When I was in 7th grade and taking my required semester of French - in which I learned how to say “bonjour,” “je suis de Cumberland”, and “1992” (mille neuf cent quatre-vingt-douze, had to look up the spelling!) - I wrote a paper on the palace of Versailles, never dreaming that some day I would see it for myself. I didn’t have the internet, only encyclopedias and library books for my research, and a green screen computer with a dot matrix printer, ancient relics these days. Six years later when I saw Versailles, my piddly paper barely prepared me for the real thing. It was so…so… ornate, fancy, gold everywhere.. and seemed a bit ludicrous in its extravagance in light of the small bit I remembered of French history. But Holy Sun King, Batman!, there it was in all its splendor. And I was standing inside and outside and just gawking like every other tourist. In person.
Life has indeed been full of surprises that leave me in wonder. When I got to spend an entire late afternoon/evening in London last year (early birthday present!), I was practically pinching myself the whole time to make sure I was really there. It was a short visit to be sure, but sometimes life gets a little surreal. “Greg, look! It’s the Tower of London!” “Come look at this bit of wall that’s been here since the Romans were here!” “Look at this over here!” “Look!” “Look!” “Isn’t this place great?!” It had been 15 years since I’d seen London and by golly it was just as fantastic as I’d remembered it. This time I attempted to carve every second into my memory because I don’t know when (if ever) I’ll get to go back. It helped that my phone camera was easily hundreds of times better than my old 35mm that sometimes wouldn’t even advance my film. Hah!
Last year (before the short visit in London) we were in France for about a week meeting various directors of organizations and pastors, learning what they were doing to spread the gospel in France. Rob, our Kontaktmission USA director, was with Greg and I throughout the trip and had been filling us in on the discussions he’d already had with some of the folks we’d be meeting. And then came the time that Greg and I were being introduced to the people we were hoping to be able to work with. To be quite honest, as conversations unfolded in a dizzying perfection, I sat there wondering if I was going to suddenly wake up back in my bed. I hope I didn’t look too crazed to others while my brain endlessly repeated “THIS IS HAPPENING.” I think I might have driven my parents crazy with the exclamation marks my emails contained.
So, folks, yes, I’m rather excited about all this (picture me gesturing at the website and blog) taking place. To say it’s been a long time in the works is no grand exaggeration and those who I’ve been talking to about Europe for over a decade will attest. Thank you to all of those friends and mentors who coached me along to never lose the vision while keeping me firmly grounded in the present. We have work to do yet before we can board that plane and I am trying to cherish every moment I get to spend with family and friends, both old and new, on this side of the ocean. Pardon me while my head echoes with “THIS IS HAPPENING” even though now and then I catch myself envying some’s settledness, careers, and mostly predictable lives. Thank you, Brøderbund, for making “Where in Europe is Carmen Sandiego?” that kick-started an erstwhile interest in Europe, Dad for being my first teacher of European history, Mom for instilling compassion for and awareness of others in me, and friends and family who taught me to take joy in appreciating other cultures. You never know how you’re influencing the life of someone else and how God can turn daydreams into something real and purposeful.