The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


July 14, 2006

Waiting for Flight 8611

I’ve got another hour or so before leaving for O’Hare. The status page for Northwest Airlines reports that Flight 8611 from Amsterdam departed 39 minutes late “due to accommodating passengers.” That’s a good reason, anyone who’s ever missed a connecting flight would agree.

The friends I’m picking up might have been those late passengers, as their journey to Chicago began at the Stockholm airport. They’re Carin and Lennart Persson who are coming for the Global Mission gathering of missionaries—and to visit with us. They’ve served the ELCA since 1970—in Indonesia, India and Thailand—and just this June retired to their native Sweden. Carin and I met in India nine years ago, when she joined a group from the Northeastern Minnesota Synod on a companion synod visit because she knows Indian languages and social customs. I was the reporter. Together we drank milky sweet tea in the home of a woman whose life had been changed because of the advocacy and education of the local Lutheran church: We talked easily as Carin quietly and graciously turned our words into each other’s languages. That was the beginning of a friendship that’s been nurtured with other trips and frequent e-mails.

Waiting, now, I’m reminded of Lennart’s observation when the Perssons last were in the U.S. in 2004 and visited a supporting congregation in Rapid City, S. D. He was “amazed,” he said, by the prayer of confession the July Sunday he was guest preacher that began, “We are running so fast, God, and we don’t know how to slow down.”

One way we can learn, he suggests, is to turn to the East and listen to the wisdom of Christian voices there. A favorite of his is Kosuke Koyama, a Japanese theologian. Lennart especially likes his book Three Mile an Hour God. The title tells all, he said: “God is walking with us and at the pace of walking. God doesn’t rush past in a car or on an airplane.”

I liked that—so much that I asked Lennart to introduce our readers to Koyama, which he did in Carrying the cross. Find a quiet moment this weekend to read it.

Right now I’m going to check again on Flight 8611, the plane that waited for its passengers.

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