California Tour—April 2008

Six thousand air miles, 1,240 ground miles, eleven days, and one sleepless red-eye . . . Exhausting!

Speaking to about three thousand people, seeing God work in incredible ways, and spending time with all our children . . . Priceless!

We left Monterey, California, on Sunday, April 27th, at 8:30 pm as the sun cast brilliant color against the western sky and then sank into the Pacific. It was 70 degrees and our sandaled feet were very comfortable. We landed six restless hours later to 38-degree weather and a still barren landscape, and we knew we weren’t in California any longer. Our toes protested. Home we went to appropriately clad our feet and our bodies!

What a ministry-rich trip! While we’re still getting over the effects of it physically, we hope never to get over the effects of it spiritually. The presence and power of God were palpable throughout our varied arenas, from the student world at Cal Poly, and the very affluent neighborhoods of Solvang and Monterey, to the energizing and vital ministry of Bayside of South Sacramento (BOSS) in its multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-economical congregation whose “home” is found on the campus of Sacramento City College. Across all cultural, socio-economic, and ethnic distinctions, God is still God and people’s struggles are amazingly similar in terms of marriage and family.

Always delighted to seize family moments on such ministry trips, we arrived in San Luis Obispo on Thursday, April 17, in time to celebrate Julie’s 23rd birthday with her two sisters and many friends. The diverse group, including colleagues and friends from San Luis Sports Therapy Clinic, Athletes in Action, Cal Poly’s women’s lacrosse team, and her neighborhood, gathered around barbecued shish kabobs to celebrate Julie. What a joy to be there!

We spent the weekend in Solvang, an adorable little Scandinavian community between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, speaking at a marriage conference on Friday and Saturday and then preaching Sunday morning for Valley Christian Fellowship. Longtime friends Alan and Ruthann Bosko arranged the weekend, and we so enjoyed partnering with them in the context of their vital church.

Shifting from married couples to singles, we spent an evening with the Athletes in Action group from Cal Poly on Tuesday, April 22, speaking on God’s design for how to marry well. We love such opportunities and are always encouraged by those who respond with gratitude to hear a Biblical perspective on an area so potent and so culturally distorted.

Wednesday evening, we joined a sold-out crowd of 2400 at the fourth annual Thrive 2008 conference (, sponsored by Bayside Church of Granite Bay, California. It was an honor to present two workshops on marriage during the conference, and an encouragement personally to hear some great speakers during the plenary sessions. We’re always grateful to partner with lead pastor Ray Johnston at Bayside, whose creativity and energy always inspire us.

Thrive’s grand finale Friday night was followed by an early Saturday morning staff training session at Bayside of South Sacramento (BOSS). Paul and I led their staff of about 40 through a team-building exercise using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It was an interactive, lively time as co-workers had moments of enlightenment regarding their temperament differences and the corresponding implications for their working relationships.

Berean Christian Bookstore of Sacramento hosted a book signing for us that Saturday afternoon—a first for us. The store manager, Leslie Garcia (who happens to be our son-in-law’s aunt), assured us that “even famous authors don’t draw a crowd.” Fortunately, an email alert to our friends in the area generated some traffic, so we had a very fun reunion with some very dear folks that afternoon!

Sunday, April 27, was the last day of this eleven-day ministry tour and it was chock full! We had the privilege of preaching at both services at BOSS, the multi-cultural church where our daughter Kari and her husband Gabe serve on staff. We loved the congregation, who were anything but spectators. They were responsive and interactive throughout the service and we left with a longing to join them for worship frequently! The three-year-old church, led by Sherwood Carthen and executive pastor Bob Balian, draws about 2200 people to their two Sunday morning services held at Sacramento City College. Paul and I talked and prayed with many people after both services, several of whom admitted that they had come to church that morning on the verge of divorce, but were leaving with hope and a heart to make their marriages work. Praise God!

Taking advantage of our plan to fly out of Monterey at 8 that evening, our dear friends Johnny and Lori Potter invited us to do a marriage event from 5 to 7 pm for their new church, Stone Harbor. Why not??? We arrived at the Monterey airport (to turn in our rental car and check in for our flight) at 4:45 pm and were met by Johnny, who then whisked us off to their home where 40 people had gathered for the event. What a great group of people! We squeezed everything we could into the two hours and then were off to the airport for a red-eye home. Whew!!

We returned to Massachusetts with tired bodies but thankful hearts, feeling very met by God in each of the very different venues we experienced over those eleven days. We are more convinced than ever that whether you’re a college student or a middle-aged married couple, whether you live in the inner-city or on the affluent gold coast of California, we all share the need to know Jesus personally and to understand and apply His Word if we’re going to experience life His way.