*This post is a part three in a series of five posts, in which we have the privilege of hearing from Pastor Matt about his recent sabbatical experience. We are excited for him to share his reflections, learnings, and ways God moved in his life while he was away.*
After 10 days on my own in England and Scotland, I jumped into a taxi heading for the Edinburgh Airport. I enthusiastically attempted to make conversation with the cab driver and asked, “Who are you rooting for in the World Cup?” Naively, I assumed the answer would be England’s national team – big mistake! Instead, he responded gruffly, “Anyone BUT England!” Okay, lesson learned. Turns out, there’s a lot of bad blood between England and Scotland that goes back quite a few centuries. England captured Scotland’s Stone of Destiny in 1296, which is where Scottish monarchs would sit to be coronated (epic name, right?). Anyway, England kept the stone at Westminster Abbey, even though the Scottish government requested them to return it each and every year. They finally did return it… 700 years later, in 1996! Ask me sometime about the story behind Scotland’s national symbol. 🙂 I found the pieces of history I picked up along the way to be fascinating.
Then I made my way to London and met up with my good friend Roland Tang, which marked the beginning of the third chapter of my sabbatical. Roland and I have been friends since 2002, when he and I traveled to Africa as a part of the very first Flood team to Malawi. I love exploring with Roland. We’ve had the opportunity to travel to Malawi, China, Vietnam, and Israel – and now we can add London, Paris, the Swiss Alps, and Milan to that list!
Being able to share this international adventure with Roland was my favorite part of this chapter.
Roland is an abundantly generous person, and graciously planned and took care of arrangements for this part of my sabbatical. An incredible blessing to make this part of the trip possible.
The food in Paris was amazing. One evening, Roland and I enjoyed a 6-course meal that I’m convinced was a taste of heaven. We took a boat up the Seine River and enjoyed an incredible view of the Eiffel Tower fully lit up at night, which is such an iconic landmark of the city and certainly adds to Paris’s nickname of the “City of Lights”! We joined a bike tour that took us all through the city and was a beautiful and informative (and active!) way to experience Paris. And of course, the Louvre was extraordinary. The Mona Lisa did not disappoint, and I was deeply moved by a larger than life painting of the wedding at Cana.
Next up – Gimmelwald, Switzerland! The Swiss Alps were magnificent, with their granite snow-capped peaks, towering waterfalls, majestic trees, and bountiful wildflowers – it was easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. But I experienced God most profoundly in this chapter through the gift of my friendship with Roland. Roland’s friendship has been one of the most tangible expressions of God’s love for me over the years. Roland sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24) and brings out the best in me with his faithful friendship. I admire his love of learning, his joy in experiencing new things, and his genuine love for people of all walks of life. After spending 10 days alone, it was a joy to be back in community. I felt God meet me in this chapter of my sabbatical in the presence and friendship of Roland, by reminding me that we all need community. When the road of life gets rough it is important to have brothers and sisters that encourage us to keep trusting the Lord and moving forward.
We all need people in our lives that are calling out the best the Lord has placed within us.
I was especially grateful for friendship during a hike in the Alps that ended up being over 11 hours long. It was a grueling trek. At one of the most difficult moments of the hike, just when Roland and I were seriously considering turning around, I received an encouraging text from one of our church members, Rocky Craig. Rocky is an amazing man of God who has seen his share of difficult moments in life, including battling cancer for the past several months. Hearing from Rocky put fresh wind in my sails, and gave me the motivation to finish the hike! The thrill of victory and accomplishment when we finally made it to the summit of Shark Fin Peak was a remarkable feeling, and made it worth my very sore legs the next few days.
As I reflect back on this chapter, there are so many things I want to bring back into my life and ministry. Besides plotting to convince Roland and his family to move from Santa Monica to San Diego,
I love the way people have cultivated lasting community at Flood, and I would love to see more opportunities to foster genuine friendship, and of being truly present to God and those around us. Are we showing up in the here and now? Are we being attentive to God’s presence and activity in our lives and the world? And what are the practices that will help us foster a greater awareness of being present in each moment, both to the invitations of God and the needs of others?
Thankful for your friendship,