October 25, 2013

What Remains?

After eight days on the road, it’s time to say good-bye.

Phil, the capable driver of our Washington Adventist University bus, shared some interesting figures with us last night. Since my wife and I joined the group in Boston on October 15, we traveled nearly 2,200 miles, using about 350 gallons of diesel fuel and 8 quarts of oil. Now I know why I felt so tired some evenings—and I didn’t even do the driving!

Traveling in a confined space with 35 people for 2,200 miles does something to a person. I got onto a bus of total strangers (well, I need to correct that, I did know Jim Nix, our faithful guide!)—and stepped off a bus full of family at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. During our morning worships on our bus we shared in the tears and victories of many of our fellow travelers. While eating a picnic lunch together at the Miller Farm I heard exciting mission stories or enthusiastic reports of volunteer opportunities. We prayed together and laughed together. We lugged our luggage into numerous hotels and pushed them out again early the following morning. We anticipated rest stops and discussed theology, history, and what belonging to this church has meant to us. We did it all together—young and old, and everything in between. Gerald Klingbeil with two familiar faces.

In fact, that may be one of the most important lessons I’m bringing home from my journey: families, especially those who acknowledge Christ as the head, stick together. Families cry together—and sometimes even disagree.  But at the end of the day, we stick together.

When I read the history of early Adventist pioneers, I find strong convictions and passionate discussions. But it went beyond that. There was something bigger that moved us forward—a world that needed to know. From the beginnings of Adventism this vision has stayed vibrant. Early Adventists thought that their work was to reach the world gathered in the U.S.A.: this was, after all, a country of immigrants from all parts of the world. As Adventists grew in their understanding of God’s global mission, they realized that the world was much bigger. No one had yet described the 10/40 Window, but following the departure of J. N. Andrews to Europe in 1874, mission became the rallying cry of Adventism.

It must still be our rallying cry today.

Here’s another gift I’m taking home from our journey. Families not only stay together—they adjust to each other’s rhythm, and take into consideration the abilities of others. I love walking fast—all the time. Some of my fellow travelers, however, struggled with their walking speed, and I found it necessary to walk at a slower pace if I was going to make the journey with them. Slowing down proved to be a good experience. It helped me look away from my agenda and actually pay attention to the stories and insights of others.

There’s one more insight from this route to our roots. Pioneers were real people, living in a real world—and they were not “saints.” I would guess that they wouldn’t want us pining for the “good ‘ole days” or some type of Amish Adventism. They embraced the changing world that surrounded them, and constantly wrestled with the question of how this new world would fit into God’s plan. They used innovative paper mâché beasts when they wanted to talk about God’s prophetic panorama found in Daniel and Revelation. They were willing to climb into unproven means of transportation (train cars, and later, automobiles) in order to reach their next appointment more quickly. They embraced radio, TV, satellites, and today, they use the Internet and social media. They pushed forward because they knew that time was short.

As we hugged and shook hands at O’Hare, I knew I had found important roots. No matter my place of birth, my language or my culture, I’m first and foremost a member of God’s family, waiting for the Blessed Hope to become a sweet reality.

And while I wait, I want to share the Good News.