Today I have numbed my mind with praying and thinking. I have set some self-imposed targets and leaning into them. Decided I needed to empty my soul for a minute. And so I went back to my travels – to remember what is worth remembering. So here’s some more travel adventures I can recall with ease that might interest some anyway.
San Diego. I have been there often as well. Lori and I love it as a waste a couple days together place. Next best place to Orlando. One of my adventures there led me to a denominational church I will leave unstated. Not the kind of church I am usually invited to coach or speak at. My theology probably couldn’t be more divergent from theirs. The church was on some of the most expensive real-estate in San Diego. The pastor asked me to help patch them up a bit. He had been the assistant pastor originally. The previous pastor got very upset because the board wouldn’t buy the building he wanted. I think he had been to the wrong school of leadership. Kind of a famous guy I had a couple of his books. He came into his last board meeting and let them know they had a special relationship with their mother and stumped out since they voted down the building. It devastated the church. My heart broke for the church. The church had been a growing phenomena in the area. And all that stopped. I went back several times. It is a sad thing when church growth becomes that important to someone that they entirely lose their mind. I am not sure I helped them that much but at least the pastor knew someone cared about them. It is entirely possible they have recovered and moved on – I hope so.
Indianapolis. I was surprised how small the city is. It is beautiful at night. I have spoken at several events there. The most memorable event was for the National Association for the Mentally Ill. (I think that is it). I had done some writing on depression and they liked what I had to say. In fact they invited me to several of their events. I remember the one at Menlo Park where John Ortberg is the pastor as the best. The event was for psychiatrists, doctors and counselors. They had sessions where they rolled out information on the latest medicines. I am very interested in this kind of information. And my job was to bring in the spiritual dynamic of treating depression. I have a story about all that that I am not free to tell anymore. I spent several days following around one of the leaders from meeting to meeting and meal to meal. The couple had a son with pretty severe schizophrenia. I had never spent that much time with someone with that ailment. Wow! It is a nasty thing for a family to deal with. The son took a liking to me and I gained a whole new appreciation for how fortunate most of us are. Just a wrong mix-up in the gene code and there goes you and me. I went through a season where I had to spend more time at my church so I couldn’t do their events. If you ever get a chance get to know them. They are in your community I am sure. Some of the most dedicated leaders I have ever seen.
Chicago. I have spent a fair amount of time in Chicago. Used to meet with Bill Hybels a few times. When I retired form pastoral leadership I stop keeping touch with him. A great guy. Probably one of the most misunderstood people I know. He visited our church in Seattle a couple times free of charge just to say hi. A friendship with Bill is not for the timid in heart.
I was on the board of the Fellowship of Christians and Jews for several years. And they were headquartered in Chicago. I learned a lot there. I learned how Jews and Christians raise money differently. Neither wrong just different. It was fun to watch the two worlds collide. My dear friend Yechiel Eckstein whom I met through Jamie Buckingham is a great man and the leader of the organization. He is going strong and lives in Jerusalem now. You have probably seen him on TV. He helped me lead a large tour through the Holy Lands. I try and keep in touch every couple years. I asked Yechiel once “aren’t you nervous hanging out with an evangelist who could build a whole carrier around converting you.” His answer was penetrating, “I have studied your book. And it clearly says you are to love and the Holy Spirit does the converting. And so far we’re still friends.”
Salt Lake City. The thing that surprised me most about Salt Lake is the Mormon influence was there but not as much as you would have expected. In fact outside some of the suburbs i would say Boise gives it a run for the money when it comes to Mormon influence. I visited the Temple there. I was ready for an intense presence of a spirit of deception. Actually I found its presence unimpressive and kind of impish in its impact on me. I did speak with a very interesting group there once. It was a rag tag group of former hippies who hadn’t gotten the memo that things had changed. They were wildly Pentecostal. I went there because someone i met in Seattle had been part of the group and he wanted me to help straighten them out. They spoke a lot of prophecies over me about how great I was. And I taught the book of Romans 6- 8 to them. Eventually three of the families got set free and moved to our church in Seattle and had very normal productive lives. So some good came out of it anyway.
