Love Boat

A couple of handful of friends of mine are reunioning in California to commemorate the 15th anniversary of our time together on "the Love Boat."  Not the chintzy 80's show, but a Taiwanese cultural study tour that as developed a reputation for being a bit of a "meet market," if you will. 

I had signed up to go after my freshman year in college, looking forward at first to meeting lots of pretty Taiwanese girls.  But by the time it was time to go, my Christian faith had deepened and I felt a stronger urge to treat the summer as a missions trip of sorts.  I wondered and prayed about finding others who were feeling the same way.

It didn't take long for God to answer my prayer.  On the plane ride to Taiwan, the guy sitting next to me pointed at my Penn InterVarsity T-shirt and told me he was involved in that Christian organization's Berkeley group, and that another guy from that group was also on the plane.  One of their roommates in Taiwan ended up being a Christian and wanted in on our group, and we picked up two others through other various connections.

And so the six of us, though we ended up running in slightly different circles throughout the six-week tour, met almost nightly to pray for each other and for others whom we had engaged in on spiritual matters.  I can't tell you how enlivening it was to live the whole day with one thing on your mind - to represent Jesus here in the world - and to know there were five others committed to the same cause that you could meet up with at the end of the day to share stories with.

That camaraderie came in handy as we encountered various responses to our overt Christianness.  Some were comically dark: one guy snarkily responded to a comment I made to him by saying he was also religious, being a follower of Satan.  I think I said something to the effect of being sorry to hear that, since Satan's digs aren't nearly as nice as God's.  Others were polite, even admiring, but didn't themselves want to get it "those kinds of things,"  happy instead with their own, non-God way of living.

There were not an insignificant number of encounters we had, though, with people who were outright upset with our outward faith living.  "You're one of those people who think that everyone else is going to hell, aren't you," was one comment I got by someone who then stormed off angrily, not wanting to hear my answer to her question.  "I can't understand how someone as intelligent as you could believe such crap" was another one I remember hearing. 

I'm kind of glad I didn't have a ready response for either comment, because probably the best response was just to give them time to observe us Christians in action.  And that was the nice thing about our summer together, the six of us.  Yes, we had our direct conversations with others around us about matters of faith and eternity.  But those words weren't in a vacuum, but rather in the context of constant interactions and thus constant opportunities to demonstrate obedience and faith in the flesh. 

Best of all, the six of us had each other.  Hard conversations or angry responses could be borne more easily knowing five others had our back.  Praying for our new friends became a lighter burden because five others were lifting.  And it wasn't just those meet-ups at the end of the day; throughout the day, sometimes a quick conversation or a pat on the shoulder or a glance from one of the other five was enough to gird me up.

All in all, it was a wonderful summer.  And so fifteen years later, I pray for those other five, some of whom I still keep in touch with every so often, that they are still walking strong in the faith.  And I pray for everyone else, that along the way God sprinkled in some other Christians to further demonstrate faith in action. 

And I pray especially for those who were incredulous and even angry towards us Christians, that God is at work to soften them to Him, to help them overcome any bad experiences they had in the past, and to draw them into relationship with Jesus.  However it plays out, perhaps they might be able to look back, on this 15th anniversary of their time on "the Love Boat," and remember that there were at least six people who walked with Jesus who weren't so bad.
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