Time to Pack

Now that graduation is behind us, it’s (past!) time to start packing. As we pack, we’re hoping to do some streamlining by getting rid of some things we’ve accumulated that we no longer use or need. It’s especially during times like these when I become more interested in creating a minimalist home. 😀

In the photos below, you can see that we’ve kept all of our boxes (a must for itinerant pastors!). Over the next 3.5 weeks, most of our spare time (and then some!) will be spent carrying down empty boxes from the attic and filling them up. You’ll also notice the remnants of Ethan trying to help us pack our books!

BTW, our moving dates have been set by the conference moving coordinators. We move out on 6/25 and move in to the new parsonage in Clearfield on 6/26.

Marshall University

On our way home from Asbury, we stopped in Huntington, WV for a couple days. While there, we checked out some of the memorials related to the plane crash that killed most of the players on 1970 Marshall University football team.

Ever since we saw the movie, We are Marshall, we’ve noticed the exit signs for Marshall University on I-64 near Huntington, WV. So, on our final trip from Asbury, we finally got to stop.

Last November, we watched the movie, which is based on events surrounding the plane crash, and particularly, the rebuilding of the team in the months that followed. We enjoyed the movie and I wrote about it in this post (one of the more popular topics from search engine traffic, especially when the movie was still fairly new).

The story is a great example of leading during times of immense adversity. Coach Jack Lengyel, who was hired to rebuild the program, did a magnificent job!

For more on the 1970 tragedy, see Marshall University’s memorial page.

What we did …

  • We ate lunch at the Marshall Hall of Fame Cafe.
  • We visited the memorial at Marshall University.
  • We traveled to the Spring Hill Cemetery to see the memorial and the burial places of six of the players whose bodies were unidentifiable (as seen in the movie).
  • We saw the memorial at the football stadium.
  • And, finally, we visited the site of the plane crash on a hillside near the Tri-State Airport.

It was an interesting experience, especially after having watched the movie. Now, I want to see the movie again!

Pair o’ Docs

It may be a corny play on words, but it’s one we’ve heard a couple times already — by one of the members of my dissertation committee and also a fellow student at the doctor of ministry dinner last night — both saying that we’d be a “pair o’ docs.”

The weekend began with a dinner for D.Min. graduates Friday night, and continued Saturday morning with an early morning rehearsal for the commencement ceremony which took pace this afternoon. It was a great day to complete a major chapter in our lives!

We feel gratitude — we’re grateful to God for his guidance and blessings throughout this part of our journey. We are also grateful for all who have supported us with their words and/or prayers. We also feel a huge sense of relief as this part of our journey comes to a close.

It was a wonderful day. We were happy to spend it with family members — Joleen’s mom and step-dad, Randy’s dad and step-mom, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. In fact, this weekend has been Ethan’s first time to meet and spend time with Randy’s family.

Here are some images from the day …

100 Days!

Today marks the 100th day since Ethan joined our family!

In Korea, families traditionally celebrate a child’s 100th day (from birth). Historically, a child’s first 100 days were the most critical. If a child lived that long, they were more likely to survive. While modern medicine has changed that, Korean families still continue to celebrate the day.

Well, we checked the calendar and today, May 22, 2008, is the 100th day we’ve had Ethan.

IMG_0766And how did we spend our 100th day together? On the road!

We drove to Kentucky where we will graduate from Asbury Theological Seminary this weekend.

We made good time, except for the last 20 miles, which took us about 2 hours, turning a 9 hour trip into 11. Traffic on the Interstate virtually stopped. We eventually made a U-Turn and took a detour following the back roads. While Ethan handled the trip fairly well, it was a very long day for him, strapped into a car seat! (You can read about the last trip to KY here: Setback.)

IMG_0767Sometimes it feels like we were just in Korea, and that “the meeting” (February 11, 2008) and “gotcha day” (February 12, 2008) were only yesterday. But in other ways, though, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been 100 days — it feels like Ethan’s been part of our family for much longer!

To review and/or relive those early moments, check out these posts …

  • 1,000 Words (a photo from the morning we first met Ethan in his foster home in Korea).
  • The Meeting (a description of our one-hour meeting with the baby).
  • First Hours with Ethan (a painful report of the first few hours after “the takeaway”).

Of course, you can always click on Adoption (under categories) to read posts about our adoption experience or even Cross-Cultural Experience to read our posts from Korea.

Today, we celebrate 100 days with Ethan, as we continue to thank God for him!


Wow. It’s been a long journey, but we’re finally reaching the finish line!

