Thursday, April 28, 2005

Two by Two

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. Luke 10:1

In this part of the world, many rural villagers have either never seen a foreigner or can't remember the last time one waltzed through their village. Even those who were aware of the differences between westerners and natives stared bewildered at our white skin and lighter hair color.

But we didn't want to be noticed for our physical appearances. We wanted the light of the kingdom of God to shine on this dark place. We wanted our love, not our looks, to be the characteristic that set us apart from the natives in this land. We longed for them grasp the spiritual differences between us even more so than the physical. In light of this realization, our relationships within the groups of two would become integral tools to our evangelism. After all, Jesus said the world would know we are his disciples by our love for one another.

The apostle Paul said the church is like a body, comprised of many parts, all of which function together to reach the same goal. The brain, the central nervous system that governs all the body's processes, is Christ.

In the American Church, the body has become a massive organism with many denominations as its organs and numerous cell systems within those organs. In comparison, the body in this area is more like an amoeba! In fact, in many villages we would be the only manifestation of the body of Christ the people had ever seen. But a simple body is better than none at all.

The Pairings

-The Bills-

Bill Shorey and Bill Rieger are kindred spirits. Although an ignorant observer may believe that their occupations are polar opposites, nothing could be further from the truth. While Rieger specializes in the things having to do with war, Pastor Shorey leads an army in spiritual warfare every day. Rieger understands on a physical level what Shorey understands spiritually, and because they are both warriors in different arenas, they fit well together for this mission. While Shorey's responsibility was to set the pace for the teams, Rieger kept him in check with regard to security and logistical issues. By pairing them together, God wedded preparation and dependence, the two great lessons this trip forced us to learn.

-The Boys-

Most people at home may be appalled to find out that two college guys were placed on the same team in the middle of this unpredictable land. Frankly, though, these guys were as equipped as anyone for the task at hand. After our deliberation time, the Holy Spirit saw fit to pair them together on Route 1, a route that required a good bit of cycling on day 1.

Unaware that this route would be available, Brad had been training on bikes at the gym for about a month before the trip. Evan has ridden his bike across Georgia at least 3 times that I'm aware of. Also, both of them had been to this country before, so they understood the dynamics of being there as well as anyone else on the team.

Before the mothers reading this throw a fit, the Bills and the Boys shuffled teams on day 2. These guys weren't without pastoral care for too long!

-The Calm-

Cool and calm are two words that adequately describe Charles and Frank, the men selected for Route 3. Charles exuded a quiet peace during our tumultuous times of deliberation. He displayed a great amount of flexibility and usually kept quiet except he had something of substance to say.

In contrast, Frank spoke frequently, but with the patience and practicality of a seasoned physician. His 7-year stint as a missionary automatically thrust him into a leadership role, and he handled it with grace and humility.

In his sovereignty, God placed these two calm, collected guys on the route that would be the most logisitically hectic. With their healthy mixture of support (Charles) and pragmatism (Frank), they would be ready for the challenge.

-Word and Spirit-

I was paired with Steve Coker for Route 4. Steve is an amazing man of God with a big heart and even bigger desire to see God's renown spread throughout the earth. Throughout our preparation time, Steve's military background shone through as he meticulously took account of each detail of the journey. But his concern for detail was overshadowed by his desire to let the Holy Spirit guide our steps. With his intunation to the Spirit and my grounding in the Word, our qualities meshed together for the advancement of God's kingdom.

This group of eight men was Christ's body in Destination Country, unquestionably diverse but unified for the sole purpose of proclaiming liberty for the captives through Christ's name.

An 8-Part Body

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27

Before I move on to talk about my specific journey within the mission, I want to give glory to God for an answered prayer and shed some light on the orientation of the team before we split into groups of two.

When the idea of the trip was first presented to me, I was under the impression that the eight Roadmakers would be hiking through the countryside together as one unified troop of God's army. As the planning stages continued, Bill informed us that, at the "M's" insistence, the group of 8 would have to be fragmented into groups of 4.

None of us had a problem with this mandate. With groups of four, we had ample support in each group, and the work could go on as planned. There would be little confusion, and we would be able to share our adventurous experiences with our comrades.

Soon, however, our bubble was burst once again. Bill, after corresponding with our trip's point man who had direct access to our "M" contact on the ground, broke the news that our groups of four would be further divided into groups of two. This way, our contact said, we would be less conspicuous in the villages, and we would be able to bring the gospel to more areas in the short amount of time we had.

Unaware of this issue, we in Athens had been praying for complete unity among the team members. Some of us hardly knew each other and would only meet the Sunday before we left for the airport. We prayed that the enemy would not be able to drive a wedge between us and hinder our work.

We had no idea how salient our prayers would be. When we heard that we would be split into pairs, we knew why God led us to cry out for unity. Each pairing needed a special bond that would include patience, peace, and love in the Holy Spirit. This would be a trying mission physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Without unity from the Lord, the enemy could capitalize on the inevitable anxiety of the trip by imparting impatience and disharmony in our relationships.

