When I was growing up, my family had a treasured 1990 Chevy conversion van, known affectionately as “Big Blue.” That comfy vacation-mobile took us to the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Times Square, Orlando, and even had the honor of being parked briefly in Hahvahd Yahd to move me into my freshman dorm.
When it moved with us from Wisconsin to Fort Wayne, Indiana, for my father to attend the seminary, we eventually had to register it in-state. The story that follows is a favorite of my parents and was told many times this past weekend at a special family occasion.
Seminary in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is a four-year venture for most men; they take two years of on-campus classes, then spend a year on vicarage, then a final year on campus before receiving a call to serve as pastor of a congregation. My father was a second-career seminarian, having worked in marketing for two decades before answering the call to ministry.
My father began at the seminary in the fall of 2003, and should have graduated in the spring of 2007. However, to forestall a move during my senior year of high school, he opted to do a delayed vicarage year and spent a year serving as a hospital chaplain. My father graduated and received a call to his first church, and was ordained in July 2008. This shifted graduation date caused us an epiphany with our random license plate that the state mailed us: it read 2 JC 708, which we interpreted as “to Jesus Christ 7/08.” Here Big Blue had been proudly telling us the plan for years and we didn’t even know it.
This past Sunday, my younger brother celebrated his ordination in the holy ministry, ten years almost to the day that my father was ordained – on July 8. So suddenly this license plate has a second meaning – “TWO to Jesus Christ 7/08/18.” Pretty coincidental for a randomized license plate!
My parents have loved this story, and my father actually keeps the license plate framed in his pastor’s office. My brother and his wife are moving to Lake Mary, Florida, where he will begin his ministry as a teacher and associate pastor at a church and school. My sister-in-law will serve as a special education teacher at the school, and they are so excited for this new stage. I was so proud of him this weekend and honored to be a part of this life-changing accomplishment. He has been in school for EIGHT YEARS including his undergrad to get to this point, and is so ready to take on the new challenges God has laid out for him. His beautiful ordination stole was a gift from some family-friends of his, and belonged to their grandfather who was also a Lutheran pastor. We will miss them dearly as they move so far away, but I know the Holy Spirit will work amazing things through both of them!
You can watch my brother’s entire service which I managed to figure out how to Facebook Live – from an iPad propped on the piano!