Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Travels: Week 2

When I was about thirteen, the grand opening of the factory outlets in Newton, Kansas included a concert by none other than Johnny Cash.  It was the first and only time I got to see my favorite singer in person, but it was just the beginning of a strong connection with this little city near Wichita.  I am fascinated by this area that has a strong Mennonite influence, an impressive number of solid churches, and a zeal for missions.

And so June 17 found me rising early and making the two-hour drive again, to spend the day at Newton Bible Church.  NBC has been faithfully supporting my ministry in Utah since 2009, and it was high time to reconnect.  I wasn't scheduled to speak until the evening service, so I got to just enjoy the Sunday school hour and worship service.  The preaching was spot-on and the music, while not quite Johnny Cash: outstanding.

That afternoon, Marisa and Ginger hosted me for delicious pork chops and good conversation.  Oh, and a perfect caramel latte from the coffee house which is practically in their backyard.  Totally jealous of that.  Many thanks, ladies!

I'll be back at NBC this Wednesday-Thursday for their kids club and vacation Bible school.

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The following Monday began four days of Bible clubs in Hoisington.  Two CEF-trained young ladies came to lead the two clubs, so my involvement was minimal.  They did a good job teaching, and the twelve-or-so boys who attended had a great time—especially on the last day when they got to put a plate of whipped cream into Miss Kris' face as a reward.  I like this picture of the kids engrossed in a story about John Paton.


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Over the weekend, I helped my folks host a reunion for my mom's cousins.  Here we are modeling the t-shirts that everyone got to take home as souvenirs ("Hoisington, Kansas: the heart of Cheyenne Bottoms").

All eighteen of us visited the nearby Kansas Wetlands Education Center, and some also toured Ellinwood's Underground Tunnels.  It was my first time at these two local attractions and I highly recommend both if you're looking for something to do in central Kansas.
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How hot is it here?


A few degrees warmer and the thermometer would be useless.
How would you like to be dressed as a fireman on a day like this?  Oofdah.
Hats off to these guys who responded to a call
a couple houses down from my folks' this afternoon.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer Travels: Week 1

My summer trip began a week ago with the trek east through the deserts of Utah, over the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado, and down into the plains of western Kansas.  It's a beautiful drive, every inch of it except the minor congestion of Denver.  I know many were praying for my safety; thank you.  Bubbles purred like a kitten the whole way, and even her tape deck was functional most of the time.  Nothing makes the miles fly like Gordon Lightfoot tunes and Jungle Jam episodes.  I reached my folks' home in Hoisington at nightfall.

The next day, I was off again—this time to Garden City, Kansas, for a weekend of ministry at Grace Bible Church.  They were the first church (apart from my home/sending church) to start supporting me, but it had been four years since my last visit—too long to stay away from these dear missions-minded, prayer-committed people.  Pastor John and Joyce Zoschke were wonderful hosts.  I loved spending time with them, exchanging ministry stories and ideas, and even eating sourdough bread from Pastor John's starter rumored to be a couple decades old.
I spoke during the kids' Sunday school class and the morning worship service, and also taught at the church's summer Bible school on Monday.
Grace Bible Church has a unique ministry among the Karen (pronounced Kuh-RIN) people who have come to Garden City for jobs.  From what I understand, the Karen (and other ethnic groups) have been displaced from Myanmar (Burma) due to civil war.  I was surprised to learn that many of them come from a Baptist background, thanks in large part to missionary pioneer Adoniram Judson.  When I spoke during the worship service, I had a Karen translator (thank you, Sheila Paw), since many of the adults are not yet fluent in English.

Pastor John and Joyce and their church have welcomed this cross-cultural ministry, though it's not always smooth sailing.  I was amazed by how they remember all these foreign names (my favorite was a child named Bleh Bleh) and truly care about the kids and their families.
VBS crafts: always a hit, no matter one's ethnicity.
Crayons and glue transcend cultural barriers, I've decided. 
Has the U.N. picked up on this yet?

I left Garden City Monday evening with that peculiar mix of weariness and refreshment that ministry so often brings.  Thank you, Grace Bible Church, for a great weekend.

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There is a particular lonely stretch of Highway 156 east of Garden City that grabs my attention every time I drive it.  The scene is the same on both sides of the blacktop: wheat fields stretching unbroken to the horizon.  No irrigation systems, no farm houses, no wind breaks or drainage ditches, not even a lone tree.  Elsewhere along the drive, the custom combiners were out in full force, but this wheat was just patiently waiting its turn to be cut.  I had to pull over and take a photo, though it doesn't begin to do the scene justice.  All that gold is positively dazzling in the summer sun.
"Wheat that tall and ripe has its own sound in a Kansas wind, pushing across the fields without a single tree to break its flow.  The wheat moves in the wind, and it sounds like the sea, only better because there's something of the earth in it and something of man's work as well.  It's a strong sound, always changing and a little wild." (Reed Arvin)
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Well, hello there.
Nothing brings back that childhood feeling like riding
around the hometown in the back seat of the folks' old Buick.

We like our gasoline pumps analog in Hoisington.
Credit card swipe?  Heavens, no.  One must go in and exchange
small talk with an actual human being while paying.

Looking over Main Street with the parental units.
What a refreshing change from the traffic and noise of city life.