A pin from my Pinterest board called “Inspiration.” This is one of many word pictures that I found inspiring. Like this one, most are based on scripture. There are more than 900 pictures on this board alone.
Over the years, we have trained more than 2,000 people in our week-long School of Evangelization in conjunction with local Catholic dioceses around the world. Participants spend last two afternoons in pairs in streets and homes preaching the simple message of the Gospel and praying for the sick to be healed in Jesus’ name.
This map shows where our family has preached in red and in blue are the countries that the small group of ten or so who took on teaching responsibilities in that program have preached in countries that we have not yet reached. These people have gone on to their own ministries and are productively doing the work of preaching the Gospel and building the Kingdom of God. There is no telling what a map that included all 2,000 would look like. 🙂
We first went into the foreign mission field in 1990. Caleb was less than one year old when we went to the Czech area of Czechoslovakia. To the east I’ve been 12 time zones away in Siberia where we had a School of Evangelization for the Roman Catholic Diocese which had 33 parishes in nine time zones at the time. To the west, Lydia and I have been as far as 8 time zones away in Independent Samoa where I preached in a rally on the Parliament front lawn, we taught a School of Evangelization for the National Youth Council (broadcast on national radio) and preached regional rallies for the high school aged youth.
This map shows the provinces of Canada that we’ve preached in over the years: Manitoba and Ontario. One Lent, Greg preached four three day missions and a two day mission in 15 days in Manitoba. Major league cold for a Florida boy.
The two day mission was in Winnepegosis. The first night (Saturday), there had been heavy snow and no plowing. We had 14 people that lived close enough to walk there. The next afternoon (Sunday), we had about 70 people from about five different denominations. A couple in their forties told me, we’ve lived here our whole lives except for moving away for university. You are the first mission preacher that would drive all of the way out here to our little church. We always try to at least do a short mission at the mission church locations when we are preaching in the larger parish associated with it.
I was so pleased with the warm coat that someone had him me out of their going-to-Goodwill box when he was in TX just a few weeks before the missions. Two old women told him at one of the parishes, “You are from Florida. We feel so bad for you. All you brought is that little Spring coat!”
In 1985, when our hearts were ablaze with the call from Mark 16:15, Catholic lay evangelists Bruce and Linda Simpson invited on the road to share in their ministry of preaching. In that time, we had a chance to do the work of preaching the Gospel. Perhaps more importantly, we saw that we could do it on our own.
The next summer, we set up our own itinerary and preached in Florida and Louisiana. That summer (1986), Greg left teaching and we began to preach full-time. Since the first time we loaded up our little Toyota with us and the two kids (ages three and one) to go and preach, we’ve had a lot of stops along the way. The map shows the states in which we have preached the simple message of the Gospel in parishes and called people to conversion to Jesus.
Time in the mission field is at a premium. Our trips are organized by the local diocese and many days we are preaching morning through evening. Pictured above is our family’s favorite place to visit when we have a few hours of downtime: the beach in Elmina. Pictured are fishing boats tied up while not in use. Most boats don’t have outboard motors, they are rowed to sea by teams of fishermen.
Cape Coast is the original capitol of Ghana. No longer the capitol, it is Ghana’s fifth largest city with more than 150,000 people. We stayed in Cape Coast in the “mission house” for the diocese. Most mature dioceses in Africa have a mission house, a rectory or “parish house” built with extra bedrooms in order to host any official guests to the diocese. In Cape Coast, the mission house is in a village called Pedu. It is on the outskirts of Cape Coast, just outside the gates to the regional seminary.
The beaches in Cape Coast are beautiful and empty except for teams of fisherman coming and going with their boats. But the waves in Cape Coast are huge and powerful with daunting undertows. The beach in nearby Elmina is calmer and a much more pleasant place to visit and walk. On the day that I took the picture above, I was in Ghana alone. I left for the airport as Florida was evacuating for a hurricane. I taught a week-long School of Evangelization for village based catechist in “the hinterland.” The nearest phone to call the USA was a 90 minute drive from the village where the school was held. The one time I made it to a phone, the call would not go through.
On my walk to the bus station this day, I was passed on the road by the local archbishop, Cardinal Turkson. He rolled down his window and laughed. “Just where do you think that you are going?” “To get a bus to Elmina,” I answered. Sunday was the day off for the driver that typically was sent to take us places. He said, “You will make me look bad. People know you and they will wonder why I have given you such poor hospitality that you are riding on a bus!” He insisted that I return to the mission house so that he could send his driver with a car. I said, “But I already know your driver. I can make new friends on the bus. Besides, your driver is the third most recognized face in the region (behind the Cardinal and Koffi Anan at that time), I will spend all of my time waiting for him to sign autographs. But, I will wait at the house if you want…”
I got to Elmina much faster with the car and driver than I would have by bus— a van known as a trotro (“troh-troh”). Perhaps the Cardinal’s prediction concerning perceptions of hospitality were correct, but so was my prediction about walking through Elmina with his driver. We were engaged in conversation by some 20-30 groups of people that either knew the driver personally or knew who he was because of the car that he was driving. Far more people knew or recognized the driver that knew me. 🙂
On August 8th, we celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary. We didn’t make it to the beach this year, but it what we try to do every year. Our son, Cyrus, took this picture of us a few years ago on our anniversary at one of our two favorite Florida beaches: Palm Beach Shores Beach. Our other favorite is the beach in Hollywood, FL. We used a software filter to give the picture an “impressionist” look.