As he always does, God was grooming us for the trying time ahead. In our preparation and prayer times, we solidified our status as an 8-part body of Christ in a part of the world where Christ's hands and feet have yet to reach and walk among the people. We had no clue how we would be paired, but the Lord, as always, had it figured out.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Our Humble Abode

Steve getting settled at the hostel our first night in country.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The First of Many Sunrises-Day 1

We woke to the sound of a rooster crowing, a shrill cacophony piercing the young morning. It was 5:45 a.m., time to begin our mission. My partner and I joined together for a quick prayer before escaping the four-walled concrete cell of a room that had served as our home for the night. We asked God to be with us and to guide our steps, a simple petition which would become one of our mottos before the trip was over.

We emerged from the guest house under a cloak of darkness. The city streets, bustling with business only 8 hours before, were now eerily quiet. I noted the palpable silence, how an area teeming with activity yesterday had utterly shut down during the night.

As we marched towards the bus station, I started to grasp the implications of this trip. What could it really mean for this people group? Could we (by God's grace) be the ones to plant the initial church this land? Excitement welled up within me; I had never felt so close to apostleship.

Steve, my partner, interrupted my musings with a question.

"Hey," he said, "What's that song you played as we worshipped the other morning?"

In our last worship service together during the planning period, there was an acoustic guitar present at the meeting place. I had played four or five songs while leading worship, so I wasn't sure exactly which song he was talking about.

Noting my confused look, he said, "You know, its something about the universe and God's majesty." He promptly began humming what he remembered of it.

"Oh," I said, "You mean 'God of Wonders'," I said. I obliged him by softly singing the first verse. To the rhythm of our marching, with a song that would become our theme, we broke the still morning air with strains of "Holy, Holy!" Passers-by stared at us with bewildered gazes. We saw smiles begin to creep onto their faces. We, as foreigners, had shaken up their monotony, bringing a tinge of joy at the outset of a day that would soon be steeped in daily duties.

I thought about the concept of brightening their day with our presence, how they stared almost in awe of us, struggling to understand how we could possibly desire to visit their little corner of the earth. I thought about how much we stand out against the crowd, how our white skin and elevated height make us easy to pick out in a group. I prayed that we would not only be noticed for our difference in appearance, but that as ambassadors for the kingdom of God, they would notice that we were banner-bearers for a new kingdom that had come among them.

We had gotten a late start, so we didn't make the 7:00 bus. I was upset because I thought it irresponsible of us to miss the first bus of the entire journey, but Steve, ever-willing to trust the Lord, calmed me down. Soon, we found the bus station and I used my limited language skills to purchase 2 tickets. A few minutes later, these Roadmakers were headed west.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


Have your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Ephesians 6:15

When I used to play baseball, I always got nervous before the first pitch. During those few tense pre-game moments in the locker room, I wondered if I had what it takes. Was my training rigorous enough, or was I ill-prepared to accomplish the task at hand?

Soon, all the preliminary activities were over and these thoughts dissipated. After the triumphant finale of the national anthem, the home team hit the field and the umpire gave the "ready" signal to the starting pitcher. It was gametime.

My coach used to say there are two responses to pressure: performance and failure. You can either let the pressure get to your head, extinguishing any chance you had at success, or you can relax, relying on your physical and mental preparation to execute the gameplan.

In life, I've found that anxiety is inevitable. Anyone who claims never to have experienced it is an emotionless robot who will later face problems when faced with situations in which a healthy fear is necessary for survival. Fear is healthy when it influences us to complete an action that benefits us. But unhealthy fear is a poisonous compound formed by the fusion of our excessive desire to please others and our tendency to dwell on the uncertainty of the outcome of a situation rather than our preparation for it.

Most of the time on the baseball diamond, when my steel cleat scraped the red clay within the chalk rectangle of the batter's box, unhealthy fear was left on the outside. Why? Because I was a macho guy who didn't worry about failure? No, but after hours of batting practice, tee drills, soft toss, and swing analysis, I was literally prepared for anything the pitcher could throw at me.

In the heat of the battle, there is no time for preparation or rehearsal, only reaction. A warrior trying to learn how to use his sword in the midst of the fight is sure to get struck down. If he is prepared, however, the burden of performance is lightened. Failure then is not a result of his irresponsibility. He can rest because he's given it his best shot.

We as the "Roadmakers" experienced a similar situation spiritually on our journey. Our mission, with all its intricacies, required intense physical and spiritual preparation. To us, the journey began not when our plane touched down on the tarmac in our destination country, but when we first received the call to leave our homes and head to a faraway land to proclaim the mystery of Christ.

Until our trip to the airport, the team had been spread all across Georgia, or as Bill put it, "scattered to the four corners of the earth." But individually and corporately, we began to pray for the trip, later finding out that the overarching themes of all our prayers were unity and dependence on God.

When we touched down in our first country, we participated in three solid days of training and planning. The routes had to be mapped out in detail. Every foreseeable situation was accounted for. Thanks to our army guys, we had "briefbacks," a session in which each team explained its itinerary in detail to the rest of the team. Although we would be separated for two days, the mission required that each team be familiar with the schedule of the others.

Our prayers and our "Riegerous" (those who went on the trip will understand) physical, spiritual, and logistical preparation were our extra cuts in the batting cage. Once our beautiful feet hit the ground in our destination country, we were ready for the enemy's curveballs. Believe me, there were some nasty ones to come...