We are richly blessed in our retirement with the means and good health to travel to places only dreamed of in our youth. A few days ago we came home from five weeks that took us into the Pacific from San Diego to Hawaii, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and back to San Diego.
There were many questions from friends before we left. How would we be able to stand 31 days at sea? Why would we want to cruise around Hawaii when we spend weeks there every year anyway? Are there not more interesting places to visit than obscure islands in the South Pacific? But the most important question was: Are you going on a mission trip? The quick answer was no, this would be purely a pleasure trip. That didn’t turn out to be true, and I more fully realize that any trip is a mission trip. I will have more to say about that in days to come. The short of it is that the Christ we take with us, the Christ we exhibit, is the Christ that others will meet for good or for ill.
That is true for all of us wherever we are and whatever we are doing, but it seems to have a special meaning when the word gets around in the closed society of shipboard life that you are clergy, and the word does get around. Most of us are used to that and comfortable with it in our home communities. A pastor new to town is generally given a year or so to figure out the way things work and where to fit in. Books are written and workshops offered on how to do that. The instantaneous but temporary month long community of a thousand other passengers is a study in social psychology unto itself with important spiritual dimensions. There are no old timers, descendants of pioneer families, or an established social hierarchy. Just the same, some version of it comes together rather quickly. That’s especially true when so many of our days together were at sea, and the places we visited were small. Other cruises of shorter duration stop almost every day at another port, often well populated, with everyone going in separate directions. There is not much time for a shipboard community to develop. Not so for us. We had lots of time. More on that later.
Suffice it to say we had a wonderful time and would do it again, except that there is more of the world we have not yet seen.