These words of the apostle Paul have renewed meaning for us since embarking on this sending interpretation assignment. In these words we hear Paul’s emotional expression of love and appreciation for the communities of faith he has visited, and now hopes again to visit and spend time in fellowship. Our interpretation assignment has taken us to Nashville (reported in our previous post), the Chicago area, and finally to our home presbytery. Each visit has left us thanking God for all of them.
After our return from Nashville, we attended a meeting of our home presbytery where we were commissioned (see previous post about that experience). The following Sunday, we shared the pulpit of our home congregation, Knox Presbyterian Church, embracing the bittersweet reality of prolonged separation from our church family and the anticipation of our reunion – either in Guatemala or in Spokane. Thank-you members of the worship and mission commissions for giving us this opportunity.
Next it was off to Chicago for a visit to 1st Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest, the church of Richard’s youth. Who would have thought that after an absence of 40 years we would experience such a warm and genuine welcome? We celebrated the church’s commitment to youth ministry that set Richard on an early collision course with the power of the Holy Spirit and its manifestation in the body of Christ. The Women’s Association presented Debbie with a prayer shawl, and Richard with a lap blanket, both hand made by the women of the church. They were given to us so that we would know that we go “wrapped in the prayers of this congregation” as we head to Guatemala. Thank-you Pastor Corey Nelson and Sr. Pastor Christine Chakoian for the wonderful experience! The following week we drove up to Kenosha, Wisconsin for a visit with Pastor Lance Loveall of the 1st Presbyterian Church of Kenosha. This church has taken several groups to Guatemala and has a strong commitment to World Mission. It was so encouraging to learn of this church’s mission involvement. We hope to see them again in Guatemala.
Since returning home to Spokane, we received several invitations to share about our mission in churches around our presbytery. We also ‘dropped in’ to visit congregations that have a historical connection with the presbytery’s Guatemala partnership. At Colbert Presbyterian Church we touched base with Pastor Eric Peterson, Richard’s roommate on their very first trip to Guatemala. At Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Spokane, we shared the pulpit, speaking on God’s call to mission. When we visited St Maries Community Presbyterian Church, we gave our first ever children’s sermon as a missionary couple. We were probably more nervous about that than being in the pulpit! But the children were wonderful, and the fellowship that followed at the potluck warmed our hearts. We have two more visits planned before we leave. It’s hard to imagine how at one time we were so anxious about this assignment. Now we can truly identify with Paul when he says to those he knows in Christ: “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you!”
Richard and Debbie