It always snows in Minnesota…

This isn’t really true but it also isn’t true that, “it never, ever rains in southern California,” as the hippies sang in the sixties. But twice now I arrived in Minneapolis with better than tolerable weather to be met by a snow storm in only a few short days. Here it was again. The last time I was here for two weeks Minneapolis had the second worst single snow storm in recorded history. This time it wasn’t as bad but it was more unfair since we were met by the promise of springtime weather. Not so! We will spent the next two weeks slogging through snow and slush.

SICK…

AGAIN…

More lately, it seems that I have gotten sick (the unrecoverable kind) every time I have traveled. Jeanne and I arrived in Minneapolis, went out to Matt and Noemi’s house, spent the night and then drove the next day to the Kansas City area to meet the Benedict family (more on this in the next entry). I remember right when it happened. I sneezed four times and wound up sick for the last two weeks.

I DON’T TRUST FLU SHOTS…

I am assured those who sell them (perhaps this is the first clue) that they have nothing to do with contracting everything and anything other than the H1N1. After coaxing by many of my friends and seeing a friend sick with Bird or Swine or some other kind of influenza, I decided to take their advice and over the last few years have been getting these blasted shots at $22.95. It is cheaper than computer virus protection but I have a theory about that as well. I am pretty sure that Norton Virus Protection is in cahoots with the software companies. In the same way, I think the flu virus folks are tied in with the people who make this over the counter stuff like ThermaFlu, Mucinex and the like. It is all a huge conspiracy like the hot dog makers and the hot dog bun makers. It takes three packages of wieners and two packages of buns to finally come up with as many wieners as one has buns. It’s all fraud. You are made to buy more stuff… stuff that you don’t want, won’t work or will quickly be obsolete. Did you notice? You can now buy obsolescence insurance.

Anyhow, all that being said, I was sick the last time I was here in December. I was sick before that with a sinus infection from Slovenia, through Italy, Norway and America. This began exactly on September 27th while on the train from Trieste to Venice. It ended a week before I went to Minneapolis in December and the beginning of my next cold. It is no fun and nigh impossible to teach three hours every morning for two weeks with laryngitis.

BCOM Sophomores

What a great group of young people. 

The BCOM Sophomore Class 2010

Some are more clear about their call than others and for those, coming to Bethany means a guided call where they can learn, listen and decide the next step for themselves. Some who come with the conviction that missions is their life calling find that it is not and the opposite is true. Perhaps an equal number who show up simply to grow after exposure to cross-cultural ministry make the decision to invest their lives in other cultures and people groups. Either way, the kingdom is advanced in homes, churches, missions and marketplace ministries.

A "RELAXED" teaching environment? I guess so.

Apparently, this is my wise, professor look.

It’s a very relaxed learning environment (at least my class is) and I have to often call the chaos back to order. I am always surprised at what willing hearts I have here. To be honest, I have had BCOM classes where many of the students had very little respect for age or authority. They were sometimes  rude and insolent. They treated the teachers as their peers. Fortunately, I haven’t encountered attitudes of this nature in at least five or more years. Now, I am not saying here that students are compliant and don’t have opinions, it is just that they are open-hearted and eager for change and maturity.

 

I have a confession to make. I have not been a fan of the BCOM House of Prayer movement (modelled after Kansas City House of Prayer). This will come as no surprise to many on the BCOM staff and though I was not a vocal opponent, I considered the entire business to be too esoteric and undirected to be of any use. To me it was too subjective and etherial. This was simply my opinion. I also admit that in my various attempts to be involved,  I never came away from the experience feeling anything but frustration and confusion. All this being said, it seems that are those who did connect. Some who have prospered because of these LLLL OOOO NNNN GGGG protracted quiet times in the prayer (furnace) room. I have no way to account for the changes in the student body except to think that these prayer meetings began around the same time as did the transformation in the overall classroom environment. I have always seen my personal mandate as that of making more and better disciples. Perhaps in order to effectively do this, you must begin with more and better people. The Prayer Room may have been the means to this transformation. So then, while it isn’t exactly me, I see value in the gifts, graces and calling of others who do see, “Ministering to Jesus” as their life’s purpose. Afterall, I do understand what a “Kingdom of Priests” should be doing. Biblically, Priests were intercessors. They were never meant to serve as one-sided intecessors who only speak to men on behalf of God they also were called to speak to God on behalf of men. The fact is we need both Priests in the church. More than this, we desperately need a new spiritual deportment. I’m make no claim to knowing if this is the result of undergirding prayer. However, whatever it is that causes this new openess to the Spirit and Word of God, I just hope it continues.

Recital Season… It is what you make it.

