Calling All Missionaries, Itinerants and Strangers:

“I’m glad from the inside out - ecstatic; I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope. . . . You’ve got my feet on the life-path, with your face shining sun-joy all around.” (Acts 2: 26-28 Peterson translation, “The Message.”

“I’m glad from the inside out - ecstatic; I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope. . . . You’ve got my feet on the life-path, with your face shining sun-joy all around.” (Acts 2: 26-28 Peterson translation, “The Message.”

We Searles are on “Home Assignment,” sometimes called “Itineration Assignment.” This means that we travel from congregation to congregation, host to host, to share about your partnership with the Evangelical-Reformed Church in Poland. Over 120 hosts have welcomed us over the nearly 20,000 miles we’ve traversed since May 22, our first engagement in Pennsylvania.

Sometimes we lose our way. Then “Garmina,” the disembodied voice in our (Garmin brand) GPS summons us back to the path. Most nights we find a new host, a new bed, and a new dark corridor to the facilities. Our trusty night light (that “pillar of flame”) keeps us from walking in on unsuspecting host family members, or laying our head on somebody else’s pillow.

The voice. The light. Keeping us on the “life-path” as we journey forward seeking to pitch our tent in a “land of hope.”

Hosts surely are our “land of hope.” In garrets and basements, guest rooms and guest houses, bed and breakfasts and motels, farms, city high-rises, and suburban homes, you shelter, warm and welcome, feed and water us, share your stories and listen to ours. You offer rest when we are weary and encouragement when we flag. You have been Jesus Christ to us, and we thank you - each one of you.

Journeys weave throughout the Old and New Testaments, each one fueled by a call or a desire, a promise, or a conviction. So too for us.

We visit congregations convinced that international outreach and partnership in the name of Jesus Christ is critical to our personal and community faith actions and to our shared future as inhabitants of a world in need.

We visit congregations convinced that cross-cultural presence is critical presence. Without webs of connection and shared meaning, we lose our mooring in a chaotic sea of change.

Forging circles of compassion, encouraging courage, pursuing ministries of justice and reconciliation, bearing witness to the experiences of brothers and sisters worlds away - this is what it means to be on the life path, following in the footsteps of the one who asks: “Am I not worthy of following?”

Jesus travelled widely and summons us to journey, too. For many of us, the journey is figurative. Our faith work seems close to home. Others, itinerating missionaries for example, journey far in very concrete ways.

It’s easy to romanticize journeying--living the itinerant life. It is romantic in the sense of anticipation and excitement: “What’s around the bend?” “What does the future hold?” “Whom will we meet?” “What will happen next?”

But to journey also means carrying all of our possessions, and shouldering all of our own burdens. Journeying means trudging on alone, destination sometimes unknown, overcoming fears, suffering all weathers, persisting despite disappointment, trusting in the kindness of strangers, seeking to love turnings or blind alleys or rocky places, walking uneven ground with pebbles in our shoes, forgiving the indifferent or the hostile, straining to hear the guiding voice above the traffic, or scanning a dark horizon for the leading light.

Journeyers deeply appreciate the welcoming call and the guiding flame.

Many of you reading now have welcomed journeyers to your congregations, or will someday. Many of you reading now can imagine or remember what it is like to wonder where you will sleep, whether you will have a warm welcome, or if you will be offered a meal. Many of you reading now stumble and struggle to “keep your feet on the life path.” Sometimes there seems to be no space or even ground to “pitch your tent in the land of hope.”  Roads are rocky, hills are steep, nights fall cold. There are wild animals in the woods.

And yet we itinerants - we travelers between worlds - were made for this. We itinerants - followers of the One whose life work traversed continents and centuries - were created for this journey that bears witness, this journey that seeks justice, this journey that leads to reconciliation as we encounter others like and unlike us.

So we:

Step out with courage.
Embrace the journey of faith.
Explore new territory.
Trust the voice.
Seek the light.
Itinerate - Share what God is doing.
Keep our feet on the life path.
Pitch our tent in the land of hope.
That’s where the “sun-joy” part of the verse comes in -
  the warmth of God’s presence and the joy of celebration.
Thank God for the Sun-Joy . . . . .

And thank God for the welcoming call and the guiding flame that is each one of you!

Liz and Doug Searles, itinerating in PA, OH, IA, SD, NE, MT, OR and WA

Submitted by Elizabeth and Douglas Searles, Global Ministries’ missionaries to Poland, jointly appointed by Global Ministries and PCUSA to walk with the Evangelical-Reformed Church in Poland.