Dear Elgin-Portland Pastoral Charge,
The year 2020 has, in many ways, been unprecedented so far, and I am not sure how we are able to carry on our lives in such a different way.
On January 16, 2013, when my family and I moved to Rideau Lakes Township to serve these beautiful communities, I always said, “I did my internship here in 2009-2010, and I will retire from here as well.” People used to joke and say, “… but you will never beat the 30 plus years that Rev. Seeley has in this pastoral charge.” and I used to say, “well, if I retire late, I can”, and we would laugh.
Last year, I invited the Official Board and the congregations of this pastoral charge to envision the future by thinking outside the box and distributed pens imprinted with the words “2020- Let’s write the Future together by God’s Love and Grace”, not knowing that the entire world was going to write the future in different ways.
It is the calling of a minister not only to offer comfort to people and hopefully a vision that leads to God’s Vision, but also challenge people to get out of their comfort zones. If you have realized, for the last year or so, I have been talking more boldly about getting out of our comfort zones. Without realizing it, the Spirit who was giving me those words was calling me to get out of my own comfort zone and go where God wants me to go.
During this pandemic, I heard of a colleague in Minneapolis changing Pastoral Relations and I told her how brave she was to be taking such a step in a time like this. I also wondered how she knew this was the right move. You see, when we get comfortable in our ways, we sometimes forget what God’s guidance looks like.
About two years ago, I started praying for a church who was going through hardships and my heart was aching for them. Today, almost two years later, God has called me to be the answer to the prayers of these people and my prayer as well. You see, Prayer is not a to do list for God, but a call to God to guide us on how we can be the answer to the prayers of the many; for the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and ultimately, the needs of the one.
On January 12, 2015, Gary and I had a car accident on Hwy 32 on our way to Gananoque. Our car flipped and landed softly in a ditch – we literally crawled out of the car, unharmed. I always say that the miracle of that accident was not that we walked away unharmed, but that our landing felt like someone picked up our car and put it on the softest feather mattress ever. However, the fear in me to drive on that highway became very prominent and I can count on one hand the number of times I have driven to Gananoque since that accident.
So, today, I am here to inform you that by the Grace of God, this person who was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and left that beautiful war-torn country through the road to Damascus, Syria, then lived in Los Angeles for three years and arrived in Canada in 1986 as a refugee has been called to serve Grace United Church in Gananoque. Therefore, as of November 10th, I will begin serving Grace United. Gary and I always said that if we ever adopted a daughter one day, we would name her Grace. It seems that Grace has arrived. The other good news is, my family and I will continue to live in our present home.
When I was in seminary school one of the questions to the students was, “Why do you want to become an ordained minister?”, and I said, “Because I want to serve my people”. I still remember to this day, the Director of Studies, with her gentle loving gracious voice said, “Takouhi, you are called to serve all of God’s Beloved – there is no exclusivity”.
Here we are, God has called me once again to get out of my comfort zone and go serve the people on other shores with Jesus. If you really think about it, this is a win-win situation where we can still live on the beautiful shores of the Big Rideau Lake and be neighbours and friends with wonderful people. I am truly speechless for all that is taking place around me and in me, but I know that when God calls, God also equips and prepares us.
I have learned that I cannot worry about what people will say because the important part of life is what is God saying, and God says, “You are my child and you follow my GPS. You are called by me, and you work with and through my love.” (Maybe GPS should stand for, “God’s Plan for Self”)
So today, in the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of the heartbreaking devastation in Beirut, Lebanon, my birthplace, I hear the voice of the Creator through Prophet Jeremiah (29:11) who whispers to my heart, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This, my friends, is not applicable only to me, but to all of us. Elgin-Portland Pastoral Charge, God is with you, therefore you are in good hands.
This news might be shocking to you and believe it or not it is shocking for me as well. May this event create an opportunity for you to search the guidance of the Almighty as a Pastoral Charge and see what you are being called to morph into. If we want to walk on water, we need to be ready to get out of the boat. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Put your Trust in God and know that many people come and go, but God is ever present with you, from eternity to eternity – rejoice and celebrate – You are a child of God and you are loved more than you can imagine- Not just by God by me as well. Trust that Love never ends. Amen.