Joan and I spent Friday at Arlington Cemetery. I will put together some thoughts later on down the road. We have a campsite NW of Manassas. I spoke to the Manassas church Saturday morning and then we went off in two directions. Joan and I went downtown. Here is a recap of my encounters:
Sanderval’s, a couple, English/Spanish speaking in front of medical clinic, waiting for turn. I share some Spanish lingo: Mi esposa habla Espanol muy bien. They choose “Affordable Healthcare”: him: all mess up and we should learn from our mistakes Me: leads to clear annunciation of the gospel and Christ’s death on the cross. They pray a prayer of salvation. I point to the church across the church. They ask where my wife is. She is off in the distance. We return and she introduces herself as they talk some Spanish.
A couple taking a cigarette break. Maybe owners of the flower shop we are at the side of. He gives me a nice guy break and allows me to do one with him, 50 Shades of Sin. He gets the message: sin destroys. We talk a bit as Joan talks with the woman. Friendly man who kept the door open.
I see an athlete jogging by me. He finishes and goes into a walk. He looks like a boxer, I catch up with him, “hey boxer”. He takes his ear plugs out. I ask him if he is a boxer. Yes, and soccer also. We talk. He chooses “Clear Mind”. He tells me his church history. He used to go to the Sat. evening mass with his father. Now nothing for anyone in his family. I tell him how I used to go to the Sat. evening mass with my father because it was the fastest mass in history. He laughs and agrees. I ask him about his future. He says he had a long term relationship that did not work out, bringing pain into his life. He describes his current girlfriend and he uses word “chivalry” to describe her. I think he means there is something old fashion about their dating. We talk of the importance of doing things right. I give him opportunity to go further; but end with an encouragement to let God help him create his future.
I head over to the farmer’s market here in Manassas. I find a man in the shade at the entrance. I ask him if he works here. He says he is working at taking up this shade. We talk. I am wearing my father’s red USMC hat to honor his life over the memorial weekend. Our man was a chaplain in Korea and Viet Nam. His wife approaches and gives us space. We do “healthcare”. He knows the scriptures. Pleasantness to the encounter. Wife respectfully joins him as I bid them God’s blessings.
Walked the “midway” I found two Jehovah Witnesses at the main entry. They are bit annoyed that I want to do a bible study with them. They let me know that they probably know everything I might have to share and suggest them sharing what they have with me. I press a bit. I mention the 10 rules of dating. Do they know the 10 rules. The one man starts off right: no touching, then adds chaperone, group dating, watching the person from afar, spiritual judgments, moving towards marriage…I break in as he runs out of steam. Rule # 1 and Rule #2-10. They are still not happy with how this has gone, I am distracting them from potential customers; I am not one. I take my leave.
I come across a young couple with their dog. The man is coughing. I say “this too shall pass” as I enter their orbit. Would you do a one minute bible study with me? The man lets me know that they probably shouldn’t since they do not know anything about the bible. I say “all the more reason to” and I ask again and he says yes. He picks the enjoyed marriage. They both seem interested. I ask them if they are married. They are not. Maybe we should start with the 10 rules of dating. I say no this is good to see what the goal is. The first verse states “who can find a woman of virtue, her husband’s heart safely trusts in her”. The woman seemed to be drawn to the verses. Husbands love, wives submit (no opposition) dwell together in understanding and finally Isaac “loved her”. I ask about Isaac. They don’t know. I explain the situation. I return to the goal, to have husband and wife who will love each other. My marriage: 35 years. Love God, love my wife and enjoy the life that God has given us. They seemed pleased about the encounter. We talk dogs, I share some literature.
I stand at the fence to a playground. I ask the man sitting about 15 feet away if he would do a study with me. He says “why not?” I motion him over and he chooses Clear mind. I pause at the last one: bringing every thought into captivity to Christ. I mention all of the heart aches of life and the healing power of bringing them to Christ before letting them get to us. He shares some of his worries and frustrations. He mentions church. They only go once in a while, he and his girlfriend because of distance. I encourage him. Mention the local church. Mention marriage, he knows. He thanks me saying it has brought some encouragement to him.
