For Everything There Is A Seaon

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die – Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a

The Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program year is underway. It began with the new group arriving on August 22nd. As far as I was concerned, this was to be a “normal” year. For you see, my first year was of course, my first year. And so, it was a year of learning. And in the midst of that year, Jon had some health challenges and we spent some weeks in the United States. My second program year was the year of Home Assignment. Not only did we do the regular YAGM work, but we also spent 3 months in the United States. That was certainly not a “normal” pattern. So this year, was supposed to be “normal.” I wanted to make my plan for YAGM and to follow it. No interruptions.

Ha! Life does not work that way. For everything there is a season. And this season is about my mom. She has had brain cancer for 5.5 years. Way longer than expected. But soon after we returned to South Africa in July, we found out that her tumor was growing again and options were limited.

Recently, things took a turn for the worse. My mom had a stroke or seizure and was taken to the emergency room. She was near death and we quickly booked our plane tickets. We arrived late September, expecting a rather short trip for the end of my mom’s life. But she is tenacious. And she is not done living. She has rallied and stabilized. She went from a regular hospital room to palliative care and now to a nursing home.

At the nursing home, they are able to give my mom the physical care that we cannot do on our own as a family. She is also receiving some physical therapy. There are days where she mostly sleeps. And there are days where she is quite interactive. It is an interesting season. I came here for one thing and now it is another.

So what do we do? Flights between the United States and South Africa are very expensive so do not want to return to South Africa only to have to return soon to the United States. An active brain cancer diagnosis is not one where one would expect lots of time. And yet, my mom has proven doctors wrong time and time again.

We don’t know how this will all work. We did decide to enroll the kids in school here inthe United States so that they get some structure and stimulation. They begin tomorrow. Jon continues his Luther Seminary classes. I spend a lot of time with my mom and keep up the essentials of my job that I can do remotely. Other than that, we take it day by day. I guess that’s all we can do.

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After flying in some really large planes, the plane for the flight from Chicago to Fargo stood out as being pretty small.

 

“Big Questions”

During the Close of Service retreat with the YAGM (Young Adults in Global Mission participants) in July, we did an exercise I call “Big Questions.” I suggest that their YAGM year has churned up all kinds of questions for them. Some are new questions. Some were maybe there before but have now gotten more intense or are now more real.

For the exercise, I have them write these big life or theology question on post-it notes. They can write on as many post-it notes as they want as long as they just do one question per page. Then, they take turns reading their questions and posting them on the wall (or this year, on the big window in our living room). We talk about the questions. And in there, my point is that these are indeed big questions. They aren’t going to get resolved today. The questions are so big that the young adults might spend their whole lives in search of answers.

Our world often speaks differently. It will tell us that questions have answers that can be found quickly if you just look. Sometimes the world will tell us that there is something wrong with us if we haven’t found an answer when we have looked. But some questions can’t be answered in a small box. Many of these questions come from a longing for justice and peace and everything being right with the world. These young adults have spent a year deepening their understandings of marginalization. They have kept company with people that the world has kept on the edges. They know what these questions taste like, feel like, sound like. They understand the ache of injustice. And they know a God of deep love and compassion. And they are trying to figure out how all this goes together and how they can be a part of it.

So what are young adults today asking? They are asking hard-hitting justice questions. What does it mean to believe? Why isn’t there justice? Why is there hunger? What am I to do about injustice? Where is God in all of this?

A year in YAGM in Southern Africa gives their questions new thrust and urgency. And now, these young people are back in the United States. Asking the same questions. And new questions. Are they in your midst? If they are, ask them about their questions. They are good ones. Maybe you are someone with these questions. I think we need to start asking them together. We need to get agitated that the questions are so big and so important. And maybe in asking them together, we might begin to see anew.

"Big Questions"

“Big Questions”

The New YAGM

The new YAGM are here! More things to share. But for now, take delight in who they are. And, please pray for them as they settle in their new communities.

