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"In Between"

May 5, 2011

This is the last newsletter of our 2008-2011 term in Poland. Our next communications will come from the USA. Tonight, May 7, we are in transition, inhabiting the space “in between.”

From May 22 to December 18, we will share news with North American congregations from Pennsylvania to Washington State; doing what in mission circles is called “itinerating.”  As “itinerants,” we are strangers, even though we are returning to our passport culture. We arrive from another place, where we have lived on the threshold between our family culture and our host culture. And as we travel from congregation to congregation, we still find ourselves perpetually in between.

Tonight, however, we write from our new apartment in Lodz. Poland, itself, sometimes is described as the land between: “between Hitler and Stalin” or “between western and eastern Europe.” Tonight, our last in Poland, we reflect upon our personal journey of living in between, leaning and depending upon God and the welcome or tolerance of strangers, both in Poland and in the USA.

We are between Lodz apartments: having left ul. Kaminskiego #4 and moved to ul. Piotrkowska #283. Tonight we had a “Parapetowka.” “Parapet” means window sill. A “Parapetowka” is a housewarming party--no furniture--food and beverage on the window sills. We’re not calling it a going away party because we want to leave with the promise of our return.

So we won’t unpack our boxes until January, 2012. This is partly because we await confirmation of our reappointment to a second term. Until our return for a second term is confirmed, our earthly goods will stay boxed up and ready to ship.

Between departure and arrival--“Goodbye, Poland!” and “Hello, U.S.!”--we inhabit the threshold--the limen--between continents, groups of friends, cultures, and languages, as well the threshold between types of work. We write from what Joyce Rupp has called “liminal space” in what is a transitional moment in time.

Jointly appointed by Global Ministries (United Church of Christ and the Christian Church / Disciples of Christ) and Presbyterian Church (USA), we also serve in between denominations--serving in the linking space and encouraging all three to cross thresholds in ecumenical outreach.

Seeking flexibility and sustainability, trying to lighten our load as we journey, we have evoked the spirit of Biblical travelers: Israelites and prophets in the Old Testament; Jesus and the disciples in the New Testament. We also have reverenced Gandhi who, as he neared the end of his life, journeyed with only a pair of glasses, a book, hand-hewn rope and wood sandals, and a length of cloth.

And yet the folding chair from which we write is dwarfed by towers of cardboard boxes that store our “earthlies.” Our laptop rests on one of many suitcases tagged for travel to the United States. We sleep nestled on a futon fenced in by the stuff of our familiar past on one side, and the stuff of our unknown future on the other.

Our daughter Mackenzie (23) will return from her year in Qingdao, China in September. She will have changed, matured, transitioned, and she will re-enter the United States to live a life very different from the one she journeyed from a year before.

Our son Mick (18) will graduate from high school in May. He stands on the limen between adolescence and adulthood, high school and university. And we parents are in the transition between daily parenting and the empty nest.

Nearly every day we are reminded of our liminality, our inbetween-ness, and how we weave together spirit and matter. We bridge divides, navigate river crossings, negotiate disparate cultures, and seek to build our nest on some of the busiest thresholds of possibility, sheltered only by a door that might open to a new “in between.”

The in between is where we people of the Way are called to journey, whether or not our life choices often call this fact to mind. We are called to cast our nets on the other side, to bridge divides, reconcile opposites, choose service over security, or launch ourselves into the unknown, all the while faithfully trusting in the One who walks beside us.

So tonight we write surrounded by the bags and boxes that remind us we are “in between.” And yet we are no less writing TO the in between. Each of you also journeys in the Way, placing one foot in front of the other towards the unknown.

Sandwiched between past and future, earth and heaven, memory and desire, what has been and what may be, despair and hope, we launch ourselves forward with help:

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.”
(I Timothy 2:5)

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 3:12-14)

Pray with us for strength for the journey as we traverse the in between.
Pray with us as we cross thresholds and inhabit “liminal space.”

And pray with us for all who travel, all who are in transition, all who inhabit the limens and the margins and the spaces in between, and all who are dependent upon the kindness of strangers.

Pressing on, we look forward to glimpsing many of you on the path up ahead as we journey.

Until then, may God richly bless your going out and your coming in and your nesting in life’s liminal spaces!

Submitted by Elizabeth and Douglas Searles, Global Ministries missionaries to Poland, jointly appointed by Global Ministries and PCUSA to walk with the Evangelical-Reformed Church in Poland.

Doug and Elizabeth Searles serve with the Evangelical Reformed Church in Poland.  They serve as mission workers for church growth and outreach.

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