A Note from the President on Cracks and Brokenness
By President Emily Rova-Hegener
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
At the end of the summer, I received a call from the International School of Oslo (where I have been a substitute teacher for the last two plus years) and was asked to fill a long-term teaching position for a first grade teacher who would be on sick leave for a few months. After discerning and saying yes, it was a whirlwind of gathering resources and quickly learning what needed to happen two days before school started. As I prepared for this job, my biggest hurdle was learning about the various types of digital equipment I would be using in the classroom, but the IT department got me ready to go with a laptop and seventeen iPads for the children. The first week started with a bang and I was off running. The second week of school was a bit more challenging after I returned early on a Monday morning to find that every piece of technology in the room had been stolen.
As I looked around for the place the intruder entered, I noticed our classroom’s large narrow glass door with a handle was broken. The glass window had both an outer and inner pane; the outer pane was shattered in a thousand different pieces, but still held in the frame. The inner frame was intact, but when looking out the window, one saw only brokenness. I had to look though what looked like cracked ice to see the view outside. During that Monday morning outdoor break time I sent the children out to play, walked out to supervise them and soon found two girls sitting on the cement walkway directly outside our classroom. They were picking up the few small shards of glass from the outer window which had fallen out. They were trying to put them back into place like a puzzle. Of course we teachers immediately put a stop to this so no one would get cut. The girls said they just wanted to put it back together again and they were trying to make a match with the pieces. Understandable clearly, but not safe.
Due to money and time issues the door has yet to be replaced, so each day I look through the window’s cracks and brokenness to see what it looks like on the other side. It is a daily reminder of the brokenness we all experience and are touched by because we are simply this: human. The cracks I look through are visual images of the sadness, sorrow, disconnect, and grief I have felt for the various people in my life and within our organization over the last few months.
Through my experience as a pastor, I recognize these cracks as holy crevasses in which God goes deep. This summer, my 42 year-old sister found out she had a cancerous soft-tissue sarcoma. As my family walked down this new path of cancer, we watched her children while she went in for biopsies, held our breath in the days between doctor appointments for words of what’s next, and sighed deeply with gratitude when we found out the doctors were able to remove the whole tumor successfully. Five days later, I learned through our ALC parishioners that Kristi Kienberger who was battling colon cancer was at the end of her earthly life and within twenty-four hours, she had died. I had just e-mailed her days before to offer prayers, touch base, and ask how we, the AICEME, could support her, Steve, and their family. Two days after Kristi’s death, we learned my father-in-law was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is unsure what that means for him in the future. These are just a few of the cracks which have opened up and shown me God’s presence and touch.
We all have brokenness; in ourselves, our families, and within the congregations and communities we serve. Some of the cracks are more visible and others are not. They hurt and like shards of glass can bleed. We yearn for something to stop it. We yearn for someone to put things back together so we can be restored and made whole again. Like my first-grade school children who tried to pick up the broken glass, we as Christians do the same. We are the hands that look to match the pieces so they fit back together, but so often, they don’t go back like they did before. We are different because of our brokenness.
This brokenness, if we allow it to, changes us, shapes us, and molds us in new ways. This is not our work, but God’s. God puts the pieces back together through Christ’s death and resurrection.
Nothing separates us from that.
For those of you who are new to the AICEME, you might be wondering why I am writing about brokenness. For those of you who have been in the organization and are alumni, you might also be wondering the same question. What it comes down to for me is that we, pastors and spouses in the AICEME come together to support, love, care for, and be with each other in all places of life. Our congregations are often complex. Our lives are often complex. Our world is often complex. And yet, we are agents of hope, peace, love and resurrection every single day.
At the end of September, the AICEME board gathered in The Hague and spent one morning praying for every AICEME congregation, pastor, spouse, family, and community. It was an incredibly meaningful and touching block of time we spent together as we sat outside in the morning sun raising you all up, knowing and trusting that God is working through you, in you, around you, and before you. The work we do as an organization is beyond the details of conference planning, financial matters, incorporation details, and communication venues. The work we do is ultimately relational because God has led us to the places we serve and the AICEME exists for support, care, laughter, and connection with one another.
What I would like you all to know is that no matter what, no matter how broken, no matter how messy, or lovely and beautiful life is, we are in it together. Once you are a part of this connection of people, I think we are changed for the better; at least that has been my experience and is my hope for all of you. Thank you for the ministry you do, for the lives you touch, and for the prayers and care you extend within this unique European and Middle Eastern life we share together. I look forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones in February. If you have any questions along the way, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Like the broken shards of glass held together by a frame, you belong to this family. Nothing separates us from the love of God we share in Christ Jesus. Amen.