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Transition steps

Transitions … to a new Conference or to new life after a hurricane … can be managed with God’s help.

Director of Connectional Ministries, West Michigan

1. Pray.
2. Follow the instructions.
3. Expect delays.
4. The new may not look like the old.
5. Pray.

As you read this, the southern one-half of our nation is only beginning to recover from the aftermath of two successive hurricanes. Lives and landscapes have been forever altered. Five basic steps come to my mind as we begin to enter the weeks, months, and years of restoration.

Obviously, pray.
Psalm 46:1 teaches us “God is our refuge and strength, very present help in times of trouble. Though the mountains may shake and the seas roar and foam…be still and know that I am God.” Gather with others to pray. Make a list of people and circumstances to focus upon each day. Especially remember those who have had their lives turned upside down and those whose tasks it will be to help organize and facilitate assistance for the long months ahead.

Follow the Instructions.
Seems simple enough, but if UMCOR suggests the best thing is money, flood bucket, and health kit supplies, please contribute those items alone. If the instructions are “contact the affected Conference before just showing up to help.” Make that contact. If only skilled Emergency Response Team (ERT) workers with specific training are requested, seek that training or wait until a later phase of the response.

Expect Delays.
Multiple systems are disrupted both in terms of infrastructure and human communication. Persons who may have been prepared and trained to be a part of organizing the first responses, may have also been those whose home is destroyed, family has been disrupted and their usual routine of travel made impassable or impossible.

The new may not look like the old.
What’s gone is gone and it may not be possible to recreate it exactly the same. And sometimes that is ok.

There will be substantial changes taking place as a result of these storms. It is impossible to predict what all the variations will be but we can rest assured God will be present in each and every life as we are attentive to the guiding of God’s Spirit as we PRAY.

Across our Michigan Conference, we are gradually experiencing the changes that accompany our transition to a new Conference. They are nothing in comparison to the devastation of a hurricane’s wrath but our five steps could parallel that path to what the future holds.

The construction has begun at the Clark Crossing office space north of the Area Ministry Center in Lansing. Construction begins in September for the office spaces moving from 11 Fuller in Grand Rapids to First Place, next to Grand Rapids, First UMC. The search and interview process for various staffing positions is underway. Nearly 700 boxes of archive records have been accounted for and will be moving to new locations in the coming months. Thousands of pounds of outdated and discarded electronics have been recycled. Office belongings are being sorted and packed in anticipation of moves to new locations by this time next year or sooner.

Pray. Follow Instructions. Expect Delays. The new may not look like the old. Pray.

“Though there are great change and disruption, uncertainty and anxiety…God is our refuge and strength, very present help. Be still. God is near.” (My own paraphrase of Psalm 46.)

A few years ago I spotted these two chairs on a brush pile behind a home. They were destined to be a bonfire. I knocked on the home’s door. “Sure you can have them,” the owner said. They needed to have some parts replaced and a coat of paint. This summer a few more of the pine boards in one chair succumbed to the weather and they simply became a pattern I used. I built the new one out of treated lumber and cedar with a thicker dimension. Likely the second chair will soon find the same fate.

Though the originals will be gone and the paint color will change, the purpose will live on. A safe space to rest, have conversation, build relationships and admire the creation God has placed around us. It’s hard to imagine such serenity in the midst of the “hurricanes of life” but I believe that is exactly what the Psalmist was teaching us.

“God is with us.”


The Michigan Conference