A letter from Jane Holslag in Lithuania
Dear Friends in all corners,
On this Thanksgiving weekend and as a new church year begins, I greet you with much gratitude and this thought from D. Bonhoeffer (Letters and Papers from Prison): “In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.” It has been exactly that "help of others" that has brought me thus far. Your support and prayers have brought me to this place—the end of this itineration leave, and I thank God and I thank you!
When I began the six-month itineration July 3, I was asked repeatedly, “Where are you from?” “Will you get to go home?” I wonder what place "home" is. To which place do I belong, and just what place do I inhabit, journeying from congregation to congregation? Though I can easily answer “I’m from Colorado,” or “Well, Lithuania is like home—my "stuff" is there," these are but a part of the story. In fact, what I’ve come to embrace anew is something that emerged in my doctoral research and again most recently in a short video a most talented LCC student produced for my travels.
I have been reminded that God has made us—those brought together at the cross—to be the very place in which he is dwelling (see Ephesians 2:19–22). We are being built into the dwelling place of God. Through my travels I am convinced that we need to be reminded of that continually, and everyone I’ve visited this half-year has been my reminder! The congregations, the conversations, the pulpits, the events and potlucks, mission meetings and even vacation moments have all been signposts of God working in and through his children, who are indeed making his grace and goodness, his love and mercy, his kindness and truth known—even to each other. As I conclude this leave, I’d like to share about this place I’ve been, by answering some questions ...
- What has been your greatest moment of joy? I am not sure there has been one, but every Sunday worshipping in sanctuaries from Rhode Island to Georgia to Kentucky to California has just been a happy, good and right reminder of the body of Christ, of this funny and amazing family we are—in ALL shapes and sizes, with bells and choirs, organs and pianos, guitars and kazoos, and always and again the Word being proclaimed and fleshed out—week in, week out.
- …a most memorable person? This brings to mind two groups of people—those I’ve known for years and those I‘ve met for the first time. I am so thankful for "new" folk in Detroit and Newark, in Santa Barbara and Oakdale, in Birmingham and Fort Collins, in San Anselmo and in New Wilmington—and for those I didn’t recognize but who recognized me because they remembered my last visit seven years ago and have been praying! Then I think of friends and supporters who have continued these 21 years to care, to give sacrificially, and to send letters, post cards, birthday cards, surprise packages—all faithful reminders that I am on a team in this endeavor.
- …a time I felt "connected"? Oh, my goodness….it doesn’t get much more connected J. I preached in a friend’s congregation, a woman I had in my cabin at her 8th grade summer camp. Then there was the meeting with a young, newly ordained minister I had baptized a considerable number of years ago! There were the visits with many who are friends and colleagues from the last four decades. And there was celebrating communion with my presbytery where this all started in 1982.
- …a challenging moment? That moment came every time I stood before a gathering, wanting so to tell my story fresh and as if for the first time! After preaching and speaking on over 40 occasions, I marvel at God’s faithfulness in answering that prayer.
- What surprised me? How fast it’s all gone by, that I’ll soon be heading back to Lithuania, and how open doors and open hearts made this very strenuous journey one of my best, one I have rejoiced in and am thankful for.
I am grateful beyond words to everyone I’ve met along the way—for gracious hospitality, countless kindnesses, and for dear sisters and brothers being the place God is dwelling! I am also grateful to return to Lithuania and LCC International University. Please keep praying, keep giving and keep on being built together into that dwelling place!
Grace and peace of the Lord,
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 204
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 278