Winter break is over, school is back in session, and “normal” life is in full swing. Much college football has been consumed (if random bowl games with SW Tech State College vs. Halsey Dental School are your jam) along with the festivities of the holidays. Christmas came and went and so did the inauguration of a new year. Over the break I read a lot and as a family we did a lot of short day trips within a quick jaunt from Portland, particularly to smaller communities. So as this new year begins churning forward I am mindful of thoughts and experiences I had over the past few weeks. Interestingly, Intrepid is the interpretive filter.
I was sad to finally say goodbye to the book on Father Kino I was reading every morning after my quiet times. It came as a birthday gift mid- to late-October and 644 pages later I was remorseful that historian Herbert Eugene Bolton hadn’t written more. I came away even more impressed and in awe of this grand historical figure who still casts a long shadow over southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. As I read through the book I was reminded of the time I “met” Kino while driving through Mexico. Obviously “met” is a little odd to say since he died in the early 1700s. I actually note this encounter in the Intrepid book but the editors thought it was distracting and was cut out. Here’s what I wrote:
… a number of years ago I did visit Kino himself and where he was laid to rest in Magdalena de Kino, Sonora, Mexico. The details are hazy, but my wife, our oldest son, and my wife’s great aunt and uncle, and I were making the trip from Phoenix down through Hermosillo to ultimately San Carlos Nuevo Guaymas. I vaguely recall stopping at the town and site of Kino’s resting place. I’m afraid though the the younger version of myself didn’t really care much for Kino, his life and legacy, nor even the impact of the Jesuits and Franciscans in this part of the world. I was too busy being a youth pastor and entertaining over-privileged teens.
I thought about Kino a lot as I visited a number of small towns outside of Portland. Off the beaten path and left off the map of church planting strategies by national organizations and denominations. If Kino was around today he’d march straight towards them nary with a second thought. Heck, he’d be so focused he wouldn’t even bother with social media and being hip and cool. He’d be that guy who wears the same jeans 5 days in a row and has two sweatshirts in his wardrobe rotation. Truth be told, and I almost think this puts him into a mythical category, he rode over 20,000 miles on horseback while wearing the long black robes that was the attire of Jesuits … in the harsh Sonoran Desert.
So where am I going with all of this?
Many of these Jesuits came to New Spain knowing and even anticipating that martyrdom was a reality. They talked in terms of it being such a high honor. Here they were, born into families of nobility, educated in the best universities in Europe, and ultimately walked away from it all to be missionaries in an obscure place on the backside of the desert. Not only that, but a number of them were killed in action. Apaches and Jacomes would on occasion raid, kill the missionaries and any of the indigenous believers around, and all of the cattle. The bloodshed only fanned the flames of missionary passion.
I read this book each morning with a hot cup of coffee in hand (pourover, mind you). I couldn’t help ask myself questions … what am I sacrificing? Am I even sacrificing anything? Is ministry a calling or a career with aspirations and ladders to climb? What does it mean or look like to be a missionary today in North America?
These questions haunt me, but I wanted to share them with you. I am praying that 2019 would be a year of breakthroughs and living deeper into our missionary callings. Not only that, whether we’re talking about cities or small towns, let’s continue to give love and support for those places and peoples off the beaten path.