Behold how good and pleasant it is when folks dwell in unity!
We are thankful for ARMS AROUND US:
For couple-reunion after months apart doing speaking in different states;
For reunion with our biological family and long-time friends;
For reunion with churches in the USA!
On our bookshelf, there is a pop-eyed South African penguin with wings OPEN WIDE, ready to embrace whoever -- like Jesus wishing to gather all the folks in Jerusalem.
Here are a few glimpses of ARMS OPEN WIDE to us as we traveled these last few months.
Near the badlands of North Dakota, Virgil sat on the porch of a farming and hunting couple, out in the boondocks, yet connected by satellite to the world and deeply involved in International missions service.
After two weeks of constant moving, Lynn was given a mercifully long stay with a mission advocate: 80 years-young Ellen, in her charming two-story Connecticut home.
Children greeted Virgil with a familiar Congolese song at Immanuel Baptist in Minot, ND.
In a big Baptist Association meeting in a little church in New York's Adirondack Mountains, a woman pastor read to those assembled a journal entry from the Nelson's in 2002 that had touched her.
Virgil experienced miracles of car loans and long-term lodging with
gracious hosts to ease the logistics of his daily visits to different
churches in southern Washington State.
God's beauty enfolded us: Lynn was cradled in the red and gold rolling hills of New York State. Virgil can't stop talking about the evergreens of Puget Sound coming down to the water, with the stately Olympic Mountains to the west and Mt. Rainier to the southeast.
Worship beauty embraced us as we heard new praise songs, old hymns, harp and flute, strings and percussion, and voices celebrating the Lord.
Pastors and lay folk treated us to visits to special museums, symphony and to their interests and hobbies. Heart to heart talks were our meat and potatoes, on the fly between events or around the hearth.
We have a Polaroid photo of Leo, arm in arm with Virgil. Leo is the young man serving a 20-year sentence on McNeil Island in Washington, who has been faithfully sending $5 a month from his meager prison salary, for the Congo work.
We are grateful for the Justice system in the USA. Despite its many weaknesses, it provides a far fairer recourse for both victim and perpetrator than the system we experienced in the Democratic Republic of Congo!
The sanctuary of the Peninsula Baptist Church in Gig Harbor, WA spoke to Virgil's soul, as the clear windows allowed in the light and the sight of the pines, as the cross is simply signified in wood with art on other windows flanked on two sides by flags of the world. Truly the local and the global, the present and the future of God's creation were celebrated there.
Lynn was stopped short by a sculpture of swords being beaten into plowshares on a short walking tour in Hartford, CT.
Straddling the border between Canada and the USA in Dunseith, ND, is the International Peace Garden, 2,339 acres of pristine beauty, for over 75 years a living testimony to our two nations commitment to peace and friendship between ALL nations of the world. Twisted girders rescued from the devastation of the World Trade Center, the majestic Peace towers, the Peace Chapel featuring quotes from "people of peace" etched into the beautiful limestone walls, along with formal gardens nestled among lakes and forest, form the backdrop of year-round sports/music/theater/arts programs for youth from around the world.
This Thanksgiving we are MOST thankful for God's outreached arms, welcoming ALL creation into His everlasting Kingdom of Justice and Love.
Virgil and Lynn