June 4th, 2015 by Carl Buffington
"We’ve checked into the hotel earth overnight on our way to the heavenly Jerusalem. Earth is not our home!” That’s something Brennan Manning often said and over the thirty years of our friendship, it really sunk into me, I’d say, it shaped my soul.
Some relationships do that -- change us, shape us.
Through my 43 years of ordained ministry, there have been a number of people, like Brennan, who have left an imprint on my soul. Our partner relationships are like that and are one of the most incredible blessings we have as the society we are as Anglican Mission. These men have so much to give! Just spending time with them is invaluable. Ask their host home families.
We, too, have something to share. The week following the consecrations in Orlando, in addition to doing 6 ordinations, while we offered a theme park visit, instead, our partners chose to visit Echo farms, a windmill project, an educational program at 3rd Millennium Ministries, Campus Crusade and Wycliffe Translators. As a result, they were able to set up numerous working relationships with these organizations-things they will take home and share in their dioceses and provinces. (Feel free to contact Sheryl Curbow Shaw at email@example.com or call 407-432-5581 for more information on these projects.)
That was valuable time and was well-spent. It was something we were able to offer to our partners. It’s a way for our relationships to be empowering. They profited from it, and so will their dioceses. For example, at least one of the partners is a bishop half-time and farmer the other half and has battled drought this year. This gave him some new tools.
In a couple weeks, as part of Apolo 2, fourteen of us from The Mission will be traveling to visit our partners in their countries. This will be a time for us to share as well to be with them again on their ground. I pray we have something to offer; I know we will receive much.
Not long ago, I was able to spend a few weeks in Ghana, getting to know Bishop Edmund, one of our partners and now a consultor, and his family. One day we spent 14 hours on the worst roads I have ever experienced visiting his parishes, praying for the sick, and talking with the clergy. That time shaped me, and I don’t mean the horrible roads.
One picture of our partners I’ll not soon forget was in the ordinations, the Sunday following the consecrations, of Ivan Sikha, of The Mission India, and of Javon Seaborn, an Army major and chaplain. There was Bishop William, an evangelical out of the East African Revival from Boga diocese. And there was Bishop Edmund, an Anglo-Catholic from West Africa from Dunkwa-on-Offin diocese in Ghana. To watch them alternate the lines of the ordination liturgy was a picture of what our society is about. A glimpse of the Kingdom, I dare say.
What I find so invaluable is the relationship we have with these men of God whose lives are so dramatically different from ours, and yet we share the same gospel and heart for Jesus. What shapes my soul is time spent with them and listening to their stories. Whether it be a day at the beach, or sharing a meal, or visiting in the hospitals – your soul is vulnerable when you are with them. Their love for Jesus is outrageous and contagious!
The last Sunday they were with us at New Covenant, we asked the congregation to come up and pray for our guests. On the way to the airport, Bishop Sospeter from Tanzania commented that he had never experienced anything like that.
That is what shapes souls. Sharing our Lord’s love in the time we have together. And this is the niche of our being as a society -- living into our relationships with our partners. Even a simple email, sharing our stories or prayer concerns, works. (If you need an email address call or email Fr. Clint at 407.699.0202, firstname.lastname@example.org.) It’s not incidental, and we must also not forget to thank them for giving us a place to hang our Letters and be part of the Anglican Communion. And while we are still checked into hotel earth, we have the opportunity to develop our souls, one way that happens is through relationships like we have with our partners.
Over the years, Brennan and I crossed paths often. While different in so many ways, we shared a common theme, another Brennan saying, “God loves you as you are and not as you should be.” We’d spend time together. He would create diving contests for our boys at his home pool in New Orleans. He taught me about Teuscher’s chocolates and unconditional love. His books and his person impacted my life, and no doubt helped develop my soul.
Brennan’s words about the hotel earth and it not being our home came to mind instantly one April morning a couple years ago when Barb and I were traveling in Israel and heard that Brennan had checked into the heavenly Jerusalem. While sad and a bit stunned by the news, I was glad for him and able to say thanks for a friend and partner along the way who touched my soul.
A final word from Brennan Manning about God's Love taken from his memorial.