Every nation, tribe and people
While my idea of a big adventure is a two-hour drive to the New Orleans airport, Son No. 3’s is taking 22 flights to bounce four continents in 88 days. But alas, all adventures come to an end. This one skidded to stop on a tarmac at 9:34 Friday morning.
We’d barely stuffed his backpack in the backseat before our wanderer was placing an order at the nearest Chick-fil-A. Yeah, the strips were calling. Polynesian sauce, too, and the sight of it made me smile. A hungry son engulfing his food always does a mama good, especially when she hasn’t hugged him in three months.
So we drive back, him reliving the journey and me nibbling on some chocolate he brought back from Colombia. Hiking stories, fellow traveler stories, food stories. Earlier, he’d pulled out his notebook and told me about Sundays as a visitor in 12 different congregations.
First, there was that sermon about heaven at Kailua Community Church in Hawaii. He enjoyed a fellowship meal afterwards with a guy from the Marine base.
In Asia, he revisited a church he attended while on deployment in Okinawa, then in Bangkok he took part in worship in the home of a missionary couple. That missionary also took Son No. 3 to a language class he attends. Yep, solid Thai for a straight hour.
Here’s a different one: Safari Church in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It’s an English-speaking congregation that meets in a zoo. From the rented amphitheater, “I could see and hear birds and tigers and elephants,” the wanderer says, scanning notes from a sermon on God’s abundant grace and mercy.
He missed the English service in Phuket, Thailand — they had moved it to another spot. Sitting through a service in another language is tough, but in Vietnam he went to a morning Bible study where they sang worship songs in both English and Vietnamese — but not at the same time.
Contacts at Grace Life Church in the Philippines came courtesy of Nola Pastor Chris Sheppard back home. They had a “secure facility with a gate” because Muslims had vandalized the property. One of the highlights of his stay was spending time with a group of young pastors-in-training. (I hear they were pretty good at ping pong.)
He learned that church members there built the facility by hand, putting money each day into a pot to buy materials they needed to do construction work. Since then, they’ve established eight other churches in the Manila area.
“One is located in a dump with mounds of trash,” he says. “People live in the dump, and no other church would start there.” A few years ago, a trashslide in the area killed several people.
In Hindu-dominated Indonesia, he met missionaries there on business visas. He went to a private missionary home church and also attended the service of a registered (government approved) Christian church in Bali. “It was doctrinally off,” he says of the registered one, adding that it was truly an open-door service — and open windows — with a nice breeze coming in off the coral reefs.
In Australia, the outback church in Townsville had a pastor from North Carolina, a Bob Jones graduate who’s served there for 20 years. That’s where Son No. 3 met two students from India, solid believers who shared lunch and some encouragement with him. “Abraham just messaged me yesterday,” he tells me, referring to one of the students. “He dreams of coming to America.”
Through connections at Son No. 2’s church, he landed at Crosspoint Church in Palmerston, New Zealand, where Pastor Ian Fuller taught on spiritual warfare. Fuller came from England as a missionary and has planted two churches in that country.
Tea and cookies were a tradition after most services, even in South America. In Buenos Aires, Argentina, he found an international church made up mostly of English-speakers looking for a Protestant church.
In Peru, the guest speaker was from Scotland and the people on the pew behind him were U.S. Embassy workers from Kansas. A 45-minute Uber ride from his hostel, that church was one of the harder ones to find. Internet searches and blogs helped him locate others on his journey.
“I wore the same thing every week because I was packing light,” he says, but I already knew that. His blue-checkered shirt shows up in every picture. And since he’s been back, I’ve also seen his Bible minus those chunks of New Testament, given away back in Myanmar. I must say, a sight like that can turn Revelation’s “every nation, tribe and people” lines into a pressing prayer — almost quicker than you can say, “Welcome home.”
Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her on twitter at @kimhenderson319.
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