I had an awkward encounter the other day with a kind lady behind the cash register. I was at a local store picking up a few necessities. We’d finished the transaction and she handed me the bag after which I smiled and, on instinct, uttered a word that sounds like “tock”.
She looked puzzled.
“Takk,” I repeated.
“Tick?” She asked.
I spoke louder. “TAAK!”
She appeared startled. I looked at her expectantly. She stared back at me. The folks behind me in line darted their eyes back and forth between us like they were watching a ping-pong match. Finally I realized my mistake and was somewhat embarrassed.
“Sorry,” I said. “I meant to say ‘thank you.’”
And with no further means of explanation, I turned and sprinted out of the store.
All this goes to say that we’ve arrived back in America safe and sound. Our plane touched down Thursday night. After sitting on the runway for nearly an hour while our pilot tried to figure out which gate we belonged at (“Sorry about the delay, Lufthansa seems to think they own the terminal these days”), nearly losing our customs slip (“that’s not really important is it?”), learning that immigration officers don’t have the best sense of humor (“what were you doing in Iceland?” “Well, I wasn’t getting a tan now was I?” “….”), we found our bags and met my family outside a crowded airport terminal. We were back home.
The first (and arguably only) Icelandic word I learned is “takk.” It means “thanks” or “thank you.” I learned this word years ago when it was released as the title of an album by one of my favorite bands, whose origin I would go on to learn was the small north Atlantic country I which would quickly absorb my fascination. They released the album on the heels of their first world tour, as a tribute to their country of origin, to the people who had launched them into their career. It’s a beautiful album, with a simple title and a pure message: “takk…thank you.”
The word is easy to say, flows smoothly off the tongue. Accompanied with smile and a nod, it communicates genuine appreciation, simple sincerity. Perhaps it’s because this word was introduced to me with the beauty of an album of music holding it up, or perhaps it was just the foreign nature of it, but I always found that it held a greater weight and significance than it’s English counterpart. And while in Iceland it’s the one word I could communicate easily and freely. I ended every encounter with a small nod and “takk”. It became instinctive for me, more so than saying “thank you”.
Which is why, when it comes to showing our gratitude for this trip, I think we’ll revert from English and embellish in one final Icelandic indulgence. I hope you don’t mind. Because there’s a few people to whom we wish to say “takk”.
To everyone who supported us and prayed for us before this trip, to those who gave financially to the fund that sent us over to Iceland, who encouraged us, and equipped us: takk. When we initially conceived the idea of taking this trip, we imagined it’d be difficult to raise support. We cannot tell you how grateful we are for the way in which numerous people rallied behind us. To all of you who supported us in prayers, letters, encouragement, finances and numerous other ways before our trip: takk.
To the people at Gordon-Conwell who educated us, the administration behind the Overseas Missions Practicum who provided for the class and infrastructure behind the program, and our professors and mentors on both sides of the pond: takk. Much thanks to Bill and Gunnar who hosted us in country and the endless efforts they put into providing a place for us to stay and the countless logistical efforts it took for us to even come and be with them during this time. Our time in country was not a walk in the park for them and we are incredibly grateful for their selfless service in shuffling us around, finding housing for us, and being our tour guides and translators while we were there. To everyone who providing for the logistics, infrastructure and education for this trip: takk.
To everyone who has supported, encouraged and prayed for us while we were on the trip, to those who sent an email, message or simply lifted us up daily while we were in Iceland… we are infinitely grateful to you as well. An email here, a message there, went a long way to encouraging us at just the right time. Furthermore, we cannot underestimate the power of prayer. This trip was not without it’s difficulties and prayers, through the grace of God, supported us in ways you can’t begin to imagine. For countless supporters who aided us and lifted us during this trip behind the scenes, for those of you loved us anonymously: takk.
To the people we’ve met on this trip, to the endless Icelanders whose gracious hearts, welcoming attitudes and loving spirits have permanently endeared us to you and your country, we are eternally gratefully. It’s incredible to think that six weeks ago we entered a new country alone and yet this past week we had to spend five days saying goodbye to a community we’d come to know and love. We realize that this didn’t happen just by letting people into our hearts but because others let us into theirs. And for the willingness to be open to complete strangers entering into your lives, we are very grateful. To our new friends, to those we met along the way, to the numerous people who opened up their houses and homes, bought us a cup of coffee, offered us a ride, gave us a place to stay, made us a meal, even gave us directions when we were lost, we cannot say it enough: takk.
Lastly, but of greatest importance, thanks be to God. Iceland is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, filled with some of the most beautiful and wonderful people I’ve ever met. It is a place yearning for redemption, yes, but it is still a place that sings the praises of its Creator. We are infinitely grateful to and thankful for a Creator who did not abandon any of us to our own devices but actually chooses to utilize us in His redemptive work. And we’re thankful for the fact that He is a creative Creator, whose beauty is reflected in the diverse and brilliant landscape of Iceland. To Him first and foremost we give our infinite and foremost gratitude for allowing us to be part of His work in that country. And with grateful hearts we say, simply but sincerely: takk.
The past six weeks have been a memorable journey we’re not soon to forget. There’ve been ups and downs, sunsets and rainy days. Through it all, we’re grateful for the experience and thankful to everyone who supported us and provided a way for it to happen. We cannot say it enough nor is there a word in English or Icelandic that means it as sincerely as we do.
So we’ll just keep it simple and mean it from the bottom of our hearts: