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Leaving LCC

A few of the Spiritual Life student leaders bond during a recent retreat at our flat. Students and their respective countries are, from left, Kamilė (Lithuania), Lukas (Germany), Xhorxhina (Albania) and Katya L. (Russia).
We're making it official -- this is our last semester working at LCC International University.

*insert cries of sadness and gnashing of teeth or cheers of joy and jubilation, depending on how you feel about this*

We've spoken these words out loud to a handful of people now -- mostly family and supervisors -- and they sound strange each time we've said them. But, with each time, the weight that hangs on them comes into focus more and more.

Although we are in year four of a two-year commitment, this is a decision that has always felt much more connected to a sense of God's call than personal choice. As such, this is a decision we've wrestled with each year we've been here. 
  • By the end of our second year, it was clear our work at LCC wasn't finished.
  • Last year, we knew our efforts were already changing LCC's DNA (in positive ways) and that it would be possible to transition out. However, we've also learned that, in missions, it's always best to be running towards something -- God's plan -- and there wasn't even a remote destination in sight. With staff/faculty members constantly changing at LCC, we've also come to appreciate the gift of good, thoughtful transitions and saw this year as one where we could offer that.
  • This year -- as we shared a couple blog posts ago -- it's been hard to know exactly what to write about. The systems we have helped develop are starting to run themselves. This community graciously stretched when we first came and now it has a different shape. At the risk of sounding boastful, we have changed some of LCC's DNA, which is both humbling and encouraging. When we consider whether we are to return or not, the sense we get is, "It's OK to move on."
Again, LCC was never meant to be the place where we would stay until we're too old and senile to work. We came wanting to participate in God's mission as well as develop our calling as God's agents of change.

"What's next?"

The first thing people have asked us is, "What's next?"

Our immediate plans are to have our baby here in Lithuania, spend some time with our relatives, and reconnect with our Phoenix family. But the big picture is still blurry -- these plans are still in God's hands.

"Wait, what?"

While it's clear our time in Lithuania is drawing to a close, we're still looking towards God for guidance for our long-term plan.

Julija and Alisha take a much-needed break after a long
Through our time in Lithuania, we've felt affirmed that these past four years haven't been merely an experience intended for just a season of our lives. Rather, this has been a time of preparation for something bigger. 

Perhaps it's appropriate our time serving at a university will end after four years. As the students have been transformed, so have we. Whatever we were before we came to Lithuania, now we are mission workers.

We've been working with our mission agency, Mennonite Mission Network, this past year and there are some exciting ideas we're looking into. I'll even be traveling a bit this semester to visit some communities that have expressed interest in our help (Alisha is too pregnant for that at this point).

For now, we ask for your prayers and support as we continue to seek God's greatest desires for our next actions.

Finishing Well

All of this said, don't think we've checked out of our work here at LCC. God continues to move in this community and we are privileged to be able to be part of that movement. 



Balance: Spiritual Life Fall Retreat

Tom Boone, chair of LCC's theology department, shares a personal account of experiencing ministry burnout with LCC students at the annual Spiritual Life Fall Retreat in early October. He led the first of three sessions about balancing the the call to radical faith without suffering spiritual burnout.
Josh provides instruction and leadership before lunch. The overnight
retreat took place during the final part of our Indian Summer, making for
a delightful time.
Numerous times in the gospel story, we observe Jesus retreat. In Luke 5, as it details Jesus' ministry growing and describes the way people were drawn to him, it even notes, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (NIV, emphasis mine)

We can speculate why. Maybe Jesus was demonstrating a habit we should also observe. Or maybe Jesus was an introvert and being surrounded by crowds of people was exhausting for him.

I don't think the "why" is what's important in this instance. Rather, it's the rhythm: moving towards the world and engaging, then retreating and practicing self care. Breathing in and breathing out. The bass drum hits on counts 1 and 3, the snare on 2 and 4.

Balance is important. But not to the world.

Proof: the world doesn't celebrate people who have balanced lives. It's the ones who "produce numbers," "move product," and "get results" that we thrust into the spotlight.

Shared meals and common tables: building
community since FOREVER.
This should be a warning to those seeking to follow Christ, because it flies in the face of one of the greatest commandments: love your neighbor.

If you love your neighbor, then you learn to see and value them as more than what they produce. Let's be honest: if you only say you love someone because you get something out of the relationship, who are you actually loving?

The idea of experiencing shalom implies God desires for us to encounter a fullness of life here and now. That fullness doesn't happen when a life is out of balance.

Combine that with the idea that loving someone involves caring for their well being.

What message are we sending when we celebrate those who are not pursuing balanced lives?

Of course those who impact the world in a major way can have balance in their lives -- success and shalom are not mutually exclusive. The question at hand is, more or less, how do you define success?

Seeking balance in our own lives is an important, albeit difficult, task. Let us not make icons out of those in ministry whose lives may lack rhythmic balance.
The retreat took place a short walk from the beach. All photos courtesy of Alisha!