June 2014- another busy month for the Bergenes

Eventually I’ll get around to posting about ministry in Vermont, but since I’m not installed until June 29th, I’m writing about my trip “up north”.

June of 2014 will probably go down in history as one of my busiest months since mid May- June of 2008, when my wife and I went through the following life changes together: 1) Dee graduating in Nebraska, 2) My graduation/call day in Wisconsin a week later, 3) spending time in Wisconsin before going back to Louisiana for our wedding, 4) getting married in Nebraska, 5) driving to Wisconsin for wedding reception in my hometown, 6) flying to Hawaii on honeymoon, 7) driving to Nebraska to pick up some of Dee’s stuff, and 8) driving from Nebraska to live in Louisiana.  At the time we thought we must have been crazy to do all of that stuff in about a month’s time.  We still do.

After announcing my call acceptance to Christ the Redeemer in Barre, VT on May 4th, I continued to preach through the month of May as my wife was still in school.  My last Sunday was on June 1st.

Trinity--my first church--lots of good memories here!

Trinity–my first church–lots of good memories here!

It was a very bittersweet day for me, as I got the privilege of speaking of Christ’s ascension at my last service.  I saw a lot of parallels between the ascension and my last sermon, (with the exception that I’m not Jesus).  Jesus left his friends behind, and I was leaving people behind that were close friends for six years.  I left them with the thought that Jesus wasn’t leaving forever, neither was I.  One of the great comforts we have as Christians is that we never truly have to say goodbye.  Even though a surprising number of people are telling me they suddenly want to make travel plans to the New England states, even if we don’t meet again on earth, we will see each other in heaven.  That is what gave me comfort on a day like today.

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”  (Acts 1:11) 

After Sunday service was over, my wife and I were busy packing until the day they came to load up, which ended up being June 11th.  In the meantime, the next Sunday was the first of a few Sundays were I as a pastor had a unique opportunity–sitting in a pew for worship.  It may sound silly, but when you’re always preaching in the front of church, it’s kind of refreshing to sit in the pew and worship with your family.  A few things I took away from my first Sunday in the pew (at Cross of Glory in Baton Rouge): 1) It’s really great to see other churches, and I was in a beautiful one on this particular Sunday, 2) Suddenly I was the favorite parent to do “potty breaks with,” and 3) seeing up close what my wife deals with on a weekly basis (alone!) makes me want to rethink the length of my sermons.


How could you not love to worship with a view like this?

Like I said, people came to finish up packing what we didn’t on June 11th, and a truck came to load us up on June 12th.  Loading the truck took about all day, and then we stayed behind a while to “clean up” our old house.  We also had some of our friends from church stop by to say goodbye, and some of them invited us to spend the night on the 12th, so we could rest up and get an early start on the 13th.

Some of our friends who came to visit us on moving day.

My kids get into “cleaning mode.”

I will spare you all the details of our trip, but we spent a lot of quality time in the car.  We tried to get at least one picture in every state, you can see some of them here.  We didn’t do a ton of sight-seeing (except for what was out our window) with the exception of stopping to see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty while in New York.  It didn’t seem real.  But, as usual, I brought my camera, and I have pictures to prove it!

Another one of my favorite pictures on the trip was from the flag on the back of the ferry boat leading to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

Another one of my favorite pictures on the trip was from the flag on the back of the ferry boat leading to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

After 4 days, about 1650 miles, 14 states, countless viewings of “Frozen”, and a lot of potty stops, we made it safely to our new home  on the evening of Monday, June 16th.  We were greeted very warmly at our house by some members from the church, and the next morning were up early to spend all day unloading the countless boxes which had arrived from Louisiana.  By the way, it just so happened that the day our moving truck arrived was the warmest day so far this summer.  Coincidence?

We have an amazing view from our front door!

In the few days we have been here, we have been getting acclimated to life in Vermont.  We have been unpacking boxes, and Dee has been job searching with some success–more details to come soon!    The members and people in the community we have talked to are very kind and welcoming.  Life sure is different in Vermont–in fact, just this evening I was wearing shorts and got goosebumps because I thought it was a “little chilly.”  (I won’t tell you what temperature it was!)  I don’t think I’ve said that in the middle of June in a long time.  With all that is different about Vermont, one thing makes it just like everywhere else I’ve ever lived–it’s full of people who need to know about Jesus.  That’s why I’m glad I’m here.  But for now, the plan is to continue unpacking boxes.


Why start a blog? (It all started with a fortune cookie)

So today I decided to start writing a blog.

Why you ask?  The reason might be different than you were expecting.  A fortune cookie had a big part to play in my decision to start writing a blog.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I don’t put a lot of stock in fortune cookies.  Yes, I do enjoy the occasional “Chinese food” meal, and sometimes I even sneak extra fortune cookies, but I don’t look to them for guidance in my life.  I’m a Pastor; which means that I’ve got a much better place to look for guidance than a white slip of paper.  But this one particular white piece of paper is the beginning of an interesting story.

