We had to make a decision. It was incomprehensible and completely illogical. I have such a great job, in a sort of place we have always dreamed to live, living among people anyone would be blessed to know. It seems like we just got here. But now we must leave.
In January 2010, we made a decision that changed our lives. We decided that I would go back to school. Thus began our journey to Alberta. Since then, we have experienced life like never before. I have been a college student, staff and faculty, a student leader, and an intern in the President’s office. I’ve travelled around the world, become a pastor, a library trustee, a Big Brother, a coach, a teammate, and a companion to hundreds of people along the way. For the last nearly eight years, it has been the people that have brought real value to the experiences.
I had a conversation with someone the other day about the challenge that comes with investing 100% in where we live. We enter a community, and we decide to fully live there. We completely give ourselves to making it a better place. Both we, and the community, are never the same because of that decision. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We expected to be here a while. If we had known our time would have been so short, we would have made different decisions. I’m glad we didn’t. We bought a house, and made it our home. We invested in our community with our whole heart, sincerely hoping we could somehow make a lasting impression so that Bergen would have been better because of our presence here. I hope we have done that.
It was a very long and difficult process, this last several months. We contemplated what we feared most: leaving. Could it possibly be that our time here is already done? We denied it. But there was no way of escaping the truth. When I silenced God’s still, small voice, He allowed me to suffer so that I would be brought to my knees before Him. Sickness, sorrow, hopelessness. They came like an army at the walls of my heart and broke them down. I did not know at the time what was happening, but now I see it.
God knows that I want to follow His lead, but He also knows the stubborn heart of a proud man. I thank Him for His demonstration of love toward me by not allowing me to follow my own wisdom. The suffering was a sort of grace.
I believe with all my heart that a good pastor sticks around. I want to be a good pastor. I want to see these children, born during my time here, raised up to know Christ. I want to baptize them and be there when they graduate and get married, and have children of their own. I held these children, just a day or two old, and blessed them, imagining all the years ahead of them. Oh, how sad I am that I may not be a part of those lives any longer.
It is so painful to leave. I only think about it in short bursts. The names that flash through my mind, people I have come to know and love. We will part ways and carry on, but for now, there will be sorrow. In a way, I am glad for the sorrow. It means I have given all I have to these people. Part of me now belongs to them, and part of them will remain with me. I am richer for it.
Before we know it, we will be in another place, investing our lives in that community, with those neighbours. We will not stop giving ourselves away. Even if we are there for a short time, we will give what we have. And when we leave that place, it will be painful. But, how else shall we live? There is no point in hoarding what God has so graciously given to us. If we do, that is all we will get. But if we give it away, riches far beyond measure await us.
I echo the words of the Apostle Paul when he said, it is all worth nothing compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. These experiences during our time at Bergen have made our lives rich and sweet, but they cannot compare to the love and acceptance of Jesus. He is all we need, and what He has to offer will never disappoint and will never run dry. This is why we can give away all we have. This is why we do not fear the pain and sorrow of loss. Whatever we have to lose here in this life is nothing compared to the gain of knowing Jesus.
And so we will shortly depart, leaving behind a community blessed by God. We will never forget Bergen, and most of all, we will never forget the people of Bergen. I am thankful for those who stick around. The rocks of the community. They are the true heroes of a place. Thank you for being here and inviting us into your home.
May the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of His Spirit be with you.