"This is not a perfect church, but I can tell you one thing: We Care."
– Pastor Dr. Byron L. Benton
Location: Thailand HA
By: Deryle Daniels
Time: June 25, 2018 | 3:57am (EST)
As I sit on the side of an infinity pool in a province on the southernmost coast of Thailand, I am grateful. I see God’s beauty in the trees and ocean to my right and I see God’s gifts in the ingenuity humankind was given in the architecture to my left. Above me, even more infinite than this pool’s categorization, are kilometers of sky. I can see the rain clouds approaching but, for now, everything feels great.
And yet, there is something missing. The scenery is breathtaking and the temperature wonderful but it’s not home. There is something about Dirty Durham that makes me miss it more than I love this serenity. That “something,” can only be summed up with four letters: h-o-m-e. Home’s four letters encompass so much more. Home is a familiar place with family, friends, and fellowship. Here, I’ve got Desirée and that is where my immediate familiarity ends. I am at least 11 hours away from everyone I care about. When I wake up, they’re winding down. When I’m winding down, they’re waking up. So, I choose to stay awake some nights to remain connected in whatever way I can. I can only imagine how difficult doing this must have been for explorers over two centuries ago who had to rely on a courier delivering a parcel that would have no return address because no one could foresee where they would be in two months, once the initial recipient received and returned correspondence.
There is something about Dirty Durham that makes me miss it more than I love this serenity. That “something,” can only be summed up with four letters: h-o-m-e.
Today, I thank God for technology more than I ever have before. Not only is the YouVersion bible app on my phone reminding me to stay in the Word but the GroupMe app allows me to check in with my Growth Group. Livestream allows me to stay engaged in worship on Sunday mornings (or, should I say Sunday nights on this side of the world). Last night, Desirée and I tuned in as Pastor B went in. He was preaching on something that I had been struggling with over the past few days: social justice and Jesus’ take on it. I knew that I was working for my views to be aligned with God’s but I struggled in being kind (but firm) with those whose views opposed mine. Pastor B said “What does Jesus have to say about this? Because what Jesus says matters.” At that moment, I was reminded that what we, as Christians, have to realize is that our points of view are immaterial in doing the work of His kingdom. Our views are littered with emotion, experiences, and personal biases. We have to look higher than ourselves for the answers. We must look even higher than our local, national, or international leaders. What did Jesus say about protecting and loving the children? How does that align with those who we choose to support with our dollars, our votes, and our voices? As I tweeted the sermon from half a world away, I felt it move in my spirit. And don’t even get me started on the beauty of seeing our young scholars receive their recognition. Even though I hated that I wasn’t there, the part of me that matters most was.
But it is more than just the traditional spirituality that I’m able to participate in; Byron, Micah, and I have a running challenge going and, while it’s not looking great for me right now, it’s keeping me in shape and having fun with my friends. That’s right, I said it. My pastor and associate minister are two of my go-to guys. We hang out, eat chicken wings, and send each other texts roasting one another. It’s pretty cool. Because all three of us are competitive, we also now run against one another. The Nike Running Club application allows us to track and share our runs. At 20+ miles behind first place with about 35 days to go, I’ve given the guys a pretty decent head start but they know as well as I do that I will knock out a 10 mile run in under 2 hours like it’s nothing.
I write all this to say that, while I miss the Sunday morning high fives from the Brooklyn Bouncer as I walk by the tech station, the hugs from my father (-in-law) when I arrive to service, or the smiles that the kids slap on their faces when they see my camera coming pointed toward them, I still get a sense of home. So, Berean, thanks for keeping us from getting too homesick. We’re having a great time and, whether you knew it or not, you are making the experience that much more enjoyable. So, keep worshipping, praying and loving. We’re there with you in spirit on Sunday… ummm… nightings?