North America

Minneapolis to Chicago: we made it!

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Clearly the tour started to take more and more out of me as the week went on as I'm just now catching up on posting. I can honestly say, I haven't been this physically sore since two-a-days in high school, especially during pre-season for soccer. Wake up, go to practice for a couple of hours, go home, eat lunch, veg out (how about those daytime soaps?), go back to soccer practice for two hours, go home, eat, sleep, repeat for two weeks. Well, this was like the adult version of two-a-days, except it was all day, literally. I discovered the value of foam rollers on this tour, not too mention honing my nutritional skills. Let's just say, one day, I realized why so many endurance athletes prefer liquids and gels to solid foods. One post lunch ride left me with a stomach cramp that made me forget about my back pain. 006

This past week showed me how quickly a community can become just that -- an authentic closely-knit community that truly took care of each other and made sure no one was ever left wanting, nor behind. Honestly, I've never experienced anything quite like it, the closeness of this team. And I've been on countless short-term trips over the years. Maybe it was the daily focus of the people in Thailand for whom we were riding and raising support. Maybe it was the  daily prayer and intentional evening debriefs. Maybe it was the fact that we were all emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted by day two. Or maybe it was all of the above.

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This team left Minneapolis one day and six days later it all arrived in Chicago, together. And having raised over $22,000 to help meet the needs of those most in need along the Thai/Burmese border. And having become a closely knit community in the process. And having each been changed individually in the process.

One thing I knew about myself was that I don't like physical pain and I tend to avoid it at all costs, but I learned that I can push through much more than I imagined I could. And sometimes on the other side of perseverance is more than we could have ever hoped for or imagined. This will take me further in life and service of others farther than I even know... Following Jesus always leads us to laying down our lives for others. I feel like I'm a little closer to knowing what that really means.

New Perspectives in Rural America

This past weekend, I got to spend a day leading Messiah Lutheran Church's Church Council Retreat! Messiah-6

As the 16 of us sat around a long table at the Elk Lake Heritage Preserve, you could hear hunters in the background taking shot at pheasants, watch plenty of snowmobilers enjoying a sunny day, and there was coffee to last us all day long. We talked about everything from the changing demographics of rural Minnesota to the economic challenges that people face in farming communities to the bright spots of the nearly 700 member city.

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It was so encouraging to see this diverse group of leaders (who ranged from teachers, entrepreneurs, farmers, business owners and retired nurses and professors) discuss the real needs of their community and how their church might become an even brighter spot to the people who now live there.  We talked about  the challenges that many families face with time these days, what it might look like to spend more intentional time in the community and what values the church wants people to notice when they walk in their building.

The wealth of experience, extensive knowledge and great compassion that this group has got me super excited for rural churches across America.  If this nearly all "Hoffman born and raised" church council can think outside the box of how things have always been done, any church can!  And let's face it, the needs of America today are drastically different then they were 50 years ago, but you wouldn't know it from most American churches.