Tall mountain — small world
I’ve traveled to (and, by the grace of God, back from) war-torn Liberia, politically troubled Zimbabwe, equally politically troubled Bolivia and, most recently, Denver.
That’s right — Denver.
I’ve been two times each to Nigeria and Ukraine, three times to Guatemala, but never once to Colorado (unless you count changing planes in the Denver airport on the way to South Dakota).
But even a domestic trip can be an international experience — and a reminder that we are part of a small, but vibrant, community of faith.
I traveled to Castle Rock, a small city about halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs. The congregation there hosted the French World Mission Workshop. The small gathering of Christians with interest in the French-speaking world included Christians from the Canadian province of Quebec, France, Haiti and across the U.S.
Packing for Colorado was a challenge. I kept reminding myself to notworry about mosquito spray and malaria meds. I had to fight the impulseto throw rolls of toilet paper and my cherished cans of Vienna sausagesin the suitcase. “They actually have Wal-Marts where you’re going,” Itold myself.
I stayed with Steve Curo, a minister for the Castle Rock church. His wife, Kari, is the sister of Kim Hensal, a member of the mission team my church supports in Vienna, Austria.
Another highlight of the conference was getting to meet Bren White in person. We’ve known each other for years, but only through e-mail. Bren oversees Operation French World. He’s one of those behind-the-scenes guys who — even though he lives in Maryland — has his finger on the pulse of church work in French-speaking nations.
I also got to spend some time with Willie Gley, a minister from Ghana who does mission work in neighboring Togo. I met Willie earlier this year at the Global Missions Conference in Arlington, Texas.
Willie also is planning to assist a new evangelistic effort in Equatorial Guinea. That work was a topic of discussion at the Africans Claiming Africa for Christ conference I attended in Nigeria recently.
On my last day in Nigeria I got to meet Arnold Dzah, another minister I had known previously only through e-mail. Arnold, also a Ghanaian, is a missionary in Senegal, a French-speaking, predominantly Muslim country in West Africa. Arnold also attended the French World Mission Workshop. So I got to speak with him twice in two months — on two continents.
During a break in the conference schedule Castle Rock church member J.P. Hulett drove Arnold and me to the top of Pike’s Peak, near Colorado Springs. The altitude at the summit made me more than a little woozy. I think it was the first time Arnold had seen snow.
Even at 14,110 feet above sea level, we still managed to run into other church members. Keith and Jennifer Percell, missionaries in Quebec City who came to Colorado for the conference, also made the trek up the mountain.
Standing in the snow outside the gift shop, trying hard not to pass out, I remembered something Scott LaMascus, the Chronicle’s former managing editor, told me years ago.
“There are really only about 200 of us in Churches of Christ,” he joked. “We just move around a lot.”
Sometimes it seems that way. Our brotherhood’s size is a testament to the amount of work left to do. During the conference Bren White said that if he had 28 trained church members, he could put them to work in locations around the globe — immediately.
I also think that our shared vision, purpose and dreams give us a unique sense of family. I hope we never lose that.
We may not always agree on everything, but it’s great to know that — from Senegal to suburbia, from Paris to Pike’s Peak — I’m never too far away from a brother or sister in Christ.
Yes, I know that’s a cheesy, somewhat-generic mountaintop epiphany. But the oxygen up there was pretty thin!