An Unusual Trip for Me
In the mountains of Brevard, NC, camping out at a school, we have sketchy cell phone signals and limited internet access. It’s Thursday, but I need to update things since my last entry on Monday.
On Tuesday, the highlight for me was to participate in baptizing Kandice. I am sure it is a day she will never forget, nor will I. We traveled about 10 miles, into the Pisgah National Forest. There we came to Looking Glass Falls. It has been raining virtually the whole time we have been here, so the falls roared and the water was high. Pastor Mike waded out first to make sure we would be safe. When he gave the thumbs up, Kandice and I joined him in the waist deep pool. Her face beamed as she affirmed her belief in Jesus and her commitment to follow Him all the days of her life. I suspect our faces showed a similar joy as we plunged her into the water, symbolizing her burial with Christ, and brought her up, testifying that she has been raised to walk in a new life. No wonder that baptism is the favorite part of my calling.
On Wednesday, we worked in the morning and took the afternoon off. I went with a group to Dupont State Forest, hiked about a quarter mile into the woods, and saw the absolutely love “Triple Falls.” Then, we traveled a bit more to “The Pretty Place,” the open-air chapel of YMCA Camp Greenville. It was overcast and drizzly, which made me think the view might not be as spectacular as promised. Wrong! Wisps of cloud rose up from the valley to look like smoke on the mountain. As we took in the panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, I was reminded why I love to see God’s handiwork. I joked (well, sort of), “Let’s see a Vanderbilt do THAT!”
So far, I have not worked at the construction site. Each day I have thought I was going. Each day, I discovered I was not. And each day, God has revealed why He had me where I was rather than where I thought I would be. I have had conversations I would otherwise not have had. I have been in exactly the right place to address situations that needed my attention in the moment. Last year, I enjoyed laying down the pastor’s mantle for a few days, swinging a hammer and just being one of the guys. This year, I needed to be Pastor Keith. Not at all what I expected. “In his heart, a man makes his plans. But the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”
I have also had time to do some serious personal reflection. It dawned on me that when I am on mission trips, domestic or abroad, I connect with my Father in an emotional way that is not really normal for me. And I have realized it is more than just the excitement and adventure. I have the heart of a missionary. Twice, before I was called to serve my first two churches, I thought I was going into foreign missions. Each time, God brought this to an abrupt halt that rattled and disappointed me. Then, each time, he called me to a pastorate here. I finally reconciled myself to being a pastor in America because of two thoughts: 1) I am a man under authority. I don’t serve where I choose, I serve where I am stationed. I submit to His will, I serve at His pleasure, and I am apparently needed here; and 2), in God’s good providence, if I had been elsewhere, my incredibly wonderful life would simply not have unfolded in the same way. My steps have been ordered by the LORD. He has drawn out the boundary of my habitation in pleasant places. I am happy. I am content. I am grateful. But on these trips, I get at least a taste of what I longed for. I have the opportunity to scratch that itch in a way that suffices … at least for now. Because I can’t help but wonder if, once my children are raised, and I’m at that stage of life where the church here really wants (and probably needs) a younger man, and I have “retirement” benefits that might eliminate the need for other financial support … well, might these trips be God’s way of saying that His answer was not, “No,” but rather “Not just yet?”