Visit to Christ Our Hope Anglican Church

Our own Trinity Church (REC) in Mason, OH, is one of three REC parishes in the Cincinnati/Dayton area. The other two are Christ the King Anglican Church (which we visited in March) and its daughter-church Christ Our Hope, which we visited this past Sunday. The three parishes have a pulpit exchange program, so we have received teaching from Fr. Wayne McNamara and Fr. Chris Herman in Mason on many occasions.

The congregation at Christ Our Hope came to Sunday school before the service, during which time we presented our mission and answered some questions. It is always easier and more enjoyable to speak to smiling and interested parishioners, and we felt that this presentation went about as well as it possibly could have. (We get a little better at presenting every time we do it, and we get a little more savvy at avoiding technology bloopers.)

We happened to have come on the last Sunday of Fr. Greg Mashburn’s tenure as rector of the parish, and were touched to see the leave-taking of the parish and their pastor as Fr. Mathis prayed for him. We very much enjoyed Fr. Greg’s sermon; he is an outstanding speaker, and knows how to exhort God’s people.

Fr. Greg Mashburn OFM and Matt at Christ Our Hope Anglican Church, in front of a carved wooden replica of the San Damiano crucifix.

We were also welcomed very warmly by Fr. Chris Herman, who took us out to lunch later. His ministry to the elderly, his generous spirit and way with children show forth the mercy and love of Christ. Fr. Chris and Christ Our Hope’s interim rector Fr. Harry Mathis were two of the three examining chaplains for my diaconal examination (the other was Fr. Wayne).

Fr. Chris Herman with Matt

Many thanks to our brothers and sisters at Chris Our Hope for receiving us with love and hearing our message with interest. We look forward to many years of fruitful relations with your parish.

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Ithaca Revisited

After Ambridge, our family drove to Ithaca, NY, where we had been invited to speak at Reformed Community Church of Ithaca. This is a church full of old friends of ours from my days in graduate school.

The drive into Ithaca took us past Seneca and Cayuga lakes, so that we had views like this one:

The vistas of hills and lakes brought back floods of memories from my six years in Ithaca, happy years when I was a graduate student and a newlywed. It has been almost a decade since then, and there have been times when I have felt old and worn out with work and home ownership and parenting. But with a new adventure before us in the form of our missionary undertaking, I’ve been feeling young again lately, so that the reminiscences of my late twenties in Ithaca made for happy resonances.

We of course had to look up some old friends. From 2001-2003, I taught Latin to some homeschoolers, among them Isaac Miller. His mom Deb welcomed us and gave us a tour of her garden — a visible and symbolic picture of her own fruitfulness for the Lord.

Isaac is now a manager at Starbucks, and is about to enroll in an MBA program and pursue a career in business. Though he was out when we came by Deb’s house, he later stopped by to see us after church the next day.

We also saw our old friends Robert and Mary Ann Miller (no relations to Deb and Jay). Their house was a stone’s throw from the three-bedroom apartment that we lived in for our last three years in Ithaca. It was great to see their oldest son just graduated from Cornell. We played a rubber or two of contract bridge, just like old times.

Another delight was the family of Pastor Michael Jones and his wife Mary. Their kids, all with M-initial names, were as welcoming as they were. Naomi especially hit it off with 7-year-old Martha, and became fast friends. (She is attempting to kick off a penpal relationship, sending her first letter today.) Pastor Jones is one of four elders at RCCI, and he and his wife gave us an object lesson in Christian hospitality. We enjoyed heartfelt and meaningful conversation with them about the things of God, about family life and homeschooling, and of course about our mission. Pastor Jones and his daughter Marissa played psalms for us in the evenings.

On Saturday evening, the Jones family invited over our old friends Ralph, Mary, and Jennifer Selin. Pastor Ralph has more personality than ought to be allowed. Here he is touting one of his pet vices:

Note that Ralph is a walking — or rather, sitting — advertisement for Logos Bible software as well as Presbyterian pipe tobacco.

