“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
—2 Peter 1:4
It was a dark and stormy night. Thick, black clouds slowly pushed to the east as the sun began to set and a remarkable double rainbow settled over eastern Cleveland. Bryan and Jean Webb, members of Pilgrim Lutheran Brethren Church, were driving east past the church along Johnnycake Ridge Road as the rainbows appeared. They turned into the church parking lot to take a photo, not soon enough to capture the double rainbow, but in time to photograph the remaining rainbow as it perfectly framed the church building. What a sight—the glorious colors of the rainbow! What a wonder—the faithful promises of God as heralded by a rainbow! Two rainbow banners frequently hang in our church sanctuary proclaiming Jesus, God’s greatest promise, and Jesus, mankind’s greatest hope! I believe that almost all of us are reminded of the promises of God when we see a rainbow!
Bryan and Jean spliced four separate photos to complete their picture of the rainbow. They share a love of nature, hiking, exploring the wonder of God’s creation, and nature photography. To take and complete such a picture is like second nature to them.
Bryan and Jean were living in Southern California, but two years ago Bryan found himself suddenly transferred to Mentor, Ohio. He worked for Avery Fasson, a “sticky paper” company which had moved its chemical research division from Pasadena to our community in Ohio. One can only imagine Bryan and Jean’s reaction—“From the perfect climate of Pasadena to a land of ice and snow?” “Away from their family, church and lifetime friends?” Tough? Yes—but they were graciously reminded of God’s promise, “Don’t worry, I will never leave you or forsake you!”
Two years later, Bryan and Jean have intentionally and ambitiously embraced the beauty of Northeast Ohio, its rugged terrain, great parks and hiking, Lake Erie vistas, bird watching, and incredible autumn beauty. Bryan has even taken to cross country skiing! He has also begrudgingly become a fan of Ohio State football and Cleveland Cavaliers basketball.
Bryan and Jean have come to love the people, theology, teaching, preaching and ministries of Pilgrim and of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. Bryan initially visited Pilgrim because of a sign advertising our Saturday night service. He returned due to the warm welcome of the congregation and especially on the promise of a sand volleyball game. Jean began to attend as well and soon they together made proclamation of their faith as confessing members here at Pilgrim. While Bryan now lives here year round, Jean is primarily in California caring for their elderly parents. Both Bryan and Jean have doctorates in chemistry.
Bryan was led to invite other Avery Fasson transfers from Pasadena to join him at Pilgrim. Eventually co-worker Yao Feng Wang and his wife Sue also began attending the church. Of great fun for us is that Yao Feng and Sue are from Taiwan, where our previous pastor, Mike Kittelson, serves with his wife Delores as a missionary to the Hakka. Yao Feng and Sue’s interest in the Kittelsons is so strong that on a recent trip to Taiwan they had planned to visit Victory Lutheran Brethren in Hsinchu City to hopefully meet Mike and Delores. Victory is a large traditional Taiwanese church which graciously hosts the Kittelson’s work. Ironically, the Kittelsons were on home assignment and actually on their way to Pilgrim when Yao Feng and Sue were in Taiwan.
Yao Feng grew up in a Buddhist home in Taiwan and was a practicing Buddhist when he met Sue, who was a non-practicing Christian at the time. Their parents arranged their marriage, and they have experienced the dynamic work and promises of God in their lives as a couple, growing to love each other and eventually to love Jesus Christ. They moved to the United States to attend the University of Southern California. There, through various encounters with believers who invited them to living faith in Jesus Christ, Yao Feng and Sue came to know the peace and promises of God.
Yao Feng and Sue have a great love for Christ, the study of Scripture and the work of the Church. Yao Feng recently served as moderator of a Taiwanese-American Christian denomination. He is a chemical engineer, Sue is a registered nurse, and both work as distributors of NuSkin products.
At about the same time as Bryan and Jean and Yao Feng and Sue were becoming active in the church, God was working in the heart of a young mother who had also moved to Mentor from Pasadena with her husband and young children. Julie had worked on staff with CRU in various southern California colleges, married Jeff Goodman, and together they had two boys, Joseph and James. They had recently moved to Jeff’s childhood home, Mentor, primarily because of living costs. Once Joseph and James were both in school, Julie decided to go back to work, but was unable to find work as a part-time teacher as she had hoped.
Then a surprise opening developed at Pilgrim to serve as our youth director, so Julie came on staff as our youth ministries director just a few months ago. We are blessed by this family! Jeff is a popular high school teacher and a skilled amateur photographer. His photography is occasionally published in USA Today newspapers and on USA Today online. He is also one of Bryan’s favorite volleyball partners. Julie is gifted in theology and biblical studies, communications, theatre, teaching and of course, raising children. Joseph and James are smart, energetic and loved by the church family! We are blessed by Julie’s promise to serve as youth director!
Bryan and Jean, Yao Feng and Sue, and Jeff and Julie, and Joseph and James are a delight to us here at Pilgrim. They are great reminders of the variety of ways in which God fulfills his promise to build his Church.
Rev. Bob Heggestad is pastor at Pilgrim Lutheran Brethren Church in Mentor, OH.
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