Tuesday, October 23, 2012

We are a bridge. In one way, we, as all believers, are a bridge from the lost and hurting world to our compassionate loving God. In another way, we are a bridge from the Church here in America to the Church in Africa, and eventually back the other way; from those holding the ropes back here to those taking a turn over there. We dont want to just tell our story. God is so amazing and so faithful and has done incredible things in my life, Patrick's life, and that of our marriage. But there are so many more stories, and we want you to know them. Through our blog and newsletter (and our future website), you will have the opportunity to get to know people. Church planters, doctors, seminary teachers, other pilots, boarding school dorm parents. And, most importantly, Africans.
So please, for just a few minutes, take a step onto the bridge. A whole world awaits you.

Monday, October 15, 2012

We talked about having two blogs, one for personal updates and one for ministry updates. But decided against it for two reasons: one, i have a hard enough time doing one, never mind two! And also, where would one stop and the other begin? The sacred is just as much a part of who we are as the temporal, as they are in the life of every single person on earth. Whether or not you believe it, you are part of a larger story, that started before the beginning of the earth and that will continue after its end. but i digress.
  • We had a get together last week at church, and open to the community, to share more of our story, and more about what missionary pilots do. Some people will choose to partner with us because they know and love and want to support us; others will do so primarily because they are passionate about missionary aviation, church planting, medical missions, Africa, or any number of reasons that have nothing to do with us personally. We are humbled and excited as God brings people to us to join this team that He is putting together. This meeting was a good chance to answer questions and share specific practical details, like where does the money go, where will you live, what kind of planes will you fly, are you taking your children with you? (just kidding. we didnt get that one again. but i love it, i just had to stick it in there! ;-)
  • This weekend, Patrick and I are going to worthington, minnesota to check out our new (temporary) home. We will get to tour the airport, learn more about Patrick's job, see the house we will live in, and most importantly, meet the Proclaim Aviation team. They have already been so helpful and we are excited about being a part of Proclaim.
  • In November, we have our first speaking engagement scheduled (other than our own church.) Some friends from college that live in Oklahoma invited us to come for their missions emphasis Sunday, and we are thrilled to do that.

the kids' weekly grocery store treat: a green juice ;-)

the day before the sale, i finally gave up on trying to keep the kids out of the tables and tables of breakable items i had set out, and we took a day off. i had not been spending any time with them, so i would like to say that this face is due to my undivided attention, but i'm pretty sure its just the donut :-). The struggle to prioritize your family and keep as much routine as possible, we are learning more about that. it was just so crazy there for a while. the sunday we spoke in church just happened to be the same weekend of the moving sale. and i got sick that weekend too. after church, we went out to lunch with Patrick's family who came to support us. its a small town, nearly everybody goes to one of two restaurants. we were debriefing, and out of nowhere, hannah yells, mommy, you forgot my panties!! (and yes, she was wearing a dress.) Yikes. classic case of being too distracted with ministry?

caroline has moved on to another stage, there is now nearly nothing that is beyond her reach. her personal favorite is the kitchen table.

we finally had caroline's baby dedication last weekend.

the scene around our house when daddy gets home at night. caroline has to be right in the middle of it, too. she gets very upset if patrick doesnt pick her up right away!

i have never seen a messier child. at every meal, she rubs her food in her hair. doesnt matter what it is. and i dont have any idea what to do about it. as with most toddlers, i imagine, she doesnt want to be fed, she wants to do it herself. so i have to put it on her tray, and she promptly throws it all on the floor. and i've allowed her to get into the habit of walking around eating. i know she'll eat more if i leave her tray on the table, instead of cleaning it off, so that makes more mess. but she's such a picky eater, i just let her do whatever she wants. (wow, that sounds even worse when i say it out loud! its the third child, what can i say. i'm too busy trying to get the other ones to eat their vegetables and not play pirate with their forks.)

such a big girl! i cant believe i have a child this old. she is really enjoying our once a week co op morning with the homeschool group, and we are learning alot together when we do school in the afternoons.

we have been putting together some booklets to give to potential partners, with information on Africa Inland Mission, our financial needs, the top 10 questions we get, etc. The kids helped me stuff them the other day.

a trip to the pumpkin patch provided some much needed family time, last weekend. caroline had a great time rolling daddy around in the tunnel.

once again, my little climber. if she cant reach something, she'll just pull a chair over to it. the problem is, the only chairs we have right now are folding chairs, so they often fold up on her. she just tries it again, though!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

God is so good, so good, so good!

