Thursday 31 January 2008

Hi, Ho, Hi, Ho -- it's off to Aus (Oz) we go!

It is with a sense of great blessing, deep gratitude for what God is doing in our lives, and delight that I sent the message last evening (Wednesday, January 30) from frigid northern Indiana: "YES INDEED, I will accept your offer!"

That offer came less than three hours after finishing an exciting hour-long face-to-face interview via Skype/video hookup on our laptop computer with the four members of
The Canberra Hospital (TCH)'s interview committee -- meeting with me on what was, for them, a mid-summer Thursday forenoon. At the end of the interview I was told it might take a week to get word of their decision, so we were quite surprised upon hearing that delight-full phone message and reading an affirming follow-up email with the official offer coming around so soon!

That elicited quite the spontaneous "dance of joy" for Carole Anne and I -- twirling together in our living room! So, of course, I accepted the position straight away as Chaplain Manager of their 600+ bed hospital, which already has a few other group leaders coordinating their own volunteer chaplain teams affiliated with various denominations. But all this is in a VERY secular environment:
Canberra is a planned city officially commenced in 1911 about half-way between Melbourne and Sydney comprised of approximately 330,000 inhabitants living in the very multicultural "Australian Capital Territory" (ACT.)

My friend Carl Aiken in Adelaide originally tipped me off to this opening, hearing about it from his chaplain colleague in Canberra who is entering retirement. I have been telling my friends I thought this was a "long-shot" but now I feel like I've hit a three-pointer from half-court!

I have been invited there to provide spiritual and administrative leadership toward more integrated, interdisciplinary, and ecumenical-oriented pastoral care (I call it spiritual care) program. The expectation of those I interviewed with is for someone to provide gentle and winsome guidance -- to facilitate a process among
the other chaplains, their volunteers and the sponsoring churches that builds a team and true sense of common mission that will help everyone rise above some of the "turf protecting" that has somewhat hindered the fulfillment of the vision and mission of key leaders in the hospital and the ACT.

a different paradigm for chaplaincy ministry to emerge will be challenging, but not insurmountable, in my view -- and will require time, patience, professional skill, a focus on building solid relationships in an atmosphere of mutual respect, and of course, regular doses of good humor! Plus, I really have a lot to learn in the process, as I enter a different culture. This, of course, is exactly what I've wanted!

But "to whom much is given much is required" - so both Carole Anne and I will appreciate your thoughts and prayers as we make these transitions together. She will be focused on setting up a home base (including a guest room for the probable constant stream of friends on holidays from the States!) and building relationships among all the new friends we plan to find.

This process has actually culminated quicker than I thought it would, AFTER deciding much earlier in the fall to "cut loose" from my good job here to pursue a self-designed sabbatical -- the first one I've ever had, but which has not even yet begun! So this new development will make our extended travels -- including several weeks of "down time" with Carole Anne's sister Linda and her husband Graham, living up in Noosa Heads on the Sun Coast of Queensland -- all the sweeter and much more relaxed. I am so grateful for The Canberra Hospital search committee members' sensitivity: being willing to provide for an interim arrangement to honor the extra time I feel I need, with no pressure now to start this position until mid-May.

My last day as chaplain of the Goshen General Hospital will be about Feb. 23 --
the 10th anniversary of my start date -- rounding out a very good "run." On Feb. 29 (that's Leap Day - for symbolic effect!) Carole Anne and I will launch into our 8-week trip to the Southwestern US, Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand. We are foregoing, for now, the additional leg we originally thought we might do yet in South Africa, in light of this job settlement, in order to spend more time in New Zealand, but hope to visit SA on the way to or from Australia at another time, as that country still interests me in the "long run."

After returning to the States we plan to attend my son Jordan's graduation from Western Michigan University with a Bachelor's degree in International Studies on April 26, followed by the closing sale of our home on April 29 (the contract was drawn up and accepted last Saturday) and the wedding of a special friend in Massachusetts on May 10, before we circle back mid-May to the land of Aus to start our new "adventure."

I highly recommend doing such a thing, as risky as it has seemed to most, if one is willing to simply step out on faith, "trust the process", and begin the journey.
It can be quite the empowering experience to "let go", cooperate, listen carefully, and discern how and where the Spirit wants to "do a new thing." It can actually shake one loose from that which has become "comfortable", and offer both release and security -- enough to explore and prepare for an Abrahamic sojourn into (literally) an unfamiliar Terrritory! The biblical themes and assurances of "Be not afraid" - "I will be with you always" - "the Lord will provide" have become very real, and do indeed ring true...

I will relish your thoughts and prayers from time to time - and try to keep you posted along the way.

Enjoying Grace and Peace...
(and REALLY having fun now!)
Clair Hochstetler

1 comment:

  1. Brother, I do hope you will continue this blog from Australia. It will be interesting hearing about the similarities and differences.