December 22nd 2016
Friends and Family, I hope this letter finds all of you well in the midst of the final days Advent. Christmas is just a few short days away, as hard as it believe. In a world that seems to have turned upside down, I find my self appreciating the Christmas season even more this, with the opportunity to spend it with family and friends seeming even more meaningful.
This year has been a big year for me. I had been working at Starbucks in Manchester, starting shortly after returning from Hungary in the summer of 2015. I’m grateful for the time I spent there, especially for the new friendships that came about from my time there. However, I left this pass August to pursue a call to ministry, serving at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Brookfield Connecticut. I’m currently enrolled in the Cooperative Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. This new program allows me to complete the MDIV program while serving as a Pastoral Intern at Prince of Peace, and to do it tuition free. What a blessing that is! I love the congregation here and its been a joy getting to know my supervisor and the church members. I look forward to continuing to get to know them. I’m currently living in the parsonage on the church property, which dates back to the late 1800’s.
How cool is that!
This year I also became a Godfather, to my dear friends Chris and Bekah’s son Zachary who was born in late April. He is adorable and I’m excited to be able to visit on a semi-regular basis. Looking forward to being with them for some time after New Year’s!
It’s also been a big year for my brother as well. So pleased to share that my brother Tim and his fiancee Laura are preparing for a June wedding and I’m excited to fulfill my brotherly duty as Best Man. The wedding will be at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, CT and really should be a joyous celebration! They’ve also recently bought a house and welcomed a new pup into their home, Halie, whom we all love!
As for the year ahead, I look forward to resuming coursework at Philadelphia while I continue my work here at Prince of Peace. I am active with the Youth Group as we work to rebuild it and have an exciting year of events planned ahead. There are also a number of weddings and events ahead that I look forward to in the midst of all that is happening in my life.
In midst of all the hustle and bustle that this season can bring I hope you all can find time for good fellowship with friends and families. As the year concludes it seems appropriate to remember this verse from John. “ The light shines in the darkness and the darkness shall not over come it.” Family and friends, as we prepare for the arrival of the Christ child let us be reminded of the immense love God has for us, in that he’s sent his only Son to be with us and among us. Christ is the light that cannot be overcome.
Grace and Peace,
It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog but I’d figure I’d update everyone on the new adventure I’m about to embark on. Starting on Tuesday, September 6th, I will begin serving at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Brookfield, CT. I’m serving in this capacity through the Cooperative Program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, soon to be United Lutheran Seminary. It’s part of a new program which enables those wishing to pursue ordained ministry to do so in a more flexible and affordable way. I’m also currently working on getting entranced into the candidacy process through the New England Synod.
Anyways, this is a moment that I been building towards and discerning about for a long, long time. It certainly has been a journey. (For my YAGM friends, the journey is indeed long, and I have been blessed to have a number of people walk with me along the way). It is one that has taken me from Calumet to Moravian, Philadelphia to Hungary, and Hungary to Starbucks. It’s amazing how lo0king back on the steps I’ve already taken, and how all the pieces seem to have fit together, with some bumps and detours along the way of course.. I have been blessed to find new, life long, friends and new relationships everywhere I’ve been. Truly a blessing.
This past Saturday, I made the big move, well mostly, to Brookfield bringing most of my furniture down to this beautiful farm house where I will be living for the next two and a half years. Monday (Labor Day), I move down to Brookfield to begin my work there. I’m excited to have the opportunity to get to know and serve this community while living out the call that God has put in front of me. I’m very much looking forward to this part of the journey Stay tuned friends!
John 21 1-19
Acts 9 1- 19
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! So good to be with you all on this second Sunday of Easter as we continue to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Again I say, Alleluia! Christ is risen! (Pause)
I spent my Easter celebrating at my home congregation, Emanuel Lutheran Church in Manchester, CT. It was a beautiful day, with temperatures in the 50’s and the sun shining. For me, I almost always feel that the sun has to be out on Easter Sunday. A day of such joy and celebration needs to have the sun, right?! Anyways, I digress. It had been two years since I celebrated Easter with my home congregation and I was excited to be back with them and my family. The sanctuary was decked out with spring flowers and beautiful colors and the darkness that filled the sanctuary just a day before had been stripped away. As we moved through the service, our hearts and minds were filled with the good news of the gospel and the beautiful music from the choir, accompanied by horns, bass, and percussion. As we began communion, the sun poured in through the windows and onto the Altar. Quite the image for Easter Sunday, right? After Easter service, I headed over to my Godmother’s for Easter dinner with family and friends and a continuation of the day’s celebration.