We are so very excited to finally have no home and hardly any possessions to our name! I know it sounds a little strange, but if you had spent the last few months trying to sell aforementioned home and its roomfuls of stuff, you would feel the same way.
  • We got not one, but two offers on our house while we were in Atlanta at Candidate Week. God orchestrated the situation so that we got full asking price on our house, as is! (Must be that awesome cleaner/interior designer we had come in to prepare for the showings ;-). The buyers also wanted about 75% of our furniture, so we didnt have to worry about finding new homes for it or move it.
  • A gracious man in our church had a home he wasnt using, and offered it to us for the next few months until we move. It is furnished, which was just a huge answer to prayer. Also dishes, towels, trash cans, everything you need. It is also on a ton of property, i dont know how many acres, so its just like living in the country. I can now put my kids out to pasture, and they can be free range :-)
  • Proclaim Aviation Ministries, who we are now officially missionaries with (which still takes my breath away and brings tears to my eyes, that i can say that. just look on their website under missionaries; yep, there we are! www.proclaimaviation.org), has a home that they will rent to us in Minnesota.  It is also furnished, and we are heading up there in a few weeks to check it out, along with the town and the airport where Patrick will be working.
  • We had an amazing turnout for our moving sale, no i did not take pictures. nor did we breathe, eat, sleep, or anything else for about a week. at least it felt that way. We had enough boxes left over to have another full sized garage sale the following weekend. By then we were practically begging people to take our stuff. Pottery Barn duvet cover for $10, sure, why not? Patrick and I tag teamed as we sold each others stuff, thats easier than watching your own things get carted off for pennies!
  • We spoke in church a few weeks ago, which was another "wow, this is real" moment. Our pastor is so supportive, both verbally and financially. We have an informal get together meet and greet on tues, oct 9 for anybody with questions, members of the community who dont go to our church, and people who may want to partner in this ministry. We're praying God brings people who He is leading to part of our team.
  • We have prayer cards, and they will be going out with newsletters here in a few weeks. or whenever i get around to writing them. really, whenever we get around to collecting all those adresses! So make it easier on us, just leave a comment if you'd like to receive our newsletter.
  • A reporter came to our sale to take pictures and asked for an interview. What do you know, apparently in Pratt KS it was front page news ;-). I was nervous about being misrepresented, even by accident, but it was a positive experience, and got alot of people thinking about international missions, and hopefully finding the peace with God that we talked about in the article. http://www.pratttribune.com/article/20121001/NEWS/121009892
  • It has been so encouraging and exciting to see people participate already, in large and small ways. Family was a huge help, we absolutely could not have done it without them. The printing people did up our moving sale signs for free. the paper gave us a discount on our ad. a friend babysat the kids for me, and another friend came to the sale, even bringing along her own babysitter, so she could be completely committed to manning the check out table (huge job) for us, for the entire 2 day sale. Other people donated stuff for us to sale. Somebody I barely know, the lady who does story time at the library, just came up and gave me a donation. My dental hygienist offered to donate supplies whenever we need them, to have a clinic or something. I am so humbled to see all the people God uses, and all the roles that need to be filled, and all the willing servants that step up and say I want to do something. I cannot wait to get to Africa so we can turn around and share with this army of people back here, this is what God is doing! This is how the Kingdom of Light is turning back the kingdom of darkness, this is how the enemy is being defeated. and its because of you, my friend. and you, complete stranger! and you, and you, and you.

Anyone else ever have a hard time choosing a family picture??

