As you get older it sometimes seems like time is speeding up. When I was a child, a year seemed like forever and now the years pass all too quickly. As I reflect on the events of 2016, so many things occurred that were a long time coming. It truly was a year of celebration and completion.
I welcomed in the New Year of 2016 with several thousand young people from all over the United States and various countries of the world. The Urbana Student Missions Conference was in St. Louis again and the party they throw every three years in support of world missions is worth the wait. What a joy it was to watch so many college students pledge their lives to serving God wherever he might lead.
Not long after that, I made my first trip with Gerardo Scalante to the islands of Trinidad and Barbados in preparation for taking on a new role later in the year as Regional Director for North America and the Caribbean. So much has changed in the years since I went to school and grew up on these islands. Little did I know that one day I would return as an adult to continue the ministry that my parents were so heavily involved in for so many years.
In March, I traveled to Liberia for my fourth time and helped to host CLC’s second major Pastor’s Summit for well over 250 pastors who attended. It was a really gratifying week to be with Dr. Tony Hart as he led the training sessions again. Many of the attendees had come to the first summit in 2014 and commented on how the New Living Translation Life Application Study Bible and the CLC Bible Companion (that they received upon completion) had transformed their ministry in the past two years. I was able to travel with Gerardo Scalante again and introduce him to Africa for the first time. After our time in Liberia we went on to Sierra Leone where were able to counsel and encourage the local team.
In April, we began a yearlong celebration of CLC International’s 75th Anniversary at our team conference where our author Matt Mitchell was the keynote speaker. This celebration also involved a very special event where we were able to honor my father and mother for 49 years of faithful service to CLC as they officially retired. Quiet unexpectedly, my brother was able to fly in from Panama to attend the event and surprise my parents, who were not only genuinely surprised, but delighted.
That wonderful event was followed by some very challenging days for my mother who got very sick from food poisoning and ultimately ended up in the hospital for 11 days followed by a number of weeks of recovery. Her sickness did have one side benefit in that she and my Dad chose to stay in Fort Washington with us as she recovered rather than travel back down to South Carolina where they live. What a blessing to watch her gain her strength back little by little each day.
In May, I published my first book. This project, entitled “The Bookstore that Matters” was a labor of love and took two years to complete. It contains tales of my time as a bookstore manager in CLC and is filled with stories about the miracles that God did. It was designed to encourage current Christian bookstore managers and to inspire a new generation that might be considering this as a ministry calling. I was very humbled to receive many compliments about the book and was asked to speak to several groups as a result.
In June, all of my siblings, my parents and Deb headed to Cornwall in England for the trip of a lifetime. We spent most of our time in and around the little fishing village of Porthleven where my maternal grandmother had been born. Given that she was one of twelve children, it was not surprising to find that we have many cousins to visit. While my parents and two of my siblings had been to Cornwall before, it was a first for Deb and I. The beauty of the place and the warmth of the people was simply overwhelming and we often had to pinch ourselves to be sure that we were not dreaming.
The other main reason that I traveled to England was to participate in CLC International’s official celebration of its 75th Birthday at our quadrennial leadership meetings. Leaders from over 40 nations gathered together for a week of fellowship, planning and fun. How inspiring it was to be with such a dedicated group that are carrying on the work that my grandparents began so long ago. It was during those days in England that I was officially ratified as the Regional Director for North America and the Caribbean and began a four-year term of service.
Coming back from England, I was delighted to see that plans for a major merger of our CLC USA ministry with another organization, Multi-Language Media (MLM), were well under way. Jim Pitman, my colleague who joined CLC with his family the very same day that Deb and I did twenty years ago, led the effort. This merger resulted from the retirement of the founding couple of MLM, Jay and Jean Krause and their gifting of the entire organization to CLC USA. They had been located in Ephrata, PA and it took quite a team effort to move all their assets to Fort Washington. The transition and temporary closing that was supposed to have taken two weeks actually took only two or three days and we were able to start meeting the needs of customers from all over the United States. How exciting to see this long term dream come to fruition.
The autumn was quite busy with trips to Canada and Colombia and major ministry events like our annual Clergy Breakfast and our Donor Banquet. In the middle of October, I led a small team that hosted a major book table for the Thriving Frequency Conference right here in Philadelphia. The conference has been growing over the years and moved to the Convention Center in 2016. As a result of this partnership, we were able to provide books to hundreds of urban pastors and church planters that attended.
As the year came to a close, we completed a project that was in the works for quite some time. In June, Gerardo Scalante, was elected to serve as CLC’s next International Director and decided to reside in the United States rather than moving to England where the International Office had been located. Instead, he decided to move to our HQ campus in Fort Washington and work out of our main building. With this being planned, we decided that it was high time for an office remodel. The work was finally finished in December just in time for Gerardo’s arrival and it gave the building just the makeover it needed.
Another chapter has been completed in the story that God is writing through my life. I can’t wait to turn the page and see what He has in store next.