I run into a family on bikes at the plaza. I ask the father. He says yes, the family freezes. He chooses clear mind. I let him know this is the internationally top choice. I do the bible study. Attentive family. He thanks me, calls me brother, and thanks me for my service. I speak of my Dad. Then, thanks for honoring your father. That is the proper Christian response, it should always be “yes”.
I speak with another family on a bench who had just shown up to Manassas from Wisconsin. The man picks clear mind. The wife talks about how they used to go to church years ago. Maybe the time has come again. I give them some church lit.
Another family at another bench at the plaza. My request brings a squeal of delight from the oldest girl. Again we do clear mind, nothing much to go on but enjoyed the two daughters taking interest in their Dad as he did the bible study.
I have been talking with a 25 year Marine vet here for possibly the last Rolling Thunder. The pastor starts talking with him and I excuse myself to do a Spanish bible study with two men. They choose “Una Mente Clara”. They read the verses. I speak my broken Spanish, they speak some broken English. We establish that they are there looking for girls. Esposas? They will take what they can get.
My final Saturday encounter was with a family sitting on a bench. Two young girls and Mom and Dad. I make my request and the man takes the phone from me. He picks “Enjoyed Marriage” and begins to read the verses to his wife. Too good! Meanwhile, Joan has come to be to help her access the Spanish version. The girls ask me what she wanted. I tell them and ask them if they speak Spanish. They don’t but they speak Russian. I get animated an speak one of the few Russian words I learned while in zdravstvujtye (ZDRAH–stvooy-t‘eh). Mom, comes alive, we talk Russia. She is from Belorussia. We talk church, family and making life work. I invite them to church.
That evening we all met at the downtown pavilion for some food and fellowship.
Monday May 27
Sunday we preached for Pastor Rocky Colona south of Alexandria. I had done a revival for him about 12 years ago when he was just starting out. The church has done well and his wife Ingrid went overseas to Miramar for 4 years. They were able to set up camp back in their old church. They planted Joseph and My Hua in Manassas where we did our outreach Saturday. We had met them for dinner at their house Friday night (home made Korean cooking) and now preached the evening service for them. They have a great group of people. We went to ice cream afterwards. We said our “goodbyes” and spent our last night in the campsite before leaving in the morning.
We got an early start and headed out Highway 50 through Middleburg and Uppertown. It is Southern horse country. Stopped to read the Civil War markers. Jeb Stuart had battled twice in Uppertown, both times shielding Lee’s movements. The cemetery there was marked with Union and Confederate flags on this Memorial Day Monday. We slowly made our way to Winchester, site of three Civil War engagements. Spent a two hour Starbucks stop, seemed like the Sunday took more out of us than we realized. I wrote my post from yesterday as Joan just enjoyed the break.
We explored the town and I did a bible study with three young skaters. They chose “Pokémon”. I explained the search for wisdom that was part of the verses. They thought they were referring to the search for “Pokémon” things. As we talked things got interesting. One of the young men was saved and went to church; even getting his two Catholic friends to accompany him a couple of times. We shared knowing looks as I talked to the other two. Does God do that? Does he send gospel messengers to the people I am praying for and ministering to? The answer for this young man today is “yes”. Last note: when the young men introduced themselves it was cool, they all had different last names that ended in …son.
We visited a cattle auction before heading over the mountains on 50. Found a family restaurant for a meal. We made Romney. The town, an important railroad junction, during the civil war had changed hands 50 times during the war. We drove around in the mid-afternoon heat but never ran into anyone. We went down to the river, these are the headwaters of the Potomac. I had planned on staying a while, but we pushed onto Grafton.
