Drager's Big Adventure: Movers, Shakers, and Tragic Plot Twists
group magazine: January-February, 2000
In the third installment of a yearlong series, we follow a veteran youth minister who’s leaving a longtime ministry at one church and transitioning into a new church
By Chris Drager
At the end of my last set of journal entries, we’d said goodbye to all our old friends and co-workers1 and were about to dive into packing and moving...
Wednesday, July 22
Dena doesn’t want to move. Neither do I—this stinks! I’m looking for a huge sign from God telling me this is the right thing for me to be doing. I’m getting a gut-wrenching fear of the unknown and a stuffy head from bawling all the time. I can’t believe I’m leaving all of my friends and family behind! This is the biggest mistake I have ever made in my life! I can’t go to Kalamazoo because I don’t know anyone, Dena won’t find a job, Drew’s school is too huge and he doesn’t know anyone and he’ll miss a ton of football practice. There are so many other reasons I can’t list them. I think I’m having a nervous breakdown.
I tried to call Pastor Schade, but he is out of town, so I called Roger. He lived in Kalamazoo for 20-some years and keeps telling me how great this is going to be—which is all fine and dandy if you have connections in the town you’re moving to. He wanted to know if I don’t want to move because I’m scared or if I know Zion is not the place for me to be. Hello, Roger! I’m terrified! I’m going to miss everyone, I don’t know what I’m getting myself into, I no longer get to be a specialist in youth ministry, but have to be a generalist again. I can’t get over the feeling that this is just all wrong! The movers come tomorrow to pack up the house, and we’re totally exhausted already. This has got to be the most emotionally draining experience of my life!
Thursday, July 23
The packers came today, so we left and went to the mall. If we ever move again, we’ll just go through our stuff, pack a few things, and let the packers do the rest. We could have spent our time better by being with family and friends. It was way too stressful.
I was okay after talking to Roger yesterday, but now I’m being led down the garden path again—is this the right thing to do? I have until tomorrow at 8 a.m. to decide whether or not we move or stay. I’m never going to sleep again. On top of all this, Dena thinks we should rent for a while before we buy a house, just in case this doesn’t work out.
Friday, July 24
We said a prayer in the van before we drove away from our house for the last time. It was really heartbreaking for us. There were tears and hugs and hand-holding and more tears. The movers told us they would deliver our stuff on Tuesday, not Monday as originally planned. Hello—could you make this any more difficult for me?
Tuesday, July 27
Our new house looked clean when we did the walk-through, but these people were pigs! We spent part of Sunday and all day Monday cleaning cabinets, walls, floors, bathrooms, closets, windows—you name it and we cleaned it. The loan closing went really well. Paul Fierke, the congregation president, was there to sign the loan and was a great moral support.
Friday, July 30
I took the family to a conference where I’m giving a presentation this weekend. Dena is ticked at me because I could have said no or gotten out of this a long time ago. She doesn’t understand that I’m the author of the curriculum I’m presenting and that this has been in the works for two years. I didn’t know two years ago that I would be moving. Besides, I think it’s a great idea to get everyone away from the house after three intense days of unpacking and settling in...we need a break bad!
Sunday, August 8
I do believe we’ve moved into The Money Pit. I was hooking up the dryer when the outlet sparked once then burst into flames—a bad thing. I tried to fix the continuously running water tank on the toilet by replacing the guts of the toilet.
I’ve been into the office on and off since I got back from the conference, and no one has seemed too concerned. They seem a little surprised that I’m there at all. We still need to get a checking account set up and find out what’s going on with our insurance coverage. We haven’t heard anything yet.
Friday, August 13
I’ve spent most of the week at the office because Dena is in a decorating frenzy and has caught the entire family up in it. She’s doing a marvelous job. She’ll need to find a part-time job or do volunteer work at least a couple of times per week, or she’s going to go crazy. If she doesn’t go crazy, she will drive us all nuts. Her world has gone from knowing everyone and everything about a town to knowing nothing and no one in town.
Wednesday, August 18
I just came out of a staff meeting, and we’re planning Christian Education Sunday already. I’m still trying to get to know people, but we need to have a full Sunday school staff, confirmation staff, and Wednesday evening IMPACT staff. We also need to gather and write our curriculum for the three-year confirmation cycle to begin in two weeks. And, I’m doing the worship service this Saturday evening and need to come up with a message for the sermon. Pressure? What pressure?
