A letter from Ryan and Alethia White prior to service in Germany
The very word conjures up a mix of emotions, some we can name and some we can’t, suggesting that life is not predictable in ways once thought, and the path ahead is not entirely known.
In the months since our summer orientation, we have gone from the long, lingering days of summer on the East Coast to the bold, blooming color and familiarity of southern California, a road trip up the West Coast, which culminated in Ryan’s ordination service in Seattle, and finally to our current location, Anchorage, Alaska where winter is setting in. The change in seasons reminds us that we are coming ever closer to our intended departure for Berlin in mid-January.
We didn’t realize, when we left our cozy cottage in Pasadena in July for orientation and some family time on the East Coast, that we wouldn’t be returning. Our suitcases were packed with summer clothing for a month away, and we’re living out of them still. While we were away at orientation, our property experienced a lead contamination that has yet to be cleaned up so that we can return to our house to safely pack up and ship out. We’re thankful we weren’t at home when it happened, but the frustration and stress it has caused means we often forget to be thankful. However, we are reminded of the benefits of living with less, and this experience will affect how we deal with what remains in our house.
Despite all this hopping around the country and lack of stability, we feel thankful for the many friends and our families who have been supportive of us and shared guest bedrooms, meals, warm clothing, toys for Ariella, prayers, and words of wisdom and encouragement. We have visited a number of church communities as we are in the midst of our Sending Interpretation Assignment, and have been thankful for the welcome and interest in the work we go to join in Berlin. We have genuinely enjoyed building new relationships and feeling that a web of connection is being created that will help sustain us during this transition and as we learn how best to serve the community we go to join. We ultimately hope this web will weave together our communities here in the States with those in Berlin.
Ryan was ordained as a teaching elder by the Seattle Presbytery, and we celebrated with his service at Bethany Presbyterian Church on September 22nd. This was a joyful occasion and brought a long process of discernment to a sense of completion even as another journey is beginning. It was a blessing to bring together people from the different stages of his ministry to be part of the service. In the sermon, the preacher stated that the church “exists wherever people are committed to Jesus and to one another” and reminded us of the mutual support displayed by the early church in Acts 2. Looking around at those who were gathered for the service and being mindful of the “host of witnesses” that have gone before us proved a reminder of the faithful support we have received over the years, and of the community that supports us as we are sent to do this new work.
We are flying to the East Coast from Alaska at the beginning of November. Our original plan had been to pack our house in Pasadena before moving east, but that is on hold. The best-laid plans beg for flexibility. The uncertainty of the timing and fate of our house is a source of frustration for us, but we are excited for our extended time on the East Coast and for the opportunity for new connections and re-connections.
We will be based in Richmond, VA, from November 5th through Christmas and hope to also dive into language learning with our German and Farsi tutors during that time.
As we continue with our Sending Interpretation Assignment, we look forward to seeing old friends and making new acquaintances. We are available to meet with churches, small groups, individuals, or others who have an interest in the work we go to join and may want to support it. We welcome any connections you can recommend.
While we have been excited and eager to begin this new stage of life and ministry together, we are also mindful of the time we spend waiting. Waiting for our house to be safe to enter, waiting to depart for Berlin, waiting to begin our language study, waiting to join a new community. The advent season also provides a time for waiting, recognizing that we are awaiting the coming of our Lord when peace will reign. Yet in the midst of waiting we have also experienced God’s faithfulness through connections with people, support from communities, and time with family and friends. In this upcoming advent season, what is it that you are waiting for, and in that waiting where might you find God’s faithfulness?
The past few months have been a reminder that we are not self-sustained, but through community and prayer we are firmly held and move forward. Despite the uncertainty and feelings of frustration, we are thankful for the experiences of this season, and we are reminded with each day the awe of being on this journey together. If you are just now learning of God’s mission amongst Iranian refugees, or if you have not yet committed to joining in supporting global mission, we invite you to join us on this unpredictable journey. We, and the Iranian refugee community in Berlin, welcome your prayers, correspondence and financial gifts. We wish you peace and anticipation during this season of advent.
Ryan, Alethia, and Ariella
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, Germany, p. 283
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