost despite having a GPS track to follow. Thankfully I found my way back on track just before dark and even though the bike headlight was destroyed and the handlebars bent, the only bruising I suffered was to my pride. I ended up staying the night with a friend who has an orphanage and school on the way to my destination because I had lost so much time and could no longer travel at night. I headed out again in the morning and, after dropping the bike in deep sand yet again, crossed paths with another Overland staff member driving out and I just followed his fresh tire tracks straight to the campsite. It had been a hectic journey so I just helped around the campsite the rest of the day and rested.
The campsite and the vehicles

Sunday turned out to be an entirely different experience than the previous two days.
The team split in half to visit two churches in the area and I made sure to go with. Of all the ministry opportunities in villages I think I enjoy visiting the local churches the most for a number of reasons but maybe I'll share them another time. Naturally, we visitors were invited to speak during the service and I was one of two of our group to get up to preach. A message had been on my heart and mind for some time and I was so grateful for the chance to share it. I ended up preaching out of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and delivered a clear Gospel message with emphasis on how powerful yet loving our God is and why we have no need to fear anything because of his care for us. As I finished and sat down, it was clear that any fight or struggle I had to undertake was well worth it in order to reach the homes of these isolated people to bring them the Word of God.

After church, I had lunch, packed my stuff back on the bike, and headed home. The return ride was surprisingly quick, enjoyable, and completely devoid of trouble on all levels. I even had a lot of fun riding through terrain that had caused me so much trouble just a day before. Funny how it works that way so often where all the opposition and trouble comes as you are heading out to do ministry then you have a breakthrough and it's smooth sailing.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Last night, one of my colleagues attended a goodbye dinner party for a couple who has been working in southern Africa for quite some time. For about 60 years, this Canadian husband and wife have been ministers of the Gospel in several countries including Angola, Tanzania, Kenya, and most recently Zambia, and they have finally decided to retire and leave Africa.

I first set foot on African soil in 2008. If my information is correct, these Canadians probably arrived sometime in the 1950s. David Livingstone saw Victoria Falls for the first time in November 1855 on one of his treks across the continent. Countless other men and women over the centuries have left their homelands and journeyed into the unknown because God led them in his work of making his name known throughout the earth. I and my friends here are a tiny part of the story of how God has revealed himself and continues to do so to the people of Africa and an even tinier part of how he is working in this vast world.

Whether we are living close to where we were born or in a foreign culture on the far side of the planet, we have the same job description. Location and language have absolutely no bearing on our responsibilities. Our only mission is to make Christ known among the people of Earth.

This is nothing new. I might employ faster and more adrenaline-inducing transportation techniques than Dr. Livingstone, but the message of the Gospel hasn't changed. I am just the next one to step up to take my place among those who have come before. They did the work they were called to do and have finished the race and stepped aside. The world continues to change and my job particulars are like none that have ever come before but all I'm really doing is picking up the baton from the one behind and carrying it on forward.

We are part of something big my friends. The Kingdom of God is alive and moving and we have the privilege of carrying out our small but never insignificant duties within it. I am here and you are there but we're both serving our Father. I can't do your job and you can't do mine and the second we think we're the best thing since sliced bread we've lost because we have nothing and are nothing outside of Christ, whom we've given our lives to and received everything from.

So be encouraged. God knows what he's doing. I have no idea what I'll be doing when I'm the age of those Canadians but I know what I'm doing now. I think I'll just start here and see what happens.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Road Trip!

So I've been back in the States for a month and a half now and I haven't spent more than 5 nights in a row in the same location. Thank God I'm young, single, and have friends all over the place or it would be incredibly stressful and expensive. Although those factors are also partly to blame for my current unsettled lifestyle.

My travels have thus far taken me from Madison to Milwaukee, Kansas City, Huntsville, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Cocoa, Jacksonville, Charleston, Atlanta, Grand Rapids, and Dekalb. I've just arrived back in Madison after a 4,200+ mile road trip that lasted 24 days and I did it all in my 1993 Chevy pickup that literally brings property values down wherever it's parked.

The trip to Kansas City was mostly for my own sake. After a wild end to the year in Zambia, I wanted to take some time to myself to unwind, refocus, and re-integrate into American culture, and I was fairly successful with that trip. I got to spend New Years weekend with some old friends as well as get back to my home church in Madison and then watch the Rose Bowl with some old roommates. I then worked on my truck for three days straight and after that I went to the wedding of a good friend where I got to see another crowd of really awesome people from years past.

The bulk of the epic road trip I just finished was for Overland Missions' annual conference and staff retreat. I gathered with a large group of fellow Overland staff in Tampa to hear from our leadership team and to spend some quality time together. Hearing from the leadership at the conference was extremely encouraging and revitalizing for me and I am so grateful for the time I got to spend with the staff who I only get to see once a year or so. Also, being at the staff retreat and later at the offices for a weekend was an excellent way to celebrate the happenings of the closing year and dream ahead to bigger and better things to come this year.

From there the return journey to Wisconsin took me to visit friends in several places along the way, seeing their new lives in their settings. I even took an intentional detour through the Appalachian Mountains on my way out of Atlanta and I am so happy I did. The landscape along the drive was incredible and I hit it at sunrise no less so it was very much worth the added time and distance. As good as it was though, it still didn't compare to the fruit resulting from the time spent with friends on other detours of the drive. It seemed like everywhere I went, I was encouraged by the hospitality extended to me and by the quality of our time together and I was blessed to be able minister to my hosts as well. As fun as it was to drive all over creation in a $1,000 truck that had to be torn apart in an AutoZone parking lot in Florida, the best part of the journey was being able to see Christ working through my friends in their respective ministries all over the country. It's always a blessing to see the Church in action.

From here on I'll mostly be in Wisconsin although I might head up to Minneapolis briefly. I'm excited to see more of my friends and supporters and swap stories of what God did with this year. I'm heading back to Zambia in early March and I'll most likely not return for 21 months so I want to make the most of my remaining time in the US. The truck is running better than ever at the moment so I might as well drive it.