Barlows In Birmingham


P1030418I recently spent a week on the St James Way, along with a group of US pastors and several friends and colleagues from around Europe - my 3rd trip to northern Spain and this historic pilgrimage trail.

Once again, we met numerous pilgrims along the way - each with a story and a specific reason for taking this journey, which so many before have taken. The amount of time and energy necessary - along with a considerable degree of discomfort - might make someone from the outside wonder WHY someone would want tot do it, especially in today's fast-paced world where you can nearly rid your life of discomfort.

Well, in the very question lies part of the answer: a chance to break away from our anesthetised, artificial western way of life. We have created a world where we can almost forget about nature, about toil to find enough to get somewhere or find enough to eat, about death and the ultimate meaning of life. Pilgrims cannot forget these things. They have to shed down to the lightest load possible, if they hope to make it to the end of their long journey.

Resisting a desire to "sermonise" so many different experiences, suffice it to say that I returned home with many life lessons to think through and digest. There are just SO many parallels between real life and the life of a pilgrim on the St James Way. It is something I want to help others experience, even if it is hard, uncomfortable and filled with uncertainty at times. After all, I guess that is what a lot of life is like . . .

gwocgb logoFrom 23-27 August, we attended our first TREFFEN. For most of you, that is probably a new term. From what I understand, it is a German word meaning "gathering" - and the Goldwing Owners' group adopted it for their international encounters. The British TREFFEN was held at an airstrip in Bruntingthorpe and was attended by Goldwing owners from 15 different countries.

On Thursday, about 300 motorbikes came onto the site - and tents started going up all over the place. By late Friday, 407 bikes were there - all different sizes (1000, 1100, 1200, 1500 and 1800cc) and kinds (solos, sidecars, trikes and outfits). It was fascinating to see so many Goldwings gathered in one place - and fun to walk around and see the bikes and how each owner was equipped for the 5-day event. (We will "steal" quite a few ideas, as we had NO IDEA what to expect.)

The typical daily schedule was a slow morning, a ride-out to some nearby destination, meals either at the campsites or at the catering tent, and then an evening program in the assembly hall - often with live music, competitions or raffles, and a significant amount of drink. One evening, we went along for a Parade of Lights (even though we have very few on our Goldwing) - and we could hardly believe how many LED lights some had installed on their machines.

We met quite a few new people and had a great time. Our local club, Centre Wings, had our own camping section - which allowed us to do a lot together and get to know one another beyond just name and face. It rained on and off, but not enough to really disrupt the planned activities.

Some might read this and wonder might wonder: Why go to such an event? After all, aren't there some questionable "goings on" at such an event? Well, maybe. But there is another side to the Wingers - a commitment to help others. Our local club gives any extra revenue to the Air Ambulance Service - and they regularly help marshall local festivals. There is a spirit of giving and sharing.

From a "ministry" side of things, there is no other way to meet most of these folks - and that's why we're here. And an added bonus: we learned a lot from them as well: they accepted us just as we are. That's a lesson we all could learn . . .

IMG 0627"London 2012 - a once-in-a-lifetime experience!" That's pretty much what I've been telling everyone to summarise my three-week volunteering experience at the Olympics. It's unlikely that I will ever live so close to a Olympic host city; unlikely that I will be able to take an extended time to volunteer for such a global event.

So, what do i take away from it all? Memories, first of all. Lots of visual images, places visited, sights seen. It was fascinating to be a part of a visually-rich global event - from the rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony to the colourfully-decorated Athletes' Village to the sun-filled Beach Volleyball stadium.

Insight will be a second takeaway. Many lessons were learned as I observed how an international event of such huge scope was run - from the preparation to the ongoing communication to the motivation and training of volunteers, always keeping the athletes and their needs at the centre (which has not always happened at past Olympic Games). Hopefully, I will retain those long enough to implement them in my life and work here in the UK and wherever I might land.

But, unfortunately, the memories will blur and the photos will fade. The insights may not apply in new contexts. So, in the final analysis, the main takeaway will be the people I met: Janet, John, Cheng, Hilary, Chin - along with a few athletes and their support teams. That is what the Games are about for me. That is why I wanted to take part - to meet people "inside" the Games. Hopefully, I will be able to maintain some level of contact with some of them - but the intersection of our lives will mean that we will never be the same, now that the Games are over . . .

200px-London Olympics 2012 logo.svgSunday night, I head to London for three weeks in the UK's capital. It is the culmination of at least three years of planning, applying, interviewing, training, and preparing. Growing up in the States, the Olympics has always had some sort of "aura" - so, I wasn't going to let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be personally involved pass me by.

I am part of the Sports Information Team for the volleyball competition. Perhaps not very glorious in and of itself - but it is a chance to explore my passion for volleyball whilst meeting some of the best players in the world. I am looking forward to being an actor in one of the greatest sporting events in history - even if that sounds like a bunch of jargon. The reality is that hundreds of thousands of people will come to London to be involved in this event.

Still, there is a deeper motivation. Most of those involved will be thinking about everything BUT God. I want to work from the inside to be "salt and light" in this global event. It may only be with others who are in the Sports Information Team - or chances to share may go beyond that to athletes. But I want to bring attention to my Master by working well and by seizing any opportunity to give the reason for the hope that I have. Let the Games begin!


Tom's Blog

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