So now the first leg of our journey is complete. For the second part, we are going in different directions. Marlene is heading back to Tupelo for a couple of days while I'm renting a car in Atlanta to drive to a pastors' retreat at Cloudland Canyon near Chattanooga.
Our trip to Chicago was a true whirlwind. We started with a home meeting that was moved at the last minute (because of the flu) from a home to the church in Oak Park. It was good to see the brand-new Guest Reception room that is a warm and inviting place for visitors to make a connection to the church. They even have a small bar in the corner where you can get coffee and juice. Even though the temperature was well below freezing, over 20 people came to the meeting where we shared the developing vision of KBM.
On Saturday morning we had an KBM Internet brainstorming session that lasted almost four hours. We had several tech-type gurus with us who know the ins and outs of how to make a website state of the art. I suppose the best tribute I can pay is to say that I didn't understand most of what they were talking about. Some of their proposed changes will be evident in the next several months. Later we met some friends for a mid-afternoon lunch. That night Kris and Ed Sagan hosted another KBM home meeting.
On Sunday morning I walked across the street from Dave and Lynette Hoy's home (where we stayed during our visit) for the 8:45 AM service at the Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church. That service was highlighted by the very first infant baptism I have ever personally witnessed. It was made more unique by the fact that many years ago, I performed the wedding ceremony for the couple bringing their children to be baptized. I plan to write an entry later based on an illustration the pastor used to explain why they baptize infants. I found the church warm and friendly and filled with very attentive listeners. Pastor Bert DeJong welcomed me with many kind words and led the service in a way that made us all feel like part of the church family.
Then at 11 AM I preached at the contemporary worship service, held at nearby Timothy Christian High School. I would estimate that the crowd in the second service was at least twice the size of the earlier, more liturgical service. There were lots of young people filling the seats of the large auditorium. This service was marked by a stream of friends from Calvary in Oak Park who came to the service to greet us. For a while, it was like a Calvary homecoming in the hallway outside the auditorium. When the service began, someone commented from the platform that they should say, “Welcome to Calvary,” which drew a large laugh. Later the pastor baptized several more children.
Since Sunday marked the beginning of Mission Emphasis week, I preached on "Ballistic Christianity" from Matthew 9:35-38 and challenged the people to pray, “Lord, do things we’re not used to.” We should pray that God will thrust forth (the true meaning of ekballo, the Greek word sometimes translated "send" in verse 38) many workers in the harvest fields. And not just in the abstract, but we should pray that God will take our best and our brightest and thrust them forth from Elmhurst to the ends of the earth for the sake of Christ’s global cause. Specifically we should pray that God will call our children and our grandchildren into the harvest fields for the Lord. When I named several countries where there is a harvest waiting, I added, almost as an afterthought, Liberia. Later Sharon Dodgson thanked me because she served in Liberia with the Mercy Ships.
After the second service 30 of us gathered at a nearby restaurant for a brunch that lasted until 2:30 PM. We kept adding tables until everyone was seated at one long table. I was privileged to be seated next to Dr. Everett Van Reken. Dr. Van Reken and his wife Rose served as missionaries to China until they were expelled in the early 1950s.
We spent Sunday evening with Josh and Leah in their apartment in Forest Park. We gave them several gifts from Israel and they gave Marlene a beautiful, hard-carved Noah's Ark they purchased at a Christian-owned woodworking shop in Beijing. Then we enjoyed something you can't buy in Tupelo–genuine Chicago deep-dish pizza from Giordano's.
On Monday Marlene and I both had breakfast meetings. Then I met John Armstrong for lunch in Carol Stream. We wrapped up our Chicago visit with a lengthy but very profitable and very enjoyable KBM board meeting. We laughed and talked and prayed and dreamed together around the table at the Hoy’s home in Elmhurst. Alan joined us by Skype audio from Tupelo while Peter joined us over the speakerphone from Valdosta, Georgia. It’s a wonderful thing to see a dream becoming a reality. Last night we made big steps in many areas. It’s an honor to be joined with dear friends in this venture for the Lord.
Just now they announced it’s time to board the flight for Atlanta. So now the first leg of our journey comes to an end and the second one begins.
PS It is now 4:41 PM and I'm sitting in a Krystal restaurant in Trenton, Georgia. I'm on a brief retreat just a few miles away at Cloudland Canyon with five Baptist pastors from Alabama--Ron Ethridge, Buddy Gray, John Thweatt, Ryan Whitley, Jimmy Stewart and Ray Cummings.