Village Visit: Balboa

We took a morning to visit a village this past week. Apart from one of the kids vomiting in the back seat, it was an enjoyable morning trip. We escaped the dense fog of our valley and crossed over into the beautiful sunshine of the Ancares Mountains (which run along the northwest border of El Bierzo).

In Balboa, we had coffee in a palloza, a unique style of building common in this area. These structures are generally a circular base and wall of stone, covered with a cone shaped thatched roof. Inside there are often multiple levels to separate the living quarters from the animals’ quarters during the winter months. (There were no animals in this one, thankfully.)

On the streets of Shanghai

We have two websites which we keep going. SCQuest is our family blog with information about us, what we are doing, what we are learning, how we are growing.

Over at Lost on the Trail we post other content. Mostly outdoor and travel articles, we review clothing and adventure gear, write stories about travel, and keep a healthy amount of sarcasm flowing. Here is a travel piece about something that happened in Shanghai. If that is something you enjoy, scroll through the site and take a look.

Sometimes you feel like you are being set up for a segment of Candid Camera.

Our three year old daughter and I had been wandering around Shanghai, China in search for the Spanish consulate. We had been walking for quite some time through this city of mammoth proportions, and had taken a wrong turn. Backtracking we rounded a small park nestled amidst a tangle of concrete.

While the city itself is gargantuan, there were very few people out on the streets. I suppose because we were wandering about when nearly everyone was working in one of the numerous high rise buildings surrounding us. Or, it is quite possible we were doing something illegal and had no idea what trouble we were in. The Chinese government isn’t particularly known for encouraging freedom of movement and expression.

There we were, in one small corner between multiple highways and elevated roads, lost beside a small park with its sunken gardens and carefully tended trees. As we were walking along the path we watched the only other visible human, a lone living soul in this concrete jungle. He was an older man, shuffling along with a cane. But something was strange. There was too much shuffle. There was too much old man about him. It felt as though we were in a vaudeville performance. His doubly thick glasses contributed to the overall effect of someone who does not fit the role they are playing. But then again, maybe he thought the same of the two of us. Here there was a tall American holding the hand of a three year old Chinese girl.

The elderly man shuffled toward us, rounding the same corner that we were, but too tightly. Too tightly because he stepped where the sidewalk would have been had there not been steps. The whole event was like a choreographed stunt. But if it were not merely a stunt, laughing would have been a horrible thing to do.

His body lurched, his cane collapse, and he stumbled down the unexpected stairs. In an effort to catch himself, he knocked his glasses off into the shrubs on his left. And there he was, blinding groping for his glasses and cane. It was in this moment that three of us crossed paths: a de-spectacled old man, a tall Caucasian who speaks no Chinese, and a three year old Asian who speaks no English, somehow brought together to act out a scene. This was our fifteen seconds of fame, starring in the great play, On the Streets of Shanghai.

I reached down and picked up his glasses, handing them to him. He bowed to me and said numerous things in Chinese, of which I understood nothing. I bowed to him, took my daughter’s hand, and we continued our walk to find a Spanish Consulate in one of the largest cities of the world.

What just happened? Who was watching? Was this a joke? Were we being followed? I will never know.

For more travel and adventure stories, head over to Lost on the Trail

Out and in again

In order to initiate the visa we received in Chicago, I had to take Mia outside the EU and re-enter. Our only real option was London. So the two of us took a day trip to London. It is frustrating to be in one of your favorite cities and have to remain in the airport!

We were able to get the necessary stamps in the passport, and for that we are very grateful. We are now one step closer to residency! All that is left is to renew all of our visas in February and we should have 5 year visas. We are praying that we will not be penalized for being out of the country for over 6 months during COVID19.

What if the COVID reality could strengthen our churches?

What if it could? That is a big question. I am sure that you have seen some strengthening of your church, maybe through your online engagement, maybe through more people “watching services”, maybe through other means. But I am thinking of something different. What if people were actually more engaged in evangelism and discipleship during the COVID reality than then were before it? Could it happen?

In thinking about this question I remembered a book I read back in 2012. While I had disagreements with the author and some of his ideas, it was the book which got me thinking along these lines. I am posting my review from the first time I read it, and then will be posting quotes, notes, and summaries of each chapter over the coming weeks. Would you be willing to pick it up and read along? Maybe some of the quotes will get you thinking or enable you to share some of what you think about the issue.

The Church In Many Houses: Reaching your Community through Cell-Based Ministry

by Steve Cordle

Point: The cell-based understanding of the church facilitates and stimulates personal growth and community outreach.

Path:The book is divided into three sections: 1) The emerging cell movement (background and general principles) 2) Laying the foundations (what it looks like) 3) Strategic Issues (moving forward and answers for difficulties).

Sources: Cordle relies on personal experience, statistical data, Methodist methodology, and Biblical principles.


The overarching principle is right on – we are not a church “with” cells (or small groups), we are a church “of” cells. Whether we admit it or not, the local church functions at a relational base. If there is no relationship going on, what are we considering the “church”?

He uses the terminology “pre-Christian friend” instead of “unbeliever.” I loved that!

Everyone is involved.

There is a focus on prayer.

Multiplication is the purpose.

This is not a program.


His view of the worship service, or celebration, is geared toward unbelievers.

He uses numbers all the time to prove points, but numbers are not what Jesus focused on.

I have questions about his view of woman in leadership. I don’t think that woman should be relegated to the back seat, but he has them in pastoral roles.

He sees spiritual gifts as things to be discovered and stressed.

Personal App: Am I seeking to reach outward and multiply disciples? If so, how am I implementing that?

Favorite Quote: “Meeting in homes also locates ministry in the midst of multiple neighborhoods, spreading the gospel across an area instead of stockpiling believers in a central building” (34).

Stars: 4 out of 5

The concept gets a 5, but I had to let a lot of terminology, specific application, etc. slide through.

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it.