Reflection and Anticipation: Missio Alliance Staff on 2022 and the Future

What have you read or listened to this year that you still find yourself thinking about as the year winds down? Why?

  • Justin Heap (Director of Content & Resource Development): The book Call Us What We Carry, by Amanda Gorman, has been a steady read throughout the entire year—a book of poetry that is compelling, haunting, and consistently reveals new ways of thinking about humanity, power, and identity.
  • Sarah Schepens (Operations & Events Strategist): “Notice that the Spirit speaks through the disciples in all the languages of the world, in all their strange syntax and vocabulary. God does not ask us to learn a new language to hear good news. Instead, God draws near to us precisely at that place where difference proliferates. Community flourishes when we embrace particularity and difference precisely because that is God’s creative design for our lives together.” (Eric D. Barreto, “Imagining Belonging with the Book of Acts,” found in Crisis and Care: Meditations on Faith and Philanthropy, edited by Dustin D. Banac and Erin Weber-Johnson. This is my heart for the church and for all communities. My favorite relationships in this world are with people who are different from me in a variety of ways (culture, age, life status, religion), and I have learned so much from them.
  • Carol Cool (Editorial Coordinator): After seeing a recommendation from Beth Moore on Twitter, I chose to listen to the book Everything Sad Is Untrue, narrated by its author Daniel Nayeri. In the first few minutes, my thought was, What am I listening to? But once I got used to the cadence of his writing and the poetic structure of this memoir-turned-novel of a teen refugee from Iran, I couldn’t get enough. Nayeri is funny and serious, heartbreaking and hopeful, and I cannot wait for him to write (and read aloud to me) something else. But until then I plan to listen to this book again very soon.
  • Toni Mosley (Writing Fellows Coordinator): “But there was a critical missing factor—spiritual mentoring from a wise and mature guide in a confidential setting over a period of time. In theological education we had exchanged listening, accountability, and companionship for desks, lectures, and grades.” (Dr. MaryKate Morse, Leading Voice, from her August 2022 Missio article “Spiritual Direction: Why We Need It”).
  • Chris Kamalski (Editorial Director): This six-word sentence has been rattling around my soul for months: “You cannot discover lands already inhabited.” The introductory line to Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah’s deeply prophetic work, Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery, released in 2019, is causing me to rethink, well, everything. I know I’m late to this work, but I’m grateful for the discomfort the Spirit is raising in my heart as I consider my family’s response in the place we live.
“The Spirit speaks through the disciples in all the languages of the world. God does not ask us to learn a new language to hear good news. Instead, God draws near to us precisely at that place where difference proliferates.” Barreto Click To Tweet

Where have you seen growth and transformation in your life this year?

  • Lisa Rodriguez-Watson (National Director): I’ve seen growth in my times of prayer. I’m more drawn to stillness and quiet as I listen and wait in God’s presence. Meeting regularly with my spiritual director has also been transformative.
  • Chris: It’s somewhat embarrassing to admit this at 43, but I’m relearning the value of putting my head down, concentrating, and working hard. Life is difficult and complex, and doesn’t seem to be getting any easier, and so how do I move forward other than by walking through challenges in my life? Perhaps the invitation of the Spirit for me is to once again open to being formed through the circumstances in my life, not in spite of them.
  • Carol: This year I learned you cannot rush grief and that it affects your body as well as your emotions. My brother Bob died a year ago this week, dropping dead in a WalMart. I hadn’t seen him in probably four or five years. The grief was so palpable, and there was anger too—at myself for not calling on Thanksgiving, at him for not calling on Thanksgiving, at both of us for not figuring out how to see each other more often. I’ve learned to make the call, spend the money to make the visit, even beg for the visit I know I need. And I’ve learned to give myself the grace and time to heal.
  • Toni: This January, my beautiful mother will have been gone for two years. I have taken care of all of her business affairs and I smile about her more than I cry.
  • Sarah: I’ve been leaning into and pushing myself to use my voice and perspective to try to bring change through advocacy.
  • Justin: I’ve always been drawn to the ancient, mystical, inclusive facets of what is surely a complex spirituality: this year has found me continuing my exploration of the beautiful and far reaches of the “Cosmic Christ,” as Richard Rohr describes it.
Life is difficult and complex and doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. The invitation of the Spirit for me is to once again open to being formed through the circumstances in my life, not in spite of them. (Kamalski) Click To Tweet

What is your favorite memory from this year?

