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The Best Years of Our Lives

A letter from Becky and Eric Hinderliter in the U.S., ending service in Lithuania

Lent 2017

Write to Eric Hinderliter
Write to Becky Hinderliter

Individuals: Give to E200361 for Eric and Becky Hinderliter’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D506434 for Eric and Becky Hinderliter’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).

Greetings.

We are back in the U.S.A. to stay after 16 years in Lithuania. People have asked about our status and our plans for 2017. We face a time of transition. Significantly, we are not seeking a new, fifth mission appointment (of typically four years) from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We have concluded our teaching role at LCC International University and said farewell to many students, colleagues and supporters. Our students hosted a farewell gathering at the end of classes. We gave our ‘last lecture’ with a talk entitled “My Ebenezer” on January 16, 2017. “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jehanath, and he named it Ebenezer, foe he said, ‘Thus far the LORD has helped us’” (Samuel 7:12). We expressed our gratitude for our time in Lithuania, the best years of our lives. We were especially pleased by the students who came to bid us farewell. And in keeping with the new age ways of doing business, the lecture is posted on Facebook. Search under ‘Eric Hinderliter – My Ebenezer’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysNDgziukM0&feature=player_embedded

A trans-Atlantic move from Lithuania to the U.S.A. proved to be quite a logistical challenge. We lived in our last apartment in Klaipeda for almost 9 years, the longest we were in one place in our 45 years of marriage. Many treasures needed to be gifted to others and sadly many mementos just had to go into the trash bin. So we start anew. We are now setting up shop in a furnished apartment outside Harrisburg, Pa. We expect to be there through May while we decide where to live on a more permanent basis, probably in central North Carolina near where our son and his family live in Greensboro.

Last summer we listened very carefully for the signs of what we should be doing as our fourth term was nearing its end. The result of our discernment of God’s will for us led to the conclusion to complete our work and ministry in 2017 and not to seek reappointment for a fifth mission term.

As Eric turns 69 in early 2017 his brother Bruce’s sudden death at age 73 was a pointed reminder that life is precious and can be short. We have had 16 good years as mission workers—the best years of our lives. We are very grateful, and now we have a story to tell and much thanks to convey to supporting congregations and individuals, in a sense a kind of victory lap. We will be traveling from February through May to visit individuals, churches and presbyteries to share about God’s work in Lithuania. We are seeking invitations for conversations and presentations both individually and in more formal settings from Sunday worship to weekday Bible study. Please contact us at eric.hinderliter@pcusa.org or call 717-385-7560 to invite us to visit with you.

What happens later in 2017 remains to be seen. Much uncertainty remains—but that’s OK with us. We are reminded of Paul’s farewell to the elders of Ephesus: “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there” (Acts 20:22). We anticipate a continuing relationship with LCC and our former students, although probably not in a classroom setting.

Presbyterians do mission in partnership. We are pleased to report that the mission partnership in Lithuania remains strong and is being renewed. The PC(USA) has had a supportive and meaningful role in supporting the work and witness of LCC International University for more than 20 years. Today, the era of the Cold War and the Soviet Union may seem like distant memories. But this is not our experience! As the PC(USA) General Assembly noted, the new breeze of freedom resulted in new mission opportunities arising from the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the challenges of building a new society proved to be more difficult and costly than expected. The Soviet legacy continues to cast a long shadow. Partnerships in supporting the historic Christian churches and training a new generation of Christian leaders remain. World Mission leadership in the offices in Louisville is working to maintain and renew the long-standing partnership relation between the PC(USA) and LCC, a relationship that transcends us. We hope this will include PC(USA) appointments to the LCC board of directors. Strategic leadership at all levels in light of the serious headwinds facing LCC is critical to effective witness in the East. LCC is a fragile place; it must continue to adapt to the challenges of student enrollment, development of new funding sources beyond tuition and fees, and lack of sufficient qualified university-level faculty. In many ways the present time, 25 years after LCC began, is proving to be a more difficult time for LCC than even the early founding years of the 1990s.

World Mission advises that it has validated a position for a new mission co-worker at LCC to teach in the areas of business, economics, and international relations. Beginning in October, your gifts to our account E200361 will bless the mission co-worker who accepts this new position and will continue the legacy of Presbyterian engagement at LCC. World Mission will begin recruiting for the position as soon as World Mission has commitments for funding totaling one year’s sending and support costs.

For 2017, we count on your continued support as we complete our present mission term. And we encourage you to prayerfully consider continuing your support for this work into the future as a way of coming alongside LCC to train new generations of Christian leaders throughout the former Soviet Union. Individuals may give to E200361; congregations may give to D506434.

Our tasks in the coming months are both to reconnect with Christian life here and to reflect on our ministry over there. We want to express our gratitude to our community of faith for supporting us all these years. And most of all to give thanks to God for bring us this far in our journey. Our watchword is simply gratitude: “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118). Presbyterian congregations and individual donors have been an important part of the story of God’s work in the world. Thanks for walking with us and the hundreds of students from the former Soviet Union. It has been our gift to encounter and to share a word of hope with these young people.

Grace and Peace,

Eric & Becky Hinderliter


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