Halldór Elías Guðmundsson

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. -- Jeremiah 29:11

I had not worked for a long time in Grensaskirkja Reykjavik, a congregation part of the Lutheran State Church in Iceland, when I felt the need to gain better understanding of the role of laity in the congregation's life and leadership. The newly restored ordination of deacons in Iceland, which I had received, was not helpful at all in understanding my own role, let alone the role of laity, and how those roles fit together with the better known role of the pastor.

In one of my random searches on the Internet, I remember coming across Trinity's website, reading about Masters Program in Lay Ministry, and thinking that it might be helpful.

However, I had never heard about Columbus, Ohio (it does not have either NBA or NFL team), and I did not consider it as a viable possibility. I actually had a nice job even though I did not fully understand it.  My wife, Jenný, had a fine job at the University of Iceland, as a research specialist, we had just bought a condo in a great neighborhood, our daughter had great friends and attended a great school.

Then it happened. Few months after my random Internet search, The University of Iceland had a visiting professor from The Ohio State University. He meet with Jenný, and asked if she would be interested in taking a Ph.D. at OSU. She told me about this when she came home, I recalled the Lutheran School in Ohio, and we used MapQuest to figure out that it took less than 15 minutes to drive between the two schools.

We decided to go for it, if and only if, everything would line up. We would need a good elementary school for our daugther, we both needed to be accepted, we would both need to get a visa from the embassy, we would have to pass TOEFL tests, and last but not least OSU would need to pay Jenný's tution, scholarship and health insurance for all of us. Finally we would need to sell our condo.

Needless to say we only applied to Trinity and at OSU. We decided that we would go back to Iceland as soon as we had finished our studies. We came to learn and that would be it.

And for sure I have learned. My education and learning has been eye opening, life changing and valuable, in many ways. I have had the opportunity to mirror my self and my naivete in the eyes of Katrina survivors, and corrupt politicians in Detroit. I have been able to work with great people at the office of Healthy Congregations.

I have seen God's church doing great work in the worst of situations and I have seen the church at its worst in the best of situations, working for self-serving purposes. I have dealt with my childish image of God, both in the academic setting and when confronted by people with experiences I could never imagine having my self.

I like to look at this whole process as God's call or God's plan for us (and that does not mean that I am falling into some determinism or predestination camp). I hope we are living out our plans for welfare and not harm.

Having said that, I know that prophesies are only proven true when they are fulfilled, and for the last year, when watching from afar, my home, my country, Iceland, going through a catastrophic financial meltdown, I sometimes wonder, why did we come here? Shouldn't we be at home helping? Was our reading of God's will, nothing more than our need for new adventures?

At the same time I wonder whether God's plan is perhaps different than we assumed. My wife has automatic access to an extended working permit in the States when she finishes her studies, my ten-year-old daughter and three-year-old son are more American than Icelandic. Maybe, God knew we would never come to the States for more than 5 years, so God started with that.

What does the future hold? Only God knows. I hope we are living our lives in response to God's promise to Jeremiah, but I know that prophecies are only true when they become true.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says theLord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

Let's Pray:

Give us trust in you, Almighty Lord.
Help us to see your will, in all things.
Give us confidence in your plans
Help us to step out in faith.
Give us a future with hope.  AMEN

Halldór earned a Master of Sacred Theology degree at Trinity (2010).