Last week I made a brief trip to my hometown of Holland, MI for some meetings taking place at my alma mater of Hope College.
On Thursday afternoon, there was a brief window of time that opened up and I decided to journey across campus through the downtown area toward Windmill Island. I had been here a number of times over the decades – both as a youngster on elementary school field trips as well as with our kids when they were young. It is a place that reminds you of the arc of history in which you were formed. That this community was rooted in its Dutch heritage personified by the towering 125 foot tall, 250 year old DeZwaan Windmill that looked over the river.
My destination on this day, however, was not Windmill Island itself but rather the Freedom Village retirement community near its entrance. My journey on this particular day was also a journey into history as my intent was to reconnect with Pastor Mike Van Doornik who baptized our three children and who served as my mentor throughout the eight years of my seminary journey.
After negotiating the check-in process, I negotiated the friendly maize of hallways that led me to Mike’s door. I knocked and entered to find Mike being assisted by a wonderful lady who was helping him into his wheelchair. I asked Mike if he remembered me? Mike quickly responded with a joyous “Jeff”!
It just so happened that I arrived just as Mike was getting ready go to post-Thanksgiving communion service. While it wasn't part of my plan to simply sit and “be” with Mike on this afternoon, it seemed most fitting that the way that God guided our time together was primarily shaped through worship.
During the service, we sat side by side. The liturgy was filled with hymns. In his younger years, Mike was a gifted pianist and organist. On this day, however, given a stroke - Mike and I simply made a joyful noise together.
We sang, we listened, we counted our blessings, and we received the blessing of the covenant family through the communion of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
When the service concluded, we journeyed back to his room. We looked at pictures of his children and grandchildren as well as pictures of my bride and children. While conversation was difficult (given his stroke), his heart, his mind, and his smile were bright.
It was such a joy and blessing to “be” with this man who had been such a Barnabas for my family and me in years gone by. As the time for me to leave drew near, I told Mike that he was a blessing to me.
Further, that his living example of listening and encouragement along the journey was what I was living into in this season of my journey.
As tears filled his eyes, Mike smiled widely and leaned forward hugging longer than might seem appropriate. And as we hugged, I prayed aloud - thanking God for the joy and privilege of journeying with this equipping leader who was worthy of imitation.
In this season of Advent I am counting my blessings and Celebrating the Journey. Remembering God’s love, and the grace given to us through his son Jesus Christ. Remembering the many people who have gone before me, who have provided an example worthy of imitation, and remembering and celebrating that in this journey, I never walk alone, but walk in the power and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Celebrating the Journey!
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