I went to the Baptist World Alliance gathering in Kuala Lumpur because I’m a member of the Peace Commission. I met Baptists from all over the world, had lunch with people from Papua New Guinea, Jamaica, and Germany, listened to testimonies from people in conflict-ridden Myanmar and Nagaland, and also learned ten strategies for peacemaking. It was an exhausting but exhilarating meeting.
I followed that with five days in Indonesia, staying with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel on the beautiful island of Bali. I preached on that Sunday morning to a congregation of expatriates, many of them from the US and Australia. I learned that Christians represent less than one percent of the population of Bali; most of the people are Balinese Hindu. Everywhere I went I saw women putting out little offerings to appease the gods, or to ward off the evil spirits. The faint smell of incense was everywhere. I got to rest some while I was there, and tried to use those days as spiritual retreat. I read Harvey Cox’s The Future of Faith and Richard Rohr’s Everything Belongs. I sat on the front porch of my little guest house and wrote pages and pages in my journal. I looked up at a sky full of homemade kites (a strange and wonderful tradition there during the breezy season), and closed my eyes in gratitude.
I was home for a little more than a week after that, working hard to catch up on everything, and then it was off to Colorado for a backpacking trip. For thirty years now I’ve taken a week off to hike with my brother-in-law, Chuck, in some of the most beautiful places in America. Lately our old college friend Joe has been joining us and this year Joe brought his son Ethan. We spent most of a week hiking on the Colorado Trail at altitudes of 10,000 feet and above, where the air is thin and (in these summer months) refreshingly cool.
I got back just in time to preach on Sunday morning and then it was off to Canada with my daughter Catherine for a long-promised road trip. We looked at four prospective graduate schools while we were there, but we also saw a sunset over Lake Erie, bought hot dogs from a street vendor in Toronto, camped on the shores of Lake Ontario, and spent the better part of two days in the old city of Montreal where French is the official language but you can get by (thankfully) in English. We got home on Friday night, giving me a full day to get things together before Sunday, but I still felt a little car-lagged and disoriented, not sure if I was in Kuala Lumpur, or Colorado, or Quebec. The people at First Baptist were gracious as ever, making me glad that I got to come home to them.
Here’s hoping that life will return to a simpler, slower pace, and the memories of an exciting and busy summer will remain.