Maturing or Missionary?

Erik Raymond —  July 21, 2008

I should note that this post comes as a result of this conversation with my wife…I’ll cut you in mid stream…

Christie: What’s with all the book reviews?

Erik: Book reviews are helpful to folks, plus I read them.

Christie: Its getting old. And anything you write anymore comes from a sermon I have already heard.  You are too young for syndication already.

Erik: I’m kinda busy these days.

Christie: Blog about that conversation about Omaha and why we don’t want to leave.

Erik: OK

The other night I was visiting with some friends who are from the West Coast and are providentially now living here in Nebraska.  They long for California with groanings that rival the creation’s persistent anticipation of the restoration of all things.  As I thought about their desire to move and what has happened in my family’s life, I had to just muse a bit.

I originally grew up in Massachusetts.  According to God’s all wise and somewhat humerous plan he was pleased to bring me to the Midwestern plains of Nebraska nearly 13 years ago.  I am thankful for this move, after all this is where I first heard and understood the gospel, it is where our children have been born, and where my wife and I have forged together as we grow in life and ministry.  This is also where we met our friends at Omaha Bible Church.  All of this is extremely precious to us today.

My wife is originally from Memphis.  Over the last 15 years we have many times ‘planned’ to act upon our longings to move back to Massachusetts or even to the South.  Early on, we were sometimes preoccupied with these plans to move.  However, in thinking about my friends, talking with Christie, and surveying my own heart it appears something has changed.

I sit here in a landlocked, hot (at least in the Summer), relatively slow (in terms of pace), fairly agricultural, city.  I used to sit and creatively think of ways to leave Omaha in brainstorming sessions that rival a debt reduction planning session.  Now I sit here in Omaha and am genuinely endeared to this place.  It has strangely become home.

The other day we were bringing our son to meet a friend to watch Batman and when we were leaving the theater I was struck by my reaction to the landscape.  We were in a community outside of Omaha that is somewhat in transition between agriculture and a developed suburb.  As we sat at the stoplight I remarked to Christie as to how picturesque the tall corn stocks, white barn, blue skies, and hills were.  I even said (gulp) the view was beautiful.

So what in the world has happened?  I no longer want to leave this place.  In fact, the people here (believers and unbelievers) have been so endeared to us that we really like it here.  We love the city of Omaha, the people that make it up and the landscape that surrounds it.  I think it is more than just getting old and putting down roots.  We are here for the purpose of gospel ministry, serving in the local church, seeking the good of the city.  I trust God has done this.  He has endeared this community, Omaha in general and Omaha Bible Church in particular to us.  It seems God has truly replaced a burden for ‘home’ with a burden for our heavenly citizenship and the subsequent responsibility to labor hard and joyfully in whatever section of the Master’s vineyard we find ourselves.  I just find this remarkable.

Erik Raymond

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Erik has been writing at Ordinary Pastor since 2006. He lives in Omaha with his wife and kids while pastoring at Emmaus Bible Church. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/erikraymond

15 responses to Maturing or Missionary?

  1. Erik,

    You have hit the nail of the head here. I grew up in Ohio and often spent the summers in Tennessee. Both states rich in lakes, rivers and TREES. When we moved here from Florida (where we lived for 5 years) we were looking for more family oriented area and we missed the fall season. We got both. But I longed for the trees and lakes again. We have been here 12 years now and Nebraska has definitely grown on me. You described a scene I have experienced many times now with the fields of corn, the bright blue sky, and gentle rolling hills. We love it here. We love the friends, and the people in general of this area. We love are so thankful to God for bringing us here to be partners in the gospel of Christ with folks like you and Christie. Remarkable is a good word.

  2. Barry,

    What is a tree? I have heard stories about them. Tell me more.

  3. Trees are a mysterious species that went extinct about 100 years ago, Erik. Right around the Industrial Revolution ;).

    Seriously though, cool post and it’s really neat to hear how your heart has changed on this. I’ve experienced similar things with being content in the USA when I always thought I’d be going somewhere in Africa.

  4. I’m “new” to Omaha. I moved here in 2000 to marry a local girl and have to say that more than anywhere else I have lived (Australia, New Zealand) that this is now ‘home’. It felt like that getting off the plane at Eppley and has felt like that ever since.

    Perhaps more than anywhere else, Omaha feels to me like Australia. The people are genuine and friendly (although they drive HORRIBLY!), there is space here to grow in, the city is big enough to have most things that one could want and small enough to navigate through quickly and to be out in the country also.

    We bought a house out on 168th and Pacific’ish and now find that we’re no longer on the fringe and that there is no real reason to go past 156th! We’re ‘planting’ a multi-site model church in Gretna – so even more we’re growing into our west O neighborhood.

