Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lessons Learned

I would say that we have been going through a busy stretch, but that almost insinuates that being busy is the exception rather than the norm. One thing I am learning very quickly as an itinerating missionary is that life gets busier. Much of my time is spent either building contact lists, contacting pastors/churches, traveling to churches or events, preparing for churches or events or actually sharing my heart. This past week was incredibly busy, but it's one of many busy weeks to come. First, I want to take a quick look back at the week that was (and how things went) and then I want to cover a couple lessons I learned in the process (not all completely missions related either).

Sunday morning (May 20th) we had the privilege of speaking at Tabernacle of Praise AG in Oxford, MA. This was extra special for us because this church is in the town where we live. We have a heart for and pray for the same people. Sunday school was great as the Word of God was taught. Then for worship time, it was nice for me to sing some old hymns I hadn't sung in a while with minimal musical accompaniment. But more significant was that the presence of God was so evident that morning. I shared for about an hour (longer than usual) but it was a great time. We met some wonderful people and really felt connected. I am sure we'll run into them again as the church is only 3 miles from our house.

Sunday night was the beginning of the Southern New England Ministry Network Conference. That first night is the ordination service which is always a great time. I knew four of the ordinands including the associate pastor from the church we were at that morning. The service brought back fond memories of my ordination service from last year at the same location. We set up our table (it was my first time setting it up as Polly is the one who normally sets it up). We were yet again put next to Neil and Kathy Vanaria's table. Polly and I really love being their neighbors at these events. We love them! They're such helpful people...and hilarious! Anyway, we were already making great connections with old friends and new faces Sunday night.

Monday and Tuesday was the continuation of the conference. The big difference was that Genevieve was with us for those two days as we stayed overnight Monday at the hotel. On Tuesday, our friends Ben and Amber brought their beautiful little girl Quinn (2 months younger than Genevieve) so Genevieve had a friend. All in all during the conference, we had a great time. We set a few dates for services while connecting with numerous pastors and laid the groundwork for more services. After the event was over on Tuesday, I took two out-of-state missionary friends I had met at the event into Boston for a mini-tour of the city. We had a great time.

Wednesday night, we had a service at Radiant Christian AG in Warren, RI. Due to the hecticness of our week, Polly stayed home with Genevieve. This was my first time traveling solo. I love being with my wife and daughter and I view them as integral parts of this journey so I didn't like being without them. I hope we don't have to do that too often (though it will undoubtedly happen again). We met some more great people and I had a great hour-and-a-half long conversation with the pastor (and former missionary) Larry Mangone. I appreciated his words of wisdom and advice.

Well, that was our crazy week that was. As I said, I'm sure there will be plenty more to follow. Now, as promised, let me share a couple lessons I learned:

1. There is a such thing as too much fruit for a baby.

On Monday afternoon, there was a luncheon for all the credentialed women and pastor's wives at the conference. Polly wanted to go and I wanted her to be able to. This meant that I was in charge of the baby for lunch. I reassured Polly that this is not my first time watching Genevieve and that everything would be fine. It came time for Genevieve to eat and I tried to give her the food Polly had prepared for her. She didn't want the PB&J (she's not really a fan) but did okay with the pita bread and hummus. I tried to give her Cheerios (actually Joe's O's) but she wasn't very interested. So, I gave her some blueberries. I knew Polly had already given her some to keep her content earlier but I didn't pay attention to how many. After Genevieve ate, I decided to drive somewhere to get lunch for myself. I ran into my good friend Anders in the lobby. He, too, was in need of food. We ended up going to a local Subway. While in line, I gave Genevieve more blueberries to keep her happy. While at the table, she began to fuss a little. Anders gave her some more blueberries. All along I wasn't paying very much attention to how many she had actually eaten. Of course, there were now only a few left in the container that, come to find out, had just been opened for her that morning. Fiber anyone? Genevieve went through a few diapers once we got back to the conference. To make the problem worse, we had forgotten to pack enough. So, long story short, Polly's shirt got stained blue as did Genevieve's outfit so I had to rush to Target (with my friend Chris) and buy diapers, wipes and a new outfit for Genevieve. I arranged Polly to get a clean shirt for the next morning and all was well. I felt terribly, of course. Kathy Vanaria told us this is just missionary training. If that's true, then I feel a whole lot more ready for the field after that one.

2. When using mints or candy at your table, be sure to factor that seven pieces will be eaten by another missionary for every one piece a non-missionary eats. It's a form a sabotage I think.

We alternated mints and Werther's Originals in one bowl and had a continual supply of banana chips in the other. I think Kathy ate most of the banana chips. Since they accused us (all in good fun, of course) of bribing people with our candy, they decided to outdo us with Italian cookies the second day. I responded to that by sticking Genevieve on our table. "How will you compete with that?" I asked Neil. "I'll just give her a cookie," he replied. Well played Neil...well played. In all seriousness though, by the Vanaria's example I learned the importance of having fun and joking with other missionaries...of viewing other missionaries as friends and partners, not as competition.

For as busy as this past week was, it was equally enjoyable. I love seeing old friends and making new ones. This is a major reason why I love the opportunity that's before us. We've had four services (included our own church) and have nearly 20 more already booked...and we're just getting started. We are excited for what experiences lie ahead!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Sense of Belonging

A little over a month ago, we participated in our first event as missionary itinerants. We had only received our official approval the day prior. And I'm not going to lie, we had no idea what to expect. We were completely new to the whole process. As I mentioned in previous blog posts, we were busy the whole week leading up to the event as we prepared our table display and packets. We thought we would go and gain a little exposure with some pastors and leaders and such would be our day. As it turned out, we did connect with a couple pastors and a few leaders. Without missionary cards, we didn't even have anything to leave people with except for a full promo packet that we had rushed to print the night before. Still, we felt good about this purpose being satisfied. As Polly and I reflected on that initial missionary experience, however, we both had the same feeling. The value in that day for us was not in networking or connecting with pastors and leaders. The value in that day for us was networking and connecting with the other missionaries who also had tables there. We quickly came to the following conclusion: Hanging out with other missionaries made us to feel a part of a family.

Polly and I truly felt that day that we were part of something much bigger than ourselves. We weren't an isolated family going to serve God in another country. And it wasn't going to be only us and the Musacchio's. No, we were part of a bigger family of numerous missionaries who were serving God all throughout the world. There was an instantaneous bond and connection that I can hardly describe. We built friendships that day (we already "knew" a number of the missionaries) that we believe will last us a lifetime.

We were blessed to share a table space with Neil and Kathy Vanaria (pronounce this the Italian way or else...). As such, we spent a bit of time talking with them. I "knew" them already as we share a mutual friend and have had conversations in the past. I let them know how they were the first missionaries I ever remember having at church when I was a young kid. I remember thinking how cool I thought it was that they did what they did and how I would like to do that someday. Funny how God works, no? Anyway, Neil made a comment about missionaries and used the term "we" in that comment. It hit me that he meant me too. I guess it hadn't really sunk yet that we are missionaries now too.

Neil and Kathy invited us to dinner after the event was over. We shared some great stories over some delicious food (Panera is always a good choice) with them and Sarah Blackstone. It was such a blessed time. Polly and I left feeling like we belonged...belonged to the missionary family.