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.

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