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The Way Things Look From Here

I’m happy to report that I’m back to work at Zumbro … and it feels great! It’s a lot better than sitting around watching daytime TV. In the past week, a couple of doctors and the Mayo Brain Rehab center gave me the go-ahead to return to work part time. I also met with the Personnel Team, who were certainly open and welcoming. At the same time, they encouraged me to heed the advice of the doctors: Don’t try to do too much too soon.  Thus, during the month of January, that “part time” will amount to 15 hours a week. Needless to say, the time will go by in a heartbeat.

In case you missed it, on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 21, Pastor Shelley and I were up on her roof. We were working on patching a leak. Rain was coming. It seemed as good a time as any. Getting up on the roof was no problem. Neither was patching it. The problem came in coming down. I don’t remember what happened exactly, which is probably a good thing, but I must have missed a step on the ladder and so came tumbling down to the patio head first.

Thankfully some good medical care was soon on the way. The ER at St. Marys Hospital was the destination. After delicate surgery that carefully stitched me back together again, I settled into 10 days in the ICU. I don’t remember anything from that time, though I’m told that I was occasionally awake and speaking, and even calling people by name.

I “woke up” sometime in the recovery unit at St. Marys. Everything was a blur. I was still on lots of pain meds so everything was fuzzy. Gradually the reality of what had happened began to sink in. I became aware of how traumatic this must have been, both for my family and for the good people of Zumbro.

A couple of weeks later, I was released from the hospital. I went to a rehabilitation unit at Mt. Olivet Careview in south Minneapolis. It was close to home and family, so it seemed like a natural place to go. The care team informed me the day I arrived that the average length of stay there was less than two weeks. That sounded good to me, though at this point I really had very little sense of the passage of time. I knew my body hurt in all sort of places, and it seemed that my brain, while improving, was still pretty confused.

Just before Thanksgiving I was able to go home. The rehab exercises, plus getting out of bed and moving, were helpful. Slow but sure. A few people came by for visits, but not too many. Those visits were helpful to begin to make sense of what had happened. I also began to feel the burden of re-entry into daily life and the challenges I would be facing. On those days when I hurt the most, I felt sorry for myself.

Still, as the weeks went by, I found that Zumbro was more and more on my mind. I was thinking of the Bazaar and all the hard work that had gone into it.  I was thinking about the sermon series on Ruth, and the amazing relevance of that story still today. As we moved into Advent, I found myself deeply touched by the cards and letters you were sending. It was then that my daughter Ingrid and I made the video that was shared in worship. I wanted to thank you for your heartwarming encouragement and prayers. I wanted to thank the staff for all the extra things they had been doing in my absence. I was so heartened by the incredible power of the community of faith and how energizing that was for me.  And on those days when I was tempted to start feeling sorry for myself, I was reminded of all the people and all the challenges we face, and of the awesome strength in facing these things together.

By that time, it was becoming clearer and clearer that I wanted to return to Zumbro, even though I had no idea what that might look like. In mid-December I lined up a conversation with a few key congregational leaders: President Noel Peterson, Vice-President Shelley Sperling, and Rich Vetter, chair of the Personnel Team. I also sat down with Bishop Steve Delzer and Pastors Lisa, Jason, and Shelley. We discussed the possibility of me coming back to work in some capacity. We agreed my responsibilities would need to be limited, at least at first, and then we would figure things out as we go.

So what will I be doing as I return? Obviously a lot has happened since I’ve been gone.  We’ve made some positive strides in the building conversations. We had a very successful stewardship campaign, and really strong end-of-the-year giving. And we’ve done any number of creative things in worship, including starting up the Why Jesus? sermon series.  I will need to ease into these efforts a little at a time … and that is just fine with me.

This is what I am planning for now:

  • I will be here in worship most Sundays and Wednesdays
  • I will work with Kristy Giere, Music Minister on Sunday worship planning, and
  • I will reach out to make some pastoral care connections

There will be other things too, like team meetings and the annual meeting, but again, we will figure these out as we go.  The main thing for me will be the opportunity to reconnect with the good people of Zumbro and to hear about your place on the journey of faith.

There are three questions I’m getting asked most often:

  1. What about my right eye? To be honest, I can’t see out of it; someday I may see light, shapes and shadow. However, I have begun to adapt and even – with the green light from my doctor – have started driving;
  2. Am I going up on any ladders again? Not anytime soon, if ever; and
  3. Did we get the leak fixed?  To that I can give an unqualified yes. : )

Recently I finished our family Christmas letter by writing: “[This] accident has been a reminder of the fragility of life, and the uncertainty we all face in the midst of our daily tasks. And if you don’t mind a little ‘preaching’ from a bored daytime TV watcher: Perhaps today is as good a time as any to give thanks for what is ours – including all of you – and to do our best to look for joy in the coming year.” To that I say: Thanks be to God.

See you in church!

Pastor Vern