John, Adwoa, Dave, Caity, Brett, Brittani, Emmeline, Mae Helen, Hannah

John, Adwoa, Dave, Caity, Brett, Brittani, Emmeline, Mae Helen, Hannah

Home

Hello happy followers. Just wanted to let you know that we are home. The last travel day had some delays. But even though we didn’t get home on schedule, we got home. The kids are elated and the parents are tired. And we’re all cold. It’s winter here. We weren’t quite ready for that weather adjustment.

We’ll post more as soon as we are able. In the mean time, please keep the young adults in service in Southern Africa in your prayers. They will be leaving their sites soon and coming to Pietermaritzburg for a closing retreat and the beginnings of their journeys back to the U.S. These are some days of really tough good-byes for them.

Thank you to everyone for your love and prayers during this journey!

One More Week….

How did this happen? We only have one more week in the USA. We have so many things to share with all of you from our time in the U.S., the church visits, family and friend gatherings, etc. We hope to have a moment soon to share some more highlights with you. But for now, know that we are enjoying a week by a Minnesota lake, hanging out with my (Tessa’s) family. We are trying to soak in as much last goodness as we can. Hope you all are doing well as well. Please keep us in your prayers as we begin flying on the 7th of July, landing on the 9th.

Home Assignment Beginnings

Greetings from a week of vacation with family in Iowa! Already, we have visited sponsoring congregations in each of our geographic areas where we have sponsors (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio). We have more we will visit in June in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Thank you to everyone for all of the great hospitality you have shared with us!

Here are some pictures from our time so far:

Adventurous cooks at First Lutheran, Morris, MN, who prepared a South African meal

Daring cooks at First Lutheran, Morris, MN, who prepared a South African meal

Wednesday Night Worship at St. Ansgar's Lutheran, Cannon Falls, MN

Wednesday Night Worship at St. Ansgar’s Lutheran, Cannon Falls, MN

Dinner with friends

Dinner with friends

An extra day in our well-loved city of Duluth, MN (the shores of Lake Superior)

An extra day in our well-loved city of Duluth, MN (the shores of Lake Superior)

After having watched so many ships come into the Duluth Harbor, I have never seen one come in while there was still ice on the lake. A "cool" experience!

After having watched so many ships come into the Duluth Harbor, I have never seen one come in while there was still ice on the lake. A “cool” experience! The following day we were at Concordia Lutheran in Superior, although we failed to take any pictures.

A potluck at First English Lutheran in Wausau, WI

A potluck at First English Lutheran in Wausau, WI

Tessa preaching at a Wednesday night worship for Confirmation students and others. At the same service, Sophia joined the praise band.

Tessa preaching at a Wednesday night worship for Confirmation students and others at Grace Lutheran, Tomahawk, WI. At the same service, Sophia joined the praise band.

The River Valley Conference of the East Central Synod of Wisconsin invited us to spend the morning with them. Breakfast included.

The River Valley Conference of the East Central Synod of Wisconsin invited us to spend the morning with them. Breakfast included.

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After a Sunday visit to First English Lutheran in Appleton, we spent a few days with a friend in Chicago. During our time in Chicago, we greatly enjoyed a trip to the Field Museum.

Our first visit to the Northeastern Ohio Synod was to their synod assembly.

Our first visit to the Northeastern Ohio Synod was to their synod assembly.

We spent a Sunday morning with Israel's Lutheran in Paris, OH. Look how they welcomed us!

We spent a Sunday morning with Israel’s Lutheran in Paris, OH. Look how they welcomed us!

At Peace Lutheran in Ashland, OH, we shared a presentation. Here, Jon is talking about the Danger of a Single Story, one o four favorite topics.

At Peace Lutheran in Ashland, OH, we shared a presentation. Here, Jon is talking about the Danger of a Single Story, one of our favorite topics.

 

 

 

 

First Things First

Well, we’ve started our Home Assignment. And what did we start with? Required doctor visits. Now isn’t that fun?

Truth be told, it’s good to visit our regular doctors while we are in the United States. It is something that the ELCA ensures that all missionaries on home assignment take care of. So, we’ve all had our blood checked, immunizations updated, etc. The kids aren’t fond of the needles but it still needs to happen. We also used that time to visit the dentist and eye doctor. We’re getting ourselves all taken care of! Here’s Sophia at the beginning of her physical:

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