RCCI is made up mostly of families we knew and loved in the Ithaca area 10 years ago, before they were a church. Now that they are one, we felt as if we were back visiting a church we had already attended. I preached on the parable of the mustard seed and the patient farmer from Mark 4, and then we gave a presentation about our mission after the service. I’m told that Sora inspired some of the girls of the congregation with her passion for midwifery:

Sora telling stories about missionary midwives to the congregation at RCCI.

We wanted to get on the road, but it was hard to tear ourselves away from these friends. Both kids and adults stayed to hang out at a playground near the church for a good two hours after the service.

John Owen, Matt, and Pastor Michael Jones (sensibly sans collar in the 90+ degree heat).

Mary Jones, Sora, and Abigail Owen (holding Ezekiel Owen)

Millie Owen, Naomi, and Martha Jones climbing the railing.

Deputation can be a real delight when you are among friends, and that we certainly were in Ithaca. It was very sweet to visit our old haunts and see the Christian brothers and sisters with which God surrounded us during our late 20’s, from whose love and hospitality we benefited then, and again now.

Visit to Pittsburgh and Ambridge

We just got back from a 9-day deputation and discernment trip. I’ve blogged about the the first third of the trip already (“Unplanned Canadian Vacation”).

Our next stop was Pittsburgh, where we took the kids to the Carnegie Science Center. There they enjoyed various hands-on demos and displays, including the obligatory liquid nitrogen demonstration. Naomi impressed the crowd with a little of her Mars Hill Academy science memory, reciting the temperature at which water freezes in Celsius and Fahrenheit. Hosanna got picked to participate in one of the demonstrations:

Hosanna is on the right of three children waiting to receive a very, very cold marshmallow that has just been dipped in liquid nitrogen, so that she can blow smoke out of her mouth. Ezekiel and Isaiah can be seen in the audience, on the left side of the picture.

After the demo, we spent some time admiring the incredible miniature railroad and village, which is over 80 feet long and 30 feet wide and full of replicas of real Pennsylvania buildings.

There was a robot exhibit, where Hosanna met R2D2:

Ezekiel competed with another robot that was programmed to shoot basketballs:

Hosanna enjoyed the gigantic version of Milton Bradley’s “Operation” game in a display about the human body. Here she is wearing about 4 stethoscopes.

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Both Isaiah and Hosanna would have been happy to spend hours at the water table.

Near the end of the visit, Ezekiel and I went down onto the USS Requin, a sonar picket submarine from WW II. The overall impression was that it is cramped and uncomfortable aboard a sub.

Naomi almost managed to escape from being captured on camera, because she dashed so quickly from one exhibit to another.

After visiting the science center, we spent three days at the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders headquarters in Ambridge. We learned a lot in the various workshops, and SAMS staff gave us some friendly interviews about our background, theology, and family life. It was a fruitful and productive time with some remarkable people who are dedicated to furthering the success of Anglican missions. We look forward to working with them.

I didn’t take very many photos in Ambridge. One thing that did catch my eye was this unintentionally humorous sign:

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No, it doesn’t mean a cheap graveyard. The town of Economy was a 19th century settlement by the the Rapp family’s Harmony Society. It was disrupted when one Bernhard Müller led a third of the denizens away. Apparently, they were mostly young men and women who were at odds with the society’s commitment to celibacy!

As a result of our time in Ambridge, we are now official candidates with SAMS-USA, and we have updated our support page to let you know how to direct donations through SAMS.

Selling the House

Sora remarked to me at the beginning of last month that we would look back on the next four weeks and wonder how we got it all done. God made it happen. And He gave us enough time and enough help from friends that we were able to do the deputation visits we had on the calendar, clean the house up for sale (repainting most of the interior and a lot of the exterior), and make our trip to Ambridge, Buffalo, and Ithaca. But He did not give us extra time. We literally finished mopping the hardwood floors, and hit the road. Not one extra hour!

We are going to miss this house, but we remember our Lord’s teaching about not looking back when you’ve put your hand to the plow. It’s 104 years old, with lots of woodwork and stained glass. God provided it for us by a special providence: it has more space than the other houses in our price range, but was listed as a two-bedroom house. Sora only found it because our friend Bette Brinkerhoff suggested that we look at it. When we bought it, we thought we were going to stay in it for decades. We planted fruit trees and built raised garden beds. We totally redid the bathroom and kitchen, and we put tens of thousands of dollars into improvements. In the event, we’ll be happy to sell it for what we paid for it, and we have a good hope of doing so. Pray that it sells.

