A letter from Al Smith in Germany
Dear Friends and Family,
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!
I am at last at home. After a full month of travel, it is good to settle in for a while. The quiet of home is providing me the space and time to sort through my most recent journeys.
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving in our new home in Berlin, I want to take this newsletter to reflect on what I am thankful for. As I have a mind that wanders and digresses, jumping from topic to topic, there may not be a lot of order to this.
1) After two and a half years of visa challenges, I give thanks that we have residency permits at last, which allow us to live in Germany full time, process visas for Russia, and have a bit of stability. We went down to the Auslanderbehorde last Thursday and now have the requisite stickers in our passports.
2) I give thanks for the Presbyterian World Mission staff in Louisville, for all of their support through these two and a half years, for their understanding of the problems and their willingness to consider and support creative solutions.
3) I give thanks for the John F. Kennedy School, which Emma now attends. It has provided an exciting, academically challenging environment for Emma as she begins her high school years. She is thriving.
4) I give thanks for our new home in Berlin and for our colleagues, Burkhard Paetzold and Duncan Hanson, who found it for us before we arrived. We have wonderful landlords, quiet and kind neighbors, and a pleasant community around us.
5) I give thanks for friends in Moscow, Tom and Lois Ford, who have provided a place for us to stay when we are in Moscow. Having a “home base” makes a huge difference.
6) I give thanks for my brother and sister-in-law, Peter and Lisa Smith, who came to Berlin this month to stay with Emma and our animals as Al and I both traveled to Russia and Turkey. Being in a new place, we did not know anyone here well enough to ask. Emma had a wonderful time with them.
7) I give thanks for the friends who cared for our animals throughout the summer until I could retrieve them in September. Snickers the dog lived with Kim and Dave Walters in Corning, Iowa, and Attila the cat lived with Linda Speck in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I honestly do not know what we would have done without their help.
8) I give thanks for the help of friends in Omaha, Nebraska. Meg has had problems with her feet for over a year. They got worse again this fall while she was in Ireland. I wrote Janelle Davis to see if she could find a doctor for Meg, and she had an appointment for her within hours with a foot specialist. Karen Morey stood by ready to help Meg when she came in for her appointment. We now have a proper diagnosis and a plan!
9) I give thanks for our many Russian partners who have held us in prayer throughout the challenges of our visas and through a very difficult summer, as we made the move from the United States (itineration) back to Russia and on to Germany.
10) I give thanks for my family —for our children, Allison and her husband, Drew, Meg and Emma, who fill my life with love, joy and humor (lots of humor) and for Al, whose gentle strength and love I rely on always, and most especially in the whirlwind of all my travels.
11) I give thanks for all of the ministry our Russian partners are engaged in. They have been and continue to be witnesses to me of who we are called to be as members of the Body of Christ.
12) I give thanks for all of you. Your prayers have sustained us through the challenges of this year. Your letters, emails and Facebook chats have helped me feel connected in spite of the distances that separate us. Your financial support has kept us on the field in the ministries that we feel so deeply called to. You have also been and continue to be witnesses to me of who we are called to be as members of the Body of Christ.
13) I give thanks for all the opportunities I have had throughout this year to be present with brothers and sisters in Christ —visiting churches on itineration, traveling with groups in Russia, the gathering in Omaha for the Russian Mission Network meeting.… These connections are a profound witness of Christ’s abiding presence in my life.
14) I give thanks for the Lord my God, who is my rock and my salvation. I do not know how people manage the living of each day without this stronghold.
The list is incomplete. We feel so richly blessed to serve where we do, to serve in partnership with so many who have now become dear friends. We wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. May you enjoy good food and fellowship.
Peace and blessings,
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 203
The 2012 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 275