January 01, 2006

A Christmas Letter—January 2006

Just over fourteen months ago, the first fallen leaf of the year waltzed timidly out of the sky, as if unsure if it was stepping out of turn. The sailor1 looked up just in time to see the leaf glance off his wife’s2 rosy cheek. They smiled at each other, and then grunted with effort as they lofted the last wooden crate of their belongings onto the ship.3 They had been waiting anxiously at port4 for five long months—far too long for a sailor to be out of work and away from the sea. A brand new ship (to them) and orders from the government5 were about to change that, however. Together, they would set sail in the morning.

The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon when the sailor began to steer his ship away from the dock. His wife’s parents were waving on the edge of the pier, swathed in the cold mist of their warm breath. The mouth of the harbor beckoned as the gateway to the wide world beyond. It looked like it would be a beautiful day to sail.

Surprisingly, the inspection before entering the open sea went quickly and without controversy. Their cargo had been scrupulously inventoried, but it turns out that the effort was all for naught. A simple examination of papers satisfied the official curiosity. The ocean breeze beckoned, and they began to sail.

Their final destination was unknown. Family, however, beckoned at two harbors several day’s journey away; the sailor hoped to visit the first6 briefly and settle temporary at the second7 while he searched for a more permanent avenue of employment.

Sailing was beautifully smooth; the nippy fall breeze blew faithfully westward. The air, though cold with ocean spray, rarely chilled them beyond comfort, the sun shone steadily on their faces during the day, and a circular moon brightened the nighttimes. They arrived at the first port nearly half a day earlier than expected, and were readily received by anxious family and friends. Celebrations began—it seemed that the end of their five-month truancy was finally near. The sailor even heard rumors of employment in the midst of the festivities. He made contact, but soon decided to press on to the second port, the home of his family, to settle while trying to find the best available line of work.

Sailing to the second harbor was uneventful and passed without difficulty. The sailor and his wife agreed that they would burden family for as little time as possible; it was time to finally and truly be on their own. The sailor wagered that he’d find work in a matter of several weeks, and spent the better part of those weeks searching and contacting to a wide variety of companies interested in men to perform his services. Many seemed interested, but few were willing to hire a sailor with as few years on the sea as he. He spoke at length with a party that was headquartered in a large city several leagues away,8 and continued negotiations with he group he’d met the previous week. It was a time of busy work, cramped quarters, and impatient waiting.

Finally, it was decided to return to the previous port and to the employment offered there.9 It was a rather uncertain decision in many ways. The sailor and his wife had both been looking forward to learning the new customs of those in strange lands, but they were returning to the romping grounds of their youth in the first harbor they’d visited on their return voyage. They did not know if it would be exciting or not; nonetheless, they looked forward to returning to old friends, familiar territory, and a community of believers in Jesus Christ10 with whom they had enjoyed sweet fellowship. With great anticipation, they loaded their long-packed belongings (with many additions given to them during their travels) and sailed once again, this time for a place to call “Home.”

The sailor was satisfied with his new employment. It was a fishing job11 for the local pet food supplier; his hours were reasonable and regular, and the work was well within his sailor’s skill set. It wasn’t the world-conquering seafaring that he dreamed of, perhaps, but they treated him well and his fellow workers were friendly and pleasant.

It wasn’t long before the sailor’s wife wished for a pet to accompany her while her husband was away during the day. The sailor soon found what they thought would be the perfect pets: two dolphins12 that the King had used to have for his own entertainment13 but no longer had any use for. Just behind their house was an inlet which would give them a perfect home—not to mention free food. How exciting a new (and inexpensive!) pet would be! Unfortunately, the challenge was greater than expected. The first dolphin saw a tin-plated chicken in the living-room window of the sailor’s house, and died, stuck on the shore for lack of water.14 The remaining dolphin appeared to be lonely, and the King happened to be trying to get rid of an extra dolphin.15 They added him to their collection. The first dolphin happened to think that the algae was greener on the other side of the beach, but unfortunately (and unknown to him) had been inflicted with nearsightedness since birth, and mistook an Astro-turf supply salesman for aquatic plant life. He, too, passed away for lack of his native element.16 Fortunately for the sailor, however, it was just in time for acquiring the latest reject from the King’s entertainment troupe. This dolphin, however, was rather inquisitive, and choked while attempting to eat some of the plastic flora that the sailor used to decorate the cove.17 Finally, the sailor and his wife acquired the King’s final two dolphins, which they have retained to this very day. Their intent to spend as little as possible to rescue the life of the first dolphins (and gain pleasant pets) had rather gone by the wayside, but they were happy nonetheless.

