New Beginnings: At the Trail-head

by Jacob Juncker

This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, July 22, 2012.

29 Moses said to Hobab the Midianite, Reuel’s son and Moses’ father-in-law, “We’re marching to the place about which the Lord has said, ‘I’ll give it to you.’ Come with us and we’ll treat you well, for the Lord has promised to treat Israel well.”
        30 Hobab said to him, “I won’t go; I’d rather go to my land and to my folk.”
        31 Moses said, “Please don’t abandon us, for you know where we can camp in the desert, and you can be our eyes.

Numbers 10:29-31, Common English Bible

Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear, that together we might learn and be inspired to live your Word in the world.  Amen.


June 7, 2008.  It was the day that Chandra and I took our marriage vows in Marsh Chapel on the campus of Boston University.  …for better or worse, in sickness and in health…till death do us part…

in sickness and in health.

Right after our wedding, Chandra and I enjoyed a four-day honeymoon at an all-inclusive resort in Cozumel, Mexico.  It was on the second day of what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation that Chandra came down with a sinus infection which resulted in seeing a Mexican doctor and a trip to the pharmacy.  Relief was not immediate, but she was feeling better the next day.  So…we decided to go snorkeling off the beach at the resort where Chandra was stung by a jellyfish on her arm.  We were newly married.  I didn’t feel comfortable peeing on it (seriously, it’s supposed to take the sting out).  So, we called the doctor again.  …in sickness and in health.

…for better or worse.

Upon arriving back in Boston after our honeymoon, Chandra and I were greeted by my roommates who did not want to live with a married couple.  They removed my name from the lease and asked us to leave.  Unable to find an apartment that we could afford on short notice, we moved all our belongings into the Hotel Buckminster.  The place Chandra was working at the time.  …for better or worse.

…till death do us part.

On August 22, 2008, still living in the hotel, just two months after getting married, Chandra and I packed our bags for a three-day hiking trip in the Adirondack Mountains.  It would just be Chandra, me, and my father-in-law who, I should mention, likes to sleep with a pistol under his pillow just in case starving bears attack (a legitimate concern).  As a newlywed, the vows I’d made just a few months earlier were ringing in my ear…for better for worse, in sickness and in health

You’ll be happy to know that I survived that trip…death did not do Chandra and I apart.  In fact, I will cherish that backpacking journey with my wife and new father-in-law for the rest of my life.  It was the first backpacking trip I’d ever taken.  In those few days together, I grew closer to Chandra, my new wife, and learned a lot from her and her dad about preparing for the journey and surviving on the trail.

This week, I’d like to talk with you a bit about what I learned about preparing for the journey.  Next week, I’ll talk about what I learned from my wife and father-in-law about surviving the journey.


It was a few months before we were to leave on our 3 day, 2 night journey that we received the list.  It was a list, prepared by my father-in-law, of the things I would need to pack in my backpack: things I needed to make a safe and successful journey.  The list included things like:

  • hiking boots
  • change of clothes
  • baseball hat (for day), wool hat (for night)
  • comfortable footwear to wear in camp.
  • water purifier or tablets to make drinking water
  • water bottles
  • food
  • rain gear
  • first aid kit

The list was long and detailed.  But, he knew the terrain and he knew exactly what each of us needed to best prepare ourselves for the journey: a journey through what was, for me, unexplored country.


Moses and the Israelites were about to embark on a journey through an unexplored country called the Paran Wilderness.  Moses felt unprepared; so, he asked his father-in-law to come along.

Hobab had grown up not far from this wilderness area.  He had traveled through it often.  He knew where the safe places were to camp.  He knew where to find water.  Hobab had no idea where God would lead the people of Isreal, but he did know what to bring to survive the journey.  Moses knew that Hobab’s presence would make sure that the people of God would be well prepared for the journey wherever God was leading them.


Traveling into unexplored country—whether it’s the Adirondack Mountains, the Paran Wilderness, or a new pastoral appointment—can be risky and dangerous; especially, if you are unprepared for the conditions that await you.  Therefore, it’s always helpful to have someone, or a group of people who are familiar with the area come along for the journey.  They can tell you where you can expect danger, where you can retreat for safety, and where the resources are that you need to survive.

Culver is, for me, an unexplored country.  And, like I needed my father-in-law and like Moses needed his father-in-law, I need you.  You know this place.  You know its history, its pit-falls and its potential.  So as we stand at the trailhead this morning, I want to invite you on the journey.  I don’t know all the places God will lead us, but I do know this, that if we’re faithful, like the Israelites, we will indeed reach the Promised Land.

What do you think is important for us to know about this unexplored country: Wesley United Methodist Church and the surrounding community?

What passions, talents, and resources are you willing to share on this journey as we seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?

For those who’ll join me, I look forward to journeying with you.  I look forward to hearing your answers to those questions, learning what you know about this place and what you’re willing to share with everyone along the journey.  Friends, I look forward to going with you to the unexplored places God is calling us to go.  Because, I know that together, we’ll be prepared for the journey God leads us on.  Amen.