It was nine years ago when I first arrived in Texas to interview for the Victoria Advocate.

My initial meetings spanned two full days, and my test assignment as a would-be faith reporter involved writing a feature story on the Victoria Islamic Center.

So on my second day of the interview schedule, still a bit out of my element and exhausted from back-to-back meetings with staff, a colleague drove me over to the Islamic Center, where I was informed the imam was waiting for me. When I walked up to the door, determined to write the best test story the Advocate had ever read, the doors were locked. No one was there. No one answered the phone. I returned to the car, confused and wondering if I’d just been punked.

For a good part of the day, I pondered on the possibility my new bosses were testing me. “Were my editors trying to gauge how well I could pivot on deadline?” I ended up receiving a secondary assignment, which was a fairly complicated piece on a rehabilitation project in DeLeon Plaza, and had an hour less to complete it. I wasn’t thrilled with the outcome of the second article, but I made it through the day.

So, I got the job. And it wasn’t long before I started writing all kinds of stories on religion in the region and taking many trips to and from local churches, temples and, eventually, the Islamic Center.

This Saturday, almost as a perfect bookend to my start nine years ago, my final faith story will run. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s on the same imam, from the same Islamic Center I was expecting to meet my very first test day reporting for the Advocate.

Everything in life comes full circle, eventually.

When I left the Advocate two years ago to return to graduate school, I knew I couldn’t continue writing for the faith section forever. It was a love of mine. One of my great loves, actually. And I wasn’t ready to give it up. I wasn’t ready to give you up. It was a great love story because of you.

But it’s time now. I’m stepping away and stepping down, and entering a new chapter of my career, where I’ve accepted a new position as managing editor of AramcoWorld magazine in Houston.

That’s right, we’re back in Texas.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been supported and encouraged, inspired and cheered up by your emails, phone calls, text messages and grocery store run-ins over this last (near) decade. There has not been a week that has gone by that someone hasn’t reached out to me and shared their wisdom or personal anecdotes behind why my stories and columns resonated with them. I’m so humbled every week by those who actually take the time to not only read the stories, but then make an effort to reach out to the one who wrote it. It’s touching. It truly is.

Through the years, I’ve thought many times about giving up the faith beat. It seemed a logical next step after I moved away, actually. But I always felt like I’d be missing out on telling all of your fantastic, ever- evolving faith stories. I always felt I’d be missing out on your lives and our weekly interactions.

And I’m sure, to some extent, I will be missing out.

Stepping down from the Advocate wasn’t a hasty decision, and it’s been in the works for some months. But now, it’s time to step away and say goodbye.

It has been my honor to serve you these last nine years. It has been my joy and pleasure. I sincerely thank you for a decade of life-changing, God-honoring stories that helped bring a community together every Saturday. You’ve inspired and encouraged people all over Texas, all over the world and given hope to many by sharing your journey.

Always feel free to reach out to me should you ever need anything. And I hope you’ll continue to live your lives boldly and share your faith courageously.

Goodbyes are never easy.

But I’m not sure this is goodbye, exactly. It’s a beginning, of sorts – the beginning of something new.

And I pray we may always support one another as we choose to move into exciting new seasons of life.

Much love, many thanks, and here’s to the next decade –wherever we land.

Jennifer Preyss-Mathlouthi is a thought leader on religion trends and global issues. Email her at jlpreyss@vicad.com or follow her on Twitter @jenniferpreyss or jenniferpreyss.work.

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(1) comment

Glenn Wilson

Hasta la vista, and enjoy your new beginning.

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