Saturday, January 19, 2008

Packing our bags...again!

In a few days Kristen and I will begin our new E.L.C.A. Global Mission assignment as Country Coordinators for the Young Adults in Global Mission program in South Africa. We will fly from Chicago to Frankfurt (Germany), then from Frankfurt to Johannesburg (South Africa), and finally to Durban, which is on the eastern coast of South Africa. Considering we just returned to the United States after concluding our service in Guyana, when we land in South Africa, it means we will have been in four continents in about one month (…I recently checked to make sure our frequent flier program was up to date)!

Kristen and I have experienced a great deal of travel as of late, and I will be the first to admit that sometimes all the hustle and bustle can be a bit challenging. It seems like we are rarely in the same place for more than a few days (…how nice it would be to have clothes in a closet instead of a duffle bag)! However, even in the midst of all the shuffling around, there have also been precious moments of “stillness”. While our lives have been packed with activities and appointments, lately we have also made it a priority to carve out “opportunities of no responsibilities”, which have been absolutely wonderful. It is during these times of not having to be anywhere at any particular time that I have sensed refreshed feelings of appreciation, and I have found a renewed grasp of thankfulness for the numerous simple blessings in my life, the types of blessings that all too often get unnoticed.

Specifically, this past week I had the opportunity to walk through the forest near my parent’s home in central Wisconsin. It was great to explore the same areas I walked through (…and caused so much trouble!) countless times as a child. On this particular cold mid-January afternoon, the snow was resting gently on the tree branches above, the chilled wind was blowing across my face (…something that certainly never happened while in Guyana!), and other than a few birds, there were barely any sounds to be heard (…again, something that rarely happened in Guyana!). It was truly wonderful. After making my way around the trees and through the various deer-tracked paths, I stood still for a moment, and it was at that point in time that I thought, “I’ve been moving around so much, it feels good to actually be still!” I remained motionless for a few minutes, and as I thought about all the running around that would be coming in the weeks ahead, I laughed, and I decided to stand still and enjoy the peace and quiet for a while longer. I was in no rush to end the moment.

My time in the forest brought to mind Psalm 46:10, which reads, “Be still and know that I am God”. I thought about how, like many people, when I am overly involved in the hustle and bustle of life, I forget to stop, be still, and give thanks for the amazing blessings taking place around me. As I run from this place to the next, and as I think about what needs to be done (…and as I worry about how things are actually going to get done on time!), I forget to think about all the simple blessings I receive each day that have made my life a joy to live. Yet, as the Psalmist reminded me, when I stop, when I am still, and when I forget about “doing” and concentrate upon “being”, that is when I “know that God is God”, for I am given peace of mind in remembering the many ways in which my life has been a wonderful journey. It is said stillness breeds thoughtfulness, and that commotion often breeds confusion. I couldn’t agree more.

While in the quietness of the trees this past week, I thought about where Kristen and I had been, where we were at, and where we would soon be going. I thought about the amazing experiences we shared together in Guyana, and how challenging it was to leave the wonderful people who we served alongside these past years. I thought about how great it had been to celebrate the Holiday Season with friends and family in Minnesota and Wisconsin. And of course, I thought about the growing excitement and anticipation of our new assignment in South Africa, and I considered all the opportunities yet to be experienced and the relationships that would soon develop. Yes, I thought about all the hectic travel and transition over these past weeks (…and I thought about how I needed to apologize to Kristen for my ongoing bouts of “travel-induced mood swings”!), but most of all, I thought about how blessed we are to serve in Global Mission, and how exciting it is to live in such wonderful places alongside such amazing people.

When Kristen and I make our long voyage from central Wisconsin to South Africa, in the midst of all the activity that comes with airports, taxis, hotels, and foreign immigration desks, we will make time to truly “be still”, know that God is God, and remember the countless people in our lives who are making this voyage alongside us. We will remember our numerous friends who display so much care. We will remember our amazing family who offer endless amounts of unconditional love and care. We will remember the supporting congregations and other organizations who continue to provide so much support. And of course, we will remember each other, and thank God that we were brought together to walk this incredible journey together as husband and wife.

We do not know all that lies ahead, but what we do know is that we are blessed beyond belief, and we have an amazing opportunity in front of us.

Kristen and I thank you dearly for the ongoing outpouring of love. We look forward to being in touch from across the globe.

With peace and love…