Friday, July 13, 2012

Latvia Update: Coming Home

Baltic Sea (photo credit: lora bruton)
Coming home from a missions trip can cause disequilibration and reverse culture shock. Having spent nearly two weeks with a particular group of people, performing a particular ministry task, being stretched and pulled and broken and transformed by the Spirit of God in our midst, it can feel peculiar to arrive at home, take a shower, do some laundry...and then...what? What's next?

"How was Latvia?" It's the inevitable question. When people ask about these kinds of experiences, it's rather difficult to describe. What words can adequately capture the feeling of leading someone to Christ, the empowerment of the Spirit giving strength in the midst of exhaustion, or experiencing true community and answered prayer? Words aren't enough. So I asked the Latvia team to come up with a mental snapshot, an image that will capture a significant moment from their experience so that they can share the story with others.

The problem: I have too many snapshots.
  • The rope swing on the Ventspils beach.
  • Whitney Buchanan preaching the Gospel. Led by the Lord, I took a risk by asking an 18-year-old young woman to be the camp speaker. It's one of the best decisions I could have made, and I can't wait to see the Lord continue to use her in amazing ways.
  • Kolbi McDaniel sharing her story with the Latvians, and coming to tears because (in her words) "following Jesus is worth it. He's so worth it."
  • Getting shingles. Yep. That part sucked.
  • Staring out at the Baltic Sea from the lighthouse in Ventspils and seeing the horizon blur with the sky into one awe-inspiring shade of grey-blue.
  • Slip-n-Slide Kickball.
  • The two American teams reuniting in Ventspils at our Fusion concert, with hugs and laughter and stories.
  • The Latvian students and our pastor, Laimnesis, running after our bus as we pulled away from the bus station.
  • The entire team laughing and eating Cili Pica (pizza) at a huge table in Riga.
  • Baptizing Jenny Briney in the Baltic Sea. I will never forget the hug I received, nor the courage this young woman embodies.
  • The firm hugs I received from two Latvians, Anna and Lauma, as they said goodbye.
  • Looking Laimnesis in the eye and telling him that he's a good pastor
I'm writing this from the bed of my sister-in-law's home with an upset stomach, still recovering from the 24+ hours of travel. It's doesn't feel like a particularly glamorous way to return from the adventure I've been experiencing for the past two weeks. I sacrificed my time and energy for the sake of the Gospel; now I'm lying around in my pajamas.

Then I remember the look on my son's face when I arrived at the airport. He was giddy with anticipation, jumping up and down in haphazard rhythm, eagerly scanning the crowd for any sign of his daddy. When he spotted me, I called to him by name, inviting him to come. He ran into my open arms and I picked him up and I held him and I whispered into his ear words of grace and love.

It's one thing to seek the kingdom of God in extraordinary circumstances. I think true spiritual maturing* is revealed when we seek the kingdom in the ordinary, the mundane, the everydayness of life. Jesus's kingdom is just as present both in Latvia and America, both at a spiritual camp and the ordinariness of a father holding his son's hand. When we seek the King, he promises to be found.

*It's never "maturity." Our spirituality is always "maturing," always in process and change and flux.

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