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Unplanned Canadian Vacation

On Sunday, we stopped in Buffalo, NY for a reunion with Fr. Paul Slish of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church. Fr. Paul and his small flock meet in the same building that he was in when we were members 12 years ago. Fr. Paul is as faithful and patient as ever — one of many good pastors the Lord has given us over the years.

On the way up to Buffalo, I was in the passenger seat, working on a sermon Fr. Paul had asked me to preach. The text was from Luke 16, the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. At one point, I had just been writing about what it meant for the rich man to “fare sumptuously every day”, when I lifted up my eyes and saw that we were passing a Bentley worth more than my house:

After the service and a brief luncheon, we decided to go see Niagara Falls. As we neared the exit, we decided, on a lark, to cross the border and go to the Canadian side (better views). No sooner did we cross through Canadian Customs, than our car overheated and the power steering died – literally within two minutes of crossing the border! It’s as though our car was so thoroughly Yankee that it didn’t want to be in Canada.

Thus began our unplanned Canadian vacation. The first thing we did was sign Sora’s phone up for international data and cast about for a repair shop and a hotel. In the event, the closest one was just down the street, so we were able to limp the car to it. I deposited the key in a drop-box and we proceeded to a hotel – the Hilton Niagara Falls, as it turns out.

We walked down to the roadside railing across from the falls:

Sora had requested a single room with two beds for us and our four kids, and the hotel originally told us that they had a room on the city side of the building. But when this turned out to be a smoking room, they switched us to a non-smoking room on the side facing Niagara Falls. It was on the 17th floor. The view was spectacular:

And because the Lord ordained our car to break down on Sunday instead of a weekday, we were also treated to a fireworks display at 10:00 that evening:

At 8:00 the next morning, we called the repair shop and told them what was going on with the minivan we had left at their shop. It turns out that a spring-loaded serpentine belt tensioner had failed. They got the parts, and we were rolling again by 11:00. In the meantime, we went up to the top of the Skylon Tower:

(I’m pretty sure our boys were pretending to aim lasers or bazookas with those viewers.)

On the one hand, it was a bummer to have our van break down. On the other hand, it was probably bound to happen sometime. And if it had happened a day earlier, it would have seriously affected our work at deputation in Buffalo; a day later, and it would have affected our discernment conference at SAMS-USA. We had intended to pop across the bridge, see Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, and come back to the USA within an hour. But God’s timing is best, and sometimes the best adventures are the ones you don’t plan.

the vision

One of the things that impressed me most about Newlife School when I first visited three years ago as an intern is their vision of integrating midwifery and missions by equipping new midwives for the mission field. In addition to running a maternity clinic that blesses the urban poor in Davao city, the directors are also training missionaries who will go out and save lives in many other parts of the world. The blogs below are just a few of the young women I met during my two visits to Davao who are living that vision and carrying it forward:

Stephanie (class of 2009)showed me around the clinic and the city when I arrived in Davao in 2009. For the last two years she has served as a midwife at a clinic in South Sudan hours from the nearest hospital. She has faced situations I can barely imagine. She has sometimes felt the heartbreak and frustration of not having the means to save a life. And there are also many babies and mothers alive today because of her skillful care.

I also got to know Julie (class of 2010) during both of my trips to Davao. She is currently raising support to return to Zambia to train rural health workers.

Kayla (class of 2011) will be headed for Sierra Leone this summer, along with Jenna (another 2011 Newlife graduate who unfortunately does not have a blog for me to link to.) During my second visit to Davao, one of Kayla’s patients was staying at the clinic with her premature baby. I’m so glad Kayla has shared this story on her blog as it so touched my heart at the time.

When I return to Davao, I’m looking forward to meeting Newlife’s classes of 2013 and 2014. I can’t wait to see where they will be and what they will be doing a few years from now!