Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 and Jonah

Today is September 11th.  Twelve years ago the worst act of terrorism in history against the United States took place.  Most of us can remember vividly where we were, what we were doing when we heard what had happened.  Many of us spent the day glued to our television sets watching it all unfold.  As we look back on it now, even after 12 years, it evokes a significant emotional response.

It was horrible.

It was tragic.

Incredible heroism and despicable terrorism were both on display, and are forever etched into our minds.
As I reflect on that day, and as I look at the various postings on the internet I can’t help but wonder…

Have we, as those who say we are followers of Christ, fallen into the sin of Jonah?  We often tell the story of “the reluctant prophet”.  I loved the story when I was a little kid.  Jonah is commanded by God to take the news of impending judgment to the city of Nineveh.  Instead he runs the other way, ends up being swallowed by a great fish and then spit out on dry land.  He repents, goes to Nineveh and preaches God’s message and everyone repents and we all live happily ever after, right?  Not quite.

If you look more closely at the story, it is a little darker, a little harder than the version we teach our first graders in Sunday School.

The Ninevites, part of the Assyrian Empire, were the terrorists of their day.  They cut out tongues, they skinned people alive, they stacked heads outside of conquered cities, they slashed open the wombs of pregnant women.  By definition they were terrorists – using terror to further their goals.  When Jonah was told to take a message of imminent judgment to them he refused.  He ran the opposite direction and eventually decided it would be better to die (by being thrown overboard in the middle of a storm) than to deliver the message.

God did not let Jonah off that easily.  Instead, He sent a large fish to swallow him and make a course correction.  Jonah prays in the belly of the fish and finally says, “What I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9b)  In other words, “Ok Lord, I’ll go. You have the right to save whoever you want.”

Jonah then goes and preaches to the people of Nineveh – one of the largest cities of his day – and a miracle occurs.  The people believe God! (Jonah 3:5-9)  The king calls for a fast in hopes that God will relent and let them live.  And God hears their prayers and does not send the judgment on the city.

You would think that Jonah would be overjoyed!  Thousands of people have just turned their hearts to the one true God as a result of his message.  Instead, Jonah is angry.  We find out the real reason why Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh.  He tells God, “I told you this was why I didn't want to go in the first place.  You are too nice; you’ll forgive anybody!  Just kill me now!” (My paraphrase of Jonah 4:1-3.)

I wonder if that is not where we in the American church are now.  We have been commanded to take the Gospel into every nation.  EVERY NATION -- not just the easy ones, not just the ones who want us there.  “Every nation” even means those who hate us, those who commit terrorist acts against us.

We are on the other side of the cross from Jonah.  We know that Christ came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost.  We know that when the sins of the world were put on Christ on the cross, it included the sins of terrorists and Muslims (the two terms are NOT synonymous!) as well as ours.  But do we really, sincerely want to see them come to know Jesus?  Do we really want them to find forgiveness for their sins?  Maybe we have not been as serious about reaching them because subconsciously, we don’t think they deserve salvation.  They are ruthless killers after all.

Sometimes it seems like many here in the US are smugly pleased to see the turmoil in the Middle East.  Egypt and Syria are imploding. “Serves ‘em right, the bunch of terrorists…”  Really?  REALLY?  I know that that sentiment may not be spoken out loud, but if we are brutally honest with ourselves, isn't that kind of how we think?  “Well, at least if they are killing each other, they aren't killing us.”

The solution for 9/11 is not more wars, it is not more bombing, it is certainly not hatred. We, as people who call ourselves Christians, should be falling on our faces in prayer for those who are our enemies. Isn't that what Jesus commands us to do? We should be begging God to send out more laborers into the harvest – people who are willing to go to the hard places and shine God’s light.  We should be redoubling our efforts to penetrate the countries that harbor terrorists, not with more military, but with Christian businessmen, with teachers, and yes, with missionaries.  We should be taking the message of Salvation to them.  Terrorism is at its root a heart issue.  The only One I know who can truly change hearts is Jesus.  Those who espouse terror to communicate their message are willing to die for it.  Are we?

