Leadership Institute Has Begun

Yesterday, we spent nearly 12 hours getting from Clearfield, PA to our destination in the greater Kansas City area. While our two flights were short (45 minutes to Dulles, then 2 hours to Kansas City), we had a long 4 hour layover in DC.

After our State College District group rented 2 large SUVs, we had a 45 minute drive from the airport (located on the Missouri side of the metropolitan area) to our hotel (in Kansas) where we arrived around 11:00 pm (central time).

Well, our first day here has been a long day so I’ll keep this is short as possible. Today began with pre-institute workshops. Joleen may share from her perspective later, but I went to the “Leadership Essentials” workshop, which addressed practical tools for leading change. It was led by Carol Cartmill and Yvonne Gentile, who wrote Leadership Essentials: Practical Tools for Leading in the Church, which we received as a gift from the publisher (Abingdon).

There were a lot of practical tips and tools in this workshop and I’ll need some time to process them, but in the meantime, my favorite statement from this workshop was by Yvonne, who said, referring to many people’s resistance to change in the church …

Sometimes we get so comfortable in our safe zones that we make stability our idol.

The Leadership Institute officially began this evening with an inspiring worship experience followed by the first of three plenary sessions featuring Adam Hamilton. Adam is talking about 16 leadership principles that he’s learned/experienced in the past year at COR.

Tonight’s presentation centered around the areas of ministry focus, first communicated by the United Methodist Council of Bishops (see the list on this page) and how they are fleshing them out at COR. There was a whole lot to chew on, but just a few quick quotes for now …

Leadership is influencing people to accomplish a common goal.

Being a pastor is the coolest job in the world.

Find the best and the brightest and ask them to consider the call.

Adam believes that the best days of the United Methodist Church are ahead of us. That’s saying a lot for a denomination that has been in decline for more than 4 decades. It’s also a huge statement considering something else Adam shared that blew me away (and inspired me at the same time!): over a 50 year period in our history, more than 18,000 churches were started — that’s one new church every day for 50 years! (you may need to pause to let that sink in). Wow!

Amazing things are happening at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. I’m grateful for their commitment to, not only influencing Kansas City, but also the world, and the mainline church, and the UMC, in particular.

As I said, there’s been a lot to chew on from our first several hours of the institute. We have an even more full day tomorrow before we finish up tomorrow night.

And, as much as we’re enjoying the institute, finishing up tomorrow night will be a good thing — Joleen mentioned at dinner this evening that she was getting homesick. We head out of here pretty early on Saturday and expect to be home around 3:00 or so (thanks to a much shorter layover this time).

Feel free to post comments or questions. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your prayers!

Leadership Institute, Here We Come

A few months ago, we wrote about attending Leadership Institute, a 2-day conference hosted by The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (COR). Well, the has come for this event.

Tomorrow, we travel to Kansas City (we’ll return Saturday). We’re excited about attending this event with a group of pastors from four districts in our conference.

While we look forward to spending a few days in Kansas City at COR, unfortunately, Ethan will not be with us (thankfully, though, Grammy and Pappy are going to stay with Ethan here on his familiar turf while we’re away). Were it not for this being the first time being apart 3 nights, we’d be a lot more excited about this trip! 😥

But we expect this event to contribute to our ongoing personal development, and we want to share the experience with as many as we can. So we invite you to follow along here on the blog over the next few days as we reflect on some of the things that impact us most.

More than likely, we expect to publish posts (as we’re able) (1) Thursday night, (2) Friday night and/or Saturday morning, and (3) sometime later after we return home and have a chance to process the whole experience.

As always, we invite you contribute to the conversation by clicking on the “comments” link underneath any post you wish to comment on, then fill out the form to submit your comment.

Well, let’s get started!

Ethan’s Day at the Beach

Ethan made his first trip to the beach on Wednesday. Ocean City, NJ is just a quick one hour drive from where my aunt and uncle live. We arrived late morning and spent the afternoon there.

Ethan really enjoyed playing in the sand. We took a wagon of sand toys we had purchased earlier this summer when we got his inflatable pool. His favorite part was shoveling. Wanda and I enjoyed using the molds to make assorted shapes in the sand. Ethan enjoyed knocking the tall ones over!

