So I know that this is pretty late, but I’m going to post it anyways. Katie and I finally got around to sending out hard copies of our Christmas letter. If you haven’t received one, well……there are a multitude of reasons why. Most of them are our fault not yours. Anyways, if you’re interested in our semi-annual review of the Best-Stucky household, here it is.
Dear family and friends
For those of you who have been keeping track, this letter is actually our first Christmas letter in two years. While there are plenty of reasons why last years letter didn’t get written, most of them probably revolve around our lack of initiative. The real reason, or at least the excuse that we’re going to use, is that last year, we were deep into our search for a church and were unable to disclose our future plans. But we are now happy to publicly announce that we are living in Harper, Kansas, where Alan is the pastor at Pleasant Valley Mennonite Church and Katie is a nurse at Harper Hospital.
Last year at this time we had been living in the snowy tundra of Elkhart, Indiana. After Alan was confirmed as the pastor we began to pack our bags and load up the rental truck for the journey back to the promised land. When we pulled out of the seminary parking lot the truck was half full. This would change when we made it to Dayton, Ohio. For those of you who know your geography, Ohio is, in fact, the wrong direction from Indiana, if you’re trying to get to Kansas. The reason that we went to Dayton was because that’s where Katie’s grandmother lives. She recently moved to a nursing home and graciously gave us some of the furniture and other odds and ends from the house. As we have begun to set up a new house in Kansas, we have found ourselves eternally grateful for these items.
So we loaded up the truck and headed for Kansas. The next day in the trip we made it to Columbia, Missouri. On the way we stopped in St. Louis to see our good friends Sam and Rachel Voth-Schrag. After a rousing lunch and conversation, we were on our way. Also, at the stop in St. Louis we called the appliance store in Harper to let them know that we were on the way and which washer and dryer that we wanted, and that we would be in to pick them up. Their response was, “well, we know the secretary at the church, we’ll just set it up and you can just come pay us later.” Yes, Harper is a very small town.
After a restful night and a plate of BBQ, we headed out the next day for Goessel, Ks. As if the truck wasn’t full enough, my parents had been storing a large amount of our stuff in their basement for the previous two years. We spent the night in Goessel and packed every free square inch of the truck with more stuff.
Finally, on a Saturday morning, we arrived in Harper to find a wonderful group of new friends ready and eager to help unload. After 3 days of driving, it was truly wonderful to be able to simply tell people where to put stuff rather than having to carry every box ourselves. There was even a pile of food in the pantry and the fridge was full. We are still very grateful for the welcome that we received from the church that first day.
As Katie and I unpacked a few boxes and got settled in, we looked out the window to see a gorgeous Kansas sunset. While the land in Kansas is often flat and uneventful, there are few things in this world that compare to the beautiful, dynamic and powerful Kansas sky. After seeing our first real sunset it 2 years, we found ourselves overcome with joy. Alan just started laughing and Katie twirled around in circles until she fell down. At that moment, we had a sense that we were in the right place.
As much as it feels as though God has led us to this place, moving to Harper has been something of an adjustment for both of us. While both Katie and I grew up in small Kansas towns, the adjustment has been more to the character of the town. Both Goessel and Buhler are towns that were originally settled by Mennonites. This means that the vast majority of people in town have similar assumptions of culture, ethics, and faith. Harper on the other hand, exists because it’s at a crossroads of some railroads. Yes there are two Mennonite Churches in town, and yes PVMC it the largest church in town. However, there are a total of about 12 churches in town made up of about 8 different denominations. That being said, for a town of about 1,500 people, there might be 300-500 people in church on any given Sunday morning. Being Mennonite, or even just Christian for that matter, is something that can make you stand out a bit.
Alan’s work at the church is going well. He is still getting used to the idea of being a solo pastor as opposed to simply a youth pastor. The idea of preaching on a weekly basis is definitely something that is a new experience for him but one that is very rewarding. Even though there are many new aspects of ministry that Alan is learning and growing in, he still is getting plenty of opportunity to engage in the world of youth ministry. After spending the first couple of months watching and getting the lay of the land, he spent the summer helping the church to understand the world of youth and what it means to be involved in their lives. Just before the school year began he led the youth sponsors in a training and planning retreat. The weekend helped to give the sponsors a good footing and direction for the year. There have been ups and downs in the youth group over the semester. The group continues to grow in numbers from week to week. While this is a sign that these kids are connecting with something that is happening here, the large numbers present some interesting challenges. The Jr. High (6th-8th grades) has had between 30-40 kids each week. While the group has lots of good energy, it’s is often very hard to get everyone quieted and focused for lessons. As a result we’ve tried to break them up into small groups for the lesson times just to get a word in edgewise. Biblical literacy has been another challenge. Out of 50-60 kids, 6th-12th grades, about 1/4 would claim PVMC as their church. Another 1/4 would go to other churches, and about 1/2 don’t really go anywhere. This means that some kids can quote scripture while others don’t even know what a chapter, book, or verse is. There are lots of problems that our group continues to work at but they’re mostly all good problems to have.
