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Upson Downs: Happy New Year!

“‘Cause we made it through, I do believe, the longest year in history…”

For those of you who are interested in our life here, thanks for reading my intermittent writings. Never has a silly title, “Upson Downs” been more appropriate than in describing the year 2020. As Ben Rector sings in his Thanksgiving Song, “‘Cause we made it through, I do believe, the longest year in history…” And so I do also believe last year seemed to go on far too long. There’s always the recap of events from the previous year, and we had some truly unforgettable occurrences. 
Jack took his 3 week mission trip to Southeast Asia with Gene Sonnenberg where he literally preached to and taught thousands. What a truly remarkable opportunity! The joy of this journey was deeply overshadowed by the death of Rich, as Jack was en route home. Rich’s passing was not unexpected as he had been seriously ill for a long time, and especially in the last few months of his life. Thankfully Rich was home for his last Christmas, 2019, but was in and out of the hospital the rest of his days, more often hospitalized than not. We were able to be with him, never leaving him alone right up to his last breath. This was not the homecoming we had wished for Jack, but he and Rich had counted the cost together before Jack embarked. And it was especially costly for two men who had loved each other so intensely. The whole holiday season of 2020 was indelibly marked by Rich’s conspicuous absence. Rich, the tradition maker, the lavish gift giver, the master storyteller, the event planner, the one who made every occasion remarkable and unforgettable was not with us this year. But he was remembered and celebrated and will be forever I hope, as his legacy lives large in and among us.
Then Covid-19 came to our shores and changed all of us forever. On March 13th, an administrator came to my ESL class and sent everyone home, presumably for a couple of weeks while our buildings were sanitized. Most of us left a lot of our “stuff” in our classrooms, anticipating a short absence. And here we are, January of 2021, never returning to our classrooms, learning to teach remotely, attempting to navigate the wide and wild world of the internet to connect to our students. Zoom was the primary connecting point, with so many other platforms arising to meet the needs of reaching every student, keeping them interested and engaged from afar. Most of us worked from home and were able to stay employed. We were here in our homes still near one another, able to connect daily, reaping an unforeseen benefit of life in community. Our homeschooled children barely noticed the difference educationally, but navigated a new reality outside of school  with masks and restrictions and unspoken anxieties and uncertainties. 
New challenges brought new opportunities, and technology allowed us to reach across great distances for online Bible studies. Brethren from Myanmar have dropped in, along with local friends, new seekers, connections from Mexico and Ohio. We finished new books this year: Families at the Crossroads, Love Thy Body, Healing the Wounded, and Priests to Each Other. We have carried on our life together by God’s grace, and were able to send some of our own to strengthen and encourage our brothers and sisters in other congregations.
Notably, three new lives have graced us in 2020, Madeleine Jane, Richard David (Rocky,) and Julia Rose. Blessings all ours with 10,00 beside. Great is thy faithfulness, oh God our Father!
So much more I could say, but this has already gone on much too long. So to the “longest year in history” we bid farewell, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith to lead us through another year of life in the Kingdom. May we be found faithful. Here’s to a year of love, joy, partnership, repentance, challenges, adventure, and surprises. Keep us in your prayers. Grace and peace to you all.


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