A few years ago, while my buddy Kelly and I were backpacking in the Needles District of the Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah, we happened upon a pile of rocks obviously put there by human hands. The small pillar of ascending stones from large to small was intentionally left by a previous sojourner. I had never seen such a “sign” on any of my hikes. I later learned that the official term for deliberately stacked rocks like what I experienced is “cairns,” from middle Scottish Gaelic meaning “mound of stones built as a memorial or landmark.” There are plenty of examples of cairns, especially in historically Celtic territories, as well as in other cultures; indigenous peoples in the United States often used cairns to cover, bury and mark the location of their dead. Hikers use them as a demarcation indicating the right way to go at critical junctions in the back country, and for that, as a hiker, I’m thankful. There’s been more than one occasion recently when I could have used demarcations indicating the right direction.
As you know the last few weeks have brought many changes for both the people of O’Fallon First and Godfrey First UM Churches, and their pastors. You’ve said farewell to two pastoral families and Michele Jarrett, your office manager, and her family, all the while preparing for new pastoral families. Becky, Deven, Zachary and I are finishing a 12 year journey with the people of Godfrey First; when we first arrived Deven was five, and now he’s getting ready for his senior year at Alton High School, and Zachary was two, and now he’ll be a freshman at OTHS. This has been the longest we’ve ever spend in any one place. It’s not been easy saying goodbye, as you know well. But where the Lord leads, we will follow.
On my last Sunday I preached from 1 Kings 17: “Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.’ So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, ‘Please bring me a little water in a cup that I may drink.’
God told Elijah, “go from here… and dwell there,” and trust that god will provide. It’s times like this that teach us how to trust God, and remind us how to be patient with God’s plan, not to mention the lady on the phone who’s trying to process my order to move my internet service from one house to the new house….
We’re about to embark on a new adventure, a journey together that will take us in directions we may never have imagined or chosen for ourselves. Right now we may not see the “cairns” demarking the way we should go, and there will probably be times of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and even disappointment… but wherever God leads us, one thing is for sure: God’s provision will be faithful and sure!
Thank you to all the good people of O’Fallon First for all you have already done to welcome us and prepare the way for the journey ahead. You have been a “little water in a cup” for thirsty spirits.
In Surrender to Christ,
Pastor Don E. Long, Jr.