Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.

Friday afternoon, I crossed the state line into Iowa. My first stop was Mission Central, to see founder Gary Thies and sort out lodging for that night. If you're not familiar with Mission Central, it's really unexplainable. You can poke around on its website for some background and visuals, but really, just go sometime and thank me later. I hung out for an hour or so before driving 30 min. to Denison, where I'd meet up for dinner with my fan club, 5/6 people I traveled to Peru with in February 2020, four of whom drove nearly seven hours from the Chicago area!

I'm a city girl. But, heading STRAIGHT east, I couldn't help thinking of the famous title line from Field of Dreams, which I WILL visit one of these times I'm in Iowa. 

Saturday morning, it was go time. 

All missionaries passing through get their pictures taken with "the boss."

Gary was prepared for Ben & Becca Helge, the other presenters, and I, with postcards, adoption agreements, and pens at the ready. 

Our day started in The Lord's Creation Theater. We're seated facing a curtain that runs the length of the space, but I can't tell you what's behind it. 

We spent an hour or so in the barn-turned-museum of artifacts from around the world before the day's kitchen crew, from Ft. Dodge, made lunch for us. I presented first after that, then sat back for Ben & Becca's presentation on their work in the Czech Republic. I jotted down a few ideas to borrow for my next home service presentation ;)

The Dominican Republic was outnumbered 4:1 by the Czech Republic: Hayden Rensner, a new GEO missionary (left), and Chelsea Irwin, transitioning from GEO to Career (2nd from left), were also on hand, so the five of us were commissioned together.

Short-term team reunion! L to R: Jennifer, Ginger, me, Doug, Kelley, and Mel. Lord willing, I'll see the Chicago crew again when I travel there for the Beautiful Feet student missions conference two weeks from today. 

One of the best aspects of home service was seeing names I recognized from my newsletter list and getting to know the faces behind them. Norma (right) is one of my dear supporters and now, friends. 

Saturday evening, I drove to Jefferson, IA. I enjoyed a lovely family dinner at my host home before Sunday morning women's Bible study, worship, and a Bible class presentation at Trinity Lutheran Church. Funny story: Pastor Martens had also tapped me to lead the children's sermon, but ZERO kids came forward. Undeterred, he sat beside me on the chancel steps as I delivered my message; he even got to pick out a piece of candy at the end. 

Last Mustang picture, I promise - leaving Trinity's parking lot for a pit stop on my way out of town. 

Although COVID prevented her from being in worship, I couldn't in good faith come to Jefferson and not see Ellie Menz, the IOWAY (Individual Outreach with Adults and Youth) Director for the Iowa District West and the person most responsible for my ongoing relationship with the saints at Trinity. 

Three hours later, I was in Kansas City for my second presentation of the day; I was the featured speaker at King of Kings Lutheran Church's volunteer recognition banquet. The senior pastor, Rev. Frank Greene, did his field work at my home church when I was in high school and amazingly remembered me years later. I had just enough time before I had to be at church to catch up with Carla, a former member at one of the DRLM's supporting congregations in the St. Louis area who visited most recently in September 2019. 

I regretted leaving my gracious host family so soon but hit the road at 6 am with a full day ahead of me. I didn't slow down from Chick-fil-a with a pastor in Columbia, MO, on my way back to my parents' to a 5 mi. run after I indulged my dad and sister with a top-down ride in the Mustang and then returned it. I guess Enterprise's inventory situation had improved by the next day, since they gave me a Nissan for my final road trip, to Springfield, MO. 

Until next time, blessings!