This time a year ago, we were in the midst of Village Missions’ candidate school, unaware of whether we would be accepted, and surely unaware of where we would be placed. This time a year ago, we hoped and prayed we would be placed here at North River, but we had no guarantees, not even the possibility was mentioned.
Fast forward to today, and we are in fact here at North River. We’ve lived in our new community a little over half a year now. At this point, the information that we have about living and serving here is exponentially greater than it was this time a year ago. We’ve learned that we can expect to be considered outsiders for a long time. A very long time. There are families that have lived here for 30 years, and they still feel like outsiders. We’ve learned that firewood is a big deal. We’ve learned every turn, every bump, every narrow shoulder (or absence of shoulder, as I discovered when a log truck was over the center line and my efforts to ease a former transit bus converted into a charter bus onto the shoulder were foiled because THERE WAS NO SHOULDER!) that exists on the 18 miles of paved road we live on. We’ve learned how to slaughter chickens. We’ve learned that the North River and its tributaries never actually get warm despite shallow depths and hot temperatures. We’ve learned how to pick apples, load hay, sort cows, band cows, and how to dodge cows when they charge you. We’ve learned chickens rarely actually cross the road. We’ve learned that deer and elk do.
We’ve learned to be careful with water during the dry months for fear of the emptying the well. We’ve learned that it is worth the extra effort to compute whether the need for a particular item is greater than the cost and time to drive the 30 minutes into town to get it. We’ve learned that if we’re out of something, usually a neighbor will have it. We’ve learned that here, “neighbors” are still considered “neighbors” even if they are 9 miles down the road. We were surprised to learn that raccoons have an affinity for dried garbanzo beans stored in the garage.
We have learned that this church has a rich history in the valley. We’ve learned and experienced the love of the church family here at North River. We’ve learned that there are many here who are excited about the gospel and the growth of the church. We’ve learned there are even more in the community who do not share that enthusiasm. We learned very quickly what it means to mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice. We’ve learned the responsibility and urgency of being a missionary to the community, but also the accompanying joy that comes with being used of God to accomplish His purposes. Accordingly, we are still learning the high priority prayer assumes in being equipped for such a venture. We’ve learned the sacrifice of others who faithfully pray and give to support us being here full time, for which we are tremendously honored and thankful (and the people of our church share in that thankfulness).
We’ve learned firsthand the value of Village Missions’ philosophy of ministry – to preach the Word and love the people. We’ve learned that is not always easy, but it is always necessary, and at a minimum, always exciting (depending on how you define “exciting”). We’ve learned that there is still much for us to learn. We will endeavor in the weeks and months to come to share more of what we are learning and how God is working here in the North River valley.