On this anniversary of terror, would you join with me in praying for the millions who are blinded by a false religion?  Will you pray with me that God would forgive us for the hatred, however subtle it might be, that we have harbored against those in the Muslim world?  Would you ask God to use every means at His disposal to draw people to Himself? Can we all ask God to protect us from the sin of Jonah – that of being so filled with hatred for a people group that we would rather die than see them come to find salvation?  Can we all agree that in the place of hatred and terror we need God’s love and forgiveness?

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Dear Emily

(I wrote this to Emily a few days ago, just before Emily left for the US and I share it with her permission)

Dear Emily,

As I write this, you are still asleep in your room.  In less than 24 hours, you will be on a plane headed back to the US and into a whole new chapter of all of our lives. Yesterday, when you were out with your friends and mom and I were packing your things, the reality of your impending departure really hit home, and now waves of sadness have begun to hit me.  Yeah – your “tough” Marine daddy was crying yesterday, and I am crying as I write this.  I guess I didn’t expect it to hit me quite like this. 

Your mother and I have known since God gave you to us that our time with you in our home would be limited.  We have tried to be good parents, tried to teach you the things and skills you would need for the day when you would leave our house and go out on your own.  Now that the day is almost upon us, I have to admit that I am wishing we could push back the clock a bit.  You know that we have been joking about “when the nest is empty, the party will start” – but now, as you stand on the edge of the nest, about to try out your wings, I find myself filled with a mixture of pride and sadness.  Your brother and sister have both “made the leap” just fine, and I know that you will be fine too – our Heavenly Father will be watching over you and caring for you in ways that this earthly dad never could.

You are an incredible young lady.  I know that you are going to do well at school and that you will have fun – eventually.  After the first few weeks of uncertainty, you will settle into the routine of classes, with new friends and all sorts of new experiences – some will be fun, others perhaps not so much.  As you step out on your own and find that your wings have more strength than you realize, we will be watching, and praying, and bragging about what fabulous kids God has given to us.

I love you.  I hope you understand that. Nothing you could ever do will change that. Nothing. Your mom and I will ALWAYS be here for you no matter what.  You may make some decisions in the future that we might not fully agree with, but we will always be here for you to talk through things.  As much as I love you (and there are not words in any language to fully capture how much that is), I know that God loves you more.  And so, as we did shortly after your birth, I am giving you to Him once again.  I am praying that He will make his presence known to you as you step out into some unfamiliar territory.  I am praying that He will provide for you all of the things that your mom and I didn’t, or couldn’t.  I am praying that someday (not too soon!) He will lead you to a Godly young man who will love you as much as Christ loves the church – and as much as I have tried to model loving your mom.

It helps to know that in a couple of months we will be back in the US too – that we will see you for the holidays.  I’d really be a basket case if we didn’t have that already planned.  By the time you read this, you will be back in the US.  As you head off into unknown territory, your mom and I will be back in territory we have not traveled through in over 21 years – a house with no kids in it.  It will take some getting used to on our part too.  I will miss hearing you out on the piano. I will really miss being able to kiss you goodnight.  I will miss seeing you in the worship team.  But just like closing out one chapter in a good book, I know that the next chapter will have some pretty cool stuff in it too. Let’s turn the page and see where it goes from here.

Your Babi

(photos courtesy of Kirlique Photography copyright 2012)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hot stuff!

No - I am not referring to myself in the title - at least not in the way some of you probably thought.  It has been quite hot here in Tirana so far this summer with no sign of letting up.  We have not had any rain since June 5th and the forecast ahead is still hot and dry.  This morning when the alarm went off at 6:45 it was once again 87 F in our bedroom.  That seems to be about average for us over the last couple of weeks.  The exterior wall of our apartment soaks up all of the afternoon sun and then just radiates it back out all night long.

