I feel compelled to begin this post with the following facts related to my most recent missionary journeys:
- June 2007: I spent ten days in Central Asia in a hotel with no working air conditioning. Our room temperature (at night) hovered around the 90º mark.
- January 2008: seven days in Hong Kong, sleeping in a double room at the YMCA with Rick Langston. The room was so small that when he sneezed, I wiped my nose.
- June 2008: ten days in Johannesburg, South Africa during their winter. My room temp never got above 50°, and the bathroom was a 100-yard stroll outside.
I tell you these things to let you know that I simply cannot apologize for the place where we stayed in Greece, pictured below:
Methinks it was the Lord smiling on me as payment for my previous sufferings. True, that’s one less heavenly reward since I’ve received it here on earth, but that’s a chance I’m willing to take.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me tell you that I love me some church planters. These are people that give up not just a ten day stretch, but two years or more of their lives in order to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. During the Greece stay, I was privileged enough to cross paths with 600+ church planters serving everywhere from Spain to Ukraine; serving in countries where Christianity is cool to countries where sharing the Gospel will get you thrown out, jailed, or killed; serving in countries where their kids are in American school to countries where their kids are the only ones who speak English.
These people are hard-core, and it was my privilege to be able to serve them. We met families who were weary and needed ten days’ worth of pampering and care. We met families who gave back to us far more than we could ever give to them. We met families who were at the beginning of their term of service and families who had served for fifteen-plus years. We met single people serving solo and moms and dads with six daughters.
One of the coolest things about the week was the Missions Auction. This is an annual event where the stateside volunteers bring truly U.S. goodies (Oatmeal Cream Pies, IBC Root Beer, Skippy Peanut Butter) and the church planters bring crafts and goods from their country. All items are auctioned, and 100% of the proceeds go towards world missions.
These peeps are as hard-core about their giving as they are about their serving. Because this is their annual offering, many of them save up all year for the privilege to give, give in a fun way, and give big. I saw a twelve pack of root beer go for $1000, and a handmade quilt went for $3260 – the largest single amount ever raised. In the quilt story, one of the MK’s had asked her parents for that gift as her going-away-to-college present. They had set aside $300, and were quickly disappointed when the bidding shot past that. Some of the other families around them heard about it and started handing them cash so they could pick up the winning bid.
In all, well over $80,000 was raised for world missions. I’m telling you, these people don’t play. Here’s a picture of some of our people witnessing the madness:
Tomorrow: travel snafus.