I am sitting at the gate in Kiev waiting to board a bus to take us to our plane for the flight from here to Zurich. I have to over-night there, as there just isn’t a flight set up that would get me from here to home in one shot. So, a long, long trip home, to be sure!
So why do I do it? I mean, in barely two weeks I will be headed to South Africa for about ten days which will include, as far as I can tell right now, four formal debates. The first, the night after I arrive (jet lag danger!!!), may be one of the toughest I’ve ever done. And currently three are scheduled in Durban on Islam—again, challenging encounters. But that is what I do, and in fact, if the Lord brings me safely to South Africa and the debates go off as scheduled, the second debate in Durban will mark my “official” 150th moderated, public debate since I began in August of 1990. In fact, in typing that line, I realized that I have now been debating for a quarter of a century! Hey, who forgot my pizza party? But it is pretty easy to ask folks to help us pay the bills to get to South Africa because even though I am often teaching, doing conferences, preaching, etc., while there (as I will be doing this time as well), there is that element of the apologetic encounter, the debate, that is so much a part of what we do with Alpha and Omega Ministries.
But here I am at the end of the longest over-seas trip I’ve made, and I have not had a single debate while in Zurich or Kiev. Instead, I am very worn out, mentally speaking, by day after day after day of not just teaching on many topics (a full class on all of Hebrews, a class on NT textual reliability and textual criticism) but preaching and conference speaking as well—all in translation! If you have never spoken with translation before, trust me—it takes twice the mental energy. That stopping and starting (or, even with simultaneous translation, the constant necessity to avoid difficult idioms and constructions) obliterates your normal cadence and thought pattern, and honestly, after just a few days of doing it, you feel a weight of weariness in your mind as you seek to remain cogent and clear in your teaching. So the hours and hours of teaching and preaching and answering of questions has left me a few french fries short of a Happy Meal if you know what I mean. I will have no time for recovery as I have a TON of study and preparation to do before South Africa (and two sermons to preach at PRBC just for the fun of it!).
So again I have to ask—why do this? Well, as some of you help to support the ministry, and help to support my trips like this, I think it would be good to explain.
First, even when I teach a subject like Hebrews, I am often making apologetic application. Hence, I spoke on the contrast between the finished, complete, perfecting work of Jesus as the Mediator of the New Covenant and the Roman Catholic Mass. Many students have commented that my teaching is more interesting because I am always giving examples of why the subject matter is relevant to our lives and ministry. So especially here in Europe the teaching is doubly-appreciated for its exegetical element as well as the apologetic “added” information I provide.
Second, teaching is simply good for me. Nothing helps the memory and the thinking like teaching a subject in various contexts. So while I preached 80 sermons on Hebrews over a number of years at PRBC, its message and meaning is even more clear in my mind today, having taught the entire book with German translation, over the course of four intensive days. (I leave aside for the moment how very good this trip has been for my German, too!). Teaching a wide variety of topics helps keep me fresh and capable for the “regular” work of debating and doing apologetic teaching (like on the Dividing Line). Teaching overseas is likewise challenging and helpful, for the students often ask questions that come from a different perspective than I would encounter if I taught only in the United States. I am forced to think through issues more deeply because I am forced to abandon some cultural assumptions that would carry when teaching in the States.
Third, we are making a big impact in assisting Christ’s church in Europe and around the world. Local churches in Germany or Switzerland or Austria or Ukraine or wherever are just as important in the Kingdom as any local church in the United States, yet there are far more people available to engage apologetic issues in the US than over here. And since I am getting to teach the future generation of leaders and pastors in these schools, I am hopefully encouraging them to take a firm stand on the issues that really matter.
So I am honored to have the opportunity to minister the Word of God, defend it, and teach it, in places I never, ever expected to visit or see. Challenging? Oh my, yes. I have been pushed way, way outside my “comfort zone” while traveling, to be sure. But in the end, I think everyone who honors A&O by listening to the DL, reading our materials, watching our debates, and importantly, supporting the work, is benefitted by my time in the classrooms of Kiev, Zurich, Berlin, or wherever else the Lord opens the door.
I do hope you will pray for my trip home (I really don’t have time for illness between now and South Africa, but will be spending about 15 hours inside a sealed metal tube with hundreds of folks on the way home, and another 20 or so on the way back to South Africa), and for the preparation time between now and my first debate in South Africa. We would also appreciate your financial support as well, not just in the special project of my travel at this time, but in maintaining the regular operations of the ministry as well.
N.B. We have also put some travel/debate/project items on the Ministry Resource List, and Rich tells me he has made it possible for folks to donate toward some of the larger items without having to pay for the whole thing. You can find the MRL (one of the most encouraging items on our website, personally speaking!) here.