With full hearts and tired bodies, we returned from Vietnam and enjoyed two days in Bedford prior to flying to Kona, Hawaii, for two weeks. Admittedly, as we flew over Hawaii as we traveled home from Vietnam via Chang Hai and Los Angeles prior to our final destination in Boston, we had second thoughts about the decision to return home for two days . . . but, at least one of us was happy with that decision. :) I love to be home at least occasionally.
We were delighted to be in New England for the one night Franklin Graham held his “Decision America Northeast Tour” in Manchester, New Hampshire. It was thrilling to be with 4500 others who joined him in worship (led by David Crowder) and in praying for the spiritual nature of our country. A thoroughly unexpected gift of the evening was having a private audience with Franklin prior to the rally, arranged by his daughter, Cissie, who is a personal friend of ours. We texted Cissie from the pre-rally reception just to let her know we were so thankful that our crazy schedule facilitated attending the evening with her dad, and within moments, she had arranged this very special meeting.
My personal history with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) dates back to my childhood, as my parents were dedicated BGEA supporters. When Billy Graham held his crusade in San Diego in 1964, I went every night with my parents (who were follow-up counselors) and that’s where I made a pretty serious decision to follow Christ. So we have long appreciated the missional work of this upright organization, and this wonderful night in Manchester furthers our respect for how the world is being impacted by their ongoing mission to spread the gospel.
Rain was predicted for the night, but thankfully it didn’t keep the crowds away. And though a few drops fell on the rally, the “fervent prayers of the righteous availeth much” was affirmed that evening. Look at the weather map picture recorded during the rally!! And in that circle of white, right over the stadium, we were treated to this sunset, which SHOUTED the Glory of God.
Besides attending the rally, I surprised the Patriots wives and girlfriends by showing up at their off-season study on Thursday morning, May 23. It was such a joyful reunion!! We greatly miss those couples during the off-season and I couldn’t miss the one study I was actually in town for. It was a sweet time of reconnecting and Shahrzad Slater did a great job leading it.
We managed to get in some counseling during this brief “layover”—and we also changed out the contents of our suitcases, exchanging clothes selected for Vietnam appropriateness to "island wear,” which is much simpler.
And then we were off to the Big Island.
Welcomed by the setting sun in the west and a rainbow in the east, we deplaned and inhaled deeply the ocean air as the trade winds blew through us, taking with them any stress and travel weariness.
We love this island.
Rental car procured, baggage reclaimed, and Costco visited, we arrived at the University of the Nations campus by 9:30 pm and were greeted by Brian and Sue McCoy, the directors of the Family Discipleship Training School (DTS), at which we would teach for the next week. The McCoys are part of the Campus by the Sea family camp “tribe,” having attended 23 years of family camps, which God used to change their lives. They raised their four (and then 5) children at CBS, summer by summer, and have lived in radical obedience to God since 2004 when He called them to missions work. Since then, Mexico, India, and Hawaii have been their bases of operation. They are passionate about serving Jesus wherever He calls them.
Soon after the McCoys were appointed directors of the Family DTS, we were honored to be invited by them to teach for week 8 of their 12-week training school.
And that’s what brought us to this “suffering for Jesus” experience. :)
Our first two days there were Saturday and Sunday (May 25 and 26), and jet lag finally caught us. So in a complete departure from our normal M.O., we napped two afternoons in a row. It was just what the doctor ordered, and though we resisted giving up “exploring the great outdoors” just as a toddler resists nap time, we couldn’t fight our fatigue. In addition to those rejuvenating naps, we spent a morning with the McCoys getting up to speed on the members of their DTS; we had dinner with dear friends from Arroyo Grande, CA, who “happened” to be on the island that week; we went to the church we’d be speaking at the following weekend; and we finished preparing for teaching. A well-spent weekend.
Monday was both Memorial Day and our firstborn’s birthday, but both celebrations seemed very distant from where we were. FaceTime helped us celebrate Kari, affirming her beautiful life, but there were no red, white, and blue decorations, no bbq’s cooking, and no fireworks blasting in honor of Memorial Day where we were. On this YWAM international campus, Americans are the minority, so life went on with no fanfare marking this very American holiday.
We did, however, gather for “Ohana” (the Hawaiian word for family) worship to start the day and it was joy-filled to sing praises with about 700 others from all over the world. Another foretaste of heaven!! And then: off to class, to begin our 5-day, 9-12 teaching period.
The Family DTS had ten couples enrolled as students and eight more couples as staff, and they hailed from Denmark, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, the UK, the USA, Korea, and China. They ranged from newlyweds (one couple celebrated their first anniversary during class that week) to 30 years of marriage, from relatively young believers to seasoned disciples, from no children to lots of children, from non-emotive worshipers to pentecostals, and everything in between.
We fell in love with them early on and our hearts for each couple continued to grow day by day.
