Bishop Watson asked David Naglee and me to represent him at the 145th Synod of the Methodist Church in Portugal last week, April 21-24. This was a trip that full of incidents and full of blessings.
Before I knew of this trip, I had planned for some outpatient surgery at Emory Dermatology. The surgery was pretty invasive (if you ask me ... it is my face, after all) and required stitches with the biggest bandage I have ever seen. I felt like Quasimodo. From the surgery I went to meet David and head to the airport. We boarded on time, and I was soon sleeping only to be woken up to eat something. The movies were nothing to write home about, but the flight was ok for being cramped up in a window seat for 9 hours. We arrived in Madrid and ran, yes, ran, through the entire airport to catch our connecting flight to Porto, Portugal. This was a small plans, but my fantastic Administrative Assistant had booked us the two seats with leg room. Again, I dozed and arrived in Porto. In Porto, we were greeted at the Baggage Claim with no baggage. Our host, Emanuel Dinis, found out that our baggage was still in Madrid, because Delta doesn't do business with Ryanair, our connecting flight. We didn't know this, but no fear Ryanair was going to fly our baggage to us on the next flight.
We were booked at a very nice hotel (even if the beds are put together ... Europe is different that way), and Emanuel took us to a great lunch place where a great pork dish was shared. I paid the bill with my card and off we went to rest. Emanual was going to track down our baggage (which had all my medicines in it, by the way). David and I explored the beautiful city of Aviero (Venice of Portugal) with its canals and pathways. We found a cemetary that was most unique and saw the local culture. I shared with David the fact that he needed to taste the local pastry. We entered a shop only to find out that they didn't take cards, only Euros. We found a second shop and saw a person paying with a card. We ordered our treats. When I went to pay, they laughed and said, "No American cards, only Portuguese or Euros" I left David as collateral and ran to the nearest bank which had just closed. The hotel next door took my $20 and gave me 15 euros back, OUCH! I went back and paid for David's freedom, and off we went to the hotel. Once in our room, Emanuel called to say that Ryanair could not get our baggage as Delta would not release it to anyone but us personally ... in Madrid.
David and I got to shop the next day for sharp and trendy Euro clothing. Do you know that the sizes in Europe are much, much smaller than in the States? With these and other events such as looking so out of place on Sunday morning with all the other clergy in their robes or my birthday gift from the Portuguese Church family being seized at the airport on our way back, we felt snake bit, but at least it wasn't a poisonous snake.
Where are the blessing you ask? The blessings were the people who made up the Synod and took us in as family. They fed us, they found medicine for my face and a smaller bandage, they sang Happy Birthday to me in Portuguese, they appreciated our presence, they were grateful for our support of their small Church. They were so happy and so on fire for the Kingdom. The Methodist Church in Portugal just started two new congregations and were working on training clergy and those called to preach. This is where North Georgia and Atlanta Emory will be able to offer support and help. They elected a Bishop without one bit of campaigning or arguing. The Holy Spirit moved in a mighty way.
This small Church gave me hope. This was the biggest blessing, and it outweighed all the trials and snake bites. This band of disciples, though fighting great odds, do not accept that they cannot do what others say is impossible. They gave me the gift of hope.
I hope we as a District will get behind our sisters and brothers in Portugal as they seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Watch here for ways we might be able to do that.
Blessed with hope,