The community of believers previously mentioned was a great source of joy and involvement for the sailor and his wife. The sailor enjoyed singing and playing music as a part of the weekly gatherings, and his wife soon found herself helping with some of the musical paperwork each week. They also found themselves offering a weekly time of food, fellowship, music, prayer, and study of the sacred writings at their abode with friends at the end of the week18 (led by a husband and wife close to them and attended by other close friends), and even training fellow believers near their station in life on how to bring the Truth that they believed into the wide world in a way that was understood to every people they encountered.

The sailor also had found a hobby in tinkering with G├╝tenberg’s19 famous invention20; he finally published his first pamphlet in their first year there. He continues to read, ponder, philosophize, and write.21

The sailor’s wife found herself generally quite occupied in housekeeping, husband keeping, hospitality, and doing unpaid work for several community organizations. She spent much of her time in preparing their home for the weekly gatherings there. She has been glad for the friends that she has found in their new town (even some from the local sailing school22), though living in a harbor23 town means many folks often come and go on a whim. She has sometimes found herself rather restless in the confines of the rather small settlement, and so spent two separate weeks on voyages of her own with close friends. The sailor missed her dearly while she was gone—and tried to make up for it by working hard on his hobbies and keeping up with both of their duties.

Near the end of the year, while approaching Christmastime, the sailor’s wife was excited to find that one of her childhood24 friends was returning to the hamlet with her new family.

Sometimes, on quiet evenings during the setting sun, the sailor’s wife sees him gazing out their window, over the sea, to the horizon. She can see the far-away look in his eyes, and knows that he often yearns for adventures in lands as yet unexplored. But they aim to be faithful to their True King, and He has brought them exactly where He wants them to be and is training them (if sometimes in a way that seems slow!) in His ways. They trust Him fully to take care of them.

And with that, they wish you, their dear friends and family, God’s richest blessings in the New Year to come!

  1. David.

  2. Rita.

  3. A 1995 red Ford Escort station wagon, purchased in New Brunswick only a couple of weeks before they left since the U.S. wouldn’t allow their old Mazda to be brought across the border.

  4. Rita’s parents’ yard in a fifth-wheel RV trailer.

  5. We were waiting quite a while for official immigration permission for Rita to come into the States after our wedding.

  6. Sioux Center, Iowa—home of Dordt College, where we both attended, and where David’s brother, Jon, is currently attending.

  7. Fergus Falls, Minnesota—David’s parents’ home, which we used as home base while job hunting.

  8. Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  9. Interstates Control Systems, Inc. (ICSI is on the web at http://interstates.com/automation.asp.)

  10. Christ Community Church, in Sioux Center.

  11. Computer programming at Interstates. ICSI does programming for both the industrial computers that control factories (called PLCs) and for the regular computers that operators use to control the PLCs (called human-machine interfaces, or HMI). My job is doing maintenance programming (fixing bugs and adding new equipment and other improvements) for the HMI computers that we program for the IAMS pet food company.

  12. Goldfish.

  13. Actually, decorations at the Dordt Spring Fling banquet.

  14. He jumped out of our fishtank.

  15. We got the rest at a nearby pet store

  16. He jumped out of the tank, too.

  17. He got a plastic planted shoved in his gill.

  18. Friday nights.

  19. Or Tim Berners-Lee, if you prefer the modern version. He invented the World Wide Web.

  20. He invented the printing press, if you are curious.

  21. Check out http://homepage.mac.com/dahjelle/ for more.

  22. Otherwise known as Dordt College.

  23. College, i.e. Dordt College.

  24. College-time.

  25. Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Friends]

© 2005-2007 David and Rita Hjelle