Grafton is described as a poor, deteriorating town. We made our way to the old downtown along the river. There was the magnificent 5 story or more old brick hotel. Beautiful but unused. I stopped to do a bible study with two young men walking. I pulled ahead of them and got out of the car coming around to them. As I called to them I stepped over the 6 inch curb that turned out to be 12 inches. Down I went as I totally flipped as I rolled out of the fall.
Tough to turn down a 64 year old man for a bible study after seeing a fall like that. They showed proper concern and helped me to my feet. I recovered my composure and asked them to do a bible study. They said “yes”. They chose “Affordable Healthcare”. Knowing what I had read about Grafton, the verses seemed to fit. Grafton was described by one writer as one of the poorest of poor West Virginia cities. The verses pointed to the ideas of returning and repenting which would lead to a healing of body, soul and land. Dakota and Nick listened and Dakota took the lead after I asked them how long they had lived here. I was assuming I would be talking to young people who felt trapped in a dying town. No they both had moved here. Nick had moved here a couple of years ago with his family. He is 15 now. Dakota’s family had been transplanted here from Jacksonville NC by the Federal Government after the hurricane of last summer.
We talked some about life. Found out that Dakota had worked for a company that seals mine shafts. He excitedly exhibited his knowledge of the chemical miracles that went into sealing these shafts. He has worked for them as a temp and needs to get a driver’s license in order to be hired full time at 19 an hour. So what’s the problem? We talked about getting things done and making it happen. I challenged them both, Dakota to ask God to help him get it together to get his job and Nick to ask God to help him at school. I had already given them my testimony and now I explained salvation, separate from them asking God to help them. The question would God hear them and help them? Even if they are not saved?
Their families had gone to church when they were young. How appropriate were the verses, “I will heal your backslidings” for the town and these two young men. Joan would have an excellent witness with a young man as we charged our phones at McDonald’s before heading out to a state campground south of town for the night.
It poured rain through the night. We decided to head up to Wheeling where we would dry our things, do some bible studies before heading to the Cunningham’s in New Philadelphia OH where I will preach Wed.
We stopped at a commercial laundromat in Wheeling where we washed and dried everything we could. Joan did a bible study with a lady while we waited. I checked out the weather and it looked like we were heading for more heavy rain. I called Tom and asked if we could show up early. We would spend two rainy nights with the Cunningham’s.
I have always wanted to explore Wheeling. We had taken 70 over the river and through the city several times over the years but had never stopped. We went downtown and had a nice lunch at a coffee place: Sarah’s on Main. We then went south from downtown doing some bible studies with different people. The atmosphere seemed depressed and this section of town could use a redo. We headed east and I did one with a young vet. We talked future outside some kind of location for vets. My most upbeat study was with a basketballer on the island between West Virginia and Ohio. This has some beautiful restored mansions as well as plenty needing restoring. We did the bible study and he explained to me about his recent operation on his brain. He showed me the scar. He seemed Ok to me, but what shined through was his spirit that believed that God would help him. It was encouraging.
Pastor Cunningham welcomed us in his grand style. We had been fellow pastors in the Northwest but we became best of friends in Zambia. He is a walking revival everywhere he goes. We had come together to New Philadelphia to scout out the land. He and his wife would come back to their home town to start a new church about 5 years ago. When we first visited we ran into three different people who remembered Tom and wanted to talk with him. The most memorable was the owner of a candy shop who heard us talking in his store from the back room. In a booming voice he shouted: “I’d recognize that voice anywhere; Tom Cunningham”. He is a known man in this town.
I only did one bible study while in town with an older rancher. We talked my Pastor, Dave Robinson, cowboy extraordinaire. The visit turned into a time of relaxing and fellowshipping. We preached Wed. night for his church and had a last cup of coffee together as we headed west Thursday morning.
My original sense of meandering through the towns along Highway 50 wasn’t quite happening as I planned. We would spend the weekend in Sparta, sleeping in our own bed. So I planned to visit with a pastor friend, Tom Rushline and his wife Rose, in Brazil Indiana where we would do bible studies in the park before meeting them for dinner in Terre Haute. We then continued west that night to spend the night in Lincoln Trail State Park in Illinois.