Bend, Oregon. Amazing city. I love Bend. If you are an outdoor person which I am not its the place to be. That city has some of the finest pastors in the world in it. I have visited a number of churches there. I only coached one church there on some thoughts for their building and evangelism. I found the Free Methodist and Foursquare leadership of that part of the world particularly impressive. One time i attended a conference there with friends. We decided to go white water rapids floating. One of my friend’s wife fell out of the raft and landed hard on the volcanic rock in the river bed. It really did some damage. It took the fun totally out of it for us. I have never wanted to ride rapids again.
Liege, Belgium. Belgium is one nation in the world that has legalized Euthanasia. In fact if you have severe depression they will end it all for you. I spoke to a group of refugee Russians there. Drove all day from Berlin to get there. They fed me authentic Borsch. I didn’t stay for the night I had to drive up to Amsterdam for another meeting.
San Antonio, Texas. This city surprised me. I have never spoken there. But I did attend a leadership gathering there. They have incredible down town area where a small river runs through town with under ground cafe’s all along it. It’s hard to describe you have to go there to get it. One of the pastors in our group saw a drunk guy fall in the river and appeared to be drowning. The pastor jumped into the river and rescued him. Several people applauded. I think he ruined his shoes.
Trundheim, Norway. This city is way north in Norway. It was in the winter. The homes were usually heated with centralized heating that didn’t get to the rooms I was sleeping in. I spoke to several a wonderful groups of believers there. I can even remember what I spoke on, three of Jesus’ parables. I think we may have spoken in three different churches in the surrounding area. i remember the cars had large spikes on their tires and the guys drove about 80 miles an hour through the ice. We visited an old Cathedral there. I think it was one of the oldest ones in Europe. There was no heat in the building. Let’s just say there wasn’t any part of me that wasn’t freezing. I made a good friend on that trip. An evangelist named Viggo. He had put my tour together. Each group (about 15) had taken an offering for us on the trip. I had planned on paying myself back for the airline ticket. As we took off from the airport there the Hoy Spirit told me to give Viggo all the money the churches had given me. It was a lot of money. Viggo cried. I think he really needed it and was having a hard time but didn’t tell anyone. Bless you Viggo
Hell, Norway. I need to mention briefly that I spoke in Hell once too. It was a few miles from Trundheim. It was a minor tourist attraction.
Sedona, Arizona. I have been there a number of times. It is a remarkable area. Lori and I drove through a blazing snow storm there once. There are some unique church structures there. I could live in Sedona. i stayed there a couple times while speaking in Phoenix. I would stay in Sedona and drive back and forth. I didn’t have a hotel reservation there once and all the rooms were full and I had to drive all the way back to Phoenix to find a room. Lori and I spent a long day hiking up a narrow canon (about a car length wide). It was nearly a mystical experience. We walked until we were up in the mountains and the snow was pretty deep. We totally lost touch that it was going to take us as long to get back as it had to get there. Lori is in good shape and she was fine. I was exhausted by the time we got home.
Arhus, Denmark. I was part of a band in my younger years. We were asked to travel through Denmark with a guy named Brother Andrew. You can read about him online. He is a great leader and humble servant of Christ. Anyway his events were fundraisers for his work in China and behind the Iron Curtain. We didn’t have any nice clothes or clean ones for that matter. And when Andrew’s assistant saw us and our long hair he flipped out. But it was too late to arrange other music so we were on. I can’t say we left the favorites of the elderly conservative people of Arhus but Andrew was a gentleman and very warm toward us. The final thing I remember about Arhus is the day we left Paul McCartney and Wings flew in to do a concert and they all got arrested for having pot. It was on the front page of every paper. We prayed for Paul but didn’t meet him.
