December 8, 2009
Natumaini ufufuo wa wafu, hata uzima wa ulimwengu utakaokuja.
“I expect the Resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come.”
Greetings from North Central Florida! I had thought I’d be writing you from Ohio, where it was the plan to stay until the end of the year as I continue to build up my support network for long-term OCMC missionary service in Tanzania.
A phone call last week changed these plans. My Grandaddy Hargrave, here on a farm just north of Gainesville, passed away early on the morning of St. Nicholas Day, December 6th. I and many in my extended family were able to be with him in his last days. Please pray for the repose of Robert Henry.
Grandaddy is a lifelong Southern Baptist, having been active in the same congregation– within walking distance of the family farm– for nearly eighty years. He’s the patriarch of a sprawling Southern family who has, for five generations, orbited the same spot of land even as we venture as far abroad as Austria and Africa. Perhaps the hardest and strangest part of Grandaddy’s illness is his absence at the center of this orbit. For the first time in my life, we gather for meals and he’s not at the head of the dining room table to bless the food.
This is tough, of course. But it’s nothing new. In the Creed we confess the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. In the Liturgy we pray for a “Christian end to our lives, peaceful, without shame and suffering, and for a good account before the awesome judgment seat of Christ.” In these days, my Grandaddy showed the path to such a life. And my family bears witness to a holy life at its completion. It is a painful and beautiful thing to participate in.
For more than three months this year I’ve been on the road full-time, raising awareness and support for my work in Tanzania. I’ve been in the Midwest, the Southeast, Southern California, Colorado, and British Columbia. The travels are, God willing, at their end. It’s my hope to remain in North Florida until deployment. OCMC and I will begin actively planning for departure to Tanzania once the first two years of service are entirely funded.
About thirty of those reading this email are active members of my support team, praying faithfully and giving monthly. Another 120 have made one-time donations. And another 350 of y’all have asked me to stay in touch with you. Of the latter two groups, I need about thirty more people to commit to monthly giving. So in the coming months, you can expect a personal email, letter, or phone call!
With regard to my upcoming work in Tanzania, I am frequently asked a question that is also on my mind: “When do you leave?” The answer depends primarily on funding. And so fundraising is, at this moment, a high priority. It will not always be so. And while “support” is sometimes treated as a euphemism for money, this is absolutely not the case. Funding is only a minor aspect of support.
I am reminded of this most emphatically as the extended Hargrave family gathers at Grandaddy’s bedside. The ways that members of our family support one another are numerous, and money factors only incidentally into this support. And I’m grateful for the many ways that I’ve been supported over the past months by people across the continent. I’ve participated in the Orthodox Christian faith being practiced in cities and farmsteads, on islands and mountains. I’ve seen great work being done to the glory of God in mission fields FAR more difficult than Tanzania will be. It’s been a lot to learn and absorb, and I’m grateful for the witness that y’all have shown me of Christian love. This is real support, and I thank you for it.
So in the coming few months, you will continue to hear me talk about money. Forgive me! Please remember that your “support,” however, is not primarily a financial issue. Those of you who have space in your budget can answer the invitation to financial pledging. But if your financial resources are tied up elsewhere, there’s nothing to apologize for. Your prayers, your friendship, your communication, your love for your neighbor, and your commitment to the glory of God is real support and real encouragement that I value greatly.
You can make a financial pledge online at http://jhargrave.ocmc.org (click on the big red button that says “Support Missionary”). Or you can mail a pledge to 220 Mason Manatee Way, St. Augustine, FL 32086 (make sure the name “Hargrave” is mentioned). Or send me an email and we can discuss other options.
I’d like to tell you the story of this past season, of all that I’ve witnessed and learned from the Orthodox Christian faithful across North America. There are some stories worth telling. Perhaps in a few weeks you’ll receive a travelogue.
In the meantime, thank you again for your friendship, prayers, correspondence, and financial support.
By your prayers,
PS As I prepare to commemorate the coming of God in the flesh, these words of St. Ephrem the Syrian have been meaningful to me. Perhaps you’ll find them worth reading:
“God saw that mankind worship things created: He put on a created body, that in our custom He might capture us. Lo! In this our form, He that formed us healed us; and in this created shape, our Creator gave us life. He drew us not by force: blessed be He Who came in ours, and joined us in His!
“He was servant on earth; He is Lord in Heaven. Heir of height and depth, He became a stranger: Whom men judged in guile, He is judge in truth: He whose face they spat on, breathes His Spirit on theirs: He Who held the frail reed, is become the staff of the world, which grows old and leans on Him.
“And as He began at birth, He went on and fulfilled in death. His Birth received worship; His Death paid the debt. As He came to His Birth, the Magi worshipped Him; again He came to His Passion, and the thief sought refuge in Him. Between His Birth and Death, midway He set the world: in birth and Death he gave it life.”
— from Hymn XIV on the Nativity by St. Ephrem the Syrian, 4th century