As some of you know during September I went on a solo road trip across part of America. I travelled from San Antonio to New York, covering a distance of 2663 miles and having a real adventure on the way; no accidents, no incidents and only pulled over by a State Trooper once.
Why would someone undergo such a journey on their own? The craic, the freedom, something different, the adventure. Travelling on your own makes you think, (you have no choice) you have to think about the journey, about your money, about the road ahead. Even at 24 years old having that time alone makes you think about what you want to do with your life and in my case with my desire to go into the ministry it makes you think about your hopes, dreams and ambitions.
I started in the south of the USA in San Antonio, Texas. The south is hot 44 degrees during the day and I needed that panama Stetson to keep the sun off. I was determined to make the most of my holiday not just for myself seeing as much as I could and meeting as many people as possible, but also for spending time with God and working on my decision to apply to the ministry.
In San Antonio I went to GracePoint Baptist Church. The church has an amazing mission statement, to help lead common people into an uncommon life in Jesus Christ. Churches in America have a real community passion, they are actively working to engage with the people in their areas not just preaching the Gospel in words but making it mean something practically. The pastor was talking about problems and fixing problems and how fixing everybody else’s problems can look so easy and obvious but looking inward at our own problems isn’t so easy. By nature we are fixers, we don’t like to see people in pain, hurting or in need so we try to do something about it. But when it comes to our spiritual lives we end up misdiagnosing the problem and prescribing solutions that will never fix. We all have a deeper wish that sees us yearning for other things and it’s clothed in the words “If I could just ..” and that blank, we fill that blank with any false Saviour and idol that we want.
San Antonio is a place full of history; Texas was birthed at the Alamo. America places such a value on its history, embracing it with reverence and respect and as something that can be learnt from and remembered in a positive way; a young history that helps to unite the people together under the Star Spangled banner.
As I travelled from San Antonio to New York I wasn’t always on the main highways but sometimes on the back roads. America is a country full of ironies. The wealthy are extravagantly wealthy but the poor really are in desperation. There are shanty towns, people basically living in sheds with corrugated iron roofs. It really struck me how here we are generally too blessed to be stressed and how we can view America quite blurry eyed as this country of huge wealth and prosperity. It may be the land of the free but that is twofold, you are free to make your fortune and free to starve.
Memphis was the next Sunday stop. I had endeavoured to go to church every Sunday and that week I went to Hope Presbyterian. The morning service was a celebration of 25 years of the church in the community. The connections this church has fostered are amazing; with all sections of the community: Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Black, Hispanic and White. They have taken on the challenge of being a church for everyone and anyone. It was a blessed service seeing how that church has accomplished so much in 25 years They have been working as a church for the un-churched, to reach out. The church is huge, it has a seating capacity for 5000 people which was full, as it is nearly every Sunday. I went back that night to see how different their “youth” service is. It’s a service that tries to take what the normal man finds common; musically and culturally, to take that and put it into a church setting. It’s a church that makes you feel comfortable; I don’t think anyone there would feel uncomfortable with being in that church even if it was their first time. Their night service was called Stirring and the message focused on the life lessons we take from school: understanding authority, respecting authority, exposure to the basics and that we learn to work and play well with others. The church really focused on how everyday life affects our faith lives and how in turn our faith should impact our everyday life.
My travels took me all through the East of America; into Nashville, Louisville, Washington D.C, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New York. America is an amazing country; staggeringly beautiful and intimidating in its vastness. I really enjoyed my holiday it was brilliant travelling through a distinctively different country, though when you’re in Texas it feels like home only with a bit less green. I want to thank you for your prayers when I was away and for your continuing prayers and encouragement as I continue through my ministry application.