Besides teaching, we also met up with them couple by couple, and that was so helpful in building relationships. We mainly listened to their journeys and were so inspired to hear why they were at DTS and how it was changing them. Most of them had had significant encounters with Christ since being there and were passionately looking forward to either returning to their homelands and making a difference for the kingdom among their people, or continuing on the mission field wherever God would lead them. Each couple was very different in terms of background, socio-economics, passions, life stage, and sense of call, but they overlapped in the most important places. All are committed to being fully surrendered to Jesus and fellowing Him wherever He leads. It was impossible not to love them.
Since “all work and no play” makes everyone dull, the McCoys did request that we host “Family Game Night,” so we did. We didn’t wear any outlandish costumes (we would have had heat strokes), but Paul was masterful in pulling off a very fun, all-involved evening for the families doing a semblance of “Minute to Win-It.” The competition was stiff, but fortunately good humor and laughter prevailed, even though the girls did emerge as the undisputed winners.
Lisa arrived on Tuesday night of that week for a time of “debrief” and “R & R” following her three-week missions trip to Tanzania, for which she was the co-leader. We were beyond delighted to have her with us for 9 days and we shared some great adventures. The McCoys did invite her to be the “guest lecturer” for Friday morning’s “extra hour” slot (8–9 am) and with no bias I’ll say she knocked it out of the park. Really. The students loved her and many felt she gave them much hope as a grown-up pastor’s kid who loves Jesus and is living for Him.
Her parents loved hearing her even more than the students did. :)
We wrapped up teaching the class at noon on Friday and truthfully hated to have it come to an end. We had become “Ohana” during the week because we are “Ohana” as members of the Body of Christ. We did have the privilege of speaking again to the group Saturday night at their “Ohana Feast” and that was a really special evening. Besides having a beautiful meal prepared by the Family DTS staff, it was a sweet time of sharing and celebrating together. We were honored to give them a “charge” as they continued to prepare for their outreaches, which would begin in three weeks.
Friday night and Saturday till noon, we were privileged to present a marriage conference for the Living Stones Church, located in downtown Kona-Kailua. We’ve attended Living Stones each time we’ve been on the Big Island through the years, but this was our first opportunity to partner with them. Pastor Ryan Burns invited us to do the conference and we thoroughly enjoyed our first partnership with him and his wife, Sarah. We were all thankful for a strong turn-out for the conference and their response was very positive. We also enjoyed Pastor Bill Barley, who has faithfully led this congregation for decades.
And then . . . let the party begin. After church on Sunday, June 2, we began “vacationing” and shockingly, we packed it in. We swam with the turtles at Kiholo Bay, hiked down to Capt Cook’s to snorkel in aquarium-esque waters, drove to Hilo, stopping en route to visit our friend Abby, and continuing on to visit most of the waterfalls on the east side of the island. We snorkeled at two-step beach, drove to Hawi and hiked Pololu Valley, and had a fabulous dinner at Merriman’s in Waimea (gifted to us by a very dear friend).
We enjoyed a delightful evening with Jonathan and KC Wilt, new friends met last year at Forest Home Family Camp, who introduced us to a great manta ray viewing area after a wonderful Hula show by their children’s class and dinner at Rays on the Bay.
We enjoyed numerous sunsets. We couldn’t have had a better time and especially loved sharing it with Lisa.
All too quickly our time was up, and with hearts full and visions of God’s creative brilliance, we flew to California to attend the wedding of Kathryn Hopper and Tim Alford. Kathryn is one of our “CBS” kids, who grew up and served on staff for a couple of summers. We were so happy to celebrate their God-honoring, Christ-centered marriage in beautiful Paso Robles. We managed to squeeze in a day with the Garcias on each side of the wedding and then . . . we were homebound for the long stretch of days since . . . a very long time.
During the few days we were home in Massachusetts, we were thrilled to welcome the Johnsons for a very quick visit, but as we say, a quick visit is much better than no visit. After their long drive from Grand Rapids, we headed straight to Walden Pond to wash away travel fatigue.
It was extra special to have them with us for Father’s Day and we duly feted the two fathers in our midst.
I wasn’t in Bedford for long before flying back to California to spend 9 days with my mom, whose housemate has been on vacation. Most of this blog was written on the flight from Boston to San Diego on June 18th, but technology thwarted me and I’ve taken no time to sort it out until now. Who wants to be fussing with technology when you’re spending time with your beloved mother?
We’ve had a great time together. I love being with my mom and I love doing things for her, and this week has been full of sorting, cleaning closets, culling, redistributing, and going on adventures. We’ve had some unexpected twists along the way: within 15 minutes of arriving last Tuesday, we got a call from her bank questioning “suspicious” activity on her account. Sorting out the horrific upheaval caused by a very sophisticated hacker has taken parts of every day I’ve been here. I’ve been so thankful to BE here to help sort it out!! It’s such a joy and privilege to have this time with my almost 90-year-old mom and I truly hate to see this visit come to a close.
But it must. A full summer schedule awaits my return to Massachusetts, where I will rejoin Paul for the adventures ahead. This has been a very full and gratifying month, full of adventure, beauty, and “Ohana.” As breathtaking as the many sunsets have been, and as captivating as sea turtles and manta rays were, and as delicious as the cuisine has been, far and away the best part of this month has been the people. The family of God. Ohana. Blessed beyond.