A New Year (At Last!)
January 2008 Pastor's Newsletter Article
This has been a challenging year for the Risendal family.
In the first half of 2007 we experienced the contamination of our entire home, the abatement of asbestos in our kitchen and the decontamination process, the monumental task of cleaning up after the hazardous materials crew, the marketing and selling of our home, the task of finding a different place to live, and the prospect of having to replace almost everything we owned. As we think back on the year, we've learned a great deal about what it means to start over from scratch, and we find ourselves very empathetic with those who, through natural or human disasters, lose everything.
We have also learned a great deal about the love of God and the importance of Christian community. It is not an exaggeration to say that if it weren't for our God, and for our friends in this congregation, we can't imagine how we would have made it through this year. From the very beginning, many Saint Peter members were instrumental in supporting us. Many offered prayers, and sent cards expressing their love and concern for us. Many spent countless hours in our old home, helping us clean and paint and repair - without their efforts, we could never have turned our home around as quickly as we did. And the gifts were so heartwarming: gift cards, clothing for the boys, help with furnishing our new home... If the purpose of a Christian community is to become a vehicle of God's grace, you indeed fulfilled that purpose for our family during our challenges this past year.
We live, as many of you do, in a covenant community. Ours has a regular newsletter, which the homeowners association uses to communicate with its members. We've noticed, in the past couple of years, that the articles in that newsletter have taken a turn for the worse - with leaders in the community continually complaining about whose home needs painting, and whose flower beds aren't weeded well enough. We've heard of residents who, rather than ask a neighbor if there is anything wrong, will leave an anonymous note on the door, demanding that they do a better job of watering their lawn or fixing their shutters. It is as if some of our neighbors have forgotten what it means to love one's neighbor as one's self. But you, friends, demonstrated neighbor-love time and time again this past year - you were kind enough and faithful enough to reach out and give us a hand when it was needed most.
Now we begin a new calendar year - a new beginning in all of our lives. We are excited to anticipate a year without the particular struggles we faced in 2007. Even more so, we are excited to anticipate a year in which we can once again be in the position of giving instead of receiving. It was humbling to know that our well-being was dependent on the generosity of so many others in 2007. Now, grateful to God and to you, we look forward to the ways God will work through us to reach out to others, as an expression of our thanksgiving for what we have received. Many thanks to those of you who have been part of that!
This month from all the Risendals,
Pastor Dave, Betsy, Brady and Landon