Other than the heat, things are chugging along as normal here.  Work at AEP slows down a bit during the summer since a lot of the workers here leave the country for one reason or another.  This week we will be interviewing candidates for a temporary position to provide maternity leave for our Office Assistant, Ornela.  We are continuing to work on the plans for the AEP Annual Conference in October as well.  We finally got the terrace of the office looking about how I wanted it to, thanks to the donation of two large umbrellas from Vodafone.  Once the temperatures moderate a bit we will have a nice place for people to come and relax and visit. 

There is not much to report on the "631 Solution" front - things are not moving along quite as fast as we would like, so prayers are appreciated.  We have not lost the vision or the desire - we are just trying to figure out next steps.

We are now into the last three weeks with our girls! It is hard to believe it.  On August 2nd Erin and Emily will board a plane to go back to the US.  Once there, they will rest a bit before splitting and going to visit friends - Erin in Oregon and Emily in Montana.  Caleb will be finishing up his time at Winshape Camps somewhere in there and then all three will head to Bryan College to start school before the end of August.  

Last night Emily gave her Senior Recital to a small group of friends in our home.  Her cello teacher said that in 3 years, Emily had done about 9 years worth of progress.  It was great to hear Emily play a couple of cello duets with her teacher.  She then sang 3 numbers and performed 3 piano pieces.  I am very proud of the musical abilities of all of my kids!

That about updates you from the Wright house - I am sure that I will be posting something sad, or touching, or reflective not long after the girls depart and leave Cindy and I with an empty nest - just in time for our 25th Wedding anniversary. Until then - stay cool!  I know that is what I will be trying to do!

Monday, June 04, 2012

It's June Already?

Some of you are probably wondering if I forgot that I had a blog.  Well, I didn’t, I have just not gotten around to writing on it lately.

If you have been able to see any international news, you may have seen that Greece recently had an election in which no single party was strong enough to form a government.  There  were several days of talks between the various parties with several attempts at forming a coalition government, but they all failed to do so, and now new elections have been called for mid-June.  Without going into a whole lot of detail, people are angry at the way the previous government tried to deal with the economic crisis so they voted for their opponents. These opponents are also opposed to the terms of the bailout that have been dictated by the stronger governments in Europe and have caused a lot of grief for people in Greece.  What this has led to is a general uncertainty about whether Greece should or will stay in the “Eurozone” – the large bloc of countries currently using the Euro as their currency. 

While all of this gets sorted out , we are hoping to get a US based 501c3 (charity) set up so that we have a structure over us to receive donations and to keep us clear in the eyes of the governments involved.  As mentioned previously, we will be calling our organization “The 631 Solution” in reference to Jesus’ words to his disciples in Mark 6:31.  Please be praying with us as we seek to get this set up this summer. We’d really like to have it in place by the end of the summer.

We are continuing to work here in Tirana – Matt at AEP and Cindy in the home.  We are thrilled to have Erin home with us for the summer.  Her college requires students to do an internship before graduation and God opened doors for her to do hers here.  She is working this summer as a volunteer intern with World Vision, and it is giving her some great opportunities!  So far she loves it.  Caleb is currently in the US working at Winshape Camps in Georgia.  He was chosen to be on their worship team all summer.  So far he is playing keyboard and some electric guitar, but he told us he will also play back-up for several instruments as needed.  Emily is relishing her last few weeks here in Albania before heading back to Tennessee to start college in August.  By August 3rd, Cindy and I will be “empty nesters”, so there are more big changes ahead for us as well.

We do appreciate your prayers as we move forward from here.  Sometimes the pace seems glacial, but we are trusting that God has a purpose in everything.  Oh – one last thing.  We have two Albanian “daughters” that will be getting married this summer.  We have started doing some premarital counseling with one of them and will start with the second one soon.  Would you pray for us as we try to help these two young couples get off to a good start, and then as we participate in the weddings later this summer?

