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Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. — James 1:12

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. — Romans 5:3-4

NASA selected the name of its latest Mars rover, Perseverance, in March of 2020, just before the closure of NASA facilities due to Covid-19. The selection was from a student essay contest. The contest winner, seventh-grade Alex Mather from Springfield, Virginia, wrote in part: “But, if rovers are to be the qualities of us as a race, we missed the most important thing. Perseverance. We as humans evolved as creatures who could learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh. We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere. We, not as a nation but as humans, will not give up. The human race will always persevere into the future.”

Alex could not know how prescient his words were to be. Due to the closure of public facilities, NASA had to adapt to remote work. Lab technicians were only allowed to work on the vehicle one at a time. But, through a lot of creativity and extra effort, and most of all, perseverance, NASA met the launch date for Perseverance of July 30, 2020. There is only a very narrow window of time that a launch to Mars can occur; if we had missed that window, we would have had to wait another 18 months. At the launch, then NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine quoted Romans 5:3-4 after reading Alex’s essay.

July of 2020 was also a time of great upheaval in my spiritual life.. Earlier in the month, I had performed my final service to my previous Church, providing tech support for the funeral of a dear friend, our former head of trustees, after his long battle with throat cancer. I had felt increasingly out of communion with the new trustees and had made the painful decision to separate from that Church. Covid afforded little opportunity to find a new faith community, but I continued to read the Bible, focusing on the passages about Perseverance, and taking heart in the incredible character of my co-workers.

The “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would have said, you all know. My youngest son asked that we start attending church services in June of 2021, and we were welcomed with open arms by the St. Thomas congregation.

Prayer: Father, help us to persevere through those times of personal and spiritual challenges. Help us to know that these trials offer opportunities to build our character, and help us understand the hope offered through the death and resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ.

About Karl Becker Karl and his youngest son Daniel are new members at St. Thomas. Karl has worked at NASA as a contractor employee for 12 years.

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