Andrew Schroer writes a faith column for the Victoria Advocate.

My family and I are officially back from vacation. As often happens, I am more tired now than when I left. This time it was my own fault, though. I brought it on myself. You see, this year my family and I decided to take a road trip.

We drove to Washington, D.C.,

Though the drive was long and our days in D.C. were filled with arduous amounts of walking, our trip was a wonderful adventure. We enjoyed quality time as a family. We learned new things about our nation’s history and government. We saw amazing monuments and were inspired by those who gave what Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion” for us and our country.

In the Persian fairy tale, “The Three Princes of Serendip,” three young princes find joys and surprises during their journey that have nothing to do with their final destination. Horace Walpole eventually coined the term “serendipity” based on their adventures.

Serendipity is when you find happy surprises you are not looking for.

Our vacation had a number of serendipitous moments, but the one that stood out for me the most happened on Sunday morning. Even before the trip began, I found the nearest church from our church body where we could worship on Sunday. Because we were on vacation and didn’t want to get up too early, we chose their latest service which was their Spanish service.

The first time you walk into an unknown church can be somewhat intimidating and awkward. You don’t know quite what to expect. Everybody looks at you hesitantly because they don’t know you.

Soon, however, we were greeted with warm smiles and happy fist bumps. We enjoyed the service — especially the music, some of which we knew and some of which was new to us. Even more importantly, we were fed and encouraged by God’s Word.

During the service, we found out that this was their official “welcome back” Sunday in which they were trying to encourage everybody to get back to regular worship as we come out of the pandemic.

After the service, they invited us to join them for a meal they had prepared and were pleasantly surprised when we were serenaded by a mariachi band which they had hired. I told them they didn’t need to hire mariachis just because we were visiting that Sunday. They assured me they hadn’t.

We sat and talked and laughed with the pastor and members for hours, making new friends from Venezuela, Bolivia and Guatemala. One of the highlights of our Washington adventure was simply going to church on Sunday morning.

As Christians, our summer vacations can easily become vacations from God. Going to church oftentimes doesn’t even cross our minds. But I would like to encourage you to never take a vacation from God. I know it can be intimidating visiting a new church, but whether at home or on vacation, we need God’s help and encouragement.

So find a church where you are vacationing. Take the time for God even when you are far from home. We need his help and encouragement wherever we go.

Besides, like us, God may bless you with serendipitous surprises you weren’t even looking for.

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Pastor Andrew Schroer has been a pastor for nearly 20 years and is currently serving at Redeemer Lutheran Church with campuses in Edna and Victoria. Read more of his devotional writing and contact him at 364DaysofThanksgiving.com.

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