I feel like I could write a book and not cover all that this year has had packed into it. Drew and I started the year off with a bang. January 1st we flew out of the country to head to the mid-debrief of the squad that we were coaching. Debrief was in Chang Mai Thailand. We were the first to arrive and the hostel where we were staying was roped off and closed…they could have been a hint of what the year (and the debrief) had in store for us. Somehow the unknown of how that would turn out and the willingness on our part to lay down our expectations, to accept what came our way, has been a theme that has continued on throughout the year. I wish I could say that I am still embracing my ability to be flexible but like the rest of you I am also growing weary. Just to not leave you hanging – the hostel did open and we all had a place to sleep – even if the workers did seem a bit surprised that we had reservations days before they had planned to reopen.
Thailand in January was a wonderful break from Minnesota, a country we had never been to with some amazing food. Our squad was in the middle of their gap year and there were struggles, but also so much growth. My favorite part of debriefs are the one on ones with the racers – I love hearing how God is showing up in different ways on their journey. This was our second year to coach along with our mentor Deb and her husband Austin. We had no idea that this would be our last debrief with them or with our squad. We enjoyed that season with them so much – and will cherish their friendship for a lifetime.
Since we were in the area (Asia), we flew to visit Ellie in her new home of Qingdao, China. Ellie has an amazing network of support at the International School where she teaches High School English. We got to meet her people and enjoy the celebration for Chinese New Year before her school let out for break. It was January in China and there were not many tourist since it was winter (cold) but we had very little idea of what was brewing – I remember reading about some virus but it didn’t seem like anything to worry about.
Chinese New Year is a big celebration and Ellie had time off from teaching. We flew back to Thailand to explore the southern, touristy part of the country. It was BEAUTIFUL! It was fun to spend hours on the ocean with Ellie. We went on a tour of James Bond Island and the islands near that. We went on a sketchy tour including riding elephants, “bumper” boats and a short zip line…doubtful any of those would have been passed any safety inspection in the States. It was such a relaxing time. Everyday we walked from our Airbnb to get bubble tea, breakfast and find a perfect place to camp out on the ocean for the day. While in Phuket we heard that the first person with Covid-19 had been hospitalized in Phuket, we shrugged it off as strange but still had little concern.
After a week of paradise, Drew and I flew home to Minnesota, Ellie flew back to China, all of us ready to jump back into our normal lives. We arrived back to winter on a Tuesday, Drew left to go winter camping with friends on Thursday – a little bit shocking. Friday of that week I got a call from Ellie asking me to get her from the airport the next morning. Her school paid for any of their teachers to go home before travel bans would be put in place. This is when we first got a glimpse of the seriousness of Covid-19, but at the same time thought it would be a short visit. Ellie was home but continued teaching her students through online teaching/learning…which was difficult with the time difference.
Kyle has been living in Seattle since September 2019 to pursue music. The end of February Convent Bonfires had a concert in downtown Seattle. Chris and Lindsey and Drew and I had made plans to visit, to be part of the many fans to support them that night. Ellie decided to join us, thinking she would be flying back to China soon. The concert was AMAZING! Such a fun show, the energy was vibrant. It was fun to meet Kyle’s people and see the support he has in his life in Seattle. We spent time as tourist learning about the history of Seattle and seeing all the sites, little did we know that this would be our last time traveling for the year. While in Seattle we heard that 6 people had died in an assisted living home in the area we were in from this virus we kept hearing about.
Shortly after returning back to work/life in Minnesota the first shut down happened. Working at Trader Joe’s was difficult as we were trying to stay ahead of the unknown by being safe and creating rules in a place that is known for having no rules. I really appreciate the people that I worked with – they are some of the kindest people – so proud of them. Suddenly grocery workers were essential workers. Drew was back to work as normal – outside, often by himself. While many people were not able to work because of shutdowns we felt very thankful to have jobs that were essential.
Our original plan for coaching was to travel to Nicaragua in May for the final debrief with our squad. In March the borders started closing and AIM had the job of bringing back over 600 of their missionaries home from the field. Our squad ended their 9 month gap year at the 7th month – disappointing for all of us and hard because there was no real closure. One of our squad leaders had no where to go so he came and stayed with us for 6 weeks. During this time churches were closed so our neighbors would meet in our driveway and worship together. It was a sweet time of bonding.
Over the summer our home was a place to gather (outside) as a community. The times were beyond anything any of us had ever experienced and this became a place to connect. We hosted 4 young men from AIM for a month. While they were here George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis and this city was literally up in flames. We joined with many in helping to clean up and bringing hope to the streets. These young men and a few others that hang out at our Riverdale House would tell us of revival that was taking place in the middle of the pain in Minneapolis. Reconciliation was happening even if all we heard from the media was about destruction. I was thankful to have another perception in the middle of some hard, hard days. The racial tension that came to a head over the summer brought us to a place of examining ourselves. Our motto we live by is to” Love God and Love People” and the reality is that we can do better. Shortly after the guys left, we hosted a World Race America team for a couple of weeks. Their whole purpose is to bring the love of Christ to America and the timing couldn’t have been better. It was encouraging to hear the stories that these young people brought to our home as they went out to minister to the many homeless camps and to listen to stories of those who have been hurt by the racial disparity in our country. It’s not a new story. Jesus is near to the broken hearted and this year has been a year like we have not seen in our lifetime.
I ended up out on an injury leave for a while from Trader Joe’s, when I returned the atmosphere felt so divisive as people would come in the store and give push back about wearing masks etc. I started looking for a new job opportunity and also praying that God would expand my world. I started working as a temp at Minneapolis Public Housing Authority – hard work but I really love it! I just found out this week that I will be employed with MPHA beginning in January. I’m learning so much and love the diversity. Ellie finally was able to return to China in October and teach live in her classroom. Thanks to technology she was able to join us for our Christmas morning….even though her package is stuck in customs in China.
Our community events have been paused for a season and I have enjoyed the forced Sabbath rest…I didn’t realize how much I needed it. Christmas ended up being much fuller than I expected too. Levi lives at home and works at Rudy Luther – he is here and we often see his girlfriend Liv. Kyle came back from living in his van in Seattle to spend a few weeks in our home. Once he returns to Seattle he will be working as a Real Estate agent with a brokerage company. Grace ended up going on a gap year program called Global U with the World Race. The plans to leave the country were put on hold until January so she was able to join us for Christmas break too. In January she will be heading to the Dominican Republic – she is still fundraising so if you are looking for an end of he year, tax deductible donation, go to https://gracerobertson.theworldrace.org/
Drew and I got away for a couple of nights to an Airbnb in Hudson Wisconsin to celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary. Everything around us seems shaky – even our church has diminished in size and is a shadow of what it once was – but God is faithful. Even as I grieve the losses, I see so much clearer the things that really matter. My desire is to love mercy, seek justice and to walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8).
Know that you are loved greatly. Fight for unity and love – it’s worth it!
Wishing you and your family the peace that comes from Jesus.
Merry Christmas from the Petersen family!