Monday, August 23
Drew was in a bike accident on Sunday morning and had three teeth knocked out. His braces embedded into his gums, crushed his mandibular arch which holds his front teeth in place, and cut his gums and lips apart. He spent an hour-and-half in oral surgery. He may still lose two more teeth and need corrective surgery for his mouth.
Praise God for our neighbor! She’s an ICU nurse and came over with her kids to help us out. She stopped the bleeding, got some pain medication into him, treated him for shock as he lay on our dining area floor. She made him spit and apply an ice compact.
I’ve never been more devastated in my life. Drew had two more months of braces, and then they could be removed—now all of that time and work is gone. His whole mouth has been knocked out of whack. Teeth are turned, chipped, missing or broken off. I feel so bad for him—one side of his head is absolutely huge and the other side is normal. He’s on pain medication that knocks him out, and he only wakes up when the pain gets too bad. And today is the first day of school. He stayed home today but wants to go tomorrow. He’s a trooper, that’s for sure. I feel bad for him because he won’t be playing football this fall, and he was looking forward to that.
To top it all off—we’re in transition with our insurance and don’t have any coverage. One company says they no longer carry us and the new company hasn’t heard of us yet because we weren’t in the computer system...I realize God will work some kind of good thing from this, but I’m wondering if he has taken a good look at Drew’s mouth and the pain he is causing for my family. I’m discouraged.
Wednesday, August 25
Drew made it all the way through school today—what a guy! I had an orientation for confirmation ministry tonight and had a good showing. I feel like I’ve been making a lot of professional progress lately, but my personal progress of settling in has been squashed by Drew’s accident. Maybe I’m just depressed.
Dena is adjusting great—she’s enjoying being a stay-at-home mom and has been looking into substitute teaching two days a week. She’s also joined the hand bell choir at church. She came home and acted out her part for us in the kitchen. At first we thought she was having a seizure, but she was just pretending to play the chimes. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life!
Thursday, August 26
Drew is doing so much better! Some of the swelling has gone down. He can still only drink liquids-eating is not an option yet. We still haven’t heard anything from the insurance companies. I guess if we need to pay for this out of pocket, God will provide the money from somewhere.
Sunday, August 29
Yesterday was my birthday and it was okay. Drew went to a Detroit Lions game with Brian, Jodi, and Joseph, so he wasn’t home all day. That wasn’t so great...I worry about him when he’s not around. Actually, I’m obsessed with what he’s doing since his accident. I’ve become the biggest worry wart. I pray for my family’s safety, health, and contentment all the time lately. I have to pray that I calm down a little and let this fear go.
Thursday, September 2
Drew went back to the oral surgeon today for a check-up. He seems to be healing well but still has some jaw and gum pain. The doctor’s office hasn’t made any progress with the insurance companies, so I made my first installment to pay off this bill. What a drag! The payment on Drew’s surgery is more than the car payments I made on my first new car out of college.
Monday, September 6
Today was a really fun day! We were invited to Scott and Carol Hartwig’s house with some other people from church, and we had a wonderful time. They live on a big lot on a canal that leads to a lake. Sophia loved the beach, the water, the dog, the dock—everything! Drew, Dena, and I chased her all over the yard and took her swimming. All of the people over at the Hartwig’s are wonderful. We had such a great time talking, getting to know people, listening, and just relaxing!
Sunday, September 12
Today was my installation service at church as well as Christian Education Sunday. I was installed before the sermon. After the sermon, I commissioned a bunch of Sunday school and IMPACT teachers, adult education instructors, youth counselors, and helpers. Then we had the big Sunday school rally with our contemporary band inside a circus tent.
I have an excellent senior high group. They’re not afraid to let me know what they want to learn, how they would like their youth ministry program to be run, and what their vision for ministry is. I love that!
After church we had a picnic. The band played, people ate lunch, a Christian clown performed, and the church had a Welcome to Zion Shower for our family. We received a basket of food from the World Market, a jar of brownie ingredients and recipe, monetary gifts, notes of encouragement, gift certificates to favorite stores and restaurants, fall flower arrangements from my parents, pots of mums for planting, and all sorts of other little goodies. What a wonderful way to be officially welcomed to a new faith family.
Chris Drager is a nine-year youth ministry veteran who now lives in Michigan.