As I write this I’m preparing for a trip to the Ukraine, January 21st – January 28th, to keynote 3 sessions at the “Greater Things” student conference where there will be students from other Protestant denominations as well as from the Eastern Orthodox tradition and to preach in L’viv at a local Ukranian United Methodist Church. Oh, the connectional nature of the United Methodist Church! You may be wondering how in the world I’m connected to the church in the Ukraine, and that’s a good question. One of my former students at Winthrop Wesley, Erica Oliveira, was assigned as a mission intern to a campus ministry that serves the students at all of the universities in L’viv. The young adult mission intern program consists of approximately 18 months in an international setting and 18 months in a US site. She’ll be flying back to New York two days after I return to start her US-based internship in a partnership between Miami Wesley and FIU-MDC Wesley also based in Miami. We learned late last week that we have been assigned our own mission intern. Brad Kenn, originally from Arizona and a graduate of Pfeiffer University in Charlotte, NC, will begin in March 2014 and will finish the program in July of 2015. Brad’s international placement was in Brazil and he feels like God has called him to campus ministry.
What a small world! I’m grateful that the Ukranian campus ministry received a grant from GBHEM to cover all my expenses associated with the trip, grateful to the staff at Gator Wesley who I know will step up in tremendous ways giving me the reassurance that it’s all taken care of and grateful to see and experience this part of the world.
Speaking of grateful, I’ve chosen that as my word for 2014. Have you noticed the “choose a word for the year” trend? I first read about it in One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp as well as on her blog, A Holy Experience. She named 2008 “eucharisteo,” 2009 “communion,” 2010 “the Year of Yes,” 2011 “The Year of Here,” 2012 “The Year of No Fear,” but she did something different as she entered 2013 that’s explained in the post below. Ann wires that she wants a do over for last year. She continues saying this, “Well…. do I tell you that this last year was the year I didn’t lose 10 pounds, forgot every morning for. a. year. to exercise, didn’t finish reading the Bible, failed to write what I really wanted, never got the basement backroom gutted, rammed about in the same ruts on rinse and repeat, only read half as many books to the kids as I’d planned, and missed living up to what I’d named this year?”
It doesn’t matter how well you do, it’s not about achievement. It’s about moving forward in grace for yourselves and others. It doesn’t matter what you name your year or even if you do name it. A friend posted this on Facebook at the beginning of the year, “Last year I went to adopting a “word of the year.” My word for 2013 was ‘Overcome.’ So many stories of how I watched God help me overcome in my life and the lives of those around me. My word for 2014 is ‘Glorify.’ In all I do, every moment, might God be glorified!”
In this season of Epiphany may we recognize the gift of God’s manifestation in Jesus as a baby, the Word made flesh, Emmanuel, God with us. May we celebrate those that give us unexpected gifts on this journey – whether friends or strangers or The triune God working ever in our midst. May we be grateful in the big and small things: a hug, a smile, a chance conversation that makes our whole day, the perfect lyrics to the song that came on the radio at just the right time, or an unexpected trip to the Ukraine.
May we be ever longing to bring the light of Christ to pierce the darkness of our world.
Grace and Peace,