by Pastoral Intern Joseph Natwick
"Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you." – 3 John 5
Dad and I don't mess around when it comes to travelling. Much to the chagrin of other members of our family, who prefer that road trips include taking in the beautiful sites and landscapes of America, my father and I are all about the destination. Breaks are optional, lunch is on the go, and rest is taken in short snippets in the passenger seat. Not really the "scenic option." Well, dad and I had the pleasure of driving from Fargo, ND to Vancouver, WA just last month to meet the people of Messiah who I would be called to serve for the next year. We were making great time. That is until we got stuck on I-84 behind an incident involving the tragic shooting of a police officer and the death of a father.
There we were, two hours away from the destination... stuck. At first we thought maybe it was just a small traffic jam that would shake loose after a few minutes. A half hour later, we realized that it might be a little more complex and without cell phone service, any hope for a reasonable estimated time of arrival withered away. The minutes and hours passed by: 5:30, 5:45, 6:00 – "we moved twenty feet!", 6:15, 6:30 – still traffic as far as the eye can see, 7:00, 7:15 – will this be forever?
At some point in those long hours of waiting on I-84 it hit me. Here I was complaining about how late we would get into town and meanwhile the beautiful August sun was setting over the most incredible river gorge I have ever seen in my life. Wow! For a guy who claims to love the outdoors, I am embarrassed to admit how I missed this great view. God has a habit of messing with destination drivers. What could have turned into a situation forever marked by crankiness and impatience will now be remembered as the moment I first realized where God was taking me this year: on a journey, not a destination.
That is what I hope this year will be for me and the people of Messiah Lutheran Church: a year of the journey. In an internship program marked by a distinct endpoint in one year, it could be easy to slip into the destination-driven mind of working toward the end. Yet even if I tried to do that, God would never allow it. Ours is a God who makes us pause and reflect on the beauty around us. Ours is a God who puts people and communities into our lives so that we may be transformed by the love and care of another. Ours is a God of the journey.
My first few weeks here have already been incredible. I am struck by the hospitality that this community has shown to me from the first minute I arrived in Vancouver. Whether it was the wealth of gift cards and resources waiting for me in a welcome basket, the warmth of welcome to my father and me on Sunday morning, advice about when and where to hike in the Pacific Northwest, or the keys to the biggest parsonage this side of the Mississippi, I am humbled by the generosity and love offered to this stranger. I hope and pray that God will continue to bless our journey together with moments that make us pause and reflect on the beauty of the here and now. We've only just begun!