Washugal, Washington. This one is going way back in the memory bank. I was kind of a youth leader assistant guy and going to Jr. College. We decided we would take the high school and college kids to a rock festival to “witness.” We went to a festival called the Washugal Rock Festival. The small town is in Southwest, Washington. And it is nearly a rain forest there. It was raining hard for days and the whole festival area was mud. The police had the front entrance blocked but when we told them our band was asked to play and we were Christians they told us how to get in the back way. So we did just that. We carried amps, a drum set, guitars and such and hiked about two miles slogging along slowly. When we came up over a hill that hid the back part of the grounds we saw two amazing sites. One, there was a large truck driving around throwing bottles of wine to any who could catch them. And two, everyone but a handful of the people were naked. Our leader decided it would be difficult to “witness” to a nude person so we made other assignments. Some went to help in the medical tents for the overdosed and the doctors appreciated the help from some sober people. Others were assigned guard duty over our equipment. And some stood on the side of the stage praying. i went behind the stage and guarded everyone’s Bibles. After a bit a clothed kid walked up to me and asked if I were a Christian. I said yes and asked if he wanted to become one. He did. And he did. I spent the rest of the time there teaching him the Gospel of John. And guided him in how to find a church.
Kansas City. I have done a couple seminars in Kansas City. My memory always recalls a kind of grey city. There was one suburb there in think it’s call Overland. It was beautiful. I did an interdenominational seminar there in a Presbyterian Church that was very dynamic and influential. My memories take me back a ways and on another occaison I remember hearing a speaker named Ern Baxter preach a sermon on the Kingdom of God. It was amazing oratory. Just a couple years ago I scoured the internet looking for a copy of the tape. I found one. Actually I downloaded it from a site directly on my computer. It wasn’t as good as I remembered which is usually the case. Its kind of like going back to see your first grade school. You wonder how you even fit in the doors. Ern and his partners actually ended up becoming almost cult like and I was always sad for Ern that he got mixed up in all that. Just mentioning his name will get you in trouble in some quarters still today.
Branson, Missouri. Never thought I would go there. But I did. I was invited to teach about 200 Salvation Army leaders, mostly captains as I recall. I had never really been around Salvation Army people. We had the meetings on a river boat. I did visit a few of the theaters and sights there in-between sessions. I admire the Army. But can’t say I grasped the leadership culture. I had about five couples ask to get with me to help them with how they could resign. Enough said there.
The leaders seemed to really like me. One of my heroes Ammie Semple Mcpherson actually began with them. I think sometimes the problem is a mismatch between some individuals and the culture. I referred the couples to a counselor I thought would help them and encouraged them to be honest with their leaders. It was kind of an uncomfortable week.
Akron, Ohio. I made three great friendships there. One church is a church way way out in the country with about 5000 members. Dwight the pastor is a remarkable pastor. If he were in a bigger city he would probably have 30,000 people in his church. I spent a couple days coaching a bit and learning a lot. One of the other leaders is the finest woman pastor I have ever met. She leads an incredible church with a strong group of young leaders. I miss going there. I always felt like I had been refreshed after coaching them. Akron is not an easy town to lead in you have to be made of the real stuff to thrive there as far as I am concerned.
Flint, Michigan. i went there every month for nearly two years coaching a denominational group of pastors and leaders. Dan the leader became a very good friend. He has since retired. Flint had pretty much died by then. Entire blocks of the city were bulldozed down because no one lived there anymore. And factory after factory was empty and unused. i remember one was Delcro. The city once it hit bottom survived mainly due to all the retired auto workers retiring on 100k and more a year pensions. There was probably one of the best church planters i have every seen in Flint. He started a church and took it to 2000 people in a very tough region. I consider being able to be there then a great privilege in my life.
Colorado Springs. Its the epi-center of all things Christian in the U.S. If you do seminars you have been there any number of times. I can’t remember how often I have been there. It is a very beautiful city. I love the Garden of the Gods. I stayed in one of the 19th Century hotels there once. I have painful memories too of traveling back and forth from the Mesa to help a friend in a clinic there. My heart still hurts to think about it.
…………….enough for now.