I have done only a small amount of white water rafting in my life. But, especially when the river guide who is “steering” the raft and “coordinating” the crew of rafters (readers who have been white water rafting, understand the quotation marks!)—especially when the river guide is excellent, the experience can be exhilarating. On a calm part of the river, the guide does his or her best to explain what awaits the crew in the rapids below. S/he steers the raft to the best angle for entering the rapids. And… then… WHHOOOOOOOSSSSSHHHHH!!Shooting rapids on West Virginia’s New River
In just seconds, the raft has shot through twists, turns, leaps and splashes and our eyes, hearts and minds begin the journey from the intense blur of fast-forward, back to the normal-speed world we usually inhabit. If everything goes right, the crew are all still inside the raft, nobody has left skin on any of the boulders they passed, and the sheer joy of having survived is indescribable! If everything goes right. I have never asked my friend and experienced river guide Courtny just how seldom everything goes “right.” But I do know that a lot of things can go not-quite-right and still leave the crew with an amazing experience and a deep sense of gratitude.
White water rafting may seem very, very far removed from even an abnormally intense period in the ministry of an IM global servant. But, work with me here. As I reflected on the last three months, what came to mind was our family white-water rafting trip down the New River Gorge (gooooo West Virginia!!). Back in May, I knew—sort of—what was coming. I did my best to get into position for it as spring turned into summer. And then…. whhooooosssshhhh! From leading a wonderful retreat at the New Jersey Shore to teaching in the mountains and jungles of Ecuador, to renewing relationships at the ABC Summit by the Sea, to renewing relationships on seasides, lakesides and mountainsides in Southern California, to teaching in Mexico, Ethiopia and South Korea… and now, in Nicaragua, this has been an incredibly intense time. (I confess that far too often, the way I “manage” my calendar [see “steering,” above] truly merits an eye-roll from Cathy. But, this summer was about eye-rolls-on-steroids—and not only from Cathy, but from anyone who watched it unfold on Facebook!)
From the end of May through the middle of September, we have been shooting rapids, plunging from one amazing experience to another and another, with almost no time or calm water in between. But there has been much, much more to it than frenetic activity.
In his excellent meditation on the 2019 World Mission Offering theme, my friend Jim Bell talks about how the water tumbling down a mountainside picks up oxygen and nutrients as it goes. So, to jump out of my rafting metaphor and into Jim’s stream, as I traveled, I not only served, but received life-giving oxygen all along the way. In each location, I teamed up with sisters and brothers, many of whom I have mentored, some of whom have mentored me. Together we served God and others in just the kind of gracious, flowing way that Jesus described to the woman in John 4:14 (and later announced to the festival crowd in John 7:38).
So, yes, our water metaphor changes again: from the raft, to the stream, to springs of water. For, this summer was not just about shooting the rapids of an overbooked schedule. By the grace of God, at every point along the way, it was also about savoring the springs of living water that are welling up out of sisters and brothers touched by the love of God in Jesus (see my friend Sharon Koh’s excellent brief video on this). Just one example: in East Africa I learned that a group of pastors I have helped to mentor are now leading over 90 Bible study discipleship and continuing education groups for pastors all over Kenya–something to savor!
I am deeply grateful to God–and to you!–for the opportunity to be part of the amazing flow of living water that God has set loose in the world through Jesus Christ. Thank you for supporting this ministry directly, and for giving to the World Mission Offering, which has enabled me to serve Christ around the world, even while continuing to build a support network!