October 3, 2019
Dear Family and Friends,
The West Coast Bergrens have lots of news to share!
First, a brief update on each of our children (human and canine, alike!). Molly (23) is living and working in Milwaukee. She works as the social media coordinator for Milwaukee Recreation and is enjoying living in a lively part of the city, close to the lake and nearby lots of bars and restaurants. She has lots of friends from Marquette University still living and working in Milwaukee and it’s just a short car ride back to Chicago and the burbs where she can catch up with the rest of her crew, which she does on a regular basis. Carl (23) is enjoying life with us in Northern California. He keeps busy by helping out around the house and taking care of the dogs—a huge blessing and support to us, as our schedules have been exceptionally busy this summer. Carl also supported The Marine Mammal Center as a volunteer working on a harbor seal crew taking care of baby seals (awwwwww!), providing fill-in support on other crews, and generally being ready and willing to jump in to support wherever help was needed—he even recently volunteered to help the staff prepare for our annual volunteer appreciation party—a volunteer for the volunteers. Carl is looking forward to finding a new job and exploring career opportunities in the Bay Area and we are so glad to have him with us. Max (19) is a sophomore at Elmhurst College and is majoring in Geography. He is enrolled in his first GIS class this semester and is excited to learn about how this technology can help to improve society and make lives better. He also works lots of hours at a music store, plays tuba for the Elmhurst College band, and is a member of Elmhurst’s eSports team—video-gaming is a serious competitive sport.
Katie is our 16 years “young” schipperke and she’s still going strong. She’s seemingly completely deaf, but still struts around the house like she’s in charge, flies up the stairs at epic speeds and demands treats at regular intervals. Trinity, our 3-legged Siberian husky turns 12 years old this year. She’s still a spoiled, obstinate, contrarian princess who likes to talk back, but we love her just the same. Both girls are slowing down a bit, especially Trinity who struggles to get around with her missing leg, but they bring us so much joy, even as their quirks and demands intensify.
In career news, Ben and Rachel each have wonderful news to share! This summer, Rachel was promoted to Chief Programs Officer for The Marine Mammal Center. This role significantly expands her responsibilities as she serves on the executive leadership team and oversees all of the Center’s mission-based programs including animal response/rescue, animal care, scientific research, and learning and community programs. Rachel has slowly been transitioning into this role while also wrapping up an 8-month interim role as the Center’s lead for Human Resources and Volunteer Management, while also filling her previous job responsibilities as Director of Education and Guest Experience. Needless to say, 2019 has been an extraordinarily busy year for Rachel and her work at the Center, but she is looking forward to what the next year brings as the Center’s programs continue to grow and diversify and she is able to focus on her new role as CPO.
Ben has recently accepted an amazing opportunity to serve as Senior Pastor at Community Lutheran Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Yep—in another state!) Leaving his current call at Bethel Lutheran Church in Cupertino, California was not in our plans and was definitely not an easy decision. CLC was the first church that Ben served just out of seminary (as their Associate Pastor). While his first call there was short (1998-2002) the CLC community had a significant impact on him and vice versa. Receiving an invitation from CLC to interview for the role of Senior Pastor was completely unexpected, and ultimately receiving the call to serve was like being asked to “come on back home, Pastor Ben”. This is a bittersweet moment in Ben’s ministry and for us, personally, as we love our church family at Bethel. By accepting this call, Ben will be moving to Las Vegas, while Rachel will remain in the Bay Area. It’s not an ideal situation, of course, but we are excited to buy a home in Las Vegas (something we couldn’t afford to do in California) and we are looking forward to Ben having a shorter commute between work and home, which will allow him time for adequate sleep and exercise and will support an overall healthier lifestyle.
As many of you know, Rachel and Ben previously managed a bi-city lifestyle when Rachel moved to California in 2013, so this is familiar territory for our family. Fortunately, there are many, many daily flights between San Francisco and Las Vegas, and the flight is just 1.5 hours and relatively inexpensive—an improvement over the schedule and prices between San Francisco and Chicago—plus, no snow to thwart travel plans! Rachel and Ben each have the flexibility to work remotely, on occasion, so this will also help to support this non-traditional living arrangement. We look forward to spending time together in Las Vegas and in the Bay Area and remain open to what the Lord has planned for Ben’s ministry at CLC, Rachel’s vocation and our marriage. (All good things, we know.)
There are so many wonderful things happening in our lives; we are blessed and grateful. Yet, life also has it challenges and we want to share a recent development with you. Earlier this summer, Rachel experienced some outward, abnormal symptoms related to her breast health, which prompted her to contact her doctor. Her primary care doctor saw her right away and ordered a mammogram and ultrasound. These images showed nothing wrong, but the symptoms persisted, so the doctor ordered an MRI. After several weeks of back and forth with the insurance company (first a denial and then finally an approval), Rachel had an MRI. The MRI showed two suspicious areas in her right breast, so biopsies were ordered and taken late last month. Rachel then learned that she had been diagnosed with a form of breast cancer known as DCIS or ductal carcinoma in situ. Last week, we had a consultation with our oncologist where we learned that the unhealthy cells have spread pretty extensively throughout the duct system, eliminating the option of a lumpectomy and necessitating the need for mastectomy. While this was not what we expected or wanted to hear, we are counting our blessings that the cancer has not invaded any other part of Rachel’s body and although it will be an invasive surgery and difficult recovery, Rachel may not need radiation and should not need chemotherapy. As our oncologist, Dr. Kelley, put it, “It’s just dumb luck that we found this now.”
Now we are in the process of meeting with other members of Dr. Kelley’s surgical team to determine the best path forward for Rachel and her long-term health. We have an appointment later this week and another one next week. We hope to have a more defined treatment plan by the middle of the month, and assuming that comes together, we anticipate surgery sometime in the month of November, perhaps.
Dear reader—if you’re still with us, you may be wondering, “How in the world are they going to manage all of this with Ben in Las Vegas and Rachel in California?!?” And the answer to that question has multiple parts: 1) Together: Ben and Rachel are in this together, every day, in all ways and forever, 2) one day at a time, 3) with God’s help, and 4) with the love, support and prayers of our family, friends and co-workers. That’s it. That’s how we’re going to get through this!
If you’re curious, we’ll provide updates here along the way. News about our new home in Vegas, updates about Ben’s ministry (tune in to hear and see him preach—live or recorded!), news from Rachel and The Marine Mammal Center (a place of healing, hope and inspiration) and updates about Rachel’s treatment and recovery. There’s a lot going on and we are privileged to share it with you—thank you for blessing us with your love and friendship!
God bless you because you have blessed us…
Rachel and Ben
Some scripture that has lifted us recently…
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9