I love this picture of Grace and I walking to the plane. I am not sure where this is, but I think its in Pisa Italy for our return flight to Sevilla Spain. Look at Grace and her little pink backpack. I love it. My two kids have been amazing as they have flown around the world with me. If you prayed, thank you. I couldn’t be prouder of them as they fly the friendly skies.
Why does this picture bring so much joy? This may seem strange, or I may seem a little soft right now, but one of my biggest fears, or perceived sacrifices leaving the Navy after 12 years was that I would never travel again. I grew up flying with my dad and I love traveling, but it is expensive and it doesn’t happen easily. So I literally thought going into the ministry would be the end of my traveling. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I am so thankful that God has given me the opportunity to travel as a pastor. In the last year or so, my passport has been stamped big time: Mexico, Mongolia, Israel, Italy, and now Spain. The Navy trained me well to function cross culturally and I believe God is allowing me to use this training for His purposes. He has been so gracious to me.
Okay, I was supposed to answer the question: Why does this picture of Grace bring me so much joy? I want my children to have a global perspective of God’s love from a young age. I’ll be honest—it’s scary taking my children into Mexico, Spain, and Italy, but it is more important to me that they come to see that God is God of all nations and loves all people. So seeing that little girl in her pink backpack is so much more than an adorable little world traveler (she is adorable of course!), but it is a picture of me overcoming my fears and trusting God to shape her into a Christ-like young lady with a love for all peoples.
About ten years ago, I read Paul words in Phil. 3:20 that says, “For our citizenship is in heaven…” and God convicted me that I had placed my patriotism over being a follower of Christ. I think many American Christians struggle like I did. We read John 3:16 as “For God so loved Americans that He gave…” Now this may sound harsh, but I think American Christians are apt to miss the global perspective of God’s mission to reach all people. We miss seeing His love and character three-dimensionally and only experience a shallow perspective of who He is. It is profound to truly ponder that God loves all nations and Jesus died for all people. Paul, likewise states, “Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh…” (2 Cor. 5:16) meaning we should see all people through God’s eyes, not our own. I am thankful for Valley Baptist Church and their love for the world. I pray we continue to grow in this area and help others to gain a love for all people, and it should begin with my example as the pastor.
When we first arrived in Spain we found a playground by our condo. The kids loved it and we love it because there was free wifi. Seriously, Americans should take note of this geniusness! While playing, Grace blurted out, “I hate Spain! I want to go back to MY country!” Oh boy, we were very embarrassed and a little dismayed at this statement. But we did understand the difficulty of adjusting to another culture. The next day we flew to Italy where the missionary family had some girls her age who spoke both English and Italian. I think this helped her adjust culturally by the time we hit church on Sunday. There are not words to express the feelings Anna and I felt as we worshiped in Italian with our girls. After the music time, Grace zipped out to Sunday School with no hesitation in Italian. It was awesome to see her jump in.
But the best part happened tonight at the park—we are back in Spain. We were at the awesome playground and there were about five Spanish kids playing and my two daughters. They were all sort of checking each other out, but not talking. Eventually someone made first contact. I missed it, but when I looked up all the kids were comingled and chatting away. Of course it was LOUDER Spanish and LOUDER English which we all know helps when trying to speak to someone that doesn’t speak your language—it is a human thing. Grace ran up to us and said, “I am going to teach them how to play Duck, Duck, Goose!” I couldn’t help but to laugh and say, “Okay!”
I looked up five minutes later to see all of the kids in a circle. Initially there was some confusion, but then a ton of laughter in Spanish while a Spanish girl ran around the circle saying “Duck (touching one kid on the head), duck (and another), duck (and another)…” I couldn’t believe it. Here were a bunch of kids, different languages, different cultures, and different religious views. I was so touched when Grace said, “Adios!” and her new friend replied, “Hast luego!”
I am having difficulty landing this post. The playground was sort of a microcosm of the world. We are all people that God loved and created, yet the Gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-4 and Eph. 1:13) hasn’t made it around the world. God has called us as believers to share the good news to the world. It breaks my heart that there isn’t any sound church in this neighborhood. This isn’t because people haven’t tried. Anna’s dad and others have served here for many years, but the soil is hard. I pray that God will raise up others who are willing to come with the good news and a heart that sees Spaniards as people for whom Christ died. I am looking forward to seeing my seminary’s extension campus in Sevilla that is equipping Spanish believers for ministry!
This picture is shot of the Spanish girl playing Duck, Duck Goose! I am so proud of my little girl. Please pray for Spain and those who are serving Christ here.