“You created the north and the south; Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name” – Psalm 89:12.
I’ve never purposely picked where I live, but were I to consider topography and climate alone, I’d pick Colorado.
This past week I’ve said goodbye to mosquitoes and humidity and greeted the mountains. They loom and hover over me everywhere I go.
The tallest mountain directly across our training center is named Herman, not quite Hermon. The most famous peak a little southwest from here is named Pike, not Tabor. Pike looms above all the others, a good double the elevation of the table below that thousands of people call home near Colorado Springs.
From atop Pike’s Peak one songwriter was inspired to write America the Beautiful, and I suppose the mountains can look purple, especially in the morning light. Another songwriter talks about mountains “waking with the innocence of children.” Growing up in Kansas I never quite knew what to make of that line, but now I think I do.
The missionary training center we are at for this month used to be in the Detroit area. They relocated to the mountains, and at first I wondered why. As our family adjusted to the altitude we fought off dehydration, constant headaches, and sleepless nights. But as the week continued that all went away. And the small price of discomfort became worth it.
I feel a little closer to God here, who created the east and west. Colorado’s Herman and Pike sing for joy at his name.
The training here is for all of us, not just the grown-ups. It might seem too long or too expensive or too intense, but the administrators and trainers know what they are doing. We spend most of the first-half of the month in intense language-learning drills. They focuse on the ways we can learn a new language, especially how to force our mouths to speak new sounds we don’t use in English. Portuguese definitely has a few of them.
The second half of the program turns to learning a new culture, on top of the language element. Here we don’t process things alone or as a family, either. We are with 70 other people of all ages who, like us, are about to finish up the preparation phase of the missionary call and leave for our fields for the first time.
My weepiest times in my transition to being a missionary came in November and December. My travel had not yet started, but my time as a pastor had definitively ended. A couple times the other four family members went out to explore our new surroundings in Missouri, and I stayed behind and wept.
Today is Father’s Day, which has become a sad one for me, as I can only miss my Dad. He died too young.
This week in class all five of us have learned about the complexities of missionary life. There are unique joys to celebrate and unique sadnesses to grieve. My youngest daughter was grieving yesterday over Herreid. She desperately wants to visit one more time before we go to Brazil. She said, “It was so easy there. It was a little town. I knew everyone. Everyone knew me. This is hard.”
Marci and I couldn’t say it any better. It is hard.
But it’s also worth it. Ethan wrote Psalm 89 from a hard place. I encourage you to read it all some time. It ends with a call for God to remember those whom he promised to love, but now feel abandoned. And yet here is his last line: “Praise be to the Lord forever! Amen and Amen.”
As our family readies to go to Brazil there is much we can lament about the losses we’ve left behind. But there is also much to praise God for. How thankful we are to not go to Brazil alone, but work with a team once we get there. How beautiful it is not to send ourselves to Brazil, but to be surrounded by the support of hundreds of God’s people who give sacrificially to us and pray for us often.
And how sweet it is to give praise to God, whether amid the purple mountain majesty, the fruited plain, or the alabaster cities. We are surrounded by beauty. And so we rejoice.