Monday, April 09, 2012

Lasts, firsts, and transitions

OK – so there is a whole raft of emotions going through me right now and I really just need to sit down and get some of them written down.  Tomorrow morning, very early, I will be head to the airport with Caleb.  We are headed back to the US – but his ticket is a one way ticket.  I’ll be there for 3 weeks then I will leave him behind and return to Albania.

Folks have been asking me for the last several weeks how I feel about our kids growing up and moving away from home.  Honestly, we are very proud of our kids and believe that they are reaching that point in life where they are ready to head out into the “big bad world” on their own – at least into the still somewhat sheltered world of college.  I am especially sure that Caleb is ready for the transition.  I am so proud of the young man he has become!

God has blessed Caleb with some pretty incredible musical talent (if I may say so myself).  He plays guitar and piano and percussion, he sings, and he is writing his own instrumental pieces.  His walk with God is solid. He has his head screwed on pretty well. He loves people, has an infectious laugh, and is quite athletic too.  He loves climbing, cycling, swimming, and just about anything else that involves sports and being with friends.

I love my son.

I am proud of my son.

I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with him in the days ahead.

But I sit here at my computer, eyes filling with tears, because he is headed out on his own now.  I am not worried about him, but I can’t approach this milestone without being at least a little sad.  The next time we play on the Xbox together it will be through the internet using Xbox live – not sitting together on the loveseat in our living room. Our chats will no longer be at our favorite “man meal” spot here in Tirana, but over skype.  Our lives are changing.

As a missionary, I am used to life changing.  It seems like something is always changing – in fact I have often said that the only constant in our lives is change.  But this one hits pretty close to home.  Erin has already ventured off to school.  Caleb is setting out on his own now.  By the end of this summer, Emily will be out of the house and in college too.  That is a lot of really big change in a relatively short amount of time.

So I sit here, sad, excited, curious, and yes, a bit tearful. I know that God will take care of my kids.  He has been taking care of me since before I was even born, so I know I can trust him with my children.  As a dad, I know the transitions ahead will be challenging for all of us.  But I am confident that Caleb is up to the challenges ahead.  I’ve been watching this last week as he has gone through a series of “lasts”-- the last worship team meeting, the last church service, the last coffee with the guys in the youth ministry, etc.  Next up is the series of “firsts” he will be experiencing on the other side of the pond. 

(photo by Joanna Linderman)

Caleb, 19+ years ago, when God gave you to us, your mother and I dedicated you to Him.  It has been an incredible privilege watching you grow into a man. I love being your dad. I love being your friend.  God gave us the awesome responsibility and privilege of raising you, nurturing you, training you, and loving you. It has been an honor. Walk with Him daily. Remember His love for you in every situation. Follow hard after Him with your whole heart.  Never forget that we are here for you no matter what.  Nothing will ever diminish the love I have for you.  At the risk of sounding corny (but when has that ever stopped me- right?) – GO FORTH AND CONQUER!  I’ll be cheering for you from this side of the pond, or wherever God moves us in the future.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Hi folks!  I am trying to plan a trip back to the US for April - most likely April 10 through May 1 or so.

I am doing this for several reasons -
1) we need to get our US Based Non-profit set up - or at least get the ball rolling fully on it.
2) We need to start doing some fundraising so we can move closer towards purchasing the future home of  "The 631 Solution"
3) It will enable me to accompany Caleb back to the US and help him get some of his stuff back.  He will be working this summer at a camp and then starting college in the fall.

In an effort to maximize my time I am trying to set-up meetings with people before I return.  We have gotten some great emails and encouragement from folks who have read this blog and believe in what we are doing.  The next phase will be for us to put down some "earnest money" to show our seriousness to the owners of the property and to enable them to begin the legalization process.  Until the house is legalized, there can be no sale.
Here's how you can help:  
1)  If you know of Christian investors or family foundations who would possibly support this type of ministry by giving toward the purchase of this house, I would love to be able to talk to them and share the vision.
2) I will most likely fly into Chattanooga, TN and will need to borrow a car in order to do the traveling I need.  If you know anyone who has a spare vehicle that they would let me use for a couple (or 3) weeks, that would be incredible!
3)  PRAY!!!  Every step of this journey needs to be covered in prayer! As I told someone else the other day, we believe that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the hills themselves, and all the oil and mineral rights to anything under the hills!  This is not a daunting task for God, but we want to be sure that we are following Him each step of the way.

