Saturday, August 18, 2012

Vermont Trip Day 2, in which we finally made it to Vermont

Day 2 saw us up and going early. We slept well in our bunkroom, had some private and team devotional time, followed by breakfast at the McDonald's beside of the Harrisburg Volunteer House. We were truly blessed by the kindness and hospitality of Roger and Shirley Carlson, fellow North Carolinians (from the same neck of the woods as Jim) who serve the Lord with NAMB as Mission Service Corps (MSC) missionaries in the Pennsylvania/South Jersey Convention. Can't wait to see them again on our return trip. While at McDonalds, I happened to notice an older man reading his Bible as he ate breakfast, so I went over to his table and said, "Hey brother, I don't want to interrupt you; just to encourage you. It always thrills my soul to see someone feasting on God's Word." We made brief introductions of ourselves, and we were on our way.

On Day 2, we topped the five state adventure we had on on Day 1 (NC, VA, WV, MD, PA), travelling through PA, NJ, NY, CT, MA, and VT. In a welcome contrast to the torrential downpours we endured on Day 1, Day 2 was an absolutely beautiful day. *SOMEONE* had the bright idea to take the often unadvised route across the George Washington Bridge on 95 through Connecticut because he used to take mission trips to Boston that way when he pastored another church (oops, gave away the source of the bright idea). Had some great skyline views of New York City, and flirted with the idea of venturing into the city, but deemed it would delay us too much. It was all smooth sailing until we hit the Bronx. Traffic was jammed up and we tried to find a few alternate routes, but Emily (our British GPS Voice) was uncooperative and we lost an hour and a half between that jam and one in Connecticut. Finally we arrived at our lunch destination. Many years ago, when Donia and I were travelling through New England (I don't recall if it was on a ski trip or a planning trip for some missions projects), we happened upon a little waterfront seafood restaurant in Norwalk called Sono Seafood. Over the years, I guess Donia and I stopped in there 3 or 4 times, and I had mission teams from Conowingo with me there maybe 3 or 4 times as well. It's been ten years, and the memories came flooding back to me. It was a spectacular day to sit on the dock as all three of us enjoyed a nice lunch of Cajun seasoned grouper. We had to tear ourselves away from there to get back on the road.

The bliss of the moment was shattered for me as I returned to the car to find a very unwelcome voicemail from my dearest friend, Nate Veach. Nate had called to tell me that his dad, Dick Newsome, died last night after battling Parkinsons and Congestive Heart Failure. Dick was such a formative influence on me as a young Christian. He was the first Sunday School teacher I ever had, the finest deacon I have ever known, and an exemplary husband and father. I couldn't estimate the hours I have spent talking about the Lord and the Bible with Dick in his den. I "cut my teeth" as a Christian during those hours. The verse that came to mind instantly as I talked to Nate on the phone was 2 Samuel 3:38: "Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel?" Though I desire deeply to be with this precious family in their hour of grief, Nate assured me of what I know to be true -- Dick would want nothing more than for me to press on and share Jesus with the people of Vermont this week. My prayers are with Nate, Judy, their family, the folks at United Baptist Church, and a host of friends who are going to miss Dick's wise and loving presence.

We pressed on through Connecticut, into Massachusetts, and finally found ourselves in Vermont. Knowing that we would be too late to have dinner with our ministry contacts here, we decided to duck off the interstate and grab a bite to eat at the Ninth Wonder of the World: Curtis BBQ in Putney, VT. It is an old school bus, serving some of the best ribs I have ever had "al fresco" on picnic tables under a barn-like structure. Phenomenal place to eat if you are ever passing through. Go hungry.

Vermont is a beautiful state. It's nickname, "The Green Mountain State", is fitting. Nearly all we have seen of it thus far are lush green mountains. The sun dropped behind the mountains quickly leaving us to navigate twisting country roads in indescribable darkness. We passed signs warning of Moose Crossing, Bear Crossing, Horse Crossing, and Snowmobile Crossing, and I nearly ran over Larry, or Daryl, or his other brother Daryl (not sure which). Finally we made it to our place of lodging for the next week, the Calef House in Washington, Vermont. It's a very comfortable place owned by Southern Baptists in the region, and operated by another MSC couple from North Carolina, David and Mary Lois Geer. After unpacking, we spent some time outside in amazement at the wonder of God's creation, as the stars here are so vividly bright. It was a really breath-taking, awe-inspiring, and worshipful experience. The heavens were clearly declaring the glory of God and the firmament His handiwork.

We are off to bed now, the other guys have crashed already and I'm up late typing this and looking over my notes for tomorrow. I will be preaching at New Life Church in Northfield at 10 AM, and Eric will be leading a Bible Study at a nursing home at 2 PM. Thanks again for all your prayers and support. We can truly say, "Having a great time, wish you were here!"

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