Last week was my first really proper itineration experience. Prior to that I spoke at one Wednesday evening service, one children’s service, and two sectional ministers’ meetings, as well as three teas and a number of meetings with pastors. Last week, however, I spoke five times between Wednesday and Sunday.
On Wednesday I drove to Butte, two hours away, picked up my grandma, who lives there, and went to her church. It was only about -20 degrees Fahrenheit out. Her church is small, especially on a Wednesday night, especially on a bitterly cold Wednesday night, but there was quite a large group of children, as well as a goodly number of teenagers.
Speaking to the children was delightful. They wiggled and asked questions and answered them. My questions to them involved making them think about God creating their minds and their interests and having a plan for their lives. Their questions to me were my age and whether I was married or dating. Ah, children.
After ten or fifteen minutes with them, I went on to the youth group. I was most nervous about that, since I have never identified well with teenagers, not even, or especially, when I was a teenager. But it turned out to be my favorite segment of the night. They were responsive and interested, and I think I made one girl cry. I do not consider that a bad thing, because I was speaking encouragement to them about who God made them to be.
Finally I spoke to the adults for half an hour or so. There were only about eight of them, including my grandmother and my aunt, but they were kind and encouraging, and I think I encouraged them as well. My grandmother, who went to each group with me, said later she enjoyed hearing how I adjusted what was basically the same message to each age group and situation. I’ve always been a fairly good contextualizer (once I wrote a missions paper about applying the Gospel to Vulcans and Klingons…but that’s another story).
The next afternoon, after spending the night at my grandma’s house, I was off to Dillon, about an hour south of Butte. It was such a beautiful drive that I wished it was longer. Dillon is a startlingly lovely little town with a startlingly grand campus of the University of Montana in it, and two of my friends from Trinity Bible College, Jason and Cindy Axt, are the Chi Alpha leaders there. (Chi Alpha is the Assemblies of God’s U.S. college missions arm.)
Jason and Cindy kindly let me stay at their house from Thursday to Sunday. Being missionaries themselves, they understand the difficulties of having to spend money on hotels while trying to fundraise. They have three children nine and under who are all rather adorable, and my stay with them ended up being unbelievably relaxing and low-key. That’s another thing about missionaries. They also understand how important it is to be able to relax between the whirlwind of speaking engagements.
On Thursday night I spoke at their Chi Alpha group, to fifteen or so college students, and on Friday, between hanging out with Jason and Cindy and their kids, exploring the town, reading, and writing in my journal and my latest Shakespearean science fiction book, I had a lovely meeting with the local Assembly of God pastor. We talked about missions, of course, and education, and Europe, and made a plan for me to come back in March to his church, but we also had a grand time talking about British television, because when two fans of “Sherlock” and other British mysteries get together, such subjects can’t be repressed.
Between Thursday and Sunday, it snowed about two feet, and oh how I wish I had brought my camera, because it was so lovely and Dillon was so lovely, and I’d love to show you pictures of it. In lieu of that, however, here’s a lovely picture I took about three years ago of snow in Missoula. On bicycles.
On Sunday we drove to Sheridan, about half an hour away, where the Axts go to church, and I spoke there for about half an hour. It was a marvelous church, quite small but very welcoming and encouraging. People came up and talked to me afterward and were terribly delightful and kind. I was even asked for advice and my expert opinion as regards missions in Europe and such things, which was a bit disconcerting. I’m The Missionary now. Weird.
All in all, it was most charming. My next marathon is the last weekend of this month.