You are passionate to know what you love. Nobody has to convince a fan of American Football to follow the playoffs, nobody has to urge a fishing enthusiast to study the best types of bait in which season, nobody has to bother a musician about listening to music, and certainly nobody has to remind someone to passionately pursue the person they love. Katie and I just celebrated our 10-year anniversary. Time flies, and I could go on for pages about our journey, all the blessings, curses, celebrations, griefs, and ups and downs. However, the one thing that has remained steady is our desire to discover one another. I think this is one of the greatest acts of love (I never feel more valued than when Katie takes interest in what
matters to me) and every season of life seems to bring more opportunities to do just that. This past year or so God saw fit to add little Kaitlyn Elizabeth to our family, we were called away from a wonderful ministry as the pastoral family of BCC to become missionaries with the Church of the Nazarene, and we have journeyed (along with everybody else) through the COVID-19 pandemic with all its twists and turns (to put it mildly). It has been a wild ride of a year to say the least! But, here at its conclusion, I cannot help but think about all the opportunities it has given me to study and discover more about those I love the most and what matters to them.
I think one of the best ways to learn more about a person you love is by studying what they love. This has been especially true in terms of studying my wonderful children as a way to love my wife. Each day I seem to discover more of the depth and beauty of Katie as I study and discover more about my beautiful children. I love to pursue my wife in my love and discovery the passion we share in Jude and Kate. I think this is also how it should be with our love for God. Perhaps, one of the greatest ways to discover the depth and beauty of God's love is to discover more of the depth and beauty of what matter most to God: our neighbor. After all, in the Epistle of John, we are given this revelation:
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us…. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (taken from 1 John 4:7-21)
I can tell you this, there would be no loving my wife if I did not love her children. It makes total sense that God would be the same way about his children.
How could we possibly love God and not our neighbor, and what better way to show our love for our neighbor than to pursue a discovery of them? We are in the midst of celebrating Christmas, which is a celebration of the great act of God to pursue a discovery of us, and our discovery of God, in the coming of Christ! This example drives us, as missionaries, to passionately study and discover as much as we possibly can about the people of Sofia, Bulgaria. So, what does this look like?
First off, it is important to recognize that there is only so much discovery that we can accomplish from a distance. This is why we are so eager to get to Sofia. However, there are some things we can pursue. This includes a discovery of the historical, social, economic, and cultural realities that have had and continue to have an important place in the life of the people of Bulgaria. We have done this by listening to podcasts by Bulgarian historians and sociologists, watching online lectures by professors at the American University of Sofia, reading history books, Bulgarian classics, novels, memoirs, and watching Bulgarian movies and documentaries. It means searching for every possible resource to begin to discover the rich and deep culture that is unique to the people of Bulgaria.
Second, and this is an extremely important one, we can learn the Bulgarian language. What could be more important in the desire to discover another than to be able to hear their story, literally, in their own words, and share your own in return?
Well, over the past months we have been using whatever resource we could to study Bulgarian. It is not one of those languages carried by the major language resources like Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, and Babel, so we have scrounged for anything. I have learned about 700 vocabulary words. Does that sound like a lot? Did you know the average adult has an active vocabulary of over 20,000 words?! We have a long way to go. Well, I am excited to announce that with some help from our field we have just begun an intensive Bulgarian language course that will last 8 weeks! This course is being taught via Zoom with an instructor from Sofia. Please pray for us as we engage in the tough but rewarding journey to discover the Bulgarian language.
As this New Year begins, I pray that you enter into the journey of discovering God, of loving God, by looking for opportunities to love and discover your neighbor, whoever that might be. Would you like to experience a greater outpouring of God’s love and discovery? Maybe it starts with your neighbor. After all, how in the world can we love God, and experience the complete love of God, without passionately pursuing love for our neighbor? I want to know God. I want to know my neighbor. May our Lord bless us with new epiphanies this year!