Reflection from the Top of the World

top of the world

As many of you already know I spent six months close to what we might think of us the top of the world. In actuality it was 22 miles south of the Arctic Circle. I had the incredible privilege to serve as the interim pastor of the only church in Shishmaref, Alaska, Shishmaref Lutheran Church. Of course I have written about some of my experiences already on these pages, but today I was reflecting upon what I should write about I remembered some of what I wrote while I was there. Over the past few years I have taken to writing Haikus, short three lined pieces of poetry. While in the village of Shishmaref those Haikus came easily and quite often reflected a bit of what I was going through right then. So today I share a few that I wrote while living far away with a people who still reside close to my heart.

The spirit of God
Is upon us in this place
She has a message…

The winds are pleading
Take care of my creation
The ice is melting

Ah yes, the one above was written as the ice broke up four months early. It reflected creation wailing in both despair and hope. Despair that it was happening, but still a quiet hope that we might listen and do creation care, so the people of Shishmaref can continue to live in a place they call home, where they know the Spirit of God resides.

Called by this Jesus
I wonder where it might lead
I know it’s life giving.

Of course there is life
But it will lead to the cross
That’s always fear filled

Take away my fear
Give me the gift of your faith
So I might see life.

I wrote the above verses as I adjusted to living in the place. There were times at first when I was filled with fear. The nights were long, as in 20 hours when I wrote these words and yes it was cold. But this was where Jesus called me, or was that only a delusion? Believe me I have wondered both, while I was there and since I have returned here now over a year ago. I wondered, “Did I have to travel to the top of the world to do this?” Then I remember the people, the kids and the smiles given freely, the welcoming nod as I drove by in my snow machine. It is in the gathering, in the singing deep into the night that my fears were first eased on those cold January nights. That is still true even now as I reflect on my time there and share a few Haikus with you. I end with one I wrote after our Spring Conference where people sang songs deep into the night.

The songs have ended
The people have now gone home
The Spirit lingers.

John Hergert

John Hergert

Interim ELCA Pastor

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