The home stretch of the dissertation-writing process involved preparing the final draft of our dissertations after we received the last edit from the editor at Asbury (see The Rest of the (Dissertation) Story and One Step Closer to see recent lists of tasks in the final stages of our dissertation work).

We received our drafts from the editor last Thursday and completed our revisions Monday and Tuesday, printed a copy, then dropped them off at Staples to be copied (we’re required to submit multiple copies). We picked them up today and will deliver them to the D.Min. office at Asbury on Friday.

Tomorrow, we make our last 9-10 hour trip to Kentucky (as part of this program, anyway), and will have most of Friday to relax before kicking off graduation activities Friday evening with a dinner for Doctor of Ministry graduates.

Saturday morning, we have rehearsal for the commencement ceremony followed by a worship service in the historic Hughes Auditorium on the campus of Asbury College (across the street from the seminary). After lunch, graduation activities will conclude with the commencement ceremony, beginning at 2:00 pm.

We’re excited about celebrating this milestone. We’re also excited that my family (dad and step-mom, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew) will get to meet Ethan for the first time as they join us for a few days in Kentucky (they live in Tennessee). Joleen’s mom and step-dad will make the trip with us as well.

We’re tacking on a few days of vacation after graduation in order to get some rest before coming back home to jump into packing!

IMG_0764You might be interested in going back and reading this post from last October (a couple weeks after we learned Ethan would be joining our family) — If Baby Willis Could Speak. Amazingly, things pretty much played out the way we hoped they would (and needed them to)!

Ethan was a huge motivation for us, especially during the final stages of this journey!

Leadership Institute

Lifelong learning is a core value for us (see my post called Lifelong Learning). While our doctor of ministry programs, which have been a major part of our lifelong learning for the last 4.5 years, are just about over, we will continue to seek out new growth opportunities.

Besides getting back to our reading pile, which has grown even bigger since my post last September (see Reading Pile), we will also seek out high quality growth opportunities. Right now, we’re in the process of making plans to go to Leadership Institute, a 2-day conference for leaders hosted by The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (COR), which takes place October 2-3, 2008.

COR is an amazing church located in Leawood, Kansas (Kansas City metropolitan area). Started just 18 years ago, COR now has more than 14,000 members with 8,000 people in weekly attendance. Adam Hamilton is the founding and senior pastor of COR (check out Adam’s blog).

We have 3 books by Adam that we may try to read before we go to the event in October: Leading Beyond the Walls (Joleen has read this one), Selling Swimsuits In The Arctic, and Unleashing the Word.

Adam’s teaching at the upcoming event is called “Ten Great Ideas … Ten Leadership Principles,” representing 10 of COR’s newest leadership ideas from the past year. We look forward to his teaching.

We are also impressed with the wide selection of workshops. We only wish we could attend more than 2 of the 80+ workshops offered. To maximize our learning, though, we’ll go to different workshops and share what we learn with each other.

  • I’m planning to go to “Building a Process of Discipleship” and Joleen plans to go to “Connections Ministry from Front to Back”.
  • Our second choices include “Equipping Volunteers to Care for the Congregation” for me and “Missions – Across the Street” for Joleen.

There are also a few pre-institute intensive workshops available. We will each attend one …

  • I’m signing up for “Leadership Essentials: Practical Tools for Leading in the Church.”
  • Joleen is signing up for “Building Community, Making Disciples: Strategies for Launching and Growing a Life-Changing Small Group Ministry.”

We’re excited about learning from those whom God has used in a big way. The teaching looks to be very practical, stuff that can be applied and implemented in any context.

Of course, we will be blogging about the event, reflecting on what we learn, so be sure to check back in October!

Circuit Riders 2.0

Following up on what I wrote in Circuit Riders 1.0, I think what challenges and inspires me to be an effective leader is the early circuit riders’ sense of mission — they simply went wherever the people were!

Lovett H. Weems, Jr. describes the pioneering spirit of the early Methodists in his book, Leadership in the Wesleyan Spirit. He describes the early Methodist movement as “a ‘sent’ ministry” that “followed the movement of the people” (22). IOW, they were proactive and went where the people were.

I think one thing that happens as churches age is that they tend to lose their pioneering spirit and begin to take on the mission of maintaining and preserving the work of their forbears. But the mission of modern day circuit riders (and the church, in general) is not to maintain what our forbears built. Our mission is to lead with the same spirit in which they led!

But we honor our forbears, not by continuing what they started, but by living in the same pioneering spirit in which they led and operated!

