I Used to Hate Arizona…
…Now I just hate Phoenix.
We’ve been in Safford, Arizona for two days now. I’ve been so blessed by the community out here I can’t even explain it.
Other than the fiasco with my cabinets exploding with fruit and wine the other day, it’s been a really good experience. The Safford love began with the local bike shop taking two of our bikes and tuning them up for us for free!
Two churches have taken
us me in. First Baptist Church was our main connection, which Simon got to speak at. Ken, the pastor there, is a cyclist and former missionary kid from Brazil, so a lot of what GLO is doing lined up with him really well. We were taken in by members of his congregation who fed us, hung out with us, did our laundry, took us shopping and generally welcomed us into their homes. Jeff and I went to the same place and have had a blast.
This morning I got up and went to another church in town, New Life City Church, which has a connection to Rwanda specifically as well as Burundi. Phil, the pastor there wanted someone to come out and preach… guess who? Yeah, I was asked to preach a few weeks ago since I’ve been to Burundi. Geoff was originally supposed to preach there, but I guess it worked out perfectly since he wasn’t able to continue. I never get to preach, so of course I accepted then immediately regretted in light of all that I would have to do over the next several weeks and not having much time if any to prepare.
The awesome things is that going into the sermon I didn’t feel prepared, but I wasn’t really nervous about that. Intellectually I knew I needed more preparation, but in my spirit I knew God would show up. I had a wonderful experience worshiping with the people at New Life. There was such a freedom to follow the Lord’s direction there, it was amazing. One of the guys in the worship team set down his guitar halfway through the worship set and started dancing in the front, as well as a bunch of little kids. It was so much fun. Then they gave me the pulpit, which is framed by large bay windows with Mt. Graham in the background, which apparently is there to look at when the preaching bombs. They didn’t draw the curtains, so I guess that means I did ok. Though after they found out I was a surfer, they put a powerpoint of waves up on the screen… glad it was behind me or I’d be looking for a good set instead of paying attention.
It’s weird, but I spoke about one of my old jobs during my sermon, which I wasn’t really planning on doing. The company isn’t big, but one of the members of the congregation was closely related to one of my former co-workers in Charleston, South Carolina. Another of her relatives is currently attending The Citadel, which I also mentioned in my sermon. The whole 7 degrees of separation thing was more like 2 degrees today. How crazy is that? God orchestrates things so perfectly, doesn’t he?
God totally showed up in the service. I saw a grip of people who were touched as the words I was given sank in. I’m always so humbled to preach anywhere. Today was no exception.
Later on in the day, the guys biked another ~20 miles up some steep terrain. Ken, the paster of First Baptist has been sick, so instead of cycling with the guys he rode along with me in the Honey Badger and we had tons of great conversation throughout the afternoon and into the evening. The guys did a great job, and climbed the hill in no time. Good job riders!
I’m not much of a desert person, but it’s been refreshing to spend time in this community. The church is a family, and to see relatives in different parts of the world and get to know them is always so cool to see. The body of Christ is kind of like the Mafia. Once you’re in, you’re in. And when you’re in, you’re family.