Joel Haley doing a splendid job in Rock Hill, SC

One of the great joys of being a grandparent is the attending of sundry recitals and sporting events. Living close to John, Jake and Joel, we get to be a supporting cast to all sorts of learning experiences. We get to go through, baseball, soccer, swimming, football and now, piano, violin, and with the others, saxophone, voice and even art.

A very focused Dylan plucks away

I arrived in Minneapolis and right away, after being picked up at the airport, I was taken to the Greenhouse home and fed a terrific squash soup. Not long after I was wisked off to see Dylan, who is six and new at this, pluck his violin through eight bars of music and then stayed to watch other people I did not know play their instruments (some good, others not so good) for the next hour or so.

I offer some encouragement in doing this as it is quite amazing to see how six year-old string pluckers become quite compotent fourteen year-old Mozart players. The same is true of the chilly nights logged watching boys we do not know run up and down the field in support of an eighth grade linebacker who waits his turn on the gridiron. This is the great privilege of being a grandparent and the stuff they will remember.

Grandchildren remember their favorite pie crafted by a grandmother with amazing pie crust fingers. They remember grandfathers who can be heard over everyone else shouting a hearty, “BRAVO!” or “ENCORE!”

This may be our remaining purpose in life and no doubt (if the Lord wills) a good use of the next ten to twenty years.

Bethany College of Missions Fall 2010

What a week!

Saturday evening

I started with a headache that developed into a full blown, “stay in bed and drink lots of liquids” event. The problem, of course, is that I don’t have a “stay in bed” sort of schedule so I just kept going until on Saturday, when I could do no more, we had a blizzard that stopped everyone from doing more. So there was my answer, snuggle up in my single bed in my little eight by ten room a let’er howl and that she did.

Shovelling out on Sunday morning

Today (Sunday) it is bright and pristine with amazing drifts and sub zero temperatures. Almost everything is cancelled including the Bethany Church Christmas program where I was planning to see my grandaughter, Adriah sing her first public solo.

I did try to alter my circumstances and got up and around early expecting to pull the borrowed fourteen passenger van out of the parking lot and go to the local coffee shop. After a snowfall of sixteen inches and one of ten of the largest single snowfalls ever, nothing in our parking lot has either started or moved.  The Bobcat that clears the walkways hasn’t even managed to get us to the parking lot yet. So here I sit in my room again.

Entry 10 / Bethany College of Missions

Sunday

Dedicating Clara Isabel Hedrick

Bethany Church of the Twin Cities

The prayer of dedication

Perhaps it is only fitting that Entry 10 should should feature grandchild number ten. It turns out that our visit to Bloomington, Minnesota coincided with the dedication of Matthew and Noemi’s third child and our tenth grandchild.

Jeanne arrived from Charlotte on Thursday evening and we spent the next three days or so playing with grandchildren, eating and watching the NCAA “March Madness’ on TV and finally seeing my alma  mater and favorite, Kansas University go down in defeat to the untattooed and miniscule North Iowa University. It was a good time with Jeremy and Rachel (our other children) arriving at Matt and Noemi’s on Saturday morning with their two boys. This all meant an exhausting and hectic (frenzied) day of doors opening and banging closed, screeching and screaming.

Prayer for Clara

On Sunday we joined with almost four-hundred others at church where Matt has been the lead pastor for almost seven years. It was wonderful to celebrate perhaps our last of the grandchildren to be born. They all swear that their families have been completed.

Entry 9 / Bethany College of Missions

Thursday

Our last day and a group hug and a memory made…

Almost sixty students being outfitted for mission and ministry

Here’s most of the gang all gathered in front of the main entrance to Bethany College of Missions.

They have had quite a challenge these last wo weeks. First, just to endure me and my stories takes people of unusual stamina. Secondly, even though we only reached Acts, Chapter 17 they had to recall almost all of it for the two tests they took during the course.  I’m impressed (I’m almost always impressed!) as the majority of the students leave this portion of Acts with a full-blown grasp of the content.

One more thing. Let me tell you what’s nice about this experience. I like to watch them grow up and many of them are married with children and on the field. I am often invited to come and teach in their schools or churches in various parts of the world. This is mustard seed faith at work. A small investment, like a small dandelion, has been blown upon and spread all over the globe.

Entry 8 / Bethany College of Missions

Wednesday

Should I even try to explain this?

Jerry's regular eyewear

I am not a believer in or a proponent of astrology but it has been of some concern to me that Jerry and I were born on the same day. I’m sure there would be exceptions to this but we are both extroverts and admittedly love talking, complaining, attention, affirmation and as you might notice, food – we both really like  (adore) food. Then too, I like it because Jerry never “shush’s” me like many other people do. “Oh, Tony… shhhhhhhhh'” they’ll say. I don’t like being “shushed.” All of this combines to bring us together on any visit I make to the Bloomington. Minnesota area.