If you have any contacts you can send them to me at

Monday, February 20, 2012

Here's what is going on!

I figured it was time to put something up on the blog again since it has been a little while.  I have to say we are very encouraged by the positive responses we have gotten from those of you who have read it.  To say that this process is a bit out of our depth would be a major understatement! Cindy and I have never owned a home, and the biggest thing we have ever purchased is our vehicle here in Albania! 

Just to catch you up on recent activities regarding the house – we had a Civil Engineer do an inspection of the house (something that is required in Greece, apparently) and found out a few things.  First of all, as it stands now, the house is not legal and cannot be legally sold.  Apparently when they built the house, they did a few things “off plan” – made some additions that were not in the blueprints and were not approved.  All of these things can be legalized so that the house can be legally sold, but it involves some significant costs (about 10,000 Euros or $14,000).  Additionally, according to the engineer’s evaluation, there is significant work needed on the house itself to bring it up to where it would be livable.  We expected this, since the house has been empty for a long time.  The costs for updating and repairs fell into the range we were expecting.  When we made a counteroffer to the seller deducting the costs of legalization and the costs of repairs, they offered to pay for the legalization and a slight decrease in the asking price of the house.

Your prayers for this process are greatly appreciated!  We know that things will go back and forth a bit while we nail down prices and who pays for what.  We are also closely watching the situation with the Greek economy.  Close friends who know more than we do are predicting that Greece will be kicked out of the Euro Zone and if that happens the price on the house could very well go down significantly.  With lots of variables in play, we really need wisdom on how to proceed.  The good news in all of this has been that the current asking price is well below the estimated real value of the house. It looks like we would be getting a real bargain, even factoring in the cost of repairs.

In other news, our oldest daughter, Erin, will be coming home for her Spring break!!  We are very excited to be able to have her come back for a visit.  During her time here we will go back down to Corfu and let the kids see this place we are asking the Lord to give to us.  None of them have seen it yet, and since they will all be off in college when we make the move we thought it would be good for them to see first-hand the house we hope to use for ministry.

We bought Caleb’s plane ticket last week.  He will return to the US on April 10.  He’s already got lots of plans for his first month back, hopefully including him getting his driver’s license!  Since driving here in Albania is a little bit different – ok, A LOT different – from driving in the US, he has not yet gotten his license.  Pray with us that he will be able to take care of this before he starts his summer job.  Lord willing, he will be working at a camp again this summer prior to starting school at Bryan College in the fall.

We are praying through the details of how and when the rest of us will return to the US later in the summer.  Emily will also be starting college in the fall, and our hopes are for all of us to be back in the US for a while. Cindy and I will be sharing the new ministry direction with our current (and hopefully some new) supporters.  This will mean lots of travel.  If we are able to spend Christmas 2012 with the kids in the US, it would be the first time since 2004 that we would celebrate with our families in the US.  As the Lord provides the funds for the purchase of the property in Corfu, we would then return to get started in the work there.  Erin will graduate in May 2013, so we are trying to figure out how to best manage time and finances and still be able to be there for her.  Again, your prayers are appreciated!!

If it sounds like we are on a wild ride, it is because it is true!  We are always encouraged when we hear that friends are praying for us, so don’t be afraid to comment on this blog. Feel free to spread the word as well.  If you have other friends who are mission-minded let them know about our ministry. We want to be a blessing to as many Christian workers as we can, and for that to happen, we've got to get the word out.  We’ve seen it all through our ministry – when God’s people pray, amazing things happen!