As we continue to move past Easter, in the afterglow of the celebration, I find myself wondering, as many of you may also be wondering, what do I do with such a gift, a gift of grace that has freed us from sin and that has taken away death’s sting. What do we do with that? How do we live our lives having been given this great gift?! I’ve been thinking about this question a lot as I live out a period of transition, having returned from a year of missionary work in July and while currently working at Starbucks, while engaging in job hunt, searching for more meaningful employment. There have been many moments since my return, where I have asked myself, “Where am I going and what am I doing?” How am I living out the Easter Celebration, the Gospel message, during this time of uncertainty and transition? How do we do this in face of personal uncertainty and in the face of global tragedy that is so pervasive in the news today? Perhaps many of you have had these questions at some point in your life, perhaps some of you are having these questions now?
The Gospel lesson from John today speaks of a third reunion of Jesus and Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, and two other disciples. This passage finds them fishing by the Sea of Tiberias, but having their efforts yield no fish. Jesus appeared on the shore that morning, although he was not recognized. He shouted to them to cast out their nets on the other side of the boat, and when it came time for them to hall them in, they struggled, because their nets were so full of fish.
This story reminds me of a similar occurance found in Matthew, where Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee, and comes across Simon, called Peter, and Andrew, fishing by the sea. Jesus called to them ” Follow me and I will make you fish for people. Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets and he called to them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed.” ( Matthew 5.16) This was the beginning of it all for the disciples, a commissioning of sorts, called to follow and get to know Jesus, his ministry, and all that would be to come.
Going back to the today’s Gospel lesson, we find ourselves in a similar place, on the shores of a sea, with some of the disciples having returned to fishing after the events of Holy Week.. Just as he did earlier, Jesus called to them, instructing them to cast their nets to the other side, as we spoke of previously
As the story continues, with the disciples gathered Jesus around the fire, we come to find that this story serves as a repurposing, or a recommissioning if you will. Jesus, speaking to Peter, says to him and the others, Feed my lambs and tend my sheep and follow me. It is here that we see a renewed call for the disciples to continue the ministry of Jesus, to once again walk away from their boats and nets and to proclaim the Gospel.
As we continue through the Easter season, just two weeks past that beautiful and holy celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord, we too are called to proclaim the message of the Gospel, remembering that we are indeed free to do so through the Christ’s death on the Cross and his resurrection. No matter what uncertainty or struggles we are facing in our own lives, we are freed to live out the Gospel message. While we remember the joy and celebration of this Easter season, let’s also celebrate through our actions. One only has to turn on the news to see the often overwhelming amount of violence, racism, hate, and bloodshed in our world. While it can all be overwhelming, and we think to ourselves, well what can I do? The lesson from Acts today is a reminder that God calls all people, even those who would seek to persecute him, as he did with Saul, who then became Paul on the road to Damascus. I am reminded of my own call to serve in Hungary, not knowing exactly what I would be doing. I would invite all of you, especially those who are living in the midst of uncertainty, to embrace in this season of celebration and triumph, to remember that we are truly loved unconditionally by God, and thru the death and resurrection of his Son, we are invited to “Go and Follow Him” as his disciples, that we may continue the work that he commissioned his disciples to do by the shore of Tiberias.
Dear Family and Friends,
After a few years off, I’m going to try and resurrect my annual Christmas letter, this time via blog!!! There is certainly a lot to catch up on.
The past year and a half has been an absolute whirlwind, I left for Hungary in August of 2014 to spend a year of service abroad through Young Adults in Global Mission. For those of you who are familiar with this blog, you are sure to have seen my many updates and reflections from my year in Békéscsaba, Hungary. For those who haven’t visited my blog before, I would invite you to take a look back at previous posts for some reflection on my time in Hungary.
