Monday, April 25, 2016


On the flight to Moscow I soon became too tired to work, so I resorted to a movie.  On Aeroflot, the choices are half Russian, so “Creed” looked like my best option.  Hmmm.

I know it won a bunch of awards, but I am not sure why.  The young man who played Adonis did an excellent job, as did Phyllis Rashad, but the story was a bit weak in my book.

It struck me, that in the movie, when the stress was highest that NO ONE even mentioned the possibility of praying.  When we are overwhelmed, when we are super-stressed, when bad news comes… who you gonna call?

Why not call on G^d, who created the Universe?

Make that part of YOUR Creed!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Fellowship Across the Ages.

It is easy for us modern US Christians to see ourselves as G^d’s gift to the world.  We think of ourselves as the “missionary senders”, “the evangelists”, the “keepers of the faith”.  We often think that Church history consists chiefly of: Jesus and His apostles, Martin Luther, and then us.  But Scripture warns us, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Rom 12:3).


What a thrill today, for our mission team to pray in Yerevan, Armenia’s Etchmiadzin Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the world (~303 AD).  For 1700 years before us, Christians have gathered here to pray, sing, and “spur one another on to love and good works” (Heb 10:24).  We looked around at those stones, and then up at that blackened ceiling far above us.  What prayers have these stones heard?  If the “rocks cried out” (Lk 19:40 ) it seems reasonable that these stones’ cries would be among the loudest.



Man’s pride never serves G^d’s kingdom. Let us recognize that we are merely one short part of a long history of Believers, all of whom have, through Christ, been in relationship with the G^d of the Universe.  And, let us realize that across both time and geography, we are privileged to be but a small part of what is The Body of Christ. 
What a privilege indeed!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Into the Unknown

There is a famous book about climbing Mount Everest that is titled, “Into the this blue air”.  I respected copyright for a change, and used  novel title, that has likely been used for a novel once or twice before.

This time I am launching into the UNKNOWN of Armenia.  Despite that I have never ventured here, it is a relatively easy trip.  I am traveling with the sports ministry of Cru, Athletes in Action.  Our team is composed of 5 athletic trainers… plus me.  I am the “token” exercise physiology guy.

Our veteran is Dr. Gary W, a Ph.D. in Athletic Training and a faculty member at a Uni in TN.  Our leader is Paul N, an AIA staff member.  Two more staff on the trip are Camille A, and Leif M.  Our lone West Coast member is Nick T, a grad student in Athletic Training and of Armenian heritage.
This is the first time to Armenia for all of us except Paul, and it is his 4th visit.  I doubt if many readers have been there either, since most of us can’t find it on a map without some coaching.
We will be staying in a village about 50 min from the capital, Yerevan, where we will be working most days.  I would tell you the name of where we are staying, but I couldn’t begin to spell it.  The population of the village is under 1500, or less than half the size of the small town where I grew up.  The population of Armenia is about 3 million, making it smaller than my home state of AL.  It’s most noteworthy site is probably MT. Ararat just across the western border in Turkey.  Besides Turkey, other noteworthy borders are Iran and Azerbajian.  About 1.5 million Armenians were killed in a genocide in 1915-16.

And now you know everything that I know about this destination, still about an hour plane-ride away, as I type this.

But there will be more info to follow.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Armenia?? Where’s that?

I left home early Friday AM (11 Mar) from BHM on a strange adventure.   In Charlotte, NC I united with 4 other team mates, before joining up with one more at JFK. The five of us endured the 10-hour flight to Moscow, and then another 3-hours to Yerevan, Armenia without a hitch.

Once in Armenia Local Cru (New Life) staff Tigran Galstyans grabbed us at the airpot and hauled us to Tsaghkadzor, he and his wife Lusine’s home town, about an hour from Yerevan where most of our ministry was done.

Sunday AM we attended their congregation in nearby Hzardan.  Our AIA leader Paul Newman gave the sermon from the first part of 1 Thess.  We introduced ourselves to the congregation and were warmly welcomed.  Despite the language barrier, and slightly different styles, we loved being with these warm spirit-filled Believers.

On Monday, I gave a talk at a Conference in the Aremenian Institue of Physcial Culture on Recovery from Training, About 60 faculty and graduate students attended.  Our translator, Dr. Syusanna (first name), a physician, did a terrific job and the Armenian attendees seemed eager to ask questions and make comments during and after the talk.  their enthusiasm and engagement provided much enjoyment!

After a break, Dr. Gary Wilkerson (UT Chattanooga) and I gave an interactive seminar on teaching and evaluating students.  This was purposefully highly interactive, and again the Armenians asked numerous questions and made comments.  This group is NOT shy about asking questions.

On Thurs. I spoke about “Exercise in the Heat” to a group similar to the first audience.  Once again, we tried to connect with the faculty and students, but the language barrier made this extremely difficult.  Although there were two translators (Dr. Syusanna  and Sylvot is a translator in training), and a few Armenians spoke some English, it was still difficult to communicate, which I feel is the chief barrier to deepening connections there.  One team member ( Nick T) was of Armenian descent and spoke some Armenian.  This is a tremendous advantage in connecting and more effort should be considered on recruiting team members with this in mind.

On Saturday, we met with the Institute Rector and a large number of his professors at a dinner at “Florence” a very nice local restaurant.  The dinner lasted about 3 hours and as the evening wore on, our relationship with the Armenians seemed to be strengthened considerably.  The National Director of New Life, Mr. Vardan Blbuyans, was able to make considerable headway with the Rector who agreed to allow New Life to have access to faculty and students which seemed to be a major breakthrough.

My focus was on ministry to the youngest AIA team members.  The hour drive to and from Yerevan gave us a great opportunity to chat.  We bonded quickly, mostly around humor, and we had many great conversations.  For me this was the highlight of the trip, and likely my greatest impact personally.

I was very encouraged by the enthusiasm, energy, Spiritual maturity, and potential of the 3 young team members.   I do expect great spiritual outcomes from this group.  I endeavored to recruit Nick T to become a professor, as he has the gifts and inclination and speaks some Armenian.

Unfortunately, I was never able to adapt to the new Time Zone (+10 hours ahead of AL).  Getting old is tough!

Armenia proved to be a tough and expensive trip.  But what better investment than 3 energetic young Christians and a country of 3 million souls?

Armenia?  Where’s that?
Of all the countries I have visited, I knew less about Armenia than any other.

Strange eh?
Well what do YOU know about it?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Joys of All-day Air travel

So far, on this trip I have been in 4 consecutive airports, two relatively small, and two relatively large.  Likewise, plane sizes have matched airport sizes.  Many of you readers may have done this kind of travel.  For those of you who haven’t let me note some highlights:

It is near impossible to sleep soundly whilst traveling, if you are over about 18 months of age.

Every time you go to the bathroom, someone may have to let you out of your row.

The food is tolerable, but not too good.

The beverages are good and the service is very good.

Flushing the toilet sounds like you are about to be sucked out of the plane.

There always seems to be JUST enough space for carry-on baggage, but seldom any extra.
Flights these days are 90+% full.

On very long flights, there is typically at least one fussy baby.

Well, if it’s so bad why do it?  Well, if you want to get somewhere a long way off, it is the only practical alternative.  Years ago, no one put up with air travel, because you had to go by boat, train, or horseback.  You traveled for weeks just to cover the same distance a jet covers in 3 hours.  To make the comparison, in olden days we traveled about 4 miles an hour, and today at over 550 mph.

But why go at all?

Because G^d calls, is the best reason.

Because we have children and grandchildren a long way off, is another.

And those are reason enough…