Johannes Schouten
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“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?...But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:25-27,33-34)

December 22, 2020  

2020: The Year I Did Not Expect  

Nelson Ave Church Family,  

As we near the end of this most unusual, challenging and unexpected year I wanted to pass along some thoughts to you. This has become a bit of a tradition—some pastoral thoughts and sharings as we end one year and prepare for the next year.  

As I reflect on this past year I realize that 2020 has been the “year I did not expect” or the “year I could not have predicted.” What a year it has been! Let me mention some of the “unexpected” parts of this past year we have experienced:  

·       13 years! I am on the verge of celebrating 13 years at Nelson Ave as a pastor (the official anniversary for our family will be Sunday, January 3). This is something I did not expect. Thank you for being patient with and gracious towards me. I give thanks for these 13 years with you and especially for the many ways you have embraced our family as vital members of this church family.  

·       Covid, of course, was totally unexpected (although not if I had watched the movie “Contagion” when it came out in 2011!) and something I would never have predicted would happen in my lifetime. When it started earlier this year I had no idea that the pandemic would last as long as it has, effect the entire world and so many areas of transportation, economics, business, social  events and gatherings, the ordinary activities of our lives and that masks would be fashion accessories!  

·       Nelson Ave In A Pandemic: if I would known in advance about the Covid-19 pandemic I might have predicted that after 9 months of living in a pandemic our (1) financial giving would dry up, (2) our ministries would flounder, (3) our Zoom services would be kaput and (4) our church could be on the verge of closing. But, by God’s grace, just the opposite has happened. Amazing and incredible! I thank God and you, our church family, for this amazing and unexpected experience of God’s grace among us.  

·       Ministry Continues!: and so, even in the midst of this unexpected year ministry continues: Zoom services, novel and new ways of singing worship songs, all kinds of  meetings and events via Zoom (even a Council retreat!), a combined Easter service with local churches, a Christmas drive-Thru, a Nelson Ave Youtube channel, various kinds of Covid-friendly gatherings, hiring a new Youth Director, Children’s and Youth ministries that continue going, etc., etc. For me, most amazing of all, has been the continued ministry of our Seniors Group—the pandemic did not stop their Tuesday morning gatherings!  

·       Cancer And Chemo In The Midst Of Covid: Phyllis’ cancer diagnosis was also totally unexpected. Phyllis’ surgery and initial recuperation was very hard. It was hard not being able to visit her in the hospital following her surgery. The seemingly unending appointments and things to do and remember is hard. And yet, in the midst of all of this unexpected and trial, we have received (and continue to receive) vast and plentiful support. As Phyllis goes through chemotherapy treatments we certainly live with levels for worry and uncertainly about the future. At the same time we live with the ongoing experience of the poured out love, encouragement and affection from so many of you. Thank you!  

·       Reading Secular / Atheist Authors: I would never have predicted I would take a course trying to understand the secular and atheist writers and authors. But I believe God has led me in this direction. Although it is very challenging for me (both my mind and my heart) I am increasingly thankful for this unexpected turn in my DMin studies.  

As I look back on 2020 I am filed with awe—awe at all we have gone through (both the Nelson Ave church family and our own family) but I am also in awe at how God’s grace and love has sustained and supported us during this time.  

I am learning that God is good, truly good, all the time, even during a Covid pandemic.  

The peace of Christ to each of you,        

Pastor Jo