Having spent an entire year in Hungary, the time finally came to say goodbye to the community that I had come to know and love. After weeks of a long, slow goodbye and celebration of the connections made and relationships formed, I left my site on the 4th of July, accompanied by my dear friends Gyuri and Vivi on my way to Budapest to catch a train to Bratislava for our end of the year retreat.
After a week in the High Tatra Mountains, broken elbow and all, it was time to leave Europe and return home to the United States. I flew out Vienna on the 12th of July and twenty some odd hours later, after a layover in D.C . I had left and returned home all at the same time.
Since then, I have enjoyed reuniting with family and friends, having the opportunity to share stories about my time in Hungary, Of course this reunion meant I had to leave many close friends behind in Hungary.
I miss them deeply, but technology has made it a bit easier to stay in touch and up to date.
Some highlights of my year post return include:
- A weeks vacation at Calumet with family and friends.
- Traveling to weddings of dear friends, celebrating with them in joy and love.
- A YAGM transitions retreat in Wisconsin, reuniting with dear friends and having an opportunity to share stories with each other .
- Celebrating the ordination of dear friends either in person or in spirit, leaders who really will shake up the church.
- Traveling all around New England and Pennsylvania, catching up with dear friends.
- Awaiting the arrival of my cousins first child having celebrated the most recent arrival my cousin Vicki’s son Simon.
Perhaps the most exciting and recent development is the engagement of my brother,Tim, to his now fiancee Laura. What a blessing it has been to come to know Laura over these past few years. I’m thrilled for my brother and Laura and absolutely cannot wait to celebrate with them.
Currently I’m working at Starbucks as a barista, as I work to discern my next move. Everybody loves a good job search right?!
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and enter the new year, let us remember those who are caught in the turmoil, violence, and chaos of this world. Especially for those fleeing conflicts in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and other places that don’t know peace. For those who are homeless, those struggling with addiction, for those for whom this season brings sadness and loneliness, and for all other struggles both seen and unseen, we know that you are with us in the struggle and we ask that you continue to be with us there.
For all of my friends and family, both in the United States and across the globe, I wish you all a Blessed Christmas as we await the arrival of Jesus.
Grace, Peace, and Love,
I’m realizing that I haven’t blogged since my return to the United States about six weeks ago so I figured I would take the time and give you all an update on where I am and what I’ve been doing since my return.
First, though, some words about our end of the year retreat in the High Tatra mountains of Slovakia. After leaving Bekescsaba on the forth of July, I traveled to Bratislava with the other YAGM volunteers to begin our end of the year retreat. We spent a couple days there, greeting the ELCA teachers who had become our friends, worshiping at the Bratislava International Church, and enjoying the last days that we had together as a group.
Monday morning we left early to catch a train to the High Tatras. It was a four hour train ride, which gave us plenty of time to relax, reflect, and for some of us, sleep. When we arrived, it was another 15 minute ride on a cog train and then an almost two hour hike into the mountains to reach the Horsky Hotel, our place of residence for our time in the Tatras. There could not have been a better place to have our end of the year retreat. The area where we were staying is absolutely gorgeous ( As you will see from the pictures) It was perfect place to relax and reflect, as we prepared ourselves for our journey back to the United States. Time was spent in Bible Study, reflection, hiking, and simply enjoying each others company through late night ( and by late night I mean 8:30) card games and good conversation. It was an amazing way to start the transition back to the United States.
The last six weeks that I have been back have been filled, with rest, reflection, and of course, job hunting. I have spent time catching up with family and friends, going on a family vacation to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and traveling to weddings for dear friends of mine. In a couple of weeks I will be volunteering for the Reach the Beach relay, assisting the Calumet teams as they run a two hundred mile relay race from Bretton Woods to Hampton, NH all in an effort to raise upwards of 70,000 dollars for the campership fund at Calumet,
All the while, I can’t help but recognize the value and privilege of movement that I have with a US passport, I find myself following the immigration crisis in Europe, especially in Budapest, were the Keleti train station has become a makeshift refugee camp. The Germans appear to be relaxing some their amnesty rules to accommodate immigrants coming into their country, while in contrast the Hungarian government has been building a fence on the Serbian-Hungarian border and recently begun denying train passage for immigrants to other countries in the EU. While it is certainly a complex and vexing situation, we have a global responsibility to welcome our neighbors with radical hospitality. Conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Israel, and Syria, have driven families away from the that conflict torn region. As a country, the United States needs to take accountability, considering it has been a major contributor to the destabilization of this region.