Ethan did not take to the ocean water too well. He didn’t want in it, but was okay to be held while we stood in it. When we got back to the house I gave him a bath first thing and he cried … he didn’t want in the tub water either, which has never been a big deal before.

We all had a fun day, except for the sunburn that Randy got on his feet and I got on my back. Thankfully Ethan was well covered in sunscreen.

Vacation in New Jersey

We’re finally taking some much-needed, long-overdo vacation time. Our last vacation time, spent packing in Mooresville, moving, and unpacking in Clearfield, certainly wasn’t restful or renewing!

We’re in Woodbury, NJ (east of Philadelphia) visiting Joleen’s aunt and uncle, Jim and Wanda, whom Ethan is meeting for the first time.

This morning, Wanda, Joleen, and I played mini golf.

On the way to the mini golf course, Ethan fell asleep. We put him in his stroller where he slept through the first several holes. After he woke, he was content to watch us play from his stroller. The all-terrain stroller came in handy today as the golf course had a lot of hills and steps. It was fun. 🙂

Tomorrow, we’re planning to drive to the eastern side of the state where Ethan will see the Atlantic Ocean and play in the sand on the beach for the first time.

On the Road Again

Since we brought Ethan home from Korea in mid-February, we’ve made two trips to Wilmore, Kentucky — to defend our dissertations and to graduate. Tomorrow, we head back out on the road for our third trip in as many months.

This time, we’re going to our conference’s annual conference (the yearly gathering of United Methodist pastors and local church representatives to do “worshipful work,” or what John Wesley called “holy conferencing”), which will be held at Messiah College.

But, first, we’ve gotta take a time out to thank God for his protection!

A couple weeks ago, as we began the long drive to Kentucky, we noticed a warning light on the dashboard of Joleen’s car. As we continued to make our way to Hollidaysburg, PA where we planned to meet up with Joleen’s mom and step-dad, Joleen flipped through the pages of her car’s manual to find out what the warning light meant.

After some searching, we learned that the light indicated that one of the tires’ air pressure was too low. We pulled over and did a walk-around of the vehicle but didn’t notice any obvious problems. When we arrived in Hollidaysburg, we increased the air pressure of the front right tire from 27 to 34 psi (following the manual’s recommendation).

After driving over 500 more miles to Kentucky, plus the return trip, the warning light never returned. In fact, we sorta forgot about the problem. However, while driving home yesterday, the warning light came on again.

Flat Tire

Flat Tire

Today, I went out to the garage to check the tire pressure. But I didn’t need to check the pressure because the tire was flat!

We called Dix Honda in State College, PA and I made a trip to the dealership to get the problem solved. BTW, the service department at Dix is the best service department we’ve ever worked with! 😎

As it turns out, the tire had a puncture on the edge of the tire wall, which was not repairable. The service manager told me after the tire was replaced with a new one, “This is the kind of puncture that can go boom anytime!”

Well, after having driven well over a thousand miles, most of which were at Interstate speeds of 70+ miles per hour — and on the eve of making another out-of-town trip — that was a sobering moment!

Anyway, back to annual conference: we always enjoy annual conference, and this year should be especially interesting as Ethan joins us. There, Ethan will meet a number of our friends and colleagues for the first time.

We expect it to be a bit overwhelming for Ethan, though, so we’ll have to use some wisdom in making sure we incorporate enough down time for our family. Tentatively, we’ve scheduled Ethan to be in child care Thursday and Friday mornings (that could be an experience in itself) while we try to keep him with one or both of us during the afternoon and/or evening sessions.

For the past several years, Joleen and I have written for the Daily Link, the newspaper that reports on the events of annual conference. Since we don’t know what annual conference with Ethan will be like, we’re cutting down our involvement a little this year. We each have volunteered to write one article each day.

It looks to be a good few days! Annual Conference begins Thursday morning and concludes Saturday afternoon.

And, for the first time, we *should* have internet access while at Messiah College, so please check back later this week to see how annual conference is going and how Ethan is doing. Also, look for a report on our second (of three) post-placement visit with our caseworker regarding our adoption of Ethan, a visit that will take place in Camp Hill on our way to Messiah College on Wednesday.