    I expected to miss the beach (Aussie) and the mountains (kiwi) a lot more than I did. Now I look forward to the warm summers and the snowy winters and if people would only drive with a touch more respect for others, this would be my idea of the best place on earth!

  5. I still can’t believe you didn’t just club Christie in the head and drag her back to your cave for talking to you like that.

    :)

    We need to get you up here to Seattle…

    Seriously.

    It is awesome how God places people in the strangest places…Omaha especially…and changes their heart to just love the people and the place they serve. Seems like the same thing has happened to Matt Chandler as well.

  6. David,

    Omaha drivers? My goodness. I feel like I’m following a John Deere half the time. If you want a sport take a trip to Boston and cruise around a bit.

    What church are you involved with out in Gretna?

    Seth,

    time and place…my man, time and place.

  7. amazing how God works…because you are right…

    If you think of how you would have responded if God were to tell you that you would be pastoring in Omaha and loving it while you were in Boston…

    :::in his will:::

    :::in his timing:::

    :::for his glory:::

  8. and…I meant no disrespect to your wonderful wife…

  9. Erik;

    Having spent my USAF stint in Grand Forks, ND, I know the shock of going from Massachusetts to the midwest.

    By the way, please tell Christie that I love your book reviews.

  10. “It seems God has truly replaced a burden for ‘home’ with a burden for our heavenly citizenship and the subsequent responsibility to labor hard and joyfully in whatever section of the Master’s vineyard we find ourselves. I just find this remarkable.”

    Amen!

    -never thought we would be back-

  11. Toby, We are THRILLED that you are.

    Chuck, Grand Forks, I’ve been there…definitely midwestern! I’ll pass the word on with the reviews…I’ll take all the help I can get.

    Seth, understood. I know you listen to Mark Driscoll a lot so you are probably prone to be sarcastic and sensational with little to no notice. I see you working.

  12. Welcome to the good life. From a guy that grew up on a Nebraska farm, just be aware that it is a “stalk” of corn, not a “stock” of corn. :) A very common mistake.
    Chad

  13. Chad, thank you for the correction. I will remember this in the future…

  14. The following is an unauthoritative ‘timeline’ for missionary culture-shock in any place with which you are unfamiliar and sent to serve, especially in cross-cultural, non-English speaking settings:

    DAYS 1-7 “The Honeymoon”–everything is great! Nothing can go wrong! Between the long nights of just tryinig to set up a home, finishing a move, meeting new people, you are oblivious to everything.

    WEEKS 2-4 “The Caffeine Drop”–As you become acclimated and settle in to whatever manner of life, you become comfortable with people, surroundings, the new look.

    MONTHS 2-8 “The Level of Hell that Dante Did not Write About”–(pray that you and your spouse do not go through the pit of despair at the same time). You begin by asking yourself, “What have I gotten myself into?” You look at your self-sufficiency. You babble like a baby in a language you don’t understand. You don’t see the trees; you see the mounds of mud and dirt and trash, and you complain about everything (can one say ‘heart problem!’). Eventually, you will, YOU WILL want to go HOME!

    MONTHS 9-18 “The ascent”–Slowly, you remember that you are not alone, that the language can be tackled, that not ALL the people think you are idiots, that God has indeed sovereignly called you to this ministry (which is the ONLY way out of the PIT, to bring the light of the Word of God BACK to the heart). You repent of your sins and turn back to God (No…really!). You begin to say you are ‘home,’ and partly believe it. But there is a WARNING: If you visit the place from which you came, you have a violent reaction of reverse-culture shock! Every culturally-accepted practice and liberty will be the most gross SIN.

    YEARS 1.5-3 “The even keel”–The hard work to adjust by applying the sovereign plan of God and the Gospel brings forth its fruit (humanly speaking, but really, the “I-not I” perspective). You have ministry partners; you rejoice at the work, not in spite of the difficulties, but with the difficulties. You see in your weakness what only sovereign, almighty God can do! You no longer catch yourself trying to say that you are home and that the other place is ‘JUST VISITING;’ you know it. You can visit either the place you have been sent to (HOME) or the one you have come from (VISITING) without acting like a Pharisee in the Gadarenes!

    YEARS 4 and following “The trailblazing path”–You now begin to want to go do the same thing somewhere else, or you want others to do the same thing, to give up all and push hard, with the hand to the plow (the title of our newsletter). You target specific people in prayer to go to other places. You encourage; you ask for people to visit you, not because you are lonely or need help, but to influence them to do the same. You pray for your children and pray that God would make them missionaries as well. You open up ‘Operation World’ every morning and pray for a country. You pray for those who are sending, being sent, and supporting! And, if the sovereign Triune God should make it clear that another such move is necessary, you accept it joyfully.