Our Brazil outreach was pleasant. We stopped by their church. He had left the door open. We got some literature as well as some onion bulbs that someone was giving away. The park beckoned. I made a mistake that I made only once on the trip. Here is the mistake: “Would you please do a one minute bible study with me?” This is a straightforward request that gets a clear yes or no. I have learned from experience to thank a person who says no and move on. When I don’t, it is a disaster. It becomes me trying to turn their no to a yes and never works out. I am used to always getting “yes’s” on basketball courts. Part of it is my confidence of association with the sport. I have interrupted games to do my bible study, even did it in Germany. So I was shocked when two young guys gave me a no at the basketball court. I should have let it go but I tried to drum up something and walked away reminding myself not to do that anymore. I recovered.
Joan, in the meantime, was using her Pokémon skills to do bible studies all over the park and had some great times of ministry. I would end up doing several also. One was with a worker at the golf course. We did the bible study while a golfer looked on trying not to show interest. As I walked away the golfer followed me to start a conversation. He was afraid of what kind of Christian I was; but now wanted to hear and see how the idea worked. We had a good conversation.
Friday we would be heading to Sparta. Once again, I picked a town to stop in to do bible studies. We chose Salem, IL. Sometimes I sub for the special schools where the kids are not allowed back into the regular high schools for a given amount of time. I remember one kid talked of his home town Salem. He described it as a town where everyone was on drugs. It is at the crossroads of interstate 57 and hwy 50. We have driven through the town many times without ever stopping. Today we would investigate the town a bit. We did bible studies at the park, had a great breakfast at a local diner south of town; but the highlight was running into the teachers and students who were doing their driver’s ed. We caught them as one group came in and the other went out. The kids all said yes and the teacher’s said yes also. One of the teachers was from a local Christian college in Greenville. She thanked Joan over and over again for doing the bible studies. It wasn’t the beat up town described by my student.
We slept in our own bed Friday, Saturday, Sunday and even Monday since we had some business to take care of Tuesday morning. Our Sparta outreach was a quiet affair. We drove around the town like we have done many times before. It was nice throwing in the knowledge that we were in the middle of a cross country trip doing these bible studies. Some of our church people met us for some food at the park as we ended the outreach. I would then preach Sunday for our church.
Time, energy and money could be allotted to our journey in such a way so as to involve and touch more people. This would not be that journey. This was me as Jonathon and Joan as my armor bearer:
I Sam 14:6 Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few.” 7 So his armorbearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart.”
What a wife!
Monday we did a quick strike into Ferguson, the infamous suburb of Saint Louis. We did many bible studies. Joan had a great one with a young girl who was coming home from her first day of summer school. After the bible study she would pray with Joan and we ended up talking with her for quite some time. A young person with hope for the future.
Tuesday we would head west again. I decided to shoot for a campground north of Pittsburg KS where I would preach Wed. night for Pastor Ryan Burtch and his wife April. We would stay in the campground Tuesday and Wed. nights. We went through flooded Jefferson City and stopped in Sedalia on Highway 50 before heading south. Joan and I wandered the old downtown. She did several bible studies. I stepped into a Christian Bookstore to purchase a discounted student bible dictionary to give to Julia our oldest grandchild in Reno. I started talking with the owner and we talked about Biblesoft. Missouri had been one of the states I sold the software. He remembered those days, he doesn’t carry any bible software anymore. I don’t think many stores do nowadays. One thing led to another and we did a bible study. He got all the info and said he would introduce it to the church he pastors. It was a fun visit in a cool town.
