August Update

Greetings from Klaipėda! It’s been over a month since our last update, and it feels like at least three months’ worth of events have been crammed into that time. Here’s what’s been going on, and how you can be praying for us.

Big Picture

In a previous update, we shared that we were still waiting to hear whether Benj had been approved for a research fellowship in Germany, but that we would move to Lithuania regardless and perhaps take the fellowship sometime in the next year or two. We received confirmation in mid-July that Benj did not receive the fellowship. We are honestly not very disappointed; the acceptance rate for this fellowship is only about thirty percent. And, it means that the way before us seems clearer than ever at LCC.

July Flew By

July was filled with fun, visits with family and friends, and last-minute preparations. The kids enjoyed living at Grammy’s house and playing with the neighbor kids most days. We celebrated birthdays for both of them, and had a huge get-together with Benj’s family (all four siblings and spouses together). Benj finished work at ICON on July 14, and preached on July 9 and 16. We had a final goodbye “open house” on July 29 and saw many of you there.

We also scrambled toward the end of the month to pack our things. Thankfully, we had lived in Lithuania before and had a better sense of what was valuable to bring and what could be left behind. We comforted ourselves with the knowledge that the toys and books we couldn’t bring will be waiting for us at Grammy’s house next summer, though there were some tears (mostly for Benj’s books). We successfully sold the AC units as well as the washer and dryer, so thank you for your prayers (and thanks to those who purchased them!).

On August 1, we loaded our 14 checked bags, boxes and bins into Pastor Brian’s minivan, and all the mothers, grandmothers and kids into Claudia’s car, and headed for Newark Airport for a 5:30pm departure. Our flights to Copenhagen and Palanga were uneventful, and the five smiling faces of the Lester family greeted us at Palanga on the afternoon of August 2 to drive us back to LCC’s campus and our temporary home on the sixth floor of Neumann Hall.

Mes gyvenu Klaipėdoje (We live in Klaipėda)

The last three weeks have been spent reäcquainting ourselves to Klaipėda and its environs. Our off-campus apartment (about 2km from campus) is not available until August 28, so there is only so much we can do in the meantime to settle in. But we have made trips to the migration office, met with colleagues old and new, interviewed at schools and preschools, and started preparations for the semester. I (Benj) have been taking this opportunity to make progress on a couple of articles, on the books of Genesis and Kings. Living in a dorm room designed for four college students has been a bit cramped for two kids with lots of energy, but we have also taken advantage of the great weather here (above 20ºC most days) to spend lots of time outside, including several trips to the beach, which is only a 10-minute bus ride away.

Here are some pictures of our travels and our first few weeks here.

We are still looking for a suitable car. Given the buses here and the location of our new apartment, it is not an absolute necessity, so we can afford to wait a little to find the right deal. Please pray that God would provide a reliable, safe vehicle that meets our needs.

Preparations

The real work begins once the students arrive and the semester starts. Formal faculty/staff meetings begin on August 28, and classes begin on September 4. In addition to my (Benj’s) responsibilities as director of the Center for Faith and Human Flourishing, I will be teaching a course on the Book of Isaiah and probably supervising at least one senior thesis. Some of you have asked what Corrie will be doing here besides taking care of the home and the kids–as if that weren’t enough! Like many non-profit organizations, LCC has many needs and will soak up whatever talents and time people choose to offer. But Corrie and Benj together will be leading a cohort of about fifteen students through First Year Seminar, which is designed to help freshmen adjust to university life. This is a great way to get to know the young students and build meaningful relationships with them.

Even though there aren’t any students around on campus yet, we received a great reminder of the significance of these relationships at the graduation ceremony for the MA programs on August 11. Each class chooses a graduate to deliver a short speech on their behalf. Aistė, the Lithuanian student who gave the address on behalf of the MA/MBA graduates, described the care and compassion of the Business faculty, and how she and her whole family rediscovered faith in Christ during her time in the program. There are no Bible or theology courses in this program, but the way in which the Business classes were taught by the LCC (and Taylor University) faculty led her to faith. That is the mission of a Christian university.

Financial Support

We praise God that with the addition of a church and several families as regular supporters, our financial needs for our first two years are fully covered! This is a great relief to us, and another confirmation that God wants us here. Because LCC can only commit at this time to two years’ partial salary, we will need to add more supporting churches and families two years from now. But we have a bit of a cushion to reëstablish ourselves here and dive into ministry. We also experienced an unexpected blessing when Scandinavian Airlines waived the $995 fee for our ten extra checked bags!

Prayer and Thanksgiving

Friendships, old and new — Please pray for us as we make new friends: faculty, staff, students, and folks from church, the kids’ schools, and the community. We find ourselves in a strange position: we are not “new” to LCC, but renewing old friendships is also challenging as well–much has happened in all our lives since we left two years ago. The kids are older now, and their friendships are a factor in ways that were not as relevant when Daniel was four and Elizabeth could barely walk.

Children — Pray for Daniel and Elizabeth as they adjust to a new culture, new language, and new schools. For our family Bible study, the children chose the book of Ezekiel, which speaks of God’s presence with His people in all lands and in difficult circumstances.

Students — We are grateful to God for each of the students, especially the freshman class which is larger than usual (enrollment is up!). Pray that God would reveal himself to each student in a special, meaningful way this semester–through His Word, and through a relationship with another person in the LCC community. Pray for the staff and student leaders on the Spiritual Life Team and the Resident Life staff, and for the chaplains.

New Center — We are thankful for the resources that are available to launch this new Center for Faith and Human Flourishing. Pray for wisdom for Benj, the provost, and the faculty members who will be stewarding these resources to advance the mission of the university.

Financial support — As stated above, we are thankful to have raised all of our regular salary. Please also consider making a one-time donation toward the other needs below. For more information on how to support our ministry, click here, or contact me directly.

Some companies (including Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Exxon Mobil, and others) match contributions made by employees or retirees to qualifying charitable foundations. If you would like your company to match your contribution to the LCC International Fund on our behalf, please contact us.

Regular Support Commitments Received: $17,576/year (100%)
Non-LCC Teaching and Preaching Travel (Including Ukraine course) Received: $1580 (100%)
Outfitting Fund (one-time expenses) Goal: $4,368
Received: $3,032 (69%)

Our new contact information is available here.

We appreciate those of you who are praying for our family through this time of transition and tumult. God continues to be faithful.

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About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, living and learning in Eastern Europe…an Old Testament professor and former liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth…eldest sibling to three, brother-in-law to Josh and Hannah…uncle to Marshall.
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