So, as I continue to transition back to life in the United States, I am especially aware of my freedom to move, while others who are seeking to escape war and violence are not so fortunate. We must reach out our hand, and not pull it away.
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In the few weeks since school has ended my pending departure date has inched closer and closer. Now, I sit here with six days left in Békéscsaba and wonder where exactly this year went.
It has been a long slow goodbye, which started close to three weeks ago, as school was winding down and students began to dream of homework free days and breezy summer nights. It continued with the end of the English club, fittingly with a trip to the square for some much needed ice cream on a hot summer day. The next week, we had the school closing ceremony in the large lutheran church, where I was blessed to receive the gift of words and knowledge and in turn had the opportunity to thank the 800 plus people there, (In Hungarian). Saturday came and it was again time for another goodbye, this time with the youth group in Békés. As usual, it was night filled with music, worship, and fellowship, but they were so kind as to sing one their worship songs in English and give me the opportunity to speak and express my gratitude and heartfelt appreciation for the time we had together. Monday brought another goodbye, this time to the congregation and Monday night bible study group at the Lutheran church. My supervisor offered some extremely touching words and I once again was given the opportunity to say thank you and goodbye. A moment of levity that I think bares repeating, is that at the end of the Bible study, one of the retired pastors, Andrew, asked me if I was traveling home to the United States alone. Not really thinking much of it, I said of course! Andrew then asked me why since I was such a handsome man he thought for sure I would be bringing a nice Hungarian women home with me. We both busted out in laughter.
There are more goodbyes to come in the coming days, but in the midst of it all there is joy, celebration, and living. Even as my time here comes to a close, the days I have left are filled with good conversation, good beer, good friends, and especially good ice cream. There is so much joy and life that while saying goodbye certainly brings some sadness, it is also a reminder of the year I have had here, of the relationships built and of memories made. I am so grateful for my time here. So with all that said, the long, slow, and blessed goodbye continues on.
I find myself sitting here, twelve days away from leaving Békéscsaba, and twenty days from leaving Europe and wondering where the time has gone. Sure, there were times, such on the cold and dark days of winter where time seemed to stand still, but of course that was only a figment of my imagination.
Suddenly it seems as if I am running out of time, time which I had always thought I had an ample supply of. Back in August, as I prepared to depart for the United States, I remember thinking to myself “Wow, a whole year, that is so much time and so much opportunity.” Yet now as I sit here on a beautiful Monday morning, I find myself fighting the advancing tide of time. This tide which seemingly will wash away mid afternoon beers by the canal, Sunday morning worship in the Great Lutheran Church, singing and struggling to speak Hungarian, worship and fellowship in Békés, dear friends and good conversations over pizza and Coke, road trips to Szeged and Budapest, music, beer, and sausage festivals, afternoon bike rides through the countryside, zumba, and so much more. Time seems poised to wash this all away.
Yet, try as it might the tide of time will never be able to reach high enough or deep enough to come even close to doing that. The relationships and experiences that have happened here this year can not be so easily removed. When I leave Hungary, I will leave a bit of myself behind. This is the way it has been for me throughout my life. I have been blessed to call many places home and now I can add Hungary to that list. It’s almost as if I have split my soul, like Voldemort, and left a little bit in each of these places. Unlike Voldemort however, this is not born out of murder and hate, but of love and friendship and this does not serve to tear me down but to build me up. It is not destructive, but fulfilling and enriching.
So, as I enjoy and savor the rest of time here, I also know that is not the end, not even close. I am reminded of a prayer that I often heard through out my life and most recently was sent to me by my country coordinator Miriam. I think it is a good way to end this entry.
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.