As life becomes busy for my family, the blog will grow quiet. Over the next few weeks we will be moving from Minneapolis out to Maryland for new ministry opportunities. Your prayers over the next two weeks would be greatly appreciated by our family.
We look forward to the transition, but at the same time we are very sad to be leaving our good friends at Sovereign Grace Fellowship. Our 12-month stay here in Minneapolis has been marked by the open arms and heartfelt loving kindness of our church. ‘Remarkable’ is not too strong of a word for this place.
Leaving our friends will be tough, but we leave here appreciating everything our friends have taught us here in “So-tah” (as my 2-year-old daughter says it).
For example, my friend Peter trained me to track rabbits. The key is in looking for coyote or wolf tracks or some other animal that hunts rabbits. Apparently I’ve already forgotten his advice, so if my family is starving and I have only a rifle and acres of woodlands I hope the advice will come back to me (or we’ll live off wild berries and salad). But Peter also helped me to learn the fine craft of firing a .22 rifle at a canister of gasoline beneath a flaming bonfire in driving wind and snow. As you can see it’s not easy to shoot accurately into a flickering flame.
Some other friends (who will remain nameless) introduced me to Minnesotan snow bathing in sub-zero winter air. But that knowledge will serve no apparent purpose in my near future. I learned this technique on a retreat last winter with my friend Chad and some other guys. Our long overnight drive North ended early in the frigid morning hours somewhere through South Canada and then into the little spike on the head of Minnesota called the Northwest Triangle, where Minnesota, Manitoba and Ontario collide. The final two miles of the journey were completed on snowmobile through a dark and heavily wooded little trail that wound around until bumping into a river where the cabin sat. Over these dark few miles we nearly ran into deer on a snowmobile at 30-MPH which I’m certain would have hurt. It was a memorable trip (though images of late-night snow bathing I would like to forget).
And I will miss the local scenery. Compared to the flatlands of Nebraska, Minnesota is beautiful. My wife and I live within a few blocks of a gorgeous, rocky, wooded creek area. It takes a steep climb down into a valley to see the creek and walk along the trails, but in that descent, the bustle of city life fades away. And in the bottom of the valley, the rushing water of the creek splitting around the large rocks drowns out any remaining noises of the civilized world. The trail and view are both stunning and have provided many wonderful family outings, personal walks, times for meditation, moments of prayer, and hours of reading. At least once my walk along the trail was blocked by a stalled deer. I walked within about 20-feet of the deer and we just tilted our heads and stared at each other for a moment as if mutually puzzled by how out-of-place we seemed to one another. He eventually moved along into the woods and I continued my normal 2-mile hike along the graveled trail. But I walked along even more amazed at God’s glory in this place.
But despite leaving the wildlife (both men and wild animals), I will also miss the pastors up here – Rick Gamache and Mark Alderton. These men have modeled Christ-like humility towards their flock. The public preaching has always been challenging and biblically faithful. Many of their messages I have shared with you on TSS and you also confirm the special giftedness of these men. And I wish I had more time to express my thankfulness for their caring, discerning leadership. This is especially displayed in their very careful stewardship of the eternal souls and spiritual gifts given them. I know of at least one TSS reader planning to move his family to Bloomington simply to experience this church! I am grateful that he and his family, along with the rest of the flock, will continue to benefit from these men. I have no regrets that we left our life-long home in Nebraska to move 400-miles to experience this church for ourselves.
From pastor Rick I’ve also gleaned an appreciation for the birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien, the author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, was born on January 3rd. Each year on this date the Gamache clan gathers together around the TV to watch all three extended LOTR DVDs in one day! Now, I don’t think I have that impressive an attention span, but I like their celebration and it’s one my family and I will be following this year. Kinda. We plan to be in our new home January 2nd and after a few days of unpacking and transitioning we’re going to break out the family Christmas present – Lord of the Rings on DVD. So while the snow bathing techniques I picked up from my friends will stay in Minneapolis, this Tolkienathon Christmas tradition will follow us East (albeit modified a bit).
But no movies tonight. Tonight our friends join us to help load essentially the same stuff we brought from Omaha into essentially the same moving truck we backed into the driveway one year ago.
When we arrived in Minneapolis on December 7th, 2006, we were greeted by several fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who appeared on a weekday afternoon to help unload the moving truck. Our crammed truck was unloaded in 20 minutes. But that wasn’t all. We came inside to find a fully stocked refrigerator and pantry, and a list of families who would be bringing meals in the week ahead. Offers for help with babysitting, unpacking, and cleaning abounded. Our new friends at Sovereign Grace Fellowship did not just show up for duty, but they actually thought through ways they could serve our family specifically (thank you, Jon Hansel, and your wonderful small group!). This obvious and deliberate sacrifice was (and the memory still remains) a very powerful example for our family. And this is an evidence of God’s work in the life of the church that brings its humble, Christ-like love to everything else they do.
Specifically we will miss our neighbors. For 12 months we’ve enjoyed the rare (once-in-a-lifetime?) gift of living directly behind likeminded precious saints. The Bice family – Steve, Joy, Rebecca, Grace and Josiah – are precious friends, and we delight in them (Ps. 16:3)! They have served us, encouraged us, fed us and babysat for us. Our families have experienced a close bond and friendship that is truly unique, made obvious last winter when we snowplowed a path through the yard from backdoor to backdoor. We will miss the times hanging out. We will miss the times spent around the bonfire in the back. We will miss the impromptu baseball games in the wide field our shared backyards afforded. God has been very kind to give us this precious year with the Bices!
And if I had more time I would share with you all that my wife and I have learned from our small group – which is for the record the coolest small group at Sovereign Grace Fellowship (i.e. the one who gave Gamache a life-sized Spiderman statue for his birthday). The group is led by Chris and Dianne, a couple who have modeled for my wife and I the character of Christ in some incredible ways. So we say, “Thank you” to them. Thank you, Whipples, Blooms, Huspenis, Anderstroms, Nygrens, Johnsons, Pepins, and everyone else who made the group a special place to share struggles and refuel with encouragement. How Chris and Dianne have stretched their group into sanctification and maintained a group level of ‘coolest’ status is a remarkable feat. And they will be greatly missed.
One year ago we pulled into the driveway of our house in Bloomington, Minnesota. We were welcomed by a large sign in the front window that read “Welcome Reinkes.” It was a special welcome indeed. But now it’s time to say goodbye to these precious friends, a goodbye that we always anticipated but never expected so soon. Sure, we will miss the ATF retreats, the wildlife, and the creek — but especially we will miss our friends, neighbors, small group, and pastors of Sovereign Grace Fellowship. Thank you all for caring for us so well and magnifying the beauty of the Cross along the way.
Much love and grace to you all!