Katie is working here in town at Harper Hospital as a registered nurse. She works full time with a mix of days, evenings, and nights, with both eight and twelve hour shifts. The hospital has 25 beds. About 8-10 of the beds have nursing home residents. The rest of the hospital has acute patients. On Tuesday there are minor surgeries, and the emergency room is always open. There are 2-3 nurses working during the shift. Katie is a staff nurse and a charge nurse who works with a wide range of patients including but not limited to cardiac, respiratory, gastrointestinal, orthopedic rehabilitation, medical, surgical, emergency, trauma, ambulatory infusion, geriatric, and pediatric. It has also been an adjustment to not have ancillary staff readily available like respiratory therapist, IV team, skin and wound nurse, and a pharmacist. Katie enjoys the variety and challenge that come with working at a small hospital. Her coworkers are great at both teamwork and having fun, which makes for a good work environment. Katie’s director of nurses had also been flexible with scheduling and time off. Katie does work ever other weekend, but is normally scheduled for 3pm -11pm so that church attendance is possible.
Katie is active at church. On Wednesday morning she goes to the Piecemaker’s Quilting group for fellowship and quilting. The group is about finish quilting the quilt for the 2010 MCC Relief Sale. It has been fun to work on such a colorful piece of art. She is also learning to appliqué with the 2011 MCC quilt. Wednesday evening is youth group. Katie helps with the Senior High youth group, along with four other sponsors. The group has about 15-25 youth that come on a regular basis. The kids are an energetic group who are seeking to learn about God. The youth group has been preparing for and fundraising for a service trip that is planned for early summer of 2010 in which the youth group will go to Bolivia for 10 days. Katie attends a young adult Sunday school class and had enjoyed the fellowship.
The church has a parsonage right next door. The parsonage is a 3-bedroom house with a full basement and very large yard. The church and house are on the highway on the East edge of Harper. There is a front living room and a large kitchen, dinning room, family room all roll into one. The yard has several nice trees and space that has already been tilled for the makings of a garden next spring. At the back of the house there is a cement patio with a picnic table. Alan loves that space on the patio for his gas grill (which that he uses frequently). Living next to the church has been good. Alan’s commute to work is just as about as good as anyone could ask for. So far the church has been very good about maintaining good boundaries and not intruding into personal time and space.
Earlier this fall we decided that as the winter season rolled in we need something warm and fuzzy to keep us company so we decided to get a couple of kittens. We went out to the farm in the country where a couple from our church had a litter of five kittens. We picked one because Katie picked her up and she was so nice and tame that she didn’t move for the 30 minutes that we were there. The other one we chose because when we showed up, he was playing with a mouse and eventually figured out that the mouse was food. It’s nice to have a cat like that around when you need it, but he’s definitely turned out to be more aggressive in general. Once we got them home we put a couple of collars on them; a blue one and a black one. The black collar has a big white buckle on it and made the kitten look just like a priest. We happened to have been watching the British comedy series “The Vicar of Dibley” so we decided to give them the names Vicar and Dibley. They’re really cute and we’re glad to have them around. Although, right after we got them we thought we might have lost them for good. The week after we brought them home we went to a seminar at Hesston College. When we returned home on Sunday evening the kittens were nowhere to be found. Finally, four days later, one of our neighbors was talking to another neighbor and it turns out that they picked up the kittens and took them out to a relative in the country for safekeeping. It even turned out that they had put up posters in the grocery store but we just hadn’t been in that week to see them. We were so glad to get them back. Needless to say, we’ve been locking them up in the garage every night since then.
The last year or two has been something of a roller coaster as Alan has finished up school, gone through the process of finding a church and the ordeal of relocating 5 states away. Ever since college we’ve known that all of our living situations would be fairly temporary. We won’t be in Harper forever, but it’s really nice to be somewhere where we’re not planning to move next year. After having gone through all of our transitions this last year, we’re also especially thankful for all of our friends and family who have supported us in many different ways. We have been, and continue to be, blessed by everyone around us. Thank you all.
Merry Christmas, and may God bless you all,
Katie and Alan