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Grace and Peace - From Wilmington, IL to Wilmington, DE

A critical medical diagnosis during Holy Week has started our family on what is sometimes called “a journey.” Now we’re home with signs of health and hope, and a sense of urgency to use what time we have—among other things, to take long-deferred day trips around the area.

Monday the 17th was cool and cloudy, a good day to visit a treeless place. Southwest of us, the Joliet Arsenal had opened during World War II, churning out munitions partly in conjunction with DuPont. In the 1980s and 90s, the arsenal was decommissioned, then turned into the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery and the Midewin (mi-DAY-win) National Tall Grass Prairie. In 2015, to foster prairie conservation, a herd of bison was introduced. Our goal was to find and see them.

And we did! At a distance, through binoculars, for maybe a minute, before they had the nerve to disappear down a ravine. Meanwhile, we’d taken an aerobically rewarding walk through a wilderness in bloom. Then we were famished.

A search for “restaurant near me” yielded something called “The Launching Pad” five minutes away, in the town of Wilmington, Illinois. Heading there made us think with affection of you, our friends in Wilmington, Delaware.

Gemini Giant

And then, behold! There was the 30-foot Gemini Giant holding a rocket ship, pointing the way to The Launching Pad. Come to find out, the original restaurant dated back to the 1950s and the heyday of Route 66. In recent years it had fallen into disrepair. But a couple who had met online through a website for grieving spouses decided to meet in person by going antiquing in Wilmington, Illinois. They were smitten not only by each other but by the Gemini Giant, and the dream of bringing back the restaurant as a gathering place. They re-opened it last year.

Monday’s food was good, the décor and souvenirs delightfully silly, and the various discoveries of the day a gift. In the Potawatomi language, midewin refers to healing. We experienced restoration both of the prairie and of a community watering-hole. And of course, this summer is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, which the Gemini space program anticipated.

Our gospel for June 30 begins with the major turning-point in Luke: “When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51). Everything that follows is devoted to this journey. Our July 7 gospel has Jesus sending out a multitude “to every town and place where he himself intended to go” (10:1).

It’s a season for travel, day-trips, journeys—for making connections, meeting and remembering one another, and discovering gifts along the way. For healing, for dreaming. Grace and peace to you, across the miles. May your summer be blessed.

Pr. Julie Ryan

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