Korea Photo Gallery

Twenty-seven photos from our adventure to and from Korea (a small sampling of the 250 photos we took) have been posted on our Galleries page (there’s also a link at the top of the page).

Most of these photos are in addition to photos we posted while we were in Korea. Probably the best way to find those is to click on Cross-Cultural Experience in the sidebar (under categories) and browse through the posts in that category.

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to/from Korea. Something that turned out to be one of the biggest blessings was the computer in our room at the guest house — being able to connect with others and share the experience was a highlight.

That computer also allowed us to post photos while we were there, although it did take us a couple days to be able to do so. To use our card reader, we needed a USB slot, which was located on the back of the computer. I had to find the slot with my hand because I couldn’t pull the computer out far enough to see the slot.

Anyway, we hope you enjoy the photos and that they give you a greater sense of our adventure to/from Korea. You should be able to click on any of the photos, then click “Next” or “Previous” underneath each photo to click through all 27 photos.

Let us know if you have questions about any of the photos or about the trip, in general.

Thanks again for sharing the experience with us!

Rare Opportunities 2.0

While we were in Korea, we reported on our experiences with The Holy Flames Methodist Church (a congregation of around 2,000 people) and Kwanglim Methodist Church (which, we’re told is the largest Methodist Church in the world with a congregation of at least 70,000 people, although we’ve seen higher numbers online, too).

If you missed them, click here to read Rare Opportunities. You might also be interest in Our Amazing Korean Church Family.

Since then, we’ve wanted to come back and offer a little more reflection. It was a jam-packed day, so it was impossible to summarize in one post.

Our host/driver from Holy Flames picked us up at the SWS guest where we were staying at 7:30 am and brought us to the church where we attended multiple worship gatherings, including a couple prayer sessions that preceded various services/events.

After the young single adults service in the early afternoon, we were dropped off at Kwanglim around 3:30 pm for a tour of the facilities. They were wrapping up their day of worship gatherings as we arrived. Our guides at Kwanglim took us to dinner then returned us to the guest house around 7:30 pm, completing a full 12-hour day.

A few things especially stood out to us …

We were treated like dignitaries. We were introduced and asked to stand at every worship gathering. In a couple settings, we were asked to greet the people with the help of an interpreter (children’s worship and young single adults).

While at Holy Flames, we were provided a guide/interpreter to lead us from room to room for the various events. Our first guide had just returned from the US earlier that morning so he was very tired, but still very helpful. A second guide relieved the tired one and joined us for lunch and the young single adults gathering (she was a young single adult, herself). At Kwanglim, we had two guides, one of whom served as an interpreter. They also took us to dinner before returning us to our room.

Great Hosts
Our contact person is Korea was Rev. Jun, the senior pastor of Holy Flames. One of the pastors on his staff, Jung-Sun, served as our guide and host for the weekend. On Saturday, he and his family took us to Insa-dong, a major shopping district, and to tour a palace. On Tuesday, he and his wife took us to see North Korea (from a lookout in South Korea). We concluded our time with them at a small group meeting on Tuesday evening (during our first few hours with the baby). We very much enjoyed our time with Jung-Sun, his wife, and their two children!

Accommodating Senior Pastors
We have a high regard for both senior pastors we met in Korea, Yong Jai Jun (Holy Flames) and Chung Suk Kim (Kwanglim). They were both very welcoming and hospitable. They went out of their way to make our visits meaningful. Chung Suk, who literally met with us after a long day of worship gatherings, met with us on the spur of the moment. Even after we returned home, he emailed us to see how we were doing, attached a couple photos taken of us with him, and expressed a desire to meet with us again sometime in the future. Both top notch people, in our book.

Shoes off!
slippersFinally, on a lighter note, the practice of removing shoes, while not specific to the churches we attended, is a common practice in Korea, particularly when entering homes and some places of business. We noticed that when worship participants at Holy Flames walked onto the platform, they removed their shoes and put on a pair of slippers (see photo). People did not remove their shoes when entering the main worship sanctuary, but they did for the smaller prayer gatherings we attended. We also removed shoes in all of the homes we visited. BTW, if I go back to Korea, I’m taking slip-ons! 🙂

Holy Flames and Kwanglim are churches that are making a difference in a culture where following Christ is not necessarily easy. Click here to read about the history of Christianity in South Korea, which is still relatively young. Amazingly, though, South Korea (officially know as the Republic of Korea) is the second largest missionary-sending nation in the world.

