I am really enjoying this medium of the weblog. It gives me a chance every day, if I take it, to put down stories of people I know or have known or places I’ve been so I remember them once again. I am a collector of memories, but they are all collected in my head and heart. I have bits of flotsam around that remind me of some of them, but others just come to me at odd moments. As I was reading through some of what I’ve written over the last three weeks, it seems I need to write about George and Germany.
George Moore was my pastor for 18 years at West Hills Church until he died November 24, 2012. For the almost eleven years I worked for him, I called him my pastor, mentor, boss and friend and he was all those things. He was also the one who showed me what it really means to be on a journey with living Christ.
My eyes were really opened to this when I signed up to be a part of the team that went to southwest Germany in June, 2000. There were sixteen of us on that team and we had two full weeks together. There was George, of course, leading us with his wife, Pam. Dwaine Price, who was our choir director at the time, came along. Leisha Eiten was the elder for mission, and she along with me and my sister Jana, formed a trio of “maiden aunts” also known as the “unholy” sisters because we were not nuns! Priscilla Powell and I came to know each other and she would later be my best woman when I married my Steve. Steve Thedens, who can quote entire passages from Monty Python routines, shared the back seat of a Volkswagen van with me for many miles and I heard them all! Hank and Marna Davidson, Karen and Loren Loibl (Karen and I share a birthday), Gwen Mason, Linda Schuchmann, Randy Hess and Char Srb rounded out the team. I list them all because that was the first thing I really experienced on this trip: a community bound together in our love of Christ and the idea of incarnational witness. Our love for God and our fellowship together was lived out loud. We opened ourselves to each other in love, in fellowship, in honesty and vulnerability. It was an expression of the body of Christ that I had never known or opened myself up to experience before then. And two important words that I learned on this trip: Glaube and Liebe, faith and love, and their inseparability that I have experienced over and over again on other travels.
I traveled to Germany twice more for West Hills Church. In 2002 after Steve and I were married (six weeks later!) we took our honeymoon mission trip there, repeating the steps of the 2000 journey, which Steve was not on. Leisha came with us as elder/chaperone. We still laugh about that. Once again we stayed in homes with friends we had made in 2000, members of the Evangelische Kirche (protestant church) in Öhringen, near Stuttgart. It was post 9/11 by then, and we had amazing conversations with pastors and others about our president’s careless use of God’s words: You’re either with us or against us, he said. Having conversations with those from other places about faith was part of my learning experience on this journey.
In 2005, we returned again as part of the choir, where we spent a day at Dachau. I was the chaplain on that trip and also the mission coordinator for West Hills. My mentor and pastor George had prepared me well to have an experience of God that allowed me to lead worship for our group in scripture and song. “Precious Lord, take my hand,” we sang as we had experienced the last steps of many who were led to slaughter in gas chambers and ovens. Who else would take their hands? The Twenty-third Psalm became more than just a scripture to be read at funerals for me there. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me.” I could hear the voices of people speaking those words in context. On a quiet Friday here in Omaha, my mind wanders and these memories come flooding back like they happened just yesterday. They are as fresh and alive even now.
My journey with the living Christ continues as I experience new family relationships in the Middle East. But it goes back to George and Germany and I needed to put that down today.