Due to our epic trip to Germany and France (long post coming soon!), we missed call week at the seminaries. I sometimes watch online, or at the very least read all the placements for candidates, vicars, and deaconesses from both seminaries the mornings after. It’s an incredibly exciting and nervewracking time; I remember every bit of emotion from when my dad was called, and from when Derek was called.
Ten years ago, Derek was turning 30. Kate was just 2. Ten years ago, I sat in the CTS chapel at Derek’s call service. Unlike most of the guys there, we already knew where it was going to be: Santiago, Chile. They don’t send you overseas* without asking you first, perhaps so the wife isn’t shocked into crying in the middle of call service.
We were excited. We were going with our friends, Jared and Jan. Jared’s aunt Denise, who was my Sunday school and Bible Bowl teacher in high school, had come up. She, too, was excited. We all were. We were young, and relatively unencumbered. We had all the naiveté of twenty-somethings (minus Derek, just 30) and all the spirit and willingness to do anything, go anywhere. Santiago is a fabulous city. The mission opportunity there was clear.
Of course the end of the story is this: the guys graduated. We trained with a missionary trainer. We sold a lot of our stuff. I quit my job. We went to Santiago in June for an exploratory visit. We fell in love. The Board for Mission Services at LCMS, who was supposed to rubber-stamp the call at their quarterly meeting in July, did not rubber-stamp the call due to political garbage far above us. Derek and Jared went to the back of the “call waiting” line, behind 8 other guys who hadn’t yet received calls. We waited. It was a tense and awful time. Derek was working for minimum wage at the IT department at the seminary. I was trying to ramp up my freelancing career. Derek went with a busload of seminarians to help out after Hurricaine Katrina hit New Orleans. The bus driver fell asleep going 70 miles an hour and almost crashed into an approach. Derek, who was sitting up front, grabbed the wheel and steered them into a field instead. He called me from the field, extremely shaken. I wanted to kill him for almost dying, which sounds awful, but it’s the bare-bones truth. The seminary president called me and suggested that Chile had fallen through so Derek could save a bunch of seminarians on a bus. I had a hard time accepting that explanation at the time.
I decided we might as well have another baby since we couldn’t go to Chile. I lost the baby in September. It was a dark, dark time.
And they say it’s darkest before the dawn, and that’s true. Because what happened next was certainly a new dawn for us. Derek received a call to serve as campus minister and associate pastor at First Lutheran Church in Knoxville. Everything was bright again. Stuck in Fort Wayne, jobless, calless, grieving, all our friends out in their new parishes with us left behind, anything, anywhere would have sufficed. But to get to go to the place we now love so much we want to retire to, to get to serve the church here in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, at not one, but two churches, to raise our kids in one of the most beautiful places in the world? Yes, it was a bright new day.
Now, we support the missionary who originally called Derek and Jared 10 years ago. He is now…you guessed it…in Santiago, doing the mission. Now, we occasionally see our Chilean friends at LCMS events, including recently at the dedication of the Old Latin School in Wittenberg. Now, we are blessed to be able to support global Lutheran missions at perhaps one of the most exciting times to do so, when Lutheranism is spreading like wildfire across Africa and Asia.
You never know what the Lord has in store for you. We certainly thought we did on Call Day 2005. Boy, were we wrong. And that’s all right.
* My mom and I have a friendly argument on whether Santiago is “overseas.” She says no. I say yes, both due to the international/overnight flight and because there’s apparently a tiny section in Central America that’s completely unpassable by land.