July 2014 Pastor’s Letter

Pastor’s Letter, July 2014

Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old. (Matthew 13:52)

I am back to being a pastor again. Not that I didn’t try during our 9 week journey of Home Assignment, but for the most part I simply felt dislocated. Don’t get me wrong: we had an amazing time, and we remain so grateful to the church, to friends and family, and to our supporting congregations who made our travels possible.

Images from our trip still play in my head: the inside of a converted bus on a Minnesota farm, night-time thunderstorms outside, the kids passed out after running hard with their cousins; our campsite at City of Rocks in Idaho, Ursula scrambling up the rock, Esme, laughing one moment and then shrieking as we picked cactus spines from her little hand; the Columbia River Gorge State Park on the Washington side with its field of green grass, stately trees and clear cold water, perfect for a swim; the familiar drive into Plains, MT, past Paradise, toward the little church where a congregation began teaching me to be a pastor; St. John the Divine, the cathedral on Amsterdam and 111th, hung with Xu Bing’s Phoenix, massive, stunning; Weller Inn, our Lake-cottage-extended-family-gathering-place since 1921, its kitchen resounding in sung grace — For health and strength and daily food, we praise your name, O Lord — before 58 relatives load up their dinner plates; and congregation after congregation welcoming us with smiles, questions, prayers.

That’s just a smattering; no wonder those 9 weeks were a time of dislocation. The longest we stayed in any one spot was 6 nights, often it was 2 or 3. For at least three weeks, we slept in our tent, whether in a yard or a campground, a pretense at stability for Ursula and Esme who deserve accolades for how well they did with so much change.

I did the work of a pastor over those 9 weeks: I studied the lectionary texts each week, and preached to a new congregation (or two) every Sunday. I told stories of our global mission life and work over fellowship hall potlucks and mid-week coffee. I listened to people share their grief, their hope.

Yet something about being back in Bratislava allows me to feel I am a pastor again.

Maybe it is simply that I can now reconnect, face-to-face, with the communities for whom I have responsibility: The Bratislava International Church, down to its bare bones this time of year, but still full of people, who are treasure, new and old. And the Young Adults in Global Mission, new and old. This week, I am writing to the 7 (new) who will come in August, even as we are preparing for next week’s Sending Retreat for the 4 (old) at the end of their service commitment.

Maybe it is that our life has been so wide lately. Too wide to know what or who I am. In 3 months, we covered more breadth of miles than many human beings cover in their lives. Dipping into this congregation and then another, into one friend’s life and then another’s, quickly. Getting only a taste.

Others live lives less wide, more deep. Their feet are firmly planted on one piece of ground; they have known a town, its valleys and vertical relief, its people and joys and sorrows, through so many cycles of seasons they no longer count by years.

Deep or wide: How do you live? Of course, this is a false dichotomy; our lives are more complex than deep or wide. Still, it seems that there is a difference between 1) the people we know, young and old – who have committed to a place, a job, a house, that tethers them, drawing them always deeper into one set of coordinates on the earth, one mysterious particularity in God’s kingdom; and 2) ourselves, and other vagabonds — if we live anywhere over 5 years, it would be a minor miracle. We travelers live wide, with loved ones here and there, passions here and there, always ready to buy a ticket or jump in the car, see something new or old in the broad spread of geography, “home” in the past or maybe “home” in the future.

I think of pastors too. The deep ones, who lived most of their pastoral lives in one place. At New Hanover Evangelical Lutheran Church in Gilberstville, PA, the Rev. John J. Kline began his pastorate in 1886 and continued till 1945. Goodness gracious. I cannot begin to comprehend how deeply he knew that assembly, through baptisms, marriages, funerals, and Sunday morning after Sunday morning.

There are the wide pastors too. Pastors who served the church in multiple roles and places – as parish and interim pastors, chaplains, teachers, spiritual directors. On a drive with my father to Dr. Martin Luther Evangelical Lutheran Church in Muskegon, MI, I heard more stories from the life of my grandfather, the Rev. Reuben Schmidt, a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor. For multiple years, he served the District Office in St. Louis, in charge of “special” and minority community ministries. He traveled to different congregations every Sunday, guest preaching and providing leadership, support, and vision to the local pastors.

We, who know that our lives will be more wide than deep, do well to soak our feet, our bodies, deeply in the particular waters of a place when we have a few months or years. Dig deeply for the treasure hidden in this particular field. The treasure of the baptized is always and finally Christ, but his body and Spirit are manifest in unique ways in the wide expanse of this earth. We taste and drink deeply only where we are, here. We taste and drink differently when we stay awhile.

Back in Bratislava after 9 weeks and 17 States (actually it was 19, some how Colorado and Utah got forgotten in Ursula’s Map)of Home Assignment visitation. During our final week in the U.S. we spent the 4th of July with family in Indiana, visited Dr. Martin Luther Evangelical Church in Muskegon, MI, and a quick dip into Chicago for a meeting at ELCA Churchwide with our Global Mission Colleagues.

Actually, we made it to 19 states, I forgot Colorado and Utah, which is a shame as the are among my favorites.

We made it to 17 States!! Actually it was 19, Colorado and Utah got lost on Ursula’s Map, which is a shame as we all love Colorado and Utah so very, very much.

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Week Eight Home Assignment: New Hanover Evangelical Lutheran Church (Oldest German Lutheran Church in USA, and temporary Hospital During the Revolutionary War), St John the Divine Cathedral, Visit to Grandmama and Gordon in Arlington, VA and one of our tours around the Capital, and a visit from one set of Esme’s Godparents.

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Miriam had to Visit this church alone, we only had one horse.

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Miriam and I took a day and a night walking the streets of Manhattan and eating amazing food to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.

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Strolling towards the Lincoln Memorial

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With Grandmama and Gordon near the Reflecting Pool with Washington Monument and Capital Rotunda in the distance

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J and Josie visit us before we leave Manhattan. Esme learns to say cheese for the camera.

7th Week of Home Assignment. No pictures for this, but a great time climbing and camping in Custer State Park S.D. with family, then a long drive across the Plains, 45th Wedding Anniversary Diner with Dale and Linda in Mpls before flying to begin the East Coast leg of the the trip. Here the Pictures Begin. St Peter’s in Manhattan for Sunday, Godmother/Aunt Elaine joins us, Pool on the Terrace in Harlem with Family, cookie making with Grandpa and Bibi.

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Fifth and Sixth weeks of Home Assignment. Baptism of our Godchild Kaia, Church in Fir Crest, WA, Luther’s Table in Renton, WA, and Sheridan WY, Friends and Family across four states (including our old home town of Plains, MT), Camping, Hotels, and the Start of World Cup.

Trinity Lutheran in Sheridan, WY

Trinity Lutheran in Sheridan, WY

Custer, SD at the Parsonage

Custer, SD at the Parsonage

watching world cup in one of the only 2 hotel rooms this trip.

watching world cup in one of the only 2 hotel rooms this trip.

Esme modeling Ursula's new cowboy boots

Esme modeling Ursula’s new cowboy boots

Baptism of our newest Godchild Kaia in Puget Sound.

Baptism of our newest Godchild Kaia in Puget Sound.

A reunion of the Men's poker group in Plains, MT

A reunion of the Men’s poker group in Plains, MT

Back in Plains, MT with old friends

Back in Plains, MT with old friends

Getting ready to eat Smoores (or what we call Appetizers in our family on this trip)  at Pastor Liv's home in Spokane, WA.

Getting ready to eat Smoores (or what we call Appetizers in our family on this trip) at Pastor Liv’s home in Spokane, WA.

Afternoon nap at Sun Lakes state park, WA

Afternoon nap at Sun Lakes state park, WA

Miriam and Esme at Luther's table before worship in the evening

Miriam and Esme at Luther’s table before worship in the evening

Cousin Gretchen leading worship at Luther's Table Renton Wa. while Esme and Cousin join the congregation.

Cousin Gretchen leading worship at Luther’s Table Renton Wa. while Esme and Cousin join the congregation.

Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fir Crest, WA

Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fir Crest, WA

Ursula and Cousin Corwin (and our first Godson) in Renton, WA

Ursula and Cousin Corwin (and our first Godson) in Renton, WA

Picnic at the Beach in Renton.

Picnic at the Beach in Renton.

Cousin's at the Table.

Cousin’s at the Table.

Fourth week on Home Assignment. Cross country camping, one state a night (Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington). A visit to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran in Longview, WA on Sunday. And then a few days of friends on Whidbey Island. Deserts to Ocean, via some rivers.

America's State Parks are really amazing.

America’s State Parks are really amazing.

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Deer Lake, Utah

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City of Rocks, Idaho

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Farewell Bend State Park on the Snake River, Idaho.

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Horse thief butte on the Washington side of the Columbia. Mt Hood in the background, campground in the trees below.

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POTLUCK!!! at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran in Lakeview

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Ferry to the Island

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Campsite at a friends

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2nd and 3rd weeks of Home Assignment.

A great week at Grandma and Bempa's House.

A great week at Grandma and Bempa’s House.

Meeting up with the Last day of Sunday School at Trinity Lutheran Church in North Branch, MN

Meeting up with the Last day of Sunday School at Trinity Lutheran Church in North Branch, MN

Camping at Badlands National Park as we head West.

Camping at Badlands National Park as we head West.

Dinner on the road.

Dinner on the road.

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Badlands hiking

Badlands hiking

Skiing some slopes off the newly opened high road in Rocky Mountain National.

Skiing some slopes off the newly opened high road in Rocky Mountain National.

Estes Park Lutheran Church with some former ELCA volunteer teachers to Slovakia.

Estes Park Lutheran Church with some former ELCA volunteer teachers to Slovakia.

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Sisters house in Laramie. Cousins in a pool, Cousins on the deck.

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Cousins scrambling in Wyoming.

Cousins scrambling in Wyoming.

First week of Home Assignment Photos

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These new Airplanes are huge!

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The real flight.

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Camping in the Rain in Wisconsin.

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In the Greenhouse…

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And the trees…

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and the wood piles of the Big River Farm.

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Converted school bus where we can sleep dry in the rain and the kids travel in their imaginations during the day.

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Tying up a Godfather.

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Visiting Christ Lutheran Church in Marine on St. Croix on our first Sunday in the States with cousins.

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One more week in Minnesota then we hit the road headed west.

Our travels from May – July

Blyth/Schmidt 2014 Home Assignment Schedule

It is the beginning of May, and our family is preparing for a two-month “missionary home assignment” tour of the United States. During our travels, we will have the chance to visit some of you who are reading this, as well worship with some of the congregations who support our work in Central Europe. I look forward to various guest preaching opportunities, and the chance to present pictures and stories about our life and work in Central Europe. We ask your prayers as we travel. We will surely pray many times: May the Angel Raphael guide us on our way, so we return to our home in health, in safety, and in joy.

 

We’ll see how much blog posting we manage to do over the next two months, but you can count on our reports and pictures when we return to Bratislava in July.

Easter – and Pentecost – blessings to you and yours.

 

If you are interested in keeping track of where we are on our journey, here is the planned itinerary:

 

May 5: We fly to Minneapolis from Vienna

May 5 – May 19: We stay in and around the Twin Cities area, visiting friends and family, and ELCA congregations in Marine-on-St. Croix and North Branch. I will also get the opportunity to take part in a “Music That Makes Community” Continuing Education Workshop at Christ Church Lutheran in Minneapolis.

May 19 – May 31: We road trip out westward, visiting family and friends in Colorado and Wyoming, and landing (we hope!) in Washington State by the end of May.

June 1 – June 8: We visit supporting congregations in Longview and Fircrest, as well as friends and family in the greater Seattle area. I also get the chance to preach at my cousin’s café house of worship, Luther’s Table, in Renton.

June 9 – June 13: We make our way back eastward toward Montana, where we have a chance to visit Plains (our home before Bratislava,) and present about our work to the community there. Not to mention, we’ll get our mandatory medical examinations taken care of at a hospital that has our records!

June 14 – June 19: We continue eastward, stopping to guest preach in Sheridan, WY on Sunday morning, and then make our way back toward MN.

June 20: We fly to NYC.

June 21 – July 4: We spend a few weeks out east, visiting and preaching in my home congregation in mid-town Manhattan and a supporting congregation in Gilbertsville, PA, as well as family and friends from NYC down to Washington D.C.

July 4 – July 8: We fly to Indiana to spend some time with extended family at Lake James, and make a trip up to Musekgon, MI for more preaching and presenting.

July 9: We head to Chicago for meetings at the Churchwide offices.

 

July 10: We get on a plane for our home in Bratislava.

 

All of this, of course, God willing!

Bratislava in April. Gymnastics at skola, Birthday fool cuts her own cake with her new knife, and a road trip to Slovenia, while Miriam is away in the States.

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How many times do you get to hike up to the back door of the castle?