Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bloody Ibiza

Three weeks on a beach.

Three weeks of the sun heating our skin as the ocean breeze blows it cool.

Three weeks of watching the ocean waters stretch out past where I can see.

Three weeks of stealing kisses, holding hands, and learning each other for these still newlyweds.

Three weeks of rest and relaxation.

Three weeks of peace.

“What if we had never gone? What if we found ourselves a nice warm beach?  Wouldn't that have been better? We should have gone to bloody Ibiza,” he said one night as we rested on our bed.

Three weeks of leave before leaving military service. That’s plenty of time for sightseeing, beaching, and vacationing. “How many people get a chance to tithe their time? What if we used it to test all this out?”

“All this.” The idea of missional work had been stirring in us and we so ached to actually be on the ground somewhere. With backpacks and hiking boots we said goodbye to dreams of sandy beaches and fruity cocktails and hopped on a flight to Crete where we spent evenings playing chess and eating food late into the night.

We moved onto Athens and began our amateurish attempt at following the steps of Paul. We filled our bellies with yogurt and sweet honey each morning and discovered new locations and sat, Bible in hand, reading aloud the words Paul spoke in that spot.

“Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. …..The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and things….”

We touched the water that baptized Lydia and stood where Paul and Silas were imprisoned.

We walked through the ruins of Corinth.

In Thessaloniki we did the same. And here we spent Good Friday, marching along to the funeral dirge, sharing candle light, following the crowds bringing the broken body of Christ from the Orthodox Church in the center of town down the winding streets, past the sea as they prepared to bury Him.

In the shadow of Mount Olympus  He was raised. Red eggs thrown on the ground at midnight and fireworks shooting off into the night sky welcomed Easter morn. Fires were started and the lambs that we saw on trucks all week began slowly rotating on spits in each backyard, a sacrifice symbolizing a greater sacrifice.

Back to the Internet café in Athens before boarding the ferry to Patmos.

“Would you like to visit the team in Cairo?” The email we had been waiting for.

A quick two days of mopeding around Patmos and soon we were on a plane to Cyprus and from their to Cairo.

Names and numbers were separated to protect the contacts as we went through customs. The walking through felt holy and like the beginning of something significant.

We met our friend and I was told to pull my hair back and keep my eyes down. It didn’t take long to find wisdom in those words.

Days were spent taking Arabic classes; evenings spent playing with children in orphanages. Days filled with meeting Sudanese refugees, visiting trash cities and just living in Cairo. There were no hotels, no tour groups. Just a couple getting to know a city and a people they were quickly and deeply falling in love with.

There was a trip the following year with others and plans to come back permanently. The imprint that the time in Cairo had made on us was profound and life altering. Along the dusty streets of Cairo we found purpose and meaning. We saw our future. It confirmed calling and we knew that we knew that we knew.

We would be back.

But things happened. Support was diverted to others. Other places, other families.  And when the money dried up, so did my hope.

And now we are left with boxes. Boxes of the post cards that announced our intention to leave. Artwork, photos, letters, presentations. There is a vase on a shelf and a bowl that holds our keys that remind me of our time.

“Blessed be Egypt my people.”

We grapple with our lost calling and finding our way in ordinary life. And are we just getting too old? And how would we get there now? And is it responsible of us to take our kids?

On bad days I push back tears and anger when I hear others talk about support raising and giving and blessing to others. Goers and Senders. How  great of us to be in a position to make others’ dreams come true. I feel stuck wanting to be somewhere, but not being there.

On good days I can look through the pictures and think of the day I bring my girls, their feet covered in dust as the Call to Prayer echoes in the air, and tell them how this place changed everything.

And at night, when the house is quiet and I’m the only one awake, I am somewhere between the two.  I think about all the things that I can’t unlearn, and I silently think, “Maybe, just maybe, we should have gone to bloody Ibiza.”

I'm sharing my story as part of a synchroblog to launch the book, Inciting Incidents, a collaborative work that highlights and celebrates the things that change us forever. Be sure to check out the book and read some of the other amazing stories that have been shared! Big thanks to  Tracee Persiko and Alece Ronzino for the encouragement to participate!


  1. So appreciated reading your heart and your journey... This resonated with me: "We grapple with our lost calling and finding our way in ordinary life." Right there beside you, asking similar questions...

    1. Thanks for reading. I don't know if it will ever make sense. I really hope it does and that it does soon. "Ordinary" doesn't fit right.

  2. Hey Brenna, this is a great post. It made me really sad to read about your excitement and passion and then have to let that dream go due to things out of your control. I understand that "stuckness" and hope you find a home in the tension somehow. I'm glad you're here though.

    1. Thanks, Tammy. Stuck isn't fun but I'm really trying to learn from it, hoping that the learning leads to movement.

  3. Wow. Thank you for sharing. My sister and her family have done much the same. They are just now resurfacing from the disappointment of having to abandon their plans to church plant in Japan and all the questions asked of God that I'm sure you have and still are asking yourselves. While it does little to soften the pain, I hope there's some comfort that you are not alone in this.

    1. It's hard to navigate through. And it does bring some comfort that we aren't alone. Thank you for reading and for the encouragement!!

  4. Just wow. This is so moving to read. I understand a little of that feeling of a lost calling, an "well what are we supposed to do now?" feeling. Passions are given and hearts ignited for a purpose but it is so frustrating to not see them, not understand them. Thanks for sharing.

    1. It's hard because it puts you on this whole "questioning" period where you question if you heard right, question if you acted right....questions as to what that purpose is actually supposed to be....just so many questions.

  5. what an amazingly powerful story. thank you so much for sharing your raw heart. I appreciate the real of your wrestling. I know this speaks to so many.

  6. Appreciate your post today, and I can identify with some of that.

    Being a little older (mid 60’s), I have a perspective on this that has been shaped for a long time. I am no where I thought i would be 42 years ago when graduating from college and getting married. Twenty-eight moves later, I look back and see that God was leading in every case, and yet we couldn’t see it. Very perplexing. A couple narrow escapes from death, a total breakdown, and left with the feeling that I could never be useful in God’s kingdom. And yet, there was God, each time opening a new mission field, for a hurting, broken, over-the-hill old codger. Sometimes in an urban area, sometimes suburban, and sometimes rural.

    And sometimes when we are least able to comprehend why or even how, God is working behind the scenes in ways that are only evident after the fact.

    Lord God, because of what Jesus has done for us, You have invited us into Your presence so that we can pour out our hearts to You. Brenna has done that. We give thanks for her heart, her life, and her dedication to You. Sustain her during this time of questioning. Raise up the right people who can minister to her and her family. Grant them all Your peace that passes all understanding. In the midst of “no answers” from You, may they be drawn closer to You. For Your answers are greater than we can think or imgaine; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen


    1. Rich, thank you for your thoughtful reply. Encouraging to me and I keep re-reading. Thank you.