  • Sarah: My favorite memories of this year all include some quality time (usually in nature) with some of my best friends.
  • Carol: This has been a year of many hard things, and so when we received an unsolicited upgrade to a hotel room with beachfront view, my husband and I were practically giddy. Watching the ocean and the sunrise over it from our fifth-floor balcony and hearing the waves even as we drifted off to sleep felt luxurious and provided soul nourishment.
  • Justin: While celebrating our anniversary this year, my wife and I spent some significant time at this penultimate, extensive retrospective of Cezanne at the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Toni: The leadership team from my day job made a presentation at my church to announce that they have provided for me to work as the youth minister at my church!
  • Lisa: From a professional perspective, the first team meeting with all the new folks who were hired in the spring. I was incredibly encouraged and excited for what was in store for Missio Alliance that day!
  • Chris: My entire family and dearest friends in South Africa were camping at Storms River Mouth Rest Camp in mid-March when I received the invitation from Lisa to join the Missio team as editorial director while waking up from a nap in our tent. It was such a moment of joyous celebration to walk out of the tent with the welcome news of an opportunity to work with this amazing team.

What are you looking forward to as we gather together in Chicago in April 2023 for Awakenings: Disruption in the Life of the Church?

  • Justin: In a single word, I am most excited about presence. The opportunity to once again be present with one another will be exceptionally wonderful as we push into conversation, prayer, and becoming aware of what it means to listen well to each other. What a gift presence can be.
  • Sarah: I am very proud of the space we are creating for the benefit of those attending but also the topics and voices that we are platforming. I am excited to watch impact and transformation right before my eyes, knowing it will have a ripple effect from there.
  • Toni: I am looking forward to diverse dialogue about current topics/strategies to effectively minister in the local church.
  • Chris: Meeting all the wonderful writers, authors, pastors, and Christian leaders that I know by virtual correspondence alone! Simply being in the room with one another is going to be so healing and transformative.
  • Lisa: Bringing the family back together!
Awakenings 2023 means the opportunity to once again be present with one another as we push into conversation, prayer, and becoming aware of what it means to listen well to each other. What a gift presence can be. (Heap) Click To Tweet

Describe your sense of what the Spirit of God is doing in the life of the Church in this cultural moment.

  • Lisa: My sense is that there’s a great sifting taking place in the Church. Though uncomfortable right now, what will emerge is a more beautiful and true expression of the Church. I’m eager for that but am also acutely aware of how much loss and lament play a role in this season.
  • Justin: My sense is that the Spirit of God—a mystery if ever there was one—is leading the entire world toward a profound integration, marked by inclusivity and celebration: a transcending, post-post-Christian, open-minded spirituality that welcomes and affirms all. This appears to be the critical, micro-work feeding an undercurrent where God is actively leading us to the maturity of becoming curious and compassionate where we come to see everything is connected.
  • Sarah: There is a stirring and unsettling that I see happening and while we may not know how it will settle, I’m hopeful it will settle better than how it was before.
  • Carol: I believe there is a great winnowing going on in the Church, and while there are members of the old guard desperately grasping for power and the right to set the agenda, God is at work doing a new thing. I believe new leadership and patterns of disciple-making from the Global South will rise to prominence as the servant leaders we need at this moment, sparking a revival around the world.
  • Toni: I believe that the Spirit of God is calling the local and global Church to look at how we effectively reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that encourage discipleship as we live out these “pandemic times” in which people can choose to worship solely at home.
  • Chris: I’ve heard others describe this moment in the life of the Church as apocalyptic in nature, but in the true sense of that word: a great revealing. That feels like an uncomfortably helpful naming of this cultural moment to me. What I’m fascinated to continue discerning is our response as the Church to this great revealing. What must continue to come apart, so that new life can emerge? What must be put together with care once again? This is our challenge.
My sense is that there’s a great sifting taking place in the Church. Though uncomfortable right now, what will emerge is a more beautiful and true expression of the Church. (Rodriguez-Watson) Click To Tweet

Bonus Christmas Cookie Recipe (!)

This recipe comes courtesy of Carol Cool, our Editorial Coordinator.

Carol: I don’t cook and rarely bake, but I do make this one cookie every Christmas. They come from my Scandinavian heritage but are my Italian husband’s favorite. This thin, crisp cookie can be frozen for months and tastes fabulous right out of the freezer. (FYI: These cookies are NOTHING like the ginger snaps that come in a box at Halloween time!)

Pepparkakor (Swedish Ginger Cookies)


  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 4 tbsp. molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon


  1. Mix sugar, molasses and butter.
  2. Add egg and dry ingredients.
  3. Chill dough for a short time (Note: You can keep it in the fridge for up to a week!).
  4. Form dough into small balls the size of a small marble,—they will spread! Then dip the ball in granulated sugar so it is covered.
  5. Put on greased cookie sheet and flatten each ball by pressing it with the bottom of a small glass. Place a paper towel between the glass and the cookie so the batter does not stick to the glass itself.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 10 minutes.

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