“What place has been your favorite?” We get that question all the time. Nell and I have served the Lord in full time ministry since 1986. We have lived and worked in West Africa, Europe, on the East coast and now in Houston, TX. Usually, we say there is good and bad in every place, but we have loved them all especially the people. And it is true! How could you not love the hospitality and friendliness of the Senegalese as well as the poulet yassa (a chicken dish)? Miami was literally a different world with it’s diversity, beautiful skyline, and Pollo Tropicale (our favorite Cuban restaurant). Brussels had that old world culture yet it is the “heart” of Europe. No where else can you find the true Belgian waffles sold on the street corners or choose from 10 different sauces for your “frites” (fries). In South Carolina, we discovered that Internationals are truly everywhere, for example: Holy Islamville, SC. Also, we experienced shrimp and grits and low country boil for the first time.
And now we are in Houston. We never dreamed after leaving Texas in 1986 that we would one day return to serve there as well. Boy has it changed!! When I was growing up in a small town in East Texas, the biggest event was when a Catholic family moved there. I never once heard the words: Muslim or Islam. Today, there are 100 mosques in the Houston area. It has been cited as the most diverse city in the US as far as percentage of African-Americans, Anglos, Hispanics and Asian Americans. For the past two years, Houston has been ranked #1 as a refugee resettlement destination, receiving more refugees than any other city in the United States.
The other day Nell told someone that she almost feels guilty because we are having more fun than we have ever had. We’ve had fun in each place, but this seems a little different. It has mainly centered on a group of incredibly smart International students from the Middle East. All of them are in graduate studies like Nuclear Engineering or planning for the “Green Grid”. We started with apple pie and ice cream at our house. Next, they were carving pumpkins for Halloween. By the way, allow plenty of time when you have engineering students carving pumpkins. We celebrated Thanksgiving and told what we were all thankful for. We have been on picnics at the park, attended baseball games, went to a farm and rode an ATV and climbed haystacks. We cooked halal kebabs on the grill and found our favorite “chawarma” place. We have even found chocolate baklava! We’ve hosted some of their mothers when they have come to visit. We’ve comforted and encouraged them after they had a rough week with their research supervisor. They are just fun! And what is best of all, they want to know more about the Good News.
Is it OK to have fun in ministy? You bet! And you might have noticed there’s lots of good food too!