Since early July Kristi and I have been on the go! We have visited 36 churches, 2 presbyteries, actively participated in 6 conferences, trainings and gatherings, travelled to 17 states and slept in 39 beds. We have given our presentation 25 times, I have preached 13 times, and we have shared with all types of groups in various ways. Not surprisingly perhaps, with all this activity, at times we have hit lows, feeling tired and wanting to be finished, yet we press on.
Significantly, in the midst of this busy schedule of travel and speaking, Kristi and I have been blessed by the ways we have been received, welcomed, cared for and loved. It often feels like we are stepping into holy ground as we stay with families and spend time with churches. Just this last week we stayed with a family whose 96 year old matriarch, Dee, made sure we ate sliced apples in the afternoon and waited up for us like a mother goose when we were out at the movies. On Hilton Head island, our hosts, Charlotte and Steve White, welcomed us into the life of their community as we enjoyed together live music and comfort food cooked for all on a gorgeous fall evening. We also visited my friend Colin from High School whose family prepared a “Low Country Boil,” a fun/informal meal of shrimp/potatoes/corn and a few other things tossed in for good measure. In Birmingham, Marty and Leland Keller treated us to dinner and the symphony with their close friends. In Johnson City, Tennessee, we spent hours on an enclosed sun porch with Jerry and Sally Nagel in their home, sharing stories and enjoying good fellowship. In Albany, Georgia, members of First Presbyterian treated us to the Waffle House where we enjoyed lighthearted conversation but also had meaningful dialogue around local issues tied to race and injustice. In Beaufort, South Carolina, Corky cooked us delicious meals three times in the span of less than 24 hours, then he and his wife grabbed our hands and prayed deeply for us as we departed.
These are just a few snippets from our travels – many more stories could be told! Indeed, we have been welcomed with open arms. We have been fed well, our needs have been tended to (even laundry!), and we have felt the warmth of God’s people. Not having a home here, these families visited have given us a temporary home, welcoming us into the family rooms and intimate places of their lives. For that, we cannot adequately express our gratitude. God has given us grace and strength for the journey, and He has done that through the hands and feet of His people.
** Note to all who hosted us but who were not mentioned in this specific blog post, please know that we appreciate all you did for us! We cannot and will not forget you.