The Rev. Amy Hodge was 19 when she learned about the pastor-exchange program. Her pastor went through the program and brought back photos of his experience. When she looked through them she knew she wanted to go through the program, too.
Hodge, director of the Wesley Foundation, and her family experienced a new culture and spiritual perspective when they participated in a pastor-exchange program in England this past summer.
The Hodge family had a long wait to engage in the program, because there are more American pastors than British pastors available.
Her husband signed up three years ago and was notified of acceptance in 2012.
Unfortunately, the family they were paired up with was in the process of moving. The Hodges decided to stay with the same exchange family and wait another year to take the trip.
The family would swap places with the Rev. Andy Lindley’s family and stay in their home in York, England while the Lindleys made Hallsville their home for the next four weeks.
In planning, the Hodges looked over travel books together and marked places they wanted to visit. They also prepared spiritually by praying for the other pastor and his family and saved their money.
The Hodges had to cover travel expenses themselves, so they cut down on luxuries.
“We had to cut back on a lot of things such as no soft drinks from Sonic, and we didn’t take any big family trips,” Hodge said.
All that saving paid off when they were on the plane and on the way to England.
When they arrived at the British pastor’s house, it was smaller than their own. The size of the refrigerator was shocking to Hodge.
“The fridge was what we consider a mini fridge,” Hodge said. “We had to shop every few days to keep it stocked.”
Hodge said that the most difficult thing was not being able to use their cellphones, because they had no service.
The family had to rely on maps and asking bystanders for directions.
After a few days, they were able to get service back by purchasing a SIM card.
With the card they were able to use their phones normally and make calls in England for no extra cost.
There was more challenges settling in, and driving continued to be a problem.
First arriving to England, Hodge had trouble remembering what car door to get in and what side to drive on, since the British drive on the opposite side of the road as in America. Getting back to Texas, she experienced the same trouble.
“Even now I have to remind myself,” Hodge said.
Hodge noted the difference in age of church members.
The majority of churchgoers were Hodge’s parent’s age or older. Seeing this made her sad, but she wasn’t entirely disheartened. The people who attended were full of hope. They were determined to bring in young people and be involved in the community.
“They might have not been young, but they were very spirited.” Hodge said.
The biggest things she wanted to see were the important places to John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church.
The family saw the house the Rev. Wesley grew up in and even visited the church that belonged to his father.
“It was amazing to stand where he once stood.” Hodge said, “It made me teary-eyed when my husband stood behind the altar he would have preached at.”
They visited many religious sites, including St. Paul Cathedral, Tower of London, and York Minster Cathedral.
“In the cathedrals there would be times that even my rowdy boys would be in awe of the beauty.” Hodge said, “There were so many things that would take my breath away.”
Rev. Hodge’s sons event went to an England school for a day.
They answered questions about Texas and handed each student a small Texas flag.
The Hodge family also took a tour of the Tower of London where Henry the VII had his wives killed.
The most memorable part of the tour was at the end. The tour guide said “British people, all this gruesome history is yours, and Americans, this history could have been yours if you just paid your taxes.”
She would definitely recommend this program to other pastors.
“We made connections with people, our family is stronger and our faith is stronger.” Hodge said.