August 12, 2010

Mourning and Blessing

In the middle of August, our congregation lost a recent new friend: Dan Terry, father-in-law of our Pastoral Intern, Chris TerryNelson.  A seasoned mission-worker in Afghanistan since the 1970s, Dan and his wife Seija endeared themselves to our congregation during a recent furlough in New Wilmington.  Ten minutes talking to Dan--a gift many of us enjoyed last winter--and it became clear you were in the presence of someone great, precisely because of his humility, boyish charm, and the sparkle in his eye as he related tales from the country halfway around the world he had come to call home.

In an email correspondance, shortly before departing for Kabul and a funeral service, Chris wrote to his friends:

"I wanted to thank you for your prayers and your support for our family in this time, as many of you have written and called with overwhelming encouragement. God is protecting us in a very vulnerable time, and is providing safe passage.  I want to ask that you pray not only for us, but for the men who gave in to violence.  Dan was a man of peace, and the first thing he would encourage us to do is to pray for these men and their families.  Dan and the team knew the risks of going into this remote area, but the night before he left we talked to him in Skype, and he told us that he had to go, with that typical boyish grin and determination that was so much like him.  As you’ll read in the papers, the people in the Northeastern area of Nuristan are in deep need, and nobody is there to help them.  It is fitting that Christians, with the hope and joy of Christ, should put their lives at risk in order to help those in need when no one else will, and Dan was a supreme witness to the faith in this respect.  But he was also a consistent witness in his life as a family man, by living this way with Anneli and I as a father-figure as a husband to his wife Seija, who is currently working with Cure International in Kabul."

Although our time to know Dan here in New Wilmington was brief, let us give thanks for those who model a living Jesus-faith and conduct themselves with diligence, bravery, and compassion.

His father-in-law's death comes on the cusp of Chris' departure from us, his year-long pastoral internship completed.  Chris has accepted a call to be only the second installed pastor of the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church just south of Nashville, Tn.  The congregation is a new church development project of the Middle Tennessee presbytery, and includes around 100 active members.  He will begin his service to them as a Teaching Elder sometime in September.

Based on what we have experienced in knowing Chris, and how we have watched him develop over these last dozen months, we are confident that God will bless the  people of the Emmanuel congregation with a bright, warm, theologian-pastor.  Chris has blessed this year with a great hunger for learning, a deep theological curiosity, a tender openness about his own life and faith, and his keen interest in seeing the church exit its own walls and be the people of God wherever they may be.  What we have seen and heard in seeds and new buds, may the Presbyterians south of Nashville, current and future, come to know in full bloom.

We have thanks for Chris' learning and service among us, and pray Godspeed upon his dear family and his ordained ministry.