A pioneering spirit is necessary simply because what worked to reach people in previous generations will not necessarily work in this generation. And pioneers are willing to do whatever it takes to connect with the people God calls them to reach in ways that bear fruit.

The early circuit riders modeled a pioneering spirit. It’s a spirit we must regain today if we’re going to transform the world for Jesus Christ!

Circuit Riders 1.0

Ilove history, especially the history of great Christ-following leaders who’ve gone before us. While reading about the UMC’s itinerant system for the previous post, I was once again challenged by the character and the courage of the early “circuit riders.”

The term “circuit riders” has stuck, even though it has evolved over time (e.g., the transition from horses to motor vehicles, smaller geographical areas, fewer churches on circuits in most cases). In fact, the United Methodist magazine for clergy continues to use the name Circuit Rider.

The General Commission on Archives and History has an article on The Circuit – Riders in Early American Methodism that briefly describes the practices of the early circuit riders. Basically, preachers were assigned to a number of churches that became the circuits they traveled. Often, the circuits covered a pretty large geographical area.

There are many great stories of character and courage of the early circuit riders. One of my favorite stories, from Methodist Heroes of Other Days (by Samuel Gardiner Ayres), is about George Harmon, a circuit rider in New York and Pennsylvania. He writes about an experience that took place in 1812 …

I held a quarterly meeting in the north part of the district [Susquehanna], my next being on the south part. I had to pass through the sixty miles of wilderness. I took what was called the Lycoming route. It was in the winter, the snow being two and three feet deep. I lodged all night at Spaulding’s tavern, near the head of the Towanda. I started early the next morning, and rode some eight miles to Brother Soper’s, on the Lycoming, and took breakfast. I then set out for Williamsport. When I came to what was considered the most dangerous crossing place on the route I found the river frozen over about one third of the way on each side. The snow, as above stated, was from two to three feet deep, and no one had passed to open the road. I paused but for a moment. I could not go back to Brother Soper’s, some ten or fifteen miles, the last house I had passed; the sun had gone down. If I could cross there was a log tavern within about a mile. I knew the greatest danger would be in getting on the ice on the other side, for should the ice break I and my horse would both go under. I must venture it. I saw no other course. I was on a very spirited and powerful horse. I urged him forward, and when his feet touched the bottom his head went under water. As he arose on his hind feet I put both spurs into his flanks and he at once bounded off into the river. The water was so deep that it ran over the tops of my boots as I sat upon his back. I got through without further difficulty. When I reached the tavern my first care was to have my horse attended to. But when I attempted to take off my boots they were frozen to my stockings. I bought half a pint of rum and bathed myself with it. I slept comfortably and took no cold. But my poor horse! The fatigue of worrying through the snow, and so often fording the river, so affected his limbs that I had to part with him at great sacrifice.

I am grateful for the pioneering circuit riders who have gone before us. Being a circuit rider in early Methodism was certainly not for the faint of heart.

But leading churches on God’s mission today is not for the faint of heart, either. In a future post (Circuit Riders 2.0), I’ll say more about how the mission and passion of the early circuit riders should challenge and inspire us today.

The Itinerant System

Since our announcement a couple weeks ago (i.e., about our upcoming move), we’ve been reflecting on the process of appointment making in The United Methodist Church (e.g., how we got here).

In The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (2004), ¶338 addresses “The Itinerant System” …

The itinerant system is the accepted method of The United Methodist Church by which ordained elders are appointed by the bishop to fields of labor. All ordained elders shall accept and abide by these appointments.

This page at UMC.org offers more detail on pastoral appointments. There could very well be some changes as a result of General Conference 2008 (e.g., guaranteed appointments for ordained elders is no more, which means conference leaders will no longer be forced to find places for ineffective pastors/leaders to serve).

Anyway, the overview states …

The primary goal of the appointment system is to match the gifts and graces of a particular pastor to the ministry needs of a particular congregation at a particular time. This itinerant system, where pastors move from one appointment to another, dates back to American frontier days when circuit riding preachers traveled on horseback from town to town. At that time, bishops matched preachers to circuits four times a year. Now bishops typically fix appointments once a year.

Four times a year? Wow. See also History of the Itinerary.

Finally, umc.org has a commentary on the itinerant system as a strategy for the church’s mission by the Revs. Robert Kohler and Mary Ann Moman (staff with the Division of Ordained Ministry at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry). While it’s a bit dated (2001), it still has some valuable discussion (see also the links at the bottom of the page for more resources).

Hopefully, these resources will provide plenty of background and information about the practice of the UMC’s open itinerant system.