Thoughts as I leave

Suitcase

Used with permission.

I’m leaving…(on a jet plane, don’t know when…). Actually I do – May 24th. I’m headed to the airport in a few hours and thought I’d share a few thoughts about the sabbatical so far. That way you can learn from my experience.

Regrets

I’m sorry to be travelling alone. I knew I would be right from the start because my wife has something called a job that has its own rhythms of opportunity to be away that don’t quite match mine for any significant period of time. Also, together we have created some kids, and while the older two are pretty much independent, we want at least one of us to be there for our youngest. However, I am offsetting this regret with the following:

  1. I am treating this trip as a scouting trip, scoping out places for us to travel together on shorter trips that we could do together;
  2. My wife and I, with our two children who are still at home, will be visiting our oldest child who is teaching at a Christian school in Bangkok for two weeks this summer, and
  3. My wife and I will each be journaling our thoughts of appreciation (not only for each other, but for everything in life that we appreciate) and seeking a deeper understanding of who God made each of us to be. When we are together again, we will have much to share and hopefully have a lot of insight about how God is leading us forward as a couple.

Concerns

Yes, I do have concerns. I am concerned about malaria (one of my friends is just back from Malawi and he had a very, very serious bout of malaria that landed him in hospital for quite a few days), so I am taking Malarone when I get there. I also have a mosquito net for my beds just in case the hosts or hotels don’t, and I’ve taken other precautions.

I am concerned about driving on the left side of the road in several countries and driving on the right side in other countries but with foreign language signs. I’ve read up on driving tips for those countries (who ever heard of a hook turn? Kudos to anyone who knows (without going to the Internet) what city is the only place in the world you do hook turns!). I got maps for all the countries I’ll be driving in for my GPS so I won’t be struggling with directions at the same time I’m trying to figure out how to drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.

I have concerns about all the uncertainties that still remain. Bev Carrick, Executive Director of Cause Canada and a CCCC board member, said something very encouraging to me at the last board meeting. She said it wouldn’t be unusual to still be working out the details of the end of the trip while already on the first part. The last two countries for visits, South Africa and England, still don’t have many visits actually scheduled. I’ve got people who have said “Yes” to seeing me, but fixing a time and place still has to happen. And other places have left things a bit fuzzy. It might be cultural, but I’m told not to worry, I’ll be looked after even if they haven’t told me the details. I’m trusting God!! And, I’m trusting them.

I’m a bit concerned about personal safety since I’m travelling alone. Some of the countries have travel advisories and my life insurance company excluded coverage while I am in Rwanda when I renewed recently. But in all the countries where safety is a concern, I’m being met at the airport either by someone from a ministry or by a driver from a hotel.

What would I do differently if I could do it again?

Get help! Everyone is so busy at work I didn’t ask for any help at all, but I could have used at least a half-time assistant for a couple of months to help with logistics, bookings, and follow-up. Starting without knowing anyone in any of the countries I am visiting, I had to find out who is there (not only in ministry, but in support organizations such as CCCC), introduce myself, find out when they are available, and then juggle all their schedules with mine to come up with an order of visits that makes geographical sense. That alone turned out to be a massive undertaking. Add to that finding out how to get to certain countries (it’s not obvious for some of them), booking flights that work, hotels, cars and so on, and you have another massive logistical undertaking. I should have asked for help.

I also should have had the COO take over my responsibilities at least a month before I left. My last week of work, for example, I was doing workshops at a conference in BC. Who got me into that? I did. It was my own choice because I wanted to help this conference, but it was at a cost for me.

Stretching experiences

This trip is stretching me way out of my comfort zone, and that’s a good thing. Let me be clear, no one forced this way of using my sabbatical on me; I did it to myself. I am very much looking forward to it, but the trip is taking me to many countries I never planned to go to. I will be experiencing new cultures that are quite different from my own and I will be away from family far longer than ever before. My family’s support was crucial to this trip, and we grew as we worked it through.

What I’m really looking forward to

#1 beyond a doubt is sleeping as long as possible on the flight to Auckland. I leave Toronto tonight at 5:20 and arrive in Auckland at 7:05 on Tuesday morning. I am taking nothing to read or occupy myself with. I want to sleep.

I am really looking forward to the many great churches I’ll be visiting/attending. I’ll tell you about those as I experience them, but it fills me with joy to think about them.

I am looking forward to making new friends all over the world. This can’t help but change things for me and for CCCC going forward. The more people you know, the more things happen. The greater your network, the more aware you are of opportunity. The more likely that someone will think of you when they have an opportunity. And visiting people who I share my faith with in all the different cultures is a tangible reminder of how extensive the body of Christ is. Wow.

And I am looking forward to the two-and-a-half weeks of personal time I will have in England, Scotland and France. I will use a lot of the time in the United Kingdom visiting areas that my many ancestors called home. I have addresses of houses and churches to go see. Diving into the actual geographic locations of our family history will be a life-long ambition fulfilled.

What excites me

I’m really excited to visit my daughter in Bangkok and spend a day watching her teach. Here I will be entering her world. She is now an independent adult, and what an experience it will be to see her apartment in person the way she decorated it, to see her working, to see her in her own element that is completely separate from anything she experienced while living in our household. Our world is Waterloo. Hers is now Bangkok. A world apart!

So, the journey starts. I’m not sure how often I’ll have web access. Many hotels have it but at a surcharge, which will be more expensive than I want to pay. But I will journal each day and at least once a week I should be able to update the blog. I believe that God will use this experience for my benefit, for CCCC’s benefit and for his kingdom’s benefit. What I most anticipate is the relish of watching what unfolds after I’m back.

Blessings,
John

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