A letter from Jane Holslag in Lithuania
Dear Friends and Supporters!
On a warm and sunny August afternoon in Klaipeda, I greet you with the yearly watchword (Losung) from the Moravian tradition, “For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” Of course, examining this verse in context from Hebrews 13 would more than fill this newsletter. No room for that, so I’ll simply remind us that the gifts given us each day, even the best of surroundings, friendships, moments of insight, great vacations, dream-come-true jobs or homes, or even answers to prayers, are but passing and but fleeting reminders that we wait and yearn for more. It is of no small matter that I begin with this verse, for indeed we await the place that only God creates—but now and again recognize hints of it in a symphony, a conversation, a baptism, a sunrise, or a friend’s voice!
Since writing last, there have been many glimpses of this city to come, and here are a few snippets….
Anna and I met during the school year to talk about the church, the sacraments, about faith. She’s been a student in several of my classes, and having become a Christian in the last years, she was ready, she felt, to be baptized. We originally thought it might be in the Baltic, but the weather stayed cold into May, so our plans had to be changed to celebrate with the International Christian Fellowship, the English-speaking Sunday evening gathering of LCC-ers. The service is more students than faculty, and an extra 50 of her friends helped filled the room. The baptismal, a very large salad bowl, was held by Marietta, an important friend in Anna’s life…. There was lots of water, lots of tears, and more joy and rejoicing than I’ve experienced in a long time. All in all, a grand evening!
After graduation in early May a number of our seniors must "hang around" in order to get their diplomas (don’t ask about this process!), and Olena and Tsvitana came over for tea one bright but still rather chilly afternoon. As we talked and talked, it grew dark outside, and before we knew it, almost five hours had passed—we were all surprised when we noticed the time. I was such a poor hostess…I could have at least offered them sandwiches or something more substantial than cookies and tea. But this afternoon and our conversation was a reminder of the genuine gift it is to spend time with friends from this part of the world, in this case, Ukraine. Olena is headed for a master’s at Notre Dame, and Tsvitana is waiting on God and watching to see what her next step is to be. It, like so many of the conversations and encounters I experience with students, was time made precious by its passing!
On June 19 in Amsterdam on the campus of the Free University I stood for the oral defense of the doctoral dissertation I’ve been working on for ever so long, Berlin Fellowship, Eastern Perspectives and Missional Encounter 1961-1989. The auditorium, able to hold 500, had a fine audience of 5, while the faculty panel of 13 sat on the stage (5 of these were the outside readers and my "opponents"). It was 45 minutes long; I remember almost nothing that was asked and very little of what I tried to answer! I look at the photos and wonder in amazement and gratitude to God that the day came and went, and that life is now proceeding. Why would it be otherwise? The book is published, and it’s being sent to supporting congregations and to Berlin Fellowship friends and participants in both the U.S. and Germany. My ongoing hope is that it ends up in libraries and in the hands of those who may benefit from my attempts to examine how fellowship is more missional than we might suppose. Now that this is over, what do I say? Thank you, God, and whew!
Lastly, a short bit of new news. I just received a message via "social media" that one of our recent university graduates is well on the way to successfully setting up a non-profit Christian program for "orphanage graduates" in his home city. He’s had the way paved by some good planning, friends who want to work with him, surprising fund-raising, and the Holy Spirit. The initiative he’s shown has resulted in an invitation for him and one of his co-workers to begin mentoring eight young men as a pilot effort. It is quite amazing to watch and listen as this former student addresses a serious social problem in this part of the world! I invite you to pray with me for this him and his colleagues.
There is good reason, is there not, to thank God for his faithfulness, both hinted at and painted in broad strokes in stories like these. Lives are being blessed. They are being blessed through your response to God—through generous and sacrificial giving to mission workers like me, through continued prayer, education, worship, outreach and service that witness to God’s promise of that coming "city," coming yes, but also encountered and experienced, here and now. I invite you “here and now,” if you’ve not yet stepped onto the path of regular mission support, to prayerfully begin. Rejoicing at the prospect of what God is yet going to do, through all of us, I thank you for your participation, support and listening ear!
Grace and peace,
firstname.lastname@example.org (or use the "Write" link below)
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 284
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