Posted by: ritagone | March 2, 2016

Leavin’ On a Jet Plane!


I’m taking off tomorrow night (Thursday), flying to Lisbon, Portugal for Christian Associates’ Leadership Summit. This is an annual conference that we 27331925-Colorful-houses-of-Alfama-district-Lisbon-Portugal-Stock-Photohold for the leadership of our organization, as contrasted to our annual “Connect,” all staff conference. This one is smaller, more intimate, no children, so it feels completely different from the bigger one in the summer (which will be held in Budapest, Hungary, at the end of July).

Our subject for this Leadership Summit is “Future Church”: what will the church of the next five or ten years look like? I think it’s going to be an exciting topic with lots of discussion in workshops, which I’m sure will spill over into conversations over coffee and walks in the neighborhood of the hotel. How will our projects change in the next decade? Where will God take us as He creates new ways of worshiping and serving in communities around the world?

We’ll do some sightseeing afterwards, because being at a conference in Lisbon is just not the same as seeing the city as a tourist. It is a beautiful city, but the last time I was in Lisbon as a tourist, many years ago, Michael was producing the last season of the TV show “The Love Boat,” his bosses insisted he take a cruise to familiarize himself with cruising, since we had never been on a cruise before, and we were sightseeing in Lisbon with the actress Alexis Smith. Most of you will probably not remember Alexis Smith. She was a very famous movie and television star and Tony Award-winning Broadway star, married for 49 years to Craig Stevens (“Peter Gunn”). She was guest-starring on the “Love Boat” episode filming on the cruise ship we were on, which was how we wound up touring the city together. I was in a trance, because she was my mother’s favorite actress. All I could think was that, “I’m sightseeing in Lisbon with Alexis Smith!” I knew my mother would faint if she could only see me. I have no memory of any of the historic sights of that beautiful city, only that I was sightseeing in Lisbon with Alexis Smith.

So I’m looking forward to seeing Lisbon as if for the first time!

Then, since we’re flying home via New York City, we’ll stop off for a few days in one of my favorite places to visit. We’ll dine at a few of the city’s delicious restaurants, we’ll visit a few of its memorable sites, and we’ll see the revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

It’s going to be a bit of a whirlwind, as these trips almost always are, and I’ve noticed that my stamina isn’t what it used to be, but I’m psyched up for it. First of all, I love my CA peeps, so any time I get to hang out with them – and I don’t get to do that often enough – it’s a pleasure. Secondly, traveling with someone who will be seeing everything with fresh eyes is always a great experience, and that’s what will be happening this time. And lastly, traveling always makes coming home a wonderful gift: I love my home, I love my husband, and I love my routine here when nothing is going on, so it’s always a pleasure to return, get over the jet lag, and settle in to life as usual.

I have a friend who used to travel all the time: cruises, land trips, whatever she could book for herself and her husband, and if her husband didn’t want to go, she’d convince a girlfriend or two to go with her. Every year she would take two or three major trips; money was no problem, so why not? Then a few years ago, her husband suffered a stroke, and for a while, her traveling days were curtailed, as she had to stay home and take care of him. Not that it was a burden; she loved him and wanted to do this. But in the blink of an eye, her lifestyle changed. No more traveling, no more exotic places, no more adventure. Now she lived on her memories of places she had been and things she had seen and done. Then, last year, she suffered some health blows of her own, and now she’s fighting for her very life. It is most likely that she will never travel again.

As I watch this dear friend, I am so aware of the blessing of being able to take “just one more trip.” Because none of us knows if the trip we’re planning might be our last. I don’t mean to be maudlin or depressing, just realistic. Maybe that’s what turning 70 does to you: makes you more aware than before of how tenuous your life and your situation can be.

So I’ll ask God to watch over me, to protect Michael and my kids and grandkids while I’m gone, along with the friends I hold so dear, knowing that their lives are not dependent on whether or not I’m in Lisbon or in Westlake Village, or mine either, for that matter, and I’ll get on that plane and off I’ll go. And I’ll hope for the best and trust that “God be with you” is more than just a trite phrase.

The good news is that I think He knows all about Lisbon and New York City, so I think He actually will be with me! And hopefully I’ll have some pretty fun stories to tell you in posts to come!

By the way, celebrate our new name with me: Christian Associates International is now Communitas International. After decades of the original name, we felt it was time to update and capture a new feeling for our ministry, one that speaks to the missional and community aspects of what we do. We’re going to transition slowly but surely to Communitas, and I hope you’ll make the transition with us!


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