[an error occurred while processing this directive] This article is from the EMU News Archive. The approximate date of publication was in September 2005. Current EMU news is available at www.emu.edu/news

A Goal Completed, A Lesson Learned

By Luanne Austin, Daily News-Record

Linford Stutzman is an Associate Professor of Culture and Mission in the Bible and Religion Department at EMU. Stutzman also teaches seminary courses and is the director of the John Coffman Center for Evangelism and Church Planting. He and his wife, Janet, are frequent leaders of undergraduate cross-cultural trips to the Middle East. In May 2004 the couple embarked on a Mediterranean sail that would retrace Apostle Paul's route and last until August 2005.

Sailing Acts
Eldon Wagler, an MCC worker in Syria, with Father Matthew, a monk from Damascus, Syria, and Stutzman at the site of Paul's conversion. (Click here to review more photos from SailingActs.)
They did it. Linford and Janet Stutzman retraced the missionary journeys of Paul by sailboat, visiting every harbor Paul visited as recorded in the book of Acts, walking the streets Paul walked, weathering the types of storms on the Mediterranean Sea that Paul experienced, meeting Greeks, Jews, Italians, Turks, sailors, city officials, shopkeepers, priests, pilgrims and wanderers.

"This has been the best 16 months of our lives," said Lin Stutzman, a professor at Eastern Mennonite University.

To make the journey, Lin Stutzman took a year-long sabbatical and his wife, Janet, left her EMU job as director of alumni and parent relations. After spending weeks repairing and cleaning the sailboat they purchased from a Greek sailor ? as well as getting through the necessary red tape ? the couple christened their vessel Sailing Acts and shoved off from Volos, Greece, in June 2004. Their trip ended in Rome this August.

"I learned far more than I thought about Paul and the world," said Lin Stutzman. "Everything we went through was with Paul in mind."

What he means by "everything we went through" is breakdowns, gale winds and legal hassles; making friends with sailors, Orthodox clergy and Iraqis; being soaking wet, cold and seasick; and depending on the kindness of strangers who speak a different language.

Danger

Sailing Acts
Research at sea. In the background are the islands from which, according to Homer, Odysseus heard the Sirens calling. Paul passed close by on his way to Puteoli. (Click here to review more photos from SailingActs.)

In the first century, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, "Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren ?"

Like Paul, the Stutzmans left the lives they?d always known for the great unknown. Lin Stutzman equates Harrisonburg with Jerusalem, the place they left from and to which they returned.

"Jerusalem is a place of resources and power and where they?ve got things figured out," he said. "Outside that place, you see resources elsewhere."

"They have a different window on the world," said Janet Stutzman.

Throughout their travels, triumphs and tribulations, the couple read and reread the book of Acts, trying to understand Paul?s motives for taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. During the 10 years Paul was active on his journeys, he was with "pagans" outside his community for months and years at a time. During their time away, the Stutzmans did not worship with other evangelical Christians.

"I went to church all my life," said Lin Stutzman. "[During this journey] I connected to the world differently than when I was in church. My connection to non-believers grew."

Unlike the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, the non-believers Paul met "didn?t control anything," said Lin Stutzman.

"These people he was meeting are made in God?s image, too," he said. "They have their own wisdom and skills. These were his friends, and the people in Jerusalem would not accept them. They?re just as much a part of God?s kingdom as the people in Jerusalem."

In Paul?s New Testament writings, he did not criticize the lifestyles of the non-believers. He did not react against the immoral things they did. Nor was he condescending to them.

"He related on their level in their system," said Lin Stutzman.

Important Friendships

Sailing Acts
Stutzman lowers the Greek flag as the ship leaves Greek waters. The flag of Malta would be next, and finally, the Italian flag would fly as their journey ended. (Click here to review more photos from SailingActs.)

One good friend the Stutzmans made during the journey was Captain Steve, the Greek "crusty, old sailor" from whom they purchased their boat, Sailing Acts. The night before the Stutzmans launched last June, the captain and his wife took the Stutzmans out for dinner, presenting them with an Orthodox icon of the apostle Paul.

The Stutzmans needed their friend yet again this summer, when their auto helm (automatic steering) broke down a few hours after leaving Crete on June 20. The couple spent hours trying to fix the instrument to no avail. They called Captain Steve to find out where to purchase a new one. The sailor found one for them in Athens. They called the shop in Athens, only to find out the new unit would cost $5,000.

"That was too much, much, way too much for our budget," Lin Stutzman wrote in his online journal.

He called Captain Steve, who said, "Call me back in 30 minutes."

When Stutzman called him back, Captain Steve said the price was less than one-tenth of the quoted price.

After a bus trip, installing the auto helm, finding out it didn?t work, another bus trip and installation, Lin and Janet Stutzman were sailing again, towards Malta. Malta is the island where Paul shipwrecked. Indeed, there?s a church there called Saint Paul?s Shipwreck Church. The couple arrived on the island on the eve of a week-long Saint Paul festival.

And a festival it was. Eight men carried the statue of Saint Paul to the cathedral as fireworks exploded, wrote Stutzman in his journal. Confetti showered down from the roof. Bells clanged in the cathedral tower. A brass band played in the plaza while the crowds clapped and sang.

"A year ago I would not have been moved by this display of devotion," wrote Stutzman. "I would likely have dismissed it as misplaced religious enthusiasm. But after having followed Paul this far around the Mediterranean, I was startled to discover I shared the enthusiasm of the descendants of the friendly ?barbarians? who cared for Paul on the night of the shipwreck 1,945 years ago."

The Power of Rome

Linford Stutzman walking the final 30 miles into Rome
Stutzman walked the final 30 miles into Rome on the Appian Way. (Click here to review more photos from SailingActs.)

As the Stutzmans made their way toward Rome, once the most powerful city on Earth, they began to equate it with Washington, D.C., where they?d be flying in a few days.

"The closer we got to Rome, the more we saw Rome?s power," said Janet Stutzman.

Lin Stutzman walked the last 35 miles into Rome alone, along the Appian Way, the most famous Roman road, paved 100 years before Paul was born. Like Paul, Stutzman hadn?t done much walking for a long time. On the second day of hiking, he arrived at Via Appia Antika, a stretch that?s been preserved with ruins, pavement, curbstones and statues. The thing that struck him was the tombs where they buried their dead.

"It occurred to me that Paul saw, as he walked this same road, that no matter what they accomplished, they still died," Stutzman said. "So my attitude changed too. Rome is a kingdom of death; it cannot give eternal life."

Stutzman spent a lot of time on the trip researching and writing. He finished writing one book, the academic one. The second will be the travel adventure, about the couple?s encounters, conversations and ideas about Paul as they happened. One chapter will be about things relevant to American Christians, about the burden and privilege of being part of the most powerful nation in the world.

Just like Paul.

Lin Stutzman will be showing and telling the story of Sailing Acts in local churches. He is available to speak to churches, clubs and civic organizations. To contact him, write or call 432-4968. Also, to see the Stutzmans? journals and photographs, see www.emu.edu/sailingacts.

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