We just returned from a trip to Hungary with Global Missions Project, playing excellent music with the Metro Big Band. We played concerts in churches and schools, with the stated aim to share the gospel and encourage the church. I am constantly amazed how God has blessed our life; in this case, that we’ve taken up with this music ministry, that God has opened up our world in this stage of life.
Story #1: The minute our last concert was over, Friday night in Budafok, I noticed a man making a beeline n my direction. He had gray hair, a brown tweed jacket and black shirt, and walked straight up to me and stuck out his phone so I could read the screen. I suppose he had a translation app on the phone. His screen read, in all caps, CAN I PRAY FOR YOU?. Well, the answer to that question is always YES.
He put his arms around me and prayed for about two minutes, all in Hungarian so I had no idea what he was saying. I found out later his name is Angel. The pastor said he was a prayer warrior and must have sensed something about me. As far as I know, I was the only one he prayed for.
Story #2: I told Cyndi toward the end of our second day of playing, I felt like I was moving the line. I was now about 50/50 between playing out of fear of messing up to playing aggressively. The line was closer to 20/80 our first night of rehearsals. Playing this music has that in similar with sports, the tendency for playing not to lose rather than playing to win.
Story #3: End of the tour, we arrived in Midland about 9:40 Sunday morning, and left the airport driving a Toyota Highlander belonging to my sister-in-law, full of suitcases and horn cases and four people.
As we entered Loop 250, slowing a bit to avoid a big water puddle, we were slammed from behind by a massive pickup, and sent spinning into the grassy, muddy median. None of us were hurt that we could tell, but the luggage and instrument cases were jammed up in the crumpled back compartment of the car.
My trombone case showed no evidence of the wreck, but Craig’s case, containing a trumpet and a flugelhorn, was crushed and broken. Fortunately, the horns survived.
Story #4: Craig and I sat for several hours in Heathrow Airport in London while Linda and Cyndi cruised the duty-free shops. We told stories of how we met our wives, how we fell in love, how we decided to get married, how we got here. It’s rare to have time for telling the sort of stories we don’t usually get around to.
Story #5: Cyndi and I made two early morning runs, about 2.5 miles each, through Varosliget Park, near our hotel. We agreed that even if we have only one opportunity to run, to feel the landscape and experience the people, it more than justifies the suitcase space taken by running shoes and clothes.
Story #6: The night before we left on this trip Cyndi was thinking and rethinking her selections while packing her suitcase. We both tend to pack light, so there are choices to make about clothing.
She looked at me for my opinion, and I started singing, “Don’t go changing, to try to please me, I love you just the way you are.”
And then it occurred to me - we’ve done nothing but change for each other for the past 40 years. Sorry, Billy Joel, it’s a silly song.
Story #7: Simple comfort food is the best. Our favorite meal of the week was Hungarian Goulash cooked and served by the Tahitotfalu Baptist Church. It looked like beef stew. It still makes me smile to think about it.
Story #8: At the conclusion of our concert, the pastor at the Tahitotfalu Baptist Church said another minister in his town told him, “You Baptists have it made; every service is a party.”
Story #9: On our Thursday morning quick trip to Vienna, we ate hot dogs from a street vendor. That was my second favorite meal of the trip. They reminded me of the puka dogs we’ve eaten in Kauai.
They impale a baguette on a heated spike, creating a one-inch hole that is toasted on the inside, put in mustard and sauerkraut, and, in my case, a bratwurst. On the train ride back to Budapest we started talking about how to make these back home in Midland.
Questions: The questions we get from friends and family when returning from an epic adventure like this are the same (mainly because they’re the same ones we ask ourselves): What was your favorite part? What was your least-favorite? What was your biggest takeaway? What were your surprises?
The older I get the harder these are to answer. The answers come slowly over the next months and years, seldom right away. And even then, they may not come as insights, but behavior changes only other people recognize.
Possibilities: Maybe the reason our Toyota Highlander didn’t flip when we skidded into the mud was because of Angel’s prayer. Was that what he prayed in Hungarian?
Maybe the fire and inspiration stirred up by playing with these musicians will motive me for the next ten years. Can I keep getting better?
Maybe the people who came to our concerts hoping only to hear big band jazz from America left with hearts softened by the gospel presentation. Will they become believers?
Maybe we’ll learn how to make Vienna hot dogs and Hungarian goulash and stuffed cabbage, allowing us to share our trip with friends back home, and causing our memories to linger forever. When can we go again?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32