GUIDE OUR FEET IN THE WAYS OF PEACE. (Luke 1:79)
We continue to reflect on our 10 years of ministry with American Baptist International Ministries in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We do this as we transition into retirement and continue working with International Ministries as Special Assistants in Africa. Our lives have been filled with exciting conferences, programs, travels, friendships and adventures not to mention our September moving back into our home of over 30 years in Ventura, CA.
Following our last programs in the USA in June, we ‘home-based’ in Hatboro, PA, where our ministry had begun in 1967. Friends’ lodging, laughter, care and car-loan facilitated our travels northward.
SNIPPETS FROM 3 WEEKS IN THE NORTHEAST & CANADA:
At Hartford, CT we marveled at a sculpture of swords being beaten into plows. Quilt admiring, ball games, July 4th concert, hiking and beach combing made our first visit to Cape Cod, MA, a blast. Boston friends feasted with us.
We crossed the border to Quebec City, Canada for re-unions with two congregations who encouraged us during our nine months of French studies in 1998-99 before heading off to the DRC. Intellectual stimulation and mighty prayer awaited us there, as well as the 400th anniversary celebration of Quebec. We felt ‘peace like a river’ as we paddle canoed and kayaked with friend on the St. Charles.
“THE WAY THAT LEADS TO PEACE” was the theme of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America’s summer conference in Montreal. Our own American Baptist scholar Glen Stassen led morning Bible studies each day using Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5 to discuss Just Peacemaking and to present 10 Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace. (These 10 initiatives can be found in his two books: Just Peacemaking, 1992 and 2008.) Resources for working toward a world free of nuclear weapons can be found at: www.matthew5project.org and www.fuller.edu/sot/faculty/stassen.
The daily rhythm included morning and evening prayer, incredible music and drama, children/youth involvement, a wide range of workshops and a FILM FESTIVAL using: “The Power of Forgiveness,” “Shake Hands with the Devil,” Thinking Outside of the Bomb: Beyond Nuclear Weapons," and “Rwanda Rising”.
For a powerful 44-page resource for discussing Christian/Muslim relations consult the “Peace Primer: QUOTES from Christian Scripture and Islamic Tradition,” jointly published by the Muslim Peace Fellowship and the BPFNA, at www.bpfna.org.
Back to Hatboro, by way of cousins near Albany and friends and museums in Cooperstown, NY, we repacked our bags and got a jump-start for Europe.
SNAPSHOTS FROM 5 WEEKS IN EUROPE:
We explored beautiful Prague, Czech Republic for three days before attending the Baptist International Conference on Theological Education. We were blessed with glorious walks and concerts! At the conference we met with educators of Pastors from all over the world to look at the past and to plan for the future of Theological Education. Most exciting were the discussions of how to train pastors to pursue economic justice, stop human trafficking and minister to its perpetrators and victims, and to become competent in the use of the latest, culturally appropriate communication tools. We found many resources which are most applicable to our continued work with Theological Education in French-speaking Africa. (Ask us if you are interested!)
Next we took Eurail for two days each in Vienna Austria and Budapest Hungary. The scenery is exquisite. In Vienna, we were struck by the high fountains, elegant churches, carved towers, opulence of the royalty, moving paintings, and a concert in the intimate hall where the composers Mozart and Strauss had played. The royal city of Budapest called Castle Hill intrigued us all day. We crossed the Blue Danube by the famous Charles bridge, only to our dismay to find that the live music at both ends was American. We had come all this distance to enjoy NOT USA culture but Hungarian Folkloric -- and find it we did, but in an expensive concert.
The home-flavor and cooking of International Ministries colleagues, Jim and Debbie Kelsey, in Padua opened our first visit to Italy. Debbie helped us sightsee. Their sons, Luke and Ben, added humor and spice. Pastor Jim allowed us to join him in a seminar he was leading for English-speaking immigrant pastors exploring what worship means in their new Italian context.
God blessed us to be able to take a 10-day Tour to many of the major destinations in Italy. Rome was a highlight. We drank in the impressive architectural and engineering feats of the Pantheon, the Coliseum, Vatican City, the roads and aqua-ducts. Learning more about the life of Michelangelo, seeing his sculptures and paintings was inspiring. We particularly loved the Pieta and St. Peter’s Cathedral.
It was horrifying to us to visit the two-level cathedral which a Pope had built to honor St. Francis of Assisi. The tiny chapel of Clare, over which the huge cathedral of Santa Maria degli Angeli was built, was much more in keeping with this humble man of God. Francis is one of our models for simple-living and radical following of Jesus’ Way.
In visits to Sorrento, Pompeii, Venice, Verona, Lake Maggiore, Pisa, and Florence we continued to be awed by the ingenuity in architecture, sculpture, paintings, gardens and craftsmanship—in wood-inlay, glass-blowing, gold- and leather-working. The natural beauty of Italy’s East and West coasts was astounding.
Outside of the formal Tour, we visited the Catacombs (near Rome) where we were surprised to learn that Christians did not meet, but were only buried. (The stench and the easy set-up for capture by enemies made meeting there untenable!) In Padua we meditated on the Giotto Frescos of t he life and death of Christ. The year 1222 marked the establishment of a student-governed University of Padua, (the 2nd Univ. in Europe)— the site of the first human autopsy and of the first woman Univ. graduate. Lynn had to get a souvenir T-shirt! At Ravenna we witnessed the numerous beautiful ancient mosaics that cover the interiors of baptistries, churches, and other buildings.
We then Eurailed to France, where we visited a friend amidst the beauty of Nice. We happened upon a free concert at the Mediterranean seaside park -- again NOT European music but this time from Mexico! Other friends had invited us to share 10 days at their old stone farmhouse near Grenoble. We had a mountaintop view of the slopes of a former Olympic Winter-event. In the beauty of the French Alps, we enjoyed the good food and fellowship, work projects, and the deep peace of simple living.
We were ready for home, but bit-the-bullet to spend two days in Paris for romantic strolls and collecting books in French for pastoral education in Africa!
We met many wonderful people on our travels. For instance, when we first arrived in Rome, having walked long distances carrying heavy luggage down and up metro stairs, we were exhausted and desperate to find the hotel to meet the tour group. Virgil struck up a conversation with a policeman who actually knew English and offered to take us to our destination! To us he is the ‘Compassionate Cop of Rome.’
At present, we are decompressing, digesting, and setting up our home (as museum!) in Ventura, CA. We are listening for the Lord’s direction for this new chapter of our lives in retirement, and as Special Assistants to our Africa area director, Dr. Eleazar Ziherambere.
We have plenty of beds for guests and would welcome a visit from you.
Pray for wisdom for the American voters as we go to polls. We treasure your continued thoughts and prayers.
Shalom, Lynn and Virgil
PO Box 1671, Ventura, CA 93002-1671
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; home phone: 805-653-0212 cell: 805-701-5124