Whenever I write a post for this blog, I always wish that it could be brilliant. I wish I could be a brilliant writer, but I’m not. I have this deep desire to write profound thoughts as well as thought-provoking ideas. I’m that land-locked penguin that wishes she was a swan. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.
Sadly, after five years here in lovely Lithuania, Daryl and I are moving back to the USA. But leaving Lithuania is not the only big change. After nearly 20 years of working with IICS (now called Global Scholars) neither Daryl nor I will be with the organization any longer. Our departure from Lithuania inadvertently becomes our departure from IICS.
Wow. Big change. Big transition.
Here’s a piece I put together for our colleagues and friends. My words, though not eloquent nor terribly weighty, do come from the heart.
Greetings from cloudy and very cold Vilnius! Spring in Lithuania is more of a state of mind than an actual season change. I hope and pray that you are flourishing in your walks with God, your host cultures, your classrooms, and of course your families! All of you—each of you—have been a tremendous blessing in the lives of Daryl and me. We are so grateful to God for you.
After much time in prayer and a lot of waiting on God, Daryl and I have come to the conclusion that this will be our last year in our beloved Lithuania. We started in 2010 in Klaipeda, and then we moved to Vilnius in 2011. We have loved our five years here and experienced great joy and blessings during our time. We tried to walk in obedience to God. As Frank and Jo Peters have said, perhaps our call here was to clear out rocks and prepare the soil for others.
Maybe we planted a few seeds. I hope so. We did build wonderful relationships and loved our students, colleagues, and neighbors with all of our hearts. We pray for them each day. I think the Lithuanians realize how much we love them. One of my students told us recently, “You came here to deliver a message and you did it well. We heard the message.” He didn’t make a decision for Christ, but we trust God in all of these matters.
Of course our leaving Lithuania also means our leaving IICS (Global Scholars). I started working in the IICS office in 1996. Back then the office staff was Daryl, a part-time accountant, Ralph Stewart, and occasionally Bill Bontrager would pop in to volunteer, and me. We saw a lot of miracles in those days because God always shows Himself mighty when we are at our weakest.
Daryl and I have been witnesses to many amazing things over these past 20 plus years. But to my mind, the IICS professors are the greatest miracles of all. Each and every individual is an answer to our prayers. Without a doubt IICS/Global Scholars wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for all the men and women who said yes to the call of the unknown and unpredictable. We love and admire these brothers and sisters in Christ so very much. They truly live out what Dan Harrison wrote so many years ago,
“Every generation stands at the burning bush…and faces the option of saying yes to Yahweh. You don’t have to say no—you can just do nothing, and that will be your answer. Detachment, apathy and selfish pursuit of comfort are all a clear response. But you have the opportunity of going against this cultural pull; the privilege of entering the most challenging, difficult, painful, rewarding, and joyful station life offers; the option of pursuing…the call of God on your heart” (Romancing the Globe—The Call of the Wild on Generation X).
I thank God for selfless men and women who said yes to this call. It has been an honor to serve with them.
Daryl’s heart and my heart are filled with gratitude as we reflect on all the great adventures we have experienced over the past 20 years. We’ve seen some incredible miracles: last-minute funding coming in for a professor (Richard Smith), job openings NONE of us expected (Jennifer and Jason Lewis), favor with men and women in authority beyond our wildest expectations (Roger Ford, Frank Peters). We watched in utter humility as men and women were willing to leave families, comforts, homes, job security, and lifestyles in order to go anywhere God led them and all for the right reasons.
Men and women like Paul and Pauline Gibson, Brian and Angela Coffey, The Romanowskis, Layne Turner, The Allisons, Tom and Leslie Johnson with their three kids in scary Belarus and dozens of others who were willing to go where no one else wanted to and to pioneer new territory. I think about our own Steve and Rebecca Garrett here in Lithuania whose belongings sat in customs for three months—no furniture, no clothes, no books, and yet not one complaint as they sat in their empty apartment waiting for their things. What a privilege God has given us to have a front-row seat in the lives of these heroes of the faith.
My greatest reward has been watching the beauty of God in the lives of these very talented, very well-educated, and extremely good people. I am grateful. We were honored to live out, alongside these brave men and women, 1 Corinthians 2:9, “’What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ — the things God has prepared for those who love Him.” We watched as God revealed those things He had prepared and it was wondrous! We rejoice in every life and in every family member of those IICS professors who made history. What a privilege indeed!
So, wondering what’s next for these two old birds? We are too. Daryl has taken a wonderful position with Forum of Christian Leaders. He is in charge of the Christian Academic Leaders Network here in Europe. He is so well-suited for this job. Young academic leaders desiring to follow Christ in their discipline are eager to learn from an older and wiser mentor. It is amazing to see Daryl with such new energy and vigor. He’s traveling all over meeting with young leaders in Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, and England. He is truly in his element. We rejoice in God’s provision.
For me? Well I have applied to a few jobs at universities in our area. I can always teach English. The University of Kansas has a language school that regularly needs teachers. I’m at peace and believe God will open the door He wants me to walk through. But we would really appreciate your prayers as we transition back to America.
It will be hard to say good bye to everyone here in Lithuania. My duties at the university go through June 30. Daryl has a conference in Cambridge, July 7-14. After packing up five years’ worth of stuff and clearing out our apartment, we will return to the States on July 17.
Whew. It feels so final to have it in writing. There are a lot of things in this world we cannot control—circumstances, governments, people. But there is one good answer to anxiety, fear, and frustration—surrender–complete and total surrender to God. I can’t control this world, but I can give up total control of my life to a Heavenly Father and know that in His capable hands I’ll be just fine. Peace.