I first met Jerry almost ten years ago in a photocopy shop when he was making photocopies of Second World War documents and I maps of Slovenia. As a second generation Yogo-Slovenian-Croat-Austrian, Jerry looked over my shoulder and inquired about my interest in the Balkans and that region of the world.

Through this first introduction we took up meeting for coffee in a local shop and over time Jerry listened to the gospel, committed his life to Christ, and within three years sold his house and belongings, moved with his three children (now grown) to Vancouver, British Columbia and took up studies at Regent College where he managed to graduate with a Master’s Degree. He is now on track to be ordained with The Evangelical Covenant Church of America and has a four hundred fifty page book on the monastic movement being read for publication (sorry, I can’t tell you with whom but it is a well-known publisher). He has done all of this while being relatively penniless.

As we sat around the table at Buca’s Italian Restaurant in Eden Prairie, it finally occurred to us that neither of us have had any visible means of support for more than fifteen years and we have not starved to death in some dark, deserted corner of the universe. God has been our constant supply and though scary at times we have much to be thankful for and none of this has anything to do with stupid green glasses that light up and blink, shamrocks, the luck of the Irish or St. Patty’s Day.

Entry 7 / BCOM

I trade work for food…

Tuesday with Amber

On Tuesday afternoon, right after class, I drove out to Prior Lake where I was to give former student and friend Amber Lang (the wife of Rich Lang)  a crash course in watercolor. Noemi, my daughter-in-law (a pretty good watercolorist herself and an even better photographer… www.noemiphotography.com) offered her kitchen table.

Here is a snap shot of me giving pointers. Amber is giving a shot at illustrating a children’s book, something I’ve never done before. I hope that I was able to help her even a little.

This is not out of the goodness of my heart….

Poor Rich. When her husband was a student I often had at my house digging and cutting and trimming so I definitely owe him one. I am only amazed that after I caught him up a tree in my back yard with a chain saw and me without liability insurance that he has lived this long to be married and produce a rather pretty baby – truly I am a debtor. So I did my best though it wasn’t the debt to Rich that attracted me. Amber promised to make me supper and indeed, what a fantastic stew I enjoyed at their house. Jesus was right when he instructed his disciples that should they leave houses, lands, cattle and family members to follow him then they would receive in return all of this a hundred-fold. I can make the boast that I have free beds and meals in literally hundreds of homes in more than twenty nations. Next month fish and chips in London and lutefisk in Norway (not ever). I will be in Norway but I expect the best roast, cheese and salmon in the world.

Entry 4 / Bethany College of Missions

Wednesday

Time for a grandkid fix…

Leyton with his mommy, Noemi

After a typical morning of three hours on the Book of Acts (or the more precise name: “The Continuing Ministry of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit and among the Apostles”) I finally reached the martyrdom of Stephen at the end of chapter seven. Tomorrow the students will take the first of two summary essay exams on what we have so far covered before we move on to the next section, beginning with the conversion of Saul. Acts can be handily divided into three sections (Acts 1:8), Jerusalem – Judea, Samaria and the utter most parts of the earth.

The afternoon was spent, as it was yesterday, working on a Mormon power point presentation entitled “So, what’s the difference?” In the fall I hope to be teaching two courses (Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses) on modern religious movements while in Italy. I will also offer these courses in the Charlotte area in late October and November and though I have taught these on numerous occasions, I have a lot of catching up to do. These quiet afternoons provide time for that sort of business.

Matt with his hands full, Adriah and her new baby sister, Clara

At five this evening, I jumped in Pastor Eric Burgdorf’s loaner (Mr. Taurus as it is so called) and ran out to my son, Matt’s house for supper.

Adriah, considered to be the most photographed child in North America

Another one of this cute fella they call Bubba.

 

I managed to see Noemi before she stepped out the door to be with her friends but enjoyed some chicken and rice she brewed up for me beforehand and then hung out and played with the kids, Adriah and Leyton. Later little Clara woke up and I handled her for a while. What a cutie!

Tomorrow, right after class I will grab my things, pick up my grandson, Jesse and head almost straight north of the “Gunflint Trail” for Thunder Bay, Ontario about a seven or more hours up the north shore of Lake Superior. Just take a map, put your finger on Duluth and follow it three and a half hours northward. Once there I will enjoy the weekend with my oldest son, Sky and his wife Angie who work with street people and native youth. They have two (almost grown) children, Justin and Alysha.