Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The First Two Sundays Back in the USA

back in the USA for almost two weeks now...
jet lag is over!  They say it takes about one day for every hour of time zone difference and it's true.  Fourteen hours = fourteen days and we finally are not fighting sleep at 2 p.m.

As "global mission personnel" with the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America and Hong Kong,  we are on "home assignment" in the USA for three months this summer, which means we get to visit different churches every weekend and talk about the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, hopes, fears, church life, and the Realm of God moments we get to be part of in Hong Kong, China, and the USA, and in between the two, too!

So far our Realm of God moments in the USA have included:

worship at Shepherd of the Bay Lutheran Church... an older congregation (my Mom's church) which beats the seasonal trends and is full to overflowing every Sunday in the summer
A fancier church building and a lot more white (and bald!) heads than we are used to in Hong Kong, but vibrant and active church life.

This past weekend we made our pilgrimage out to the cornfields and wonderful university town of Ames, Iowa, where  we were honored to have many people remember us from our younger days as pastors there when Wayne was a grad student at Iowa State and our three sons were small.  We saw some of the kids we had baptized and ran into some of the folks we had married - now their lives are filled with home-making, vocational achievements and growing children. It's humbling to find out some of the ways in which we've been part of God's Realm in their lives.

The folks at Bethesda have an incredible mission/agricultural/cultural exchange/spiritual relationship with a parish in Tanzania, but their hearts are big enough to be intrigued and attracted to hear more about what God is up to in the churches of Asia as well. 
Bethesda Pastor Randy Gehring - Saturday night communion service, worshiping God the Creator with an appropriate altar backdrop for a church in Iowa!

Children's song fills the sanctuary on Sunday morning. Children as worship leaders remind us of God the Son sent as a real human child among us, making childhood sacred for all.

Liturgical dance -- God the Spirit is alive among us!

Surrounded by friends from earlier days... God's mission goes on in new ways!
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  -- Jesus (quoted in Matthew 28, a passage also known as "the Great Commission" which just "happened" to be the appointed text for this past Sunday)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Arrival in Wisconsin... via 5 extra hours in Tokyo and an overnight in Detroit

Wayne and I and our youngest son just got back into the U.S.A. and the beautiful state of Wisconsin yesterday!!!  We had only a few challenges along the way, such as an extra five hours in the Tokyo airport (where I had lots of time to admire the 6-options for recycling rubbish bins).  Since this meant we missed our flight from Detroit to Green Bay, the airlines assured us that we had been re-booked on the later (and final) flight to Green Bay.  So after 4.5 hours from HK to Tokyo, 5 hours IN Tokyo, 11.5 hours Tokyo to Detroit, then sitting around another 3 hours in the Detroit airport, we got ready (zombie like by this time) to board only to find out that one of our tickets (mine!) had been issued as a standby, NOT a booked flight.  My husband (a.k.a. "Saint Wayne") gave me his seat and then when the airlines realized (too late) that it was actually THEIR mistake, he got an all-expense paid stay at a Detroit motel with broken air-conditioner (it was 90 degree temps in Detroit, but coming from Hong Kong this didn't faze him too badly).  Ha!

Today we're all back safe and sound!

Here's our little house in the Wisconsin woods, waiting for us.  We had had great renters... the checks came every month and our home was sparkling clean when we re-entered it.  However, you can see they didn't care too much about gardening... the pots had been filled with cheery chrysanthemums when we left the house last summer. Well everyone has their own things they get excited about.  Me, I was thrilled that the lilies of the valley were still blooming... their scent is heavenly.

The kid was happy to get an Al Johnson's Swedish Pancake House breakfast this morning, complete with hot chocolate and whipped cream.  And his  87 year old Omi was happy to see her youngest grandchild back again.

 Meanwhile, as soon as we're over our jet lag, Wayne and I are looking forward to our upcoming trips to area churches to tell about our work with the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Hong Kong and the amazing and sometimes exotic stories of the churches in Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Mekong River area churches including Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

3 Because your love is better than life,
   my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
   and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
   with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
-- Psalm 63

Monday, June 6, 2011

graduations and saying good-bye again

Two and a half years ago our fifteen and a half year old son  left all of his friends, his home, his dog and cat (!), his older brothers, and his favourite fast-food restaurants (!!!) in the USA because his parents (Wayne & I) said we were moving with him to Hong Kong to follow God's call!!!

Last weekend he graduated from high school (Hong Kong International School) and today we are packing for the 15 hour flight back to Wisconsin.  When we return to Hong Kong in the fall, Wayne and I will be officially "empty-nesters".

The questions pile up... where will he live next summer? How will he get along in his first year of college without a home to come back to for the occasional weekend? Where will he be for Thanksgiving?

But we had even more questions and worries when we moved to Hong Kong in the first place.  And look at him now.  He (and we) hasn't just survived, he's thrived.

Packing has been very bittersweet, but I'm remembering how, at the baccalaureate service last Sunday, we sang this song.  

Come thou fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.
While the hope of endless glory Fills my heart with joy and love,
Teach me every to adore Thee; May I still Thy Goodness prove.    
                                            (Come , Thou Fount of Every Blessing --  words by Robert Robinson, 1758)

We're all looking forward to what lies ahead.
(Well, not to the 15+ hour flight.  but what's ahead after that!)