It's been about a year and a half since I flew to the Midwest and met up with N. She and I traversed the Pacific and all of Europe to land in a city on the western edge of Asia. It was a grueling and costly trip, but a necessary one I think. We made connections and explored local dynamics in a way that just couldn't happen without that face-to-face contact.
Recently N. also connected me with P. He is interest in building relationships with another people group, a group of people from South Asia who have relocated in large numbers to a couple of big cities in Europe. It just so happens I've been to one or two of those cities and spent some time among them. It was a few years back, but I was on the ground for about a month setting up and encouraging a cultural research effort.
It turns out that P. is currently living in the same Atlantic Seaboard town as some of my contacts from that research project, now home on what's basically a furlough.
Meanwhile, back in the Midwest, N. is getting ready to take some people back to the area we visited in Asia. Joining up with her team there will be an ethnomusicologist who lives thousands of miles away from that region but has a keen interest in the people they will make contact with there, as he studies and works among people who speak the same language and have a related history and culture. I'd almost forgotten about him, but we had a couple of phone calls two years ago; I think I found him through a guy I "happened" to meet at an unrelated event in Colorado Springs. Looks like the folks in the Midwest have stayed in touch with him.
The face-to-face meetings? Those are golden. If P. meets up with my friends in his town they'll build a much stronger bridge than I can sitting behind my computer in Oregon. And N. will soon know the ethnomusicologist better than I do (if she doesn't already).
I'm grateful for my trips to Asia, Europe, and Africa, and I expect there will be some more of those in the future. But I also love this: that from the small town where I live I can be part of ministry efforts worldwide with just an internet connection, a broad web of like-minded contacts, and a knack for networking.