It all began on a Friday night towards the end of March.  I was done working, I had picked up the kids from preschool, and I was waiting for my wife to get home from work.  She called me on the way home, and asked what I wanted for dinner.  She offered to pick something up on the way home, and I told her that she could surprise me.  Luckily, there was a Chinese Restaurant just up the road from her school, so she picked some up for us.  She really is an angel.

After the meal was over, the kids had already run off to play and watch TV, and I was sitting there with a few fortune cookies on the table.  I grabbed one, and opened it up.  It read, “You are given the chance to take part in an exciting adventure.”  My first thought was, “I have two kids–every day is an adventure,” so I threw it on the table and forgot about it.

A couple of days later, it was a Sunday afternoon–March 30th.  We had yet another delicious potluck after worship, and I had packed up the family in the van because we were on the way to a birthday party of one of my kid’s classmates.  It was a party at their house, which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere.  Just before we got out to enjoy the party, the phone rang.

Because of Caller ID, I knew that a church was calling me on a Sunday afternoon.  I showed it to my wife, but she didn’t really understand until she started to hear me talk.  The voice on the other end of the phone said something like, “I’m from Christ the Redeemer in Barre, Vermont, and we are calling you to be our next pastor.”

If you’re not familiar with my church, the way vacancies in churches are typically dealt with is this.  A church contacts their district president, who supplies them with a list of 4-5 pastors to choose from who match what they’re “looking for” in a pastor.  After looking over brief biographies of each candidate, they vote and then the person they choose is the one they call to be their next pastor.  (The other way to fill a vacancy is by going to our seminary and requesting a graduate, but more on that in a bit).

What this means is that as of the moment that phone call arrived, I had a huge decision to make.  For a brief time, I was serving two calls–one to Trinity in Abita Springs, Louisiana, and now one to Christ the Redeemer in Barre, Vermont.  There were lots of things to consider: What is best for Trinity?  What is best for Christ the Redeemer?  What is best for my family?  What is best for me?  Most importantly, I had to decide Where can I use my talents best to serve the Lord and his kingdom?  

As you can imagine, this was an extremely difficult decision.  On the one hand, Trinity is where I started my ministry.  I really enjoy being here, and there are members here who I consider to be not just members, but “family.”  On the other hand, Christ the Redeemer seemed to be in a very similar situation to what Trinity was in about 6 years ago when I first came here, so perhaps I could use my experience here to help the people up there.

The next day I was at home, vacuuming, and I saw a little white piece of paper on the floor.  “You are given the chance to take part in an exciting adventure.”  Suddenly, this didn’t seem like such a silly piece of paper any more.  I came to the conclusion that ministry is an adventure, and I would be taking part of an exciting adventure whether I stayed in Louisiana or moved north to Vermont.

To make a long story short, I debated my call for five weeks.  And it was a difficult five weeks.  I felt sick to my stomach for about four days before even announcing that I had a call to my church in Abita Springs.  I did a lot of praying, a lot of talking to members from both churches, and talking to friends in the ministry.  Even during my last week of deliberation, as I was still flip-flopping back and forth from “staying” to “going,” I developed a rash which my wife was convinced was a “stress rash.”  My wife stressed how important it was for me to make a decision, telling me that when I did, I would feel a huge burden off of my shoulders.

On May 4th, I announced to my congregation that I had decided to accept the call to Vermont.  I read them a letter expressing my difficulty in reaching this decision and leaving a congregation that I cared very much about.  I explained to them that I hope to be able to help my new congregation in the same way that I helped them.  I told them that I planned on sticking around through the end of May.  As I’m writing this, I am still serving as pastor, but my time is quickly coming to an end.  My last Sunday at Trinity is June 1st.

So why am I starting a blog now?  Well, like I said before, ministry is an adventure.  This year, instead of our typical “going home to see the folks” vacation, our “vacation” adventure takes us to a new home, Barre, Vermont.  I’m starting this blog to share my adventure of moving and a new ministry with you.  Come to think of it, I had plenty of adventures in Louisiana.  Perhaps I should have done this earlier!

Yes, I am on Facebook every once in a while, but I’m guessing that a good number of my friends won’t want to read essays (like the one I’m writing right now) in my status about every little thing going on in my life or my ministry.  But if you are interested in what is going on with our move, our family, or our new church, check back every once in a while for updates.  I can’t promise I’ll post often, but I will try to from time to time.

Even though I don’t believe everything I read on a fortune cookie, I am saving that piece of paper, because it reminds me that being in the ministry is an awesome adventure.  I look forward to sharing some of my stories with you.

PS-There is a happy ending for the folks in Abita Springs.  Because of the timing of the Vermont call, and because of the date I announced my acceptance of the call, Trinity was able to go to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and request an assignment at the end of May.  (There’s something awesome about the Lord’s timing–this wouldn’t have been possible if I had gotten or accepted the call even a week or two later!).  Even though there were more requests than available candidates for assignments, on Thursday, May 22, the assignment committee assigned a pastor to Trinity–Patrick Freese, who had graduated the Seminary in 2012, served a two year assignment in California, and then went back to the committee for reassignment. The vacancy in Abita should be very minimal, with me leaving after June 1st, and the new pastor will be installed sometime in July.  God is good!