You yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family… Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more. (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10)
Greetings from Colorado! This is such an amazing place to spend the summer! We love the mountain views, the cool temperatures, and the easy opportunities for activities such as hiking, biking, and fly-fishing (a new hobby I’ve been trying to develop this summer, after a friend gifted me some gear). We also love the ministry opportunities provided by the Estes Park Leadership Training program: sharing the Gospel regularly, making new friends, deepening existing relationships, and watching God transform lives right in front of our eyes. I feel like there are so many stories I could tell from the past month of life here in the mountains, but an interaction from last Thursday evening seems like a good place to start…
“This is your son?!?” She asked. Enthusiasm mounted in her voice. A smile spread across her face. “He is very popular here.” Her Turkish accent made this pronouncement seem even bigger, more global. Other bystanders from Jamaica, Colombia, and Malaysia nodded and added words of agreement. “Very popular.”
Cor just looked up from his Turkish coffee and grinned sheepishly.
While we’ve been here at Estes Park Leadership Training — keeping ourselves busy with meetings and all the minutiae of running a program for 130 college students from across the country — our Cor has been reveling in the glories of the World Cup of soccer.
He starts most mornings by grabbing his soccer ball and walking towards the center of the sprawling campus of the YMCA of the Rockies. Depending on the time of day and the day’s match schedule, he’ll either go to the large grassy field near the big flagpole or to the YMCA’s Administration Building (“the Admin”) — and then he’ll switch to the other location at some point in the morning. On the grassy field, he kicks around his soccer ball and imagines himself as the striker, and the keeper, and the announcer, and the crazed crowds in the stands. Inside the Admin, he clusters with other soccer fans around the big-screen television and watches the games on the live telecast.
It’s actually kind of lucky that the Dutch and American teams didn’t qualify for the tournament because we Asps can get way too emotionally-invested in these teams, to a point of ugliness. With the teams in this year’s World Cup, however, our family has a happy, healthy, working knowledge of the sport, the teams, the players, the coaches, and the cultures involved. When Cor watches the World Cup matches in the Admin, he’s chatty, friendly, and engaging. He reacts to the game with demonstrative emotion and passion. His ten-year-old gasps, cheers, groans, and hand-wringing seem to be pure, unadulterated expressions of what everyone is really feeling on the inside (if they’re into the game). And people love him for it.
Why am I telling you this? It’s because there are times when I’m tempted to think that my family is a hindrance to ministry: they slow me down… they divide my time and attention… they make me stand out instead of blend in… This summer, however, I’ve been blessed to see the ways that my children allow for connections that would never happen under other circumstances: Cor’s popularity among the fútbol fanatics / seasonal workers who come to the YMCA of the Rockies from around the world… Olivia’s sweet care for the infants and toddlers around the Y… Elliot’s relationships formed on his Housekeeping shifts and on the basketball courts after work…
I’m learning that much of our best ministry seems to come through family dynamics — which actually makes a lot of sense. We’re adopted into God’s family when we place our faith in Jesus (Romans 8). Our love for each other is an echo of God’s love, receiving its fullest expression when we live this out for the world to see (1 John 4). College students respond to this. People from different cultures (like the two Turkish women pictured with us on the right) respond to this. Our own hearts are also filled as we experience this “extended family” dynamic of God’s love.
So we just want to say: Thank you for being a part of our ministry family! You’re a significant part of the reason why we can be here in Colorado: not just me as a “ministry worker” but us as a whole family. We don’t take this opportunity for granted! We love you guys, and we’re honored to be in this together. We’ll be in touch…