I am not sure how other missionaries organize their travels during furlough; but because of our philosophy of missions, we just completed a six-week tour of the United States. We saw five supporting churches, our mission board, Seth’s seminary, friends, and three families who support us. Friends are often interested in our itinerary, so I thought I would summarize “The Tour” for you.
Our route went from IL to IN, OH, MD, PA, SC, NC, FL, TX, AR, KY, and back home to IL! (in that order)
The Long Version
We left IL Sunday June 9 to visit a church an hour away in IN. Seth went to school with the assistant pastor, and we usually enjoy wonderful fellowship there. Because they are close to home, we will visit again before we return to Africa.
Monday morning we took advantage of passing through IN to eat brunch with my sister and family on our way to Columbus, OH, where Seth’s brother and family live. Our week with Britain and Rachel and our six nephew and nieces refreshed and encouraged us. We were delighted to meet some old friends (my junior high volleyball coach!) at a church we “randomly” attended Wednesday night. God is not random, and we praise Him for His blessings.
Next stop–Maryland, at one of our favorite supporting churches. They get our missions philosophy! We stayed Saturday night through Thursday morning in a comfortable in-law addition to the home of Rick and Brandi Norwood. Brandi’s sense of humor is priceless, and their desire to serve God is motivating. Every evening we were with another family for dinner, and our days were spent in activities and fellowship with different church members. They spoiled us.
I got a rare opportunity to speak to the Ladies for Missions, and my message helped me to cohesively frame thoughts that had been rattling around in my head for a long time about missions and struggles specific to missionaries.
We went next to PA, where we stayed for ten days with Seth’s mother and stepfather. We spent time with family and two supporting churches. One church is Seth’s home church where he attended until he went to college; the other church is connected to a small ACE Christian school that Seth attended from kindergarten through graduation.
My old college roommate drove to see me. She’s taken pains to keep up with me all of these years, and that is such an encouragement to a missionary delinquent in correspondence. We thought it so ironic that when I was in Maryland (her home) visiting a supporting church, she was in Africa (Zambia) on a missions trip!
We left PA with poison ivy swelling and scratching Seth and Caleb. Poor Caleb–he had just finished a course of antibiotics for bronchitis that he contracted in OH or MD. Callie and Carson also finished antibiotics for illness. We left at 6 in the morning to arrive at our mission board in SC before they closed at 5. I enjoyed talking homeschool with our mission board director’s wife.
Tuesday morning we left at 7 AM to arrive in Charlotte, NC at Seth’s seminary for him to defend his thesis. He has completed his masters degree! While he spent the day talking academics with big wigs, I drove my four small children three hours in driving rain to Raleigh. We stayed with friends from college and celebrated the 4th of July at a neat park with trains and carousel rides in the morning and an orchestra and fireworks at night.
We left early again Friday morning to reach Tampa, FL. There we reported to a supporting church, staying in the home of an elderly retired gentleman. Beautiful, crystal bowls were everywhere at hands-reach of Carson, and an alligator resided in the backyard pond of the neighborhood golf course. I counted 17 frogs my first night jogging and 25 the second. Exercising in both NC and FL was like jogging in a steamy bathroom. I will not retire to such a hotwet place if I can help it!
Our next leg of the journey from Tampa to Houston was so long that we stayed overnight in Pensacola, FL to break the journey up into two days. We stayed with friends from our home church in IL who moved there to work in the Christian college we graduated from. We heard college news and visited a bit with college friends.
In Houston we were encouraged with a visit to a family who supports us. Our kids went to their church’s VBS two evenings, and Seth and I were each treated to a shopping trip to update our sense of fashion. We were there at the perfect time to enjoy swimming as well!
Being already in TX, we drove to Austin to stay with my good friend from college, Karis Cox. Her husband Matthew pastors the church we attended this last Sunday. Karis and I ministered in music together, and Matthew gave Seth the pulpit Sunday evening. Humorously, two other missionary families happened to be there that morning! Seth even knew one of the couples from college days!
Monday we embarked on probably our longest leg of the journey–getting back to IL from TX. We were so blessed to stay overnight with a supporting family in AR. I taught their son piano when he was in 4th grade, and this year he graduated from high school!
Tuesday night we arrived in KY to stay with more friends from college. How wonderful the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” is! We worshiped with their church Wednesday evening and made it back home in IL in time for supper Thursday evening.
What a trip! I’ll write more later about practical elements of our tour of the States.