*** Why I’m writing this: I’m writing this short little series to give you a window into the awesome blessing of a life of service. When people think of a “missionary” sometimes they think of people serving diligently, under harsh conditions, dutifully suffering for their Master. And that is true…sometimes life is like that. But other times we are privileged to experience the unimaginable richness of life that comes from a life of stumbling obedience. That is what I want to share with you in this little vacation chronicle. I want you not to think of missionary life as foot-dragging resignation of life lived in difficulty, nor as a life of leisure in exotic locals, but rather of a life of beauty and ugliness, pain and pleasure, awesome contrasts which make missionary life a dance.***
We took off from Bansko this morning at about 9:30 with Patrick, Julie and clans…only an hour and a half past our goal. Not too back for a Balkan vacation. We’re ultimately heading for the city of Nessabar today, but we’d be having lunch in Plovdiv, a town about a two-hour drive from Bansko. And off we went through the twisty, two-lane mountain road.
We drove through many, many little Bulgarian towns and villages on the way. Some seemed quite modern, others were typified by old women in heads carves pitching hay, horse drawn carts and fairy-tale scenery. Plovdiv is picturesque little town that is apparently home to the oldest human settlement in the Balkans. It’s also home to an old Roman amphitheater.
These places always kind of pole-axe me. When I think of all the feet that have trod the stairs and bodies that have filled places like these I’m always touched by a profound sense of our “recentness.” That is,Western culture such as it exists now is so very, very new. This theater above was built in the early second century AD, during the reign of Emporer Trajan and is still used today for theater productions. That is, it is about nine-hundred years old and still serves its original purpose today.
And while Plovdiv is home to the very old, it is also home to the new. All the traffic lights in the town, whether on the main streets or back alleys, have count-down timers to let you know how much time remains until the light changes. I love this feature!
Being around old stuff like this always challenges me with this simple question: How can I make a “ten-thousand year” difference in how my life is spent. I get that line from the old hymn, Amazing Grace which says:
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun
we’ll have no less days to sing his praise than when we’ve first begun.
As a Christian I believe that I will live on and that ten thousand years from now the way I have lived my life will matter. I wrestle every day to live up to that challenge. The great thing about the challenge is that your life circumstances are irrelevant. From the poorest slave-laborer to the designer of the theater above, each person played a part in its construction. It wasn’t a highly paid official who cut the stone steps above; it was a lower-middle class stone cutter. But his work remains. The same is true for us. Whether we are an unemployed executive, a stay-at-home mom, a recovering alcoholic or a preacher each of us has the opportunity to affect the people around us in ways that are eternal. I love the Gospel for this…for the hope that it gives all people at all times for significance that lasts the tests of time.