It has been a while since I posted an excerpt from my book because I haven’t worked on it since school began in September. I am now hopping back on track – with 100 pages done, I probably have 200 more to go. Hopefully, it will be published by the year’s end. Of course, as I am learning, it is a book never before written so, I’m not sure how long it will be nor how long it will take to complete the first draft etc. We shall see. The Holy Spirit is my personal assistant and He is full of fire so, I’ve got that in my favor. hahahaha.
I was talking to a friend this week about the fact that many people don’t like travelling because they don’t know how to travel – that is to say, they don’t know how to adapt to new places, people, food, and culture easily and this stunts their ability to travel well. Yet, as people are awakened for God’s love for the nations, they will become more malleable to the twists and turns of travel. This is one more part of loving the nations into their greatness. In our conversation I reminisced about the 7 week backpacking trip I did after university.
Consider this a 5 minute trailer to the film that is my book. May it inspire you with Daddy’s love for the nations!
Shortly after graduation I flew to Israel. A friend and I planned to backpack Europe for seven weeks. She was studying in Jerusalem, so I would meet her there and spend a week in Israel, then fly to Greece. Ironically, though I knew I was called to the Middle East, I never really considered Israel. Curiously, while I was there, all access to the West Bank/Palestinian Territories was sealed due to escalating conflict between Palestinians and Jews. Thus, I never set foot in Bethlehem or Jericho. I was scarcely around Arabs. Most of what I saw of Israel was the tourist sites, and the Jewish areas. I left having no sense for the Arab story in Israel. And therefore, I thought I wasn’t called to Israel.
After Israel we flew to Greece and then took a ferry to Italy. From there the Eurail trains carried us to Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. From Belgium, a ferry carried us to the white cliffs of Dover in England. We rented a car in London, and went on a weeklong road trip through Scotland. Once back in London, we spent a few days in the city and then whisked ourselves onto a plane and headed back to precious San Francisco, California.
As I walked the long white, sterile hallways of the San Francisco airport, laden with my huge purple backpacking backpack on my back and my golden Jansport backpack on my front, I could feel my life glowing. I did it. Thirteen countries and seven weeks later, I survived and flourished through changing languages, currencies, transportation systems, foods, and cultures. My thirsty eyes were quenched, at least, for a time. I had seen so much – not only in other people, but in myself. I carried about fifty pounds on my back through the hills of snowy Interlaken, Switzerland; the winding streets of Florence, Italy; the refined propriety of the French Riviera; and the tricky hostels of Amsterdam. And it all felt wonderful (well, there were a few miles here and there, when I exceedingly wanted to sit down and sleep, and definitely dream in English). It all felt like my own blood. It felt more inside me than outside me. It felt like I was travelling in myself – like I was doing part of what I was made for.
One moment in particular left me undone. We were in Cinque Terre, Italy – a seaside rim of five villages. Brady and I walked out on a very long pier in the village of Vernazza. We stood gazing out at the sea and then she went off to run an errand, leaving me alone and undistracted from the Holy Spirit, who had been cornering me all day. Pretty instantaneously I was weeping, my shoulders heaved and I felt my legs might buckle. I looked across the water and to the rough cliffs on each side and thought of everywhere that water reached – and beyond. I thought of the whole world being covered in the knowledge of the glory of God, like that sea, but everywhere. I envisioned nations, entire people groups worshiping Jesus. I pictured Muslim women throwing off their headscarves, Hindus clearing out their temple gods, Buddhists sitting up from their pursuit of nothingness and being full of life and passion. I imagined all of Italy knowing Jesus and rejoicing in the invitation to celebrate and adore Him. I was electrified. It was a Mt. Sinai moment, I had my burning bush moment years earlier in the shower, but here I was being refined by His Presence and Power. I felt I would be destroyed by the magnitude of love for God and the nations vibrating inside me. A trumpet was blasting. I heard God announce to the nations His Presence and power; and I was Moses, leading a great deliverance. It is hard to describe the fury or intensity of that moment. I felt like roaring. I felt like grabbing the city gates in Jerusalem and ripping them off their hinges. I felt like becoming invisible and running behind enemy lines on a battlefield. I felt like laughing in the face of “impossibility.” I felt like being fully me and letting God be fully God. When that happens, mountains shake.
On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.
The sound of the trumpet was growing louder and louder. I was speaking and God was answering me.
I loved all the nations I set foot in that summer and the people in them: the ferry employee off the coast of Patras, Greece who shook my friend’s feet to wake her up as we slept in the movie theatre on board- it was the middle of the night and no one was watching the movie, so people with cheap tickets, like us, took the opportunity to get some rest – much to the condescending frustration of the employee; the laidback guy at the Princess Diana Hostel in Monaco who relented and allowed us to leave our things at the hostel for a few hours even though we weren’t staying there; the bus driver in Paris who insisted the hospital was a short walk from the last stop, though it ended up being over a mile (which on my tendonitis-ridden foot made each step like putting my foot in a high-pressure vise); the man at the desk in the grimy hotel in Tiberias, Israel who quite obviously was taking advantage of our exhaustion; the drunken stumblers at Durty Nelly’s Inn in Amsterdam (where we opted not to stay); the aphorism-spouting, high, and barely clad man perpetually in the bathroom at the hostel we did stay at in Amsterdam; the construction worker in London who kindly recovered my car’s wheel cover for me after I scraped it off on a curb in my first hour of driving on the other side of the road (it took me almost three hours to get from the rental agency back to our hostel, normally a thirty minute drive); the Frenchman who insisted on consuming his bottle of red wine and his pasta alfredo in the hot, cramped sleeping car from Spain to France – steaming my pores and those of the two other men in the car with the scent of a garbage disposal at an Italian restaurant; the new friends we had South African sandwiches with in Edinburgh, Scotland (wow, that bread was amazing!); and, of course, every single gentle stranger along the way who patiently helped us with directions, or simply scooted out of the way on the overcrowded trains as we and our massive backpacks came conspicuously barreling through.
I really loved those people. I saw God in them. They were all so different, so happy or grumpy, so communicative or non-communicative. They fascinated me. And in that fascination grew a love to love. In my moments leaning against the wall of yet another train and staring out the window at yet another country, I was consumed with passion, with vision, with dreams. God and I would ignite these nations. We would open their eyes to see their beauty, purpose, and significance. We would smile patiently at the Austrian man trying to translate the shampoo bottle for us in a grocery store. We would laugh with the American non-couple couple in the pizza place in Brindisi, Italy. We would merrily tell stories with the old Greek man who bought us dinner alongside the Ionian Sea. God and I. We had such grand adventures – winks and secrets- seeing purpose and destiny in the lives of those gorgeous people.
It was merely a warm-up for a fiery partnership. God was the kid behind me in second grade kicking the back of my chair, and I was his high school sweetheart nine years later. We were a match made in heaven. And this was our senior class trip.