In one of the orders we use for evening devotions at home, we pray this petition:
For those who work to bring peace, justice, health, and protection in this and every place, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
Today Auntie Liz (Sara’s sister), who has been living in El Paso for a year now as a nurse at the Army hospital here, left for a six month deployment to Iraq. It has been such a blessing for us to have her here, so we are going to miss her immensely.
We are already looking forward to when she will be back in this place. But until then we will continue to call on the Lord to be merciful to her and all those who serve—in every place they may be.
I spent most of the last half of September on the road. On September 13–15 I was in Norfolk, Virginia, for a WELS Military Contact Pastor Workshop. This is for pastors who serve near military installations. There were over 20 pastors there from all over the country. The workshop itself was quite good, and it gave me the opportunity to visit with old friends and to get to know some new ones. We were able to tour the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS George HW Bush.
On September 19th, I traveled to Milwaukee so that I could attend the Symposium on Worship and Outreach at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. From there I made my way up to Oshkosh, then Rhinelander, then New Ulm, MN, spending the next week in the Twin Cities. We were there for Sara’s brother’s wedding. In between the Symposium and the wedding, I was able to spend time with all my siblings who live in the area, and a great number of friends. I realized later that I was able to spend time with each of the men who stood up with me in my wedding. What was remarkable and enjoyable was not only to spend time with the guys, but I also got to see their families. When I got married, all of those men were single, and now they are all married with children. It was really quite a joy to see these friends of mine now fulfilling their calling as fathers.
During these weeks I was able to step onto the campuses of Seminary, college, and high school. Interestingly, all three of them have new or remodeled chapels which were completed after I graduated. The new chapel at Martin Luther College is the most stunning. I’m looking forward to seeing more of that facility next summer at the WELS National Worship Conference. I got to see a Twins game with my brothers at the new Target Field. I got a couple hours out at the farm. I even stopped for a couple hours and walked around at Bush Lake Park, where I worked summers during college. I even ran into my old boss, who happened to be driving through the park.
So I can really say that I was able to make the most of the time. The only thing that could have made it more complete is if I would have been able to do it all without being away from my family. I realize that it probably would not have been possible. It’s probably not a trip that I’ll be able to make again. But if it means being away from Sara and the kids for nearly two weeks, I don’t think I’ll want to.
Here’s a link to a collection of pictures from the trip.
The little girl to the right of Miriam in this picture is about two months younger than Miriam. This afternoon, her daddy left for a 5-month deployment overseas.
It makes me think of two things. 1) It makes me appreciate and enjoy every day that I have to watch all my little ones grow. I may not get to be home with them as much as I would like, but I don't have to be away for even days at a time, much less months. 2) It makes me appreciate the sacrifice that other fathers will make so that I can live in safety and be with my family.
This appreciation sheds new light on the vocations in which I serve. What else can I do but to strive to be the best father and husband I can? And to be a shepherd to families such as this, in times such as this? What else could I want?
For the last month, members of the Wisconsin National Guard 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team have been at Fort Bliss preparing to deploy to the Middle East. While it is not unusual for Ft Bliss to have units like this preparing to mobilize, it has been a somewhat unique opportunity for us, since we were told there may be dozens of WELS members serving in this unit.
For a few months now I have been working with the WELS Military Services committee to do what we could to serve these troops while they were training at Bliss. We thought we might have a communion service on post for them. We did receive permission from the installation chaplain's office for such a service, but logistics made that planning difficult, since the different companies are on different schedules and are working at different areas (Fort Bliss is a really big place—1700 square miles big).
However, this hasn't been much of a problem since several of the soldiers were able to get time off and transportation to come to our services at Trinity. They arrived in as many as three 15-passenger vans. Most of them were WELS members from Wisconsin (and a couple from Minnesota), but not all of them were. I never really did get a good count, but we have had approximately 20–25 troops here on a Sunday.
Even though we live in a military town and it is completely normal to see soldiers in uniform pretty
much every day (even though my boys, especially Andrew, still tends to shout, "Soldier!" whenever he spots one), it is not all that common to see that many ACUs in church. And still more—well, I'm not sure what word to use—to have a table at the Lord's Supper with a dozen brothers and sisters who are here (in our church) because it's a WELS church just like theirs back home, but who are here (Fort Bliss) because they have committed to serve us. I guess I just consider it a privilege to serve them.
Some of them are already leaving this week. Others will have a 4 day pass next weekend. We are hoping that as many as possible will make it next Sunday, when we'll have Pastor Paul Ziemer, the WELS national civilian chaplain, fly in to talk about WELS military services and to preach and to meet some of these men and women.
The picture in this post is from Easter Sunday morning, a shot I snapped from the back of church just before the service started.