Wow. It’s been an amazing year. Last night after dinner, Rusty and I did something we almost never do, we sat down together and watched Fox News together. Along with reports of the storm damage in Texas (in areas we toured and visited on our way to Arizona last February) there was a report of the “infamous” news of 2015. Most of the stories we had heard of, but from a distance the clamor of non-stop news media is a little easier to tame. What struck me was the anew realization that most of 2015 we were living abroad…
One snowy, cold February morning this crazy family set off in this RV for sunny Phoenix, AZ and six weeks of training with our mission organization.
This was our home for 6 weeks… the front yard of the President of CJ Ministries International and his sweet family, who shared their kitchen, bathroom and lives with us in true community!
A sweet circle of new friends and prayer partners sent us off to our mission to the other side of the globe!
After another cross-country trip back to our hometown in Pennsylvania and a hectic week of finalizing important paperwork things (like medical stuff, taxes and getting our “revolving” life disconnected) and hard, yet sweet good-byes with friends and family, we headed to NYC for our overseas flight. Another precious circle tearfully prayed for us as we loaded up our luggage and headed out for several years service abroad.
In line at the check in counter in JFK!
We were greeted by our “old friends” in the tribe with open arms and they threw a huge party in our honor. A dear, dear friend Elsie had been raising a pig she lovingly called the Russell pig. He probably should have met his fate many months before, but she saved him for a special feast to be shared with the entire community!
This sweet baby girl is named Kristin Carrie. We’re so happy to get to be a part of her life! We love this family!
After all the festivities were over our sweet hosts took a break to take a remembrance picture with us!
Before the first month was over, it was time to test my physical limitations with a hike to Carong, the abandoned mountain village with a lot of potential for future agricultural ventures. Here we are part of the way back to the current village, enjoy a cool(er) break at a waterfall.
Another joyful highlight of the first few months was this wedding!
Many of the highlights of the year were not as joyful. There’s a lot of pain and suffering here. We’ve been blessed to walk along side our Ati friends in times of medical crisis. Through these sobering times of community fellowship, we have learned many things about ourselves and the precious people we minister with. We’ve seen painful injustices played out before our eyes and witnessed the bonding effect of such hardships on a community. We learned that almost any misery can be endured with the love and support of people around you.
One family spent more than 6 weeks in hospitalized for meningitis. At the beginning of their ordeal, they had a nursing baby, who had to be weaned so that the Mother could care for the Father in the isolation ward. Their family will never be the same, but their Father is alive and continues his long road to recovery. The Mother counts the prayers of believers around the world as a big part of God’s healing in their lives!
God has given us many blessings in this first year back in our second home, and fruitfulness has been one of the biggest ones. This rocky hill was what greeted us in April. We soon began the hard work of digging out and rolling away the massive boulders to make way for rows of garden plots. Using organic methods of soil enrichment like vermiculture, composting, and charcoalized rice hulls, the Lord blessed and transformed the barren hillside into a flourishing garden!
And Lord willing the project will continue to expand in the New Year. We are praying, dreaming and sketching an aquaponics set up at the bottom of the Community Garden, as well as more family plots, a seedling shed, a piggery and additional vermiculture beds.
Will you join us in prayer for the next phase of the ag outreach?
Farmers by birth, our mission is more about relationships than agriculture. This year God has blessed our willing spirits and open hearts with many opportunities to engage people in God’s Word. First we started a casual Praise and Prayer gathering that has slowly grown to a faithful band of hungry Bible scholars! Each week we interactively study through a passage of Scripture and discuss how God’s word impacts our daily lives. A special thanks goes out to our language helper and skilled Bible teacher, Randy Patron. His assistance in our outreach here has been invaluable!
Randy is often behind the camera and rarely in front of it. This snapshot of a Praise and Prayer gathering captures him sharing from the Word, between Levi’s hands and Rusty😉
We’ve been blessed to fellowship with this group of believers on Sunday!
This was the first meeting of what’s casually known as “Guys Group” a fellowship of young men 10-18 yrs of age, that focuses on relationship building, discipleship and preparing the future men of the tribe for leadership.
God has blessed in personal ways, too. He’s proven Himself faithful and enough– when we are far from home, friends and family– He is truly all we need. Because of His great love for us He has given us special relationships that continue despite the miles, new friends within the region we are serving and a dog.
Yes, that’s right… once again, God has given this dog-loving family a “sort of” pet. This is the second time a dog has ‘adopted’ us which gives us all the joys of family dog without the ties and responsibilities. Dogs basically roam free here, though most have “owners” who make sure they get them their rabies vaccinations at the annual community rabies drive; dogs eat, play, sleep where ever they choose. This sweet pup, who we simply call, “Puppy” or “Pup” now that he’s getting bigger, just wondered in one day and gradually become more and more a part of our family life. He sleeps at his “real home” but eats with us and sleeps on our floor (near a fan) most of the day. If we go away for a day or two, he’s happy to see us when we get back but never offended that we left.
“Pup” enjoying a snack of pan de sal. (Bread)
Yeah, he’s a pretty smart, spoiled pup!
So as we ADVANCE into 2016, we are thankful and blessed. The year was not without it’s hardships– tough personal moments of self-doubt, loneliness or sadness over the long distances between us and four of our children. My oldest son and daughter in law are foster parenting two kids I’ve never even met. We missed our family dearly at Thanksgiving and Christmas, yet even in those heartrending times, God showed up and gave us supernatural joy in Him!
There are so many other highlights I could share, but since WordPress says this is already over 1000 words, I’ll stop with sharing a few of my goals for the new year….
- Eating around the dinner table and mindfully eating. Maybe even classical dinner music, my boys will love that😉. Let’s slow down and enjoy it!
- Eating more greens… really super hard here because lettuce is rare and expensive! We’ve had trouble even growing it! But we are going to have something green– raw or lightly steamed once a day! Thank you Lord for okra!
- Thankfulness— Mom sent us a barrel of sourdough pretzels… and now that it’s empty (wow they tasted good! Not available here!) it will be our Blessings Barrel 2016. We have so much to be thankful for and when we acknowledge it… it grows!
- Walk and Sit. I would like to walk to the village at least three days a week (no cheating with tricycles!) and just “be” there. No agenda, no plan, just “be.” Truthfully, the thought terrifies me on a couple of levels… I like plans, I’m already awfully busy, my language skills are lacking, but this is my goal… to just be present and see what God does!
Four seems like such an awkward number, but I’m determined that these will be lifestyle changes (and in a moment it will be published for the world to see!) and not-shot-in-the-dark resolutions that are easily broken in the first few weeks of the New Year.
How about you? In what ways has God rocked your world in 2015? How are you looking to grace in His grace in 2016?
HOLDING ONTO EACH OTHER…. With Jesus, it’s always a wild ride!