Always expecting the unexpected

It has been nine months since I left Cincinnati. I still remember vividly, not only that Wednesday morning, in mid-September (September 16, to be exact) when I left, but also the numerous events and activities that were directly and indirectly connected with my departure. I had planned for some time – almost a year. There were no doubts in my mind that I needed to move. I could not find any justification for my continued stay in Cincinnati

The idea of moving to Toronto had come to me through my pastor – or, my confessor – at Christ Church Cathedral. We had met several times, in  his office at the cathedral and at the coffee shop across, and also informally during or after the Men’s Bible Study on Thursdays. We discussed my dilemma in Cincinnati and how time was not in my favor. Then he mentioned Toronto.

I have to admit that before that, I had not seriously considered any move to Canada. I had not seriously considered any move anywhere, as a matter of fact. And that was quite unusual for me..When I was younger, I loved moving, and I moved a lot. As I grew older, you may say,  I became more and more complacent aI moving.

But, man, our discussions revived the adventure and curiosity in me, and the more I thought about it the more I became convinced that I had to leave.

I did not even worry about moving to a strange land where I did not know a soul. My pastor made some contacts on my behalf and I was assured of some acquaintances when I got there. No, my problem was the bus fare and travel expenses until I got to Toronto.

I took this drive in me very seriously and i took a very Christian look at it. It was going to be faith at its finest and a demonstration of trust. As a Christian, I am called to step into the unknown, to take risks and trust God. So, this was going to be a journey of faith.

Abraham’s story in Genesis gave me inspiration. Here was a man, wealthy not lacking materially. God told him to leave and head to a place he did not know. He had everything he needed for a comfortable life. He chose to heed God’s call and left. The only thing he had to back him up was his trust in God, God’s promises and God’s faithfulness. Indeed, that was all he needed.

I reflected on Abraham for some time.

Over the years, in ministry and in my vocation, I have pointed at Abraham for instruction and inspiration. I have urged church council members,  ministry associates and community leaders to take Abraham’s example in their trust in God. Now it was my turn to practise what I had been preaching. This move was going to be a leap of faith.

I was completely convinced about it with no reservations whatever. So I chose September 16 as my day of departure and made it public.

As you would expect, there are questions I was asked whenever the announcement was made: Why Toronto? Do you know anyone there? Do you have family or relatives in Canada? What will you be doing there? It looks like you are going north in the season everyone is going south!

Abraham must have faced similar questions which are rooted in our universal quest for security. If you have a job, what will push you to move on? If you have family where you are,why will you move to a place you don’t know anyone? Would you choose uncertainty over security?

It is also about comfort. There is always that feeling that we are comfortable where we are.

My focus was Toronto. There was no doubt in my mind that that was my destination. Indeed the discussions I had with Fr. Manoj fired me up. We reaffirmed our belief that we are called to step outside comfort zones, to venture into the unknown and fully trust God. Yes, we affirmed, “risk even trusting God”. That gave me not only resolve but also momentum and a sense of purpose.

My friends, however, were not so excited. If anything, they were confused.

They are settled in their family and social life.  Career-wise and in their professions and vocations, they are comfortable. Any slight change in their life would look like a destabilizing factor, if not a threat.

My friends were the settled and comfortable class and comfort means a lot.

It is not surprising therefore that when I announced my decision, many questions were raised: First, it was City Gospel Mission where I rendered my service for seven years.

Seven years reminds me of a remark the head librarian at Hebrew Union College made, many years ago, when I told him that the Dean had noted on my immigration papers that the program I was enrolled in would take seven years. “Seven years!” my librarian friend sighed with his whole body. “Even a Hebrew slave in the bible was set free after six years”. (He was referring to Exodus 21:2 which says: “If you buy a Hebrew slave, he may serve for no more than six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom”).

My seven years at City Gospel Mission were by no means slavery. I have no regrets for those years. Indeed I have learned not to harbor regrets in life – a point I make again and again in this book.