08 April 2010

Saying goodbye from afar

Today as I was moving data from one computer to another, I deleted an address from my computer address list and started to cry. No big deal you say, well it was the address for folks that I have known my whole life. Within a month my aunt and uncle have both died. Uncle Bill was 97, Aunt Betty was 86 and they were married 66 years. A good long life; ones well spent.

Since their youngest daughter was my age, and was in my class through high school, I spent hours/ days at their home and felt welcomed. Uncle Bill was a tease and Aunt Betty made mashed potatoes just for me. Sunday lunches, cookie baking before Christmas, holidays, and other times when I was young were spent with them at my grandmother's home (Aunt Betty's mother). Both of them made me feel like I was a favorite. I could tell many good stories about them.

The hardest part about living on the other side of the world is that I have to grieve alone. I am too far away to grieve with others who knew them well. I can't be there to hear and tell well worn or little known stories about them. I can't laugh and cry with extended family. I can send sympathy cards to my cousins, their daughters, but I can't give and receive the needed hugs.

Other family members have died while I have lived 'away' and it doesn't seem to settle into my mind until I return to PA and they are missing at family events.

Part of grieving is often regrets. Mine is that I spent weeks in the US in 2009 and didn't take time to go see them. When Mark and I would visit them, we were always fed well, enjoyed our conversations and delighted in Uncle Bill's paintings, Aunt Betty's quilts or whatever their present involvements. They always showed interest in our pursuits and adventures.

One of Uncle Bill's wooden ornaments hangs from the mirror in our car so that I can tell it from all the other white cars in a parking lot; I view it often. Like that ornament, I can take things and people for granted; see them but not really take time to notice and appreciate.

I will try to not to have regrets. I will try to not be so busy but take time for people who are important to me. I will try to notice and appreciate. God help me to be present and aware.

* Thanks to their grand-daughter's Facebook for the photo of Aunt Betty and Uncle Bill when they were first married.

18 March 2010

A way forward

As many of you know, technically we have been unemployed since November. Granted AAANZ (Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand) has continued to pay our rent and our supervisor at MMN (Mennonite Mission Network) has found extra money for us. But this was not sustainable.

I know that many of you have been praying for us and we thank you immensely.

Recently, one of our local Baptist Churches asked Moriah (our daughter who works as a pastor at a Baptist Church in Canberra) if she would be interested in a pastoral position. She was not but later asked us if she could give our name to the church. They contacted us, we met with the deacons, and we organised the service for them one Sunday.

While we were in New Zealand, the church unanimously decided to invite us to be their pastor. They have been without a pastor for 18 months, are a smallish group, and only wanted someone for two day a week to prepare the service each Sunday and do some pastoral care.

After talking to some friends, we decided to accept their offer.

One deacon spoke about it being a win-win for all of us. They welcome us using their building for workshops; so now we have a venue while the new building is constructed at the front of the 1643 property. We are already arranging a meeting at the church with Ron Sider when he is here in July.
Mark gets to study to teach each Sunday. We have a place to invite others to visit when they ask, "Where do you go to church?" Since it is just a suburb away and both of us are on the bus line, we can travel by bus. It will ground us in this area.

We are hopeful that the extra income on this end will relieve the pressure to reach the 80% support mark on our budget so that MMN will take us on as missionaries.

As of 21 March 2010, Mark will be employed part-time by Avalon Baptist Peace Memorial Church. [He told me that I would have to do the teaching if he wants to swim in another rough-water ocean swim.] Hummm...