As was our custom we set up camp in the dark and prepared to go into Pittsburg KS the next day. We stopped for breakfast at the Eastside café in Gerard. We would do a couple of bible studies in the town square. Pastor Burtch has had good outreaches in this town. The café coffee was great, when the waitress was asked about it she beamed with pride as she described the freshly ground coffee they serve. I took notice of one of the workers. He was talking with a customer at the register. She asked how long he had been working here. He answered and then said: “Same pay, different place; just living the dream”. It was his cynical confidence about his understanding of life that struck me. I didn’t say anything to him; but I wait for the day when a young person would grab the vision that goes with the Christian walk and run with it. Think about a 1000 young people making their way along Highway 50 doing bible studies as they went. I’ll bet they would be living the dream.
We made our way to town and spent the morning with the pastor. He is a young man with energy to spare. We ended up sitting and talking for several hours before meeting April and his daughter for lunch. He is a skater, singer, high tech guy who pastors the church in Pittsburg. He has made his church a sanctuary for the tweakers with the patient support of the older saints.
Joan and I would outreach around town before going back to camp to change for church. I did a bible study in Spanish with three Guatemalan men. As I was walking through the park back to the car to rendezvous with Joan I was being buzzed by a drone. I looked around but could only see one person sitting with their head down. As I got closer to the car I realized that this person sitting with her head down was actually flying the drone while her goggles allowed her to see and control the flight while being in the drone. Too cool! We talked about it. They had just moved from Colorado, too expensive. She had completed therapy and now this was her therapy. I mentioned David’s famous phrase: “Oh if I had wings of a dove…” She was able to fly away at times. We did a bible study, talked some more, Joan showed up and I introduced her. We had a good church service that night followed by some ice cream.
Thursday turned out to be a driving day. We explored Fort Scott and did a few bible studies. We spent a long day driving through Kansas. We camped out that night in Colorado, John Martin Reservoir. The next day we went into La Junta for coffee. The coffee shop happened to be next door to our fellowship church. I talked with a local pastor in the coffee shop who knew our fellowship pastor. We did a few bible studies in the park and headed for Colorado Springs. We would be camping out Friday and Saturday in a private campgrounds just south of the city in the foothills of the mountains.
We zeroed in on Memorial Park. We did lots of bible studies in the park. We would walk around the lake in the park three times over the next two days. I would let people know we were living out of the trunk of our car. Everyone was helpful and friendly. I was talking with one homeless couple. As we talked I asked him if he was going upstream or downstream. We settled on treading water. He then said: “I think I need to start swimming for shore”. It was funny they both knew what that involved; it involved working again.
We would have dinner Friday night with Pastor Lowell Guzman and his wife Judy. They are the picture of competence. He is an ex-paratrooper IT specialist and she is a successful marketer in anything she gets involved in. Their church is filled with professionals like themselves. The official Saturday outreach would have the pastor and his wife handing out flyers and Joan and I accompanied by David going around the lake. Our outreach turned out to be eventful as David and I made our way around the lake. We would run into people who knew Joan and I at this point. We went up to a group of people. The woman chose “The Enjoyed Marriage”. I read the scriptures. They let us know they had come down to the park with their friends to celebrate their fifth year of marriage. It was a well timed moment.
We would meet up that night at 6:00 to share some pizza at the park with David, the Doctor from Bermuda and another tech worker from the church. Sorry, names escape me at this moment. It was a pleasant get together in every way. The doctor is the spitting image of Doctor Okello in our Mazabuka, Zambia church. He is the dentist for the the maximum security prison in Canon City. El Chapo would be coming soon. He has many stories to tell. Church would prove what outreach method is best. Would it be doing bible studies (yay) or handing out flyers (boo)? We had visitors from the flyers that the pastor handed out.
Joan and I made our way west after the morning service. I even received two Pentecostal handshakes after the service. We had lunch in Pueblo, stopped at the Gorge and made our way to Gunnison to camp out for the next two nights. The second night in Colorado Springs it had rained some and mainly was windy and noisy through the night. It was our first cold night of the trip. It was cold each night in Gunnison, plus it was our first camping spot without showers. We spent some time in Montrose and viewed the canyon and made a good hike. I had taken the advice of a travel book and booked a motel for two nights in Grand Junction where we would preach for Pastor Antonio De Leon and his wife Angelia. We took their family out to dinner Tuesday night after walking the town. They were a great family. His kids were well behaved at the restaurant and they have a great attitude about life and the ministry.
The cold had taken a toll on me more than Joan. Our nights in the hotel were worst than our campouts. The first night, loud fan and no cooling equals no sleep. The next night et least the cooling was working. We gave it a slow outreach on a very hot day that Wednesday before service. I talked with one man in the park and did “Overcoming the Dark Side”. I could feel the darkness of life squeeze the man. The scriptures point to just a little bit of faith. It was a lifeline being extended to the man. We had a good service followed by: you guessed it: ice cream.
Joan would drive the last two days of driving from Grand Junction to Great Basin National Park in Nevada just cross the Utah border and the final jaunt to Reno. We stopped in Delta Utah for some Mexican food. We did some bible studies in the park. I happened to do one with the only black man in Delta. He actually was an African. We shared African notes and he asked me to speak a word in an African dialect. The only word I used and now remember is “Dalumba Kapate” or thank you. I didn’t get to Mormonism with him.
We got the last primitive campsite in Great Basin National Park. It was a nice visit. We drove as high as we could, hiked a trail of a diverted stream, for gold mining in the day and slid into our campsite. Woke up and Joan drove us up to Reno. We were going to spend time in Ely; but our energy levels were low and the grandchildren were beaconing.
We spent the Saturday having fun with the grandkids. In the afternoon we helped their father, Billy, set up for a skater park outreach. We had to leave mid outreach to meant with Pastor Mike Zapata and his wife Stephanie. Each time we started to possibly outreach more of his church people would call and say hold on. We ate pizza and I addressed the church and we did a question and answer. Stephanie asked if I would share my testimony. I did and it seemed like a perfect evening. It was low key and it fit my low key energy level.
I would preach for Pastor Mike’s young church Sunday morning and Pastor Oliver’s church (he was out of town) Sunday night. I would drive back to Sparta 15 hours on Monday to the far side of Denver and 13 hours on Tuesday to get in at 9:00. Jesus and Audra had showed up Sunday and Joe and Laura Michelle showed up Tuesday. Joan would be with our three daughters, their husbands and our six grand children till Saturday with a Thursday night adventure at the rodeo.
Concluding thoughts: I had sent a thank you email to the churches that I preached and outreached for. Here is part of that thank you:
“thanks for giving me the opportunity to preach to your folks on our evangelism trip. We took 24 days to travel from Manassas to Reno, a distance we drove in 3 days leaving and returning to Sparta. We did bible studies in Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Nevada with over a hundred people. We camped out 14 nights, stayed with a Pastor Cunningham 2 nights, spent 4 nights in Sparta and stayed in a motel for 2 nights. We did outreaches for specific churches in Manassas, Brazil IN, Sparta, Pittsburg, KS, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction CO, and Reno.
I have no great insights to share; we walked by faith not by sight with every bible study we did just as we do in Sparta. We trust God and His promises concerning His word going forth.
It would be exciting for a ministry to take on the project of repeating the trip multiplying the travelers, and organizing events at the Saturday stops. The impact of a 1000 people traveling along Highway 50 doing bible studies and rendezvousing for Saturday events could be multiplied by God for His glory.”
I am not sure if I was looking for fireworks, but I came home and it was over and yet it wasn’t. I am still on the trip I am just back in Sparta. I mowed the church lawn this morning. As I was returning home, the road was blocked as some young people were talking with someone in a car. The black guy slowly moved out of the way of my slowing vehicle as I went around. I stop. “Would you do a one minute bible study with me?” Yes, I ask him his age. 18, in fact I had done with him when he was 16 in Cool Valley. He chooses 10 rules. We talk a bit. I point to the church. Let Tyree know if he shows I’ll buy McDonalds and life goes on…for eternity.