I know what you’re thinking…..”I really wish I could buy a super, awesome quilt like that.” Well, feel free to contact me and we can negotiate a reasonable trade within both of our interests. The rest of you are wondering what it takes to grow a Tom Selleck-like mustache similar to the one you see in the photo. And most likely, having these two thoughts has led you to ask yourself, “What kind of baptist organization is this guy a part of?”. Well let me tell you!
For those that don’t know, since late July three other missionaries (Matt Pringle, Paige Stillwell, and Scott Drennan) and myself, through our sending church, Brentwood Baptist, have been participating in the International Mission Board’s training program for their employees called FPO (Field Personnel Orientation) as independent missionaries, otherwise known as Southern Baptist Church Direct missionaries. It is an 8 week program located in the state of Virginia. Here, we get extensive training on living in foreign cultures, church-planting, discipleship, evangelism, and even a little theology.
To be honest, when I was told I was going to spend eight weeks in training, away from friends and family, I had this miserable idea of being trapped on a small campus in the middle of no where, with no way to leave and spend two months trying to entertain myself, feeling like a freshman in college again, living in a small closet of a dorm room, eating cafeteria food that messes with your digestive system, required to attend everything on a schedule that starts at 6am and goes until midnight, monday through friday, and all the while missing out on quality time I could have spent with people back home. Well, it wasnt quite that.
YES, we have been on a very small campus in the middle of no where, that is somewhat oddly similar to what the Darma Initiative experienced in the famous television show, Lost. A property surrounded by wilderness with a whole lot of small housing buildings that all look the exact same, with playground areas in the middle for the kids to play on, and everyone here is assigned to a team to help maintain and operate the facilities. The only thing missing that I’ve been anticipating, and secretly excited about, is a large smoke monster to come tearing through the woods and cause mass destruction. But that likely won’t happen. We’re very fortunate, though, to have a gymnasium, as well as a large field, to play different sports like basketball, soccer, ultimate frisbee, kickball, and even make up our own new games. And it wasnt until these final two weeks did we discover a satellite tv box wired to a large projector in one of the auditoriums that allows us to watch any live sporting event, or anything else we’d like to watch. Probably better off just finding that out now instead of early on and avoiding distraction.
YES, there is a cafeteria on campus that provides three quality meals a day. It still messes with your digestive system, but still very thankful. Like any cafeteria, there will be days where the food option might be questionable and you debate inside your head whether you’d rather choose to pass on the opportunity or partake and fear the possibility of regret afterwards. But luckily, there’s a large breakfast cereal bar, with several options of your favorite choices from your childhood. And, in addition, we are blessed with the freedom to leave campus and dine-out at the many options closer into town. Even then, you can’t help but feel that wonderful sensation from senior year of high school, when you left campus during lunch hour to drive 1/9 of a mile down the road to Wendy’s to grab lunch. Returning to several faces of jealousy because instead of meatloaf and mashed potatoes, you got the famous square burger and french fries. But here at FPO, instead of Wendy’s, it’s Buffalo Wild Wings every time!
YES, there has been a required schedule. BUT, fortunately, it’s not a 18 hour day. Breakfast is served at 7am, which is reasonable. Then we break into our small group worship, which has been a great experience. Along with in-depth study into certain chapters in the bible with 10 other believers, we were trained on how to lead a small group/house worship style and practiced facilitating discussions. Then from 9am to 3pm, with an hour lunch break from noon to 1pm, we meet as a large group and sit in on lectures and training exercises covering world views, discipleship training, church planting movements, evangelism, and theological discussions, like doctrine and spiritual warfare. All of which were incredible and very resourceful and beneficial. The remainder of the day, with dinner at 5 pm, is free game. Time to get in some exercise, take care of any errands, knock off items on the To-Do list, and any other ways to kill time. You may be asking yourself, “What other possible ways could there be to entertain yourself out there?”.
Enter, the Quilting Quad! A housing unit full of retired missionaries. Most of which are wise elderly women, but dragging along their loyal and bored husbands who sit back in the corner and piece together large 1000 piece puzzles, fix mechanical issues with the sewing machines, and go get snacks for everyone else. Here you can learn to sew just about anything you’re willing to take the time to make. Quilts, aprons, hats, bags, pillow cases, shirts, pants, socks, anything! If there was ever a moment of discouragement during these 8 weeks, all you had to do was go to the quilting quad and you would leave happier than ever before. I went in early on to see if they could stitch up a hole in one of my shirts. Sadly, they said it was done for and could not be fixed. So in a moment of emptiness, I was encouraged to make a quilt! They did suggest I make a rag quilt, which is one that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot mess it up. Several weeks later! Complete!
That wasnt the only thing to do, fortunately. The area we are in may be in the middle of no where, but its only 20 minutes from plenty of things to do. Laser tag (which is awesome no matter how old you are), bowling, a drive-in movie theater, Dave & Busters (because who doesn’t love large arcades), and best of all, The Byrd Theater…
An old-fashioned theater into town, where they show movies recently removed from theaters, but not yet released on DVD. The best part, it’s only $2! And to make it even better, there is a guy, every saturday, who comes out of the ground on stage and plays the organ before every movie. It’s incredible!
All in all, despite this being possibly the longest eight weeks of my life, it has been fantastic! God continues to put me in my place and show off. I was sceptical and in question about what kind of experience this would be coming in, and God told me to shut up, and proved me wrong. I am extremely thankful for Brentwood Baptist Church sending me here and providing this experience and training that has answered so many prayers and given me so many necessary tools to really be effective on the field and expanding God’s kingdom! God continues to show me that I am on the right path He has laid out for me and that He is absolutely with me every step of the way. Praise Him for that!
Also, sorry to disappoint you all, but the mustache is gone. There was a brief mourning period, then God provided strength and perseverance. Praise Him for that! He probably knew it would interfere with the ministry.
Thank you all for all of the thoughts and prayers during these past eight weeks! Graduation is Wednesday! Exciting because it’s the first thing I’ve successfully graduated from since high school (also known as a win in my book).
Then I’ll be onto Boston for a week to experience a new culture, foreign to my southern traditions. And also spend some much-needed quality time with this beautiful lady!
my beautiful lady!
Thanks for the support!