As Joleen noted earlier, Jung-Sun attributed the growth of the Korean Church to prayer and small groups. We got to see both of those vital activities in practice. It was very inspiring!

Of course, the Korean Church is certainly not without its challenges. Some challenges we were made aware of include busyness (most of us in the States understand that one). A second one was more surprising to us. Korea’s fairly recent promotion of education has led to parents minimizing high school seniors’ church involvement, in lieu of preparing for college (in Korea, the senior year is the critical time for college prep).

We are grateful for the opportunity to have experienced a little bit of the Korean Church’s world while we were there. Please join us in praying for them, that God will use them in their work in Korea and around the world!

Mirror Fascination

One of the things I was fascinated by while we were in Korea was the special mirrors that were on many of the vehicles, mirrors I’d never seen before (see photos below).

And there’s a good reason for these mirrors — in the second largest metropolitan area in the world (with nearly 4 times as many people per square kilometer as New York City!), there’s not a lot of extra room for driving and/or parking.

We didn’t drive while we were in Korea, but we were in several vehicles driven by other people. We saw drivers get through some tight squeezes we never thought we would get through. They parked in places I never would have even attempted. Thus, the reason for these extra mirrors.

We came away thinking you’d have to have ice in your veins to drive in Seoul. One woman, one of our guides (and interpreter) at Kwanglim Methodist Church, who went to college in Australia and worked in Canada and recently returned to Seoul, told us that people say if you can drive in Seoul, you can drive anywhere!

Take a look at the mirrors in these photos. You can click on one of them and click “next” or “previous” below the photo to cycle through them. Also, look for my descriptions below.

What a Ride!

We did a couple things pretty regularly while we were in Korea: 1) check the blog for new comments, and 2) check our blog statistics.

We enjoyed reading the comments; it gave us a real sense that we were not alone while we were in Korea. And judging by some of the comments we’ve received, it helped others feel as if they were with us, too.

StatsBy checking our statistics, we’d knew how many “hits” or views our blog received each day. As you can see in the image here, our statistics really started climbing when we went to Korea and spiked on the days we met Ethan and brought him home. Not surprisingly, the blog’s biggest day was “gotcha day,” February 12 when the blog received 531 views.

To put that into perspective, our old blog (willis.blogs.com) received about 10,000 hits from January 2007 to January 2008 (about 30/day). This new blog (williswired.com) has received more than 3,600 in about a month (125/day).

As we said before, we blogged in Korea for a couple reasons: 1) to help friends and family experience this part of our journey with us, and 2) to be a resource for other adoptive families who may come across our blog (our blog statistics reveal that people come to our blog through Web searches related to adoption). At some point in the near future, we plan to post some lessons learned along the way that may be helpful to other adoptive families (especially those adopting from Korea).

Thanks for making this a more meaningul ride for us!

Bringing Ethan Home

We would certainly appreciate your prayers as we travel and bring Ethan home with us on Thursday.

Here’s our schedule …

We’ll check out at early in the morning (7:00 am here), 5:00 pm, Eastern Time. We have an hour bus ride to the airport where our plane is scheduled to leave at 11:05 am (9:05 pm, Eastern Time). We should land in Tokyo a couple hours later.

After an hour-long layover in Tokyo, we’ll embark on the long 11.5 hour flight to Detroit. Then, after a less-than-2-hour layover, we’ll take a short commuter flight home to State College, where we’re expect to arrive at 3:30 pm on Thursday (Eastern Time).

Please pray for safety, of course. Also, pray especially for Ethan, that he handles the trip as well as possible. Pray that God gives us wisdom and patience. Pray for our fellow passengers and the crew, that they will be supportive and understanding. 🙂

Pray also for smooth transitions in Tokyo and Detroit and that we have no problems with customs and immigration, especially in Detroit where we have a fairly short layover. We have all of our legal paperwork for Ethan, but you never know what snags might come up in that process!

We’ll post a report on the trip sometime after we get home. Thanks for your prayers!