Finally have a chance here to post a bit. I wrote part of this in a Belfast airport after having said goodbye to my friend Jason Scott. Jason and his wife Michelle are co-leaders of the Vineyard in Dungannon, Northern Ireland; they planted the church about six years ago and have done a brilliant job with their extremely capable leaders of creating a very cool and energized outward-focused church. My job is to simply offer a bit of encouragement from time to time.
They kindly invited me to speak at a conference called Explore58 for area churches (some from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Ireland and England), primarily on the Church’s response to poverty using Isaiah 58 as the driving text. I’ll blog a bit about that next.
I nearly didn’t get there. The day Anita and I were to drive to Dayton Airport at 3 p.m., I was working with our video guy at the office. My assistant Donna called me with a little problem: my passport was in Washington D.C. I had forgotten that over a month ago we had sent my passport to the Nigerian Embassy in D.C. to get the visa for my trip to Jos in November. The rest of the team had their passports returned but somehow mine wasn’t mailed. She felt terrible. So did I.
Time to panic. Okay, and pray. I know, I know.
We had to cancel my flights to and from Belfast and began making frantic calls to the embassy; thankfully, my Nigerian friend Emmanuel Itapson was phoning as well. In the meantime, we found a flight to D.C. from CVG/Cincinnati but I needed to leave immediately. I called Anita from my office and asked her to pack my bag while I drove home. My coworker and small group buddy Kent met me there to drive me to the airport. Anita still had to fly out of Dayton a few hours later.
We weren’t totally sure if anyone at the embassy would find my passport or if I could even get there in time. Of course, even booking a flight to D.C. with a final destination of Belfast wasn’t simple: they still wanted my passport number at the ticket counter even though that’s what I was trying to get! I nearly missed the flight out. En route, Emmanuel called me and told me he finally got through to someone at the embassy and they told him they were just fifteen minutes away from dropping it in the mail. Whoa.
When I got to D.C., I ran through the terminals to catch a taxi for a nearly one-hour drive to the embassy in hopes of catching someone there. The cabdriver had a thick accent and wore a turban. I asked him where he was from and he told me India. We talked about our families. We talked about our respective homes. He asked me what I was doing and I told him I was trying to get to Belfast via the Nigerian Embassy. He drove faster and asked me why. I told him about the conference on poverty and Christians’ response to it…and then gently told him how my life had changed when I met Jesus. He was quiet and respectful. We had a really good God-conversation. We talked about the part of India he was from and I told him of my friend Jason’s work with the Dalits, India’s poorest of the poor. He was familiar with them and informed me he was a Sikh. I asked him how he had chosen to become a Sikh and he said you’re simply born one.
It reminded me of America and how so many people just assume they’re a Christian because they were Protestant or Catholic and went to church. We’re really not that different. I related that idea to him and how I believed God gives each of us the choice to surrender our hearts to Him.
We found the embassy just as it closed and came across a guard who actually had my passport in an envelope! I ran back through the gates for my cabbie friend. We continued our conversation until I had to run to the ticket counter.
I just missed my flight connection. Dang. And I won’t tell you how much the cab ride was.
Turned out I could get a flight to London at 10 p.m. And thirteen hours later, I was closer to Belfast. Then by 2:30 p.m. (BST) the next day, I finally landed at George Best Airport in lovely Northern Ireland.
Without my luggage.
Apparently, it was confused and still in D.C. Not to worry; all I really need was my Macbook, a power supply, and a bottle of contact lens solution. And that travels with me.
The conference went really well. God showed up, hearts were broken for the poor and practical ideas were offered. Along with others, I spoke three times and then on Sunday morning.
A few days later, we left at 8:30 a.m. on a Friday morning to briefly attend a pastors’ breakfast in Lurgan on the way to the airport. At 1 p.m. I was having another God-conversation on the flight to London with an older woman. The door opened for me to tell how Jesus had changed my life. She opened up and related all about twins she had given up for adoption and how they recently reentered her life. She was obviously struggling with it, but periodically would say, “But it doesn’t really bother me,” and then would recount the story all again. She allowed me to pray for her on the plane and teared up.
We got back at 1 a.m. on Friday morning and just in time to be home for our relationship conference with Emerson Eggerichs.
This morning, as I was in a hurry to get to our conference and backing out of the garage, I forgot my daughter Katie was parked in the driveway and sideswiped her car…effectively wrecking two family cars with ease.
Sheesh. It’s never boring…
…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20) .