Saturday, September 1, 2012

the paradox

I know this will not be the last time that I find myself in tears while writing. We have alot on our minds these days, and sometimes we fail to give as much brain and heart space to the things we'd rather not think about as much. But I have heard that that is damaging in the long run. We are, as you know, headed to Africa. (Eventually. in some capacity. with some organization ;-) Before we can get there, we have this intermediate step of living in Minnesota for a time (probably 12 mos), while Patrick works as a pilot/mechanic to gain the experience he needs. More on that later. But that is coming up really soon. We will be leaving our current home here in south central Kansas in January. So even though Africa itself is still a ways off, the changes are starting now. We will be back to KS as often as we can, as we still have family here, and our home church is here. But it will be different.

Someone asked me recently how long we were planning on being in Africa. Its a common question, so the answer rolled off my tongue, somewhat without thinking: we hope to be there career, which basically means until retirement. There is alot of coming and going, obviously. Every few years we would back for 4-8 months. The next question I had no easy answer for: does that make you sad?
Does it make me sad? I had to stop and think about it. Yes it makes me sad. The leaving makes me extremely sad. It will feel like someone is cutting off a limb. But is grief the only emotion we are experiencing? Well, no. At Candidate Week, we had a session entitled "leaving and grieving." there is an inescapable paradox: the deep grief at going so far away from your family, and yet the excitement of where you're going, and more importantly, why and for Whom you are going. How can these emotions, both so strong, exist at the same time? I dont know! I cant speak for Patrick, but I definitely would rather not talk about the leaving part. At least not with anyone I care deeply about. I will talk about the going, the getting there, but not the leaving.

We have been told that failure to express and acknowledge your sadness about leaving communicates to your loved ones that you are so consumed with getting to your new home that you arent giving them a second thought. that what lies before you is so "important", so life changing, so worthy of sacrifice, that the sacrifice doesnt even bother you. that your family rates down there so far on the scale of your priorities that you dont even think twice about leaving them. I remember the first time I left for Africa. My mom and sisters dropped me off at the airport, and i almost changed my mind. I literally did not think it would be humanly possible to walk away from the people i loved more, and who loved me more, than anything else in life. This time around will be infinitely harder, I know. We have heard testimonies on what its like for other people. Stories of mothers having to physically pry their children from the arms of grandmothers. Stories of pastors who now refuse to accompany outgoing missionaries to the airport for a send off party because the goodbyes of the families are too painful to watch. My loved ones: you dont hear me talking about leaving you not because I dont think about it, or because i dont care. Its simply because I cannot bear it. Or i might change my mind.

After all, what do those lost people have to do with me? I mean really? Nothing really. At least nothing personally. But the thing is, Someone left his home, and his family, to come here and tell us the Good News. More than that. He came to be the Good News. And He gave His life. And He has actually literally asked us to give our lives. Not unto death, at least not most of us. But to use our lives in the same way He did. For one purpose, and one purpose only: to be the hands, feet, and mouthpiece of Christ here on earth. Believe it or not, that does not always fill us with warm fuzzies. it isnt like we're always jumping at the chance. We like our life here. We love our home, we walk to the pool/library/park/downtown. Patrick has a good job where he can fly sometimes. We have friends in our church. We have family. Why would we want to leave? Honestly, we dont always want to leave! we often dont want to leave. We sit on our front porch swing on a nice evening and think, you know, let's just stay. its so nice here. it will be too hard to leave. it will be too hard to be there. Now now that i'm comparing Pratt KS to heaven :-), but I honestly believe Jesus probably wished he could have stayed in heaven. What waited for him on earth? Not much good. What waits for us there? We dont know. But He left his home, because believe it or not, He thought we were worth it. And why do we leave ours? Because we believe He is worthy.

How can I say I am incapable of following in His footsteps, because its too hard, or I dont like where they're leading? Like it or not, this is what we signed up for. There was no fine print at the end of the salvation agreement. It went something like this. Jesus gives me: eternal life, forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and a host of other things we cannot understand or know this side of heaven. I give Him: my entire life. I didnt just get heaven out of the deal. He's an all or nothing God. I cant insult Him by saying I want what He is offering, but then hold back when He asks something in return. So really, it doesnt matter whether i want to or not. (which is good, because that good be a logistical nightmare for visas, plane tickets, etc: one day yes, next day no, one day yes, next day no!)

I want to close with an excerpt from an article entitled "Pain