Update #3: Our Road Trip Out East
After a couple of weeks at home, Linda finished up work for the remainder of the renewal leave and we packed up the car and headed out for the open road. Our first stop was a couple hours west in Rock Falls, Illinois, to see our friends Ric and Carol. Linda and Carol have been friends since 4th grade. The four of us became friends when we were all newly married way back when Linda and Carol were finishing up their senior year at Judson College. It was great to catch up with each other over dinner and a game of Pinochle (the boys won in case you were wondering).
From Rock Falls, we made our way to Pinckneyville in southern Illinois to see Pastor Don and Luan. Linda and I know Luan from our old church in Aurora. Luan was the youth pastor for the middle school and asked Linda and I to join her as volunteers and later to take over the middle school ministry as Luan moved up to oversee the high school ministry. Luan has been a dear friend and a great encourager to both Linda and I over the years. It was so good to catch up with her and to share memories as well as what God is doing in each of our lives now. On Sunday, we attended the Pinckneyville United Methodist Church where Luan’s husband Don is the pastor. The church was so welcoming and Don has such a shepherd’s heart for this wonderful congregation. We enjoyed getting caught up with Luan and riding around town in their golf cart – many in Pinckneyville use a golf cart rather than a car to get around town.
From Pinckneyville, we headed east to the hills of West Virginia, to the town of Buckhannon and the home of our friends Jay and Amanda. Linda and I became friends with Jay and Amanda as Jay and I attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Jay is now the pastor of First Baptist Church of Buckhannon. Linda and I really enjoyed spending time catching up and sharing quite a few laughs with our friends. It is amazing how much of our seminary years were such a blur for all of us and it was great trying to recall all that happened in our lives during that time as well as catching each other up on what has happened in our lives after our graduations and calls to ministry.
New Jersey and New York City
From Buckhannon, Linda and I made our way north to New Jersey and the town of Rutherford to stay at an Airbnb. Rutherford is just a half hour public bus ride from New York City. Linda and I took a little time to see a few of the sights in the Big Apple. (In case you ever plan to visit, you might want to go for more than a day and a half!) We had time to take a ferry ride out past the Statue of Liberty, to enjoy an open air tour bus ride through part of the city, to take in the night view from the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, to take a stroll through Times Square, and to enjoy some good food along the way. The most memorable time was on our second day as we went through the 9/11 Memorial and Museum – a very moving experience.
From Rutherford, we made our way north just past the state capitol to the town of Troy. This is the home of our friends John and Jen who we know from our youth ministry days in Aurora when John was the associate pastor of our church. John and Jen were among the first people we told when I decided to go to school to pursue pastoral ministry, and it was John’s solid dedication to the church as an associate pastor that was a model for me as I felt called to be an associate pastor myself. While with John and Jen we enjoyed seeing some of the sites of Troy, picking apples, and catching up with each other. We also had fun getting to know their three large dogs: Zeke, Gracie, and Maggie. On Sunday, Linda and I joined John and Jen at Third Presbyterian Church where John is the pastor. This church was very welcoming and it was a joy to worship alongside them.
After our time in Troy, we headed back home again to spend some time with our daughters. As I reflect on our time with friends on this trip, I can’t help but feel grateful for the impact they have made (and continue to make) on our lives, and how nice it was to pick up right where we left off after not seeing each other for so many years. It is also a testament that they are all still serving God and others in their communities. In many ways, it was our love for Jesus that brought us together in the first place, and because of God’s grace, each of us are still seeking to love him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
The verse that comes to mind after this portion of our leave is from Philippians 1. “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart…”
Our hearts are full after spending time with these dear friends! While we are thoroughly enjoying this time, I can’t help but miss each and every one of you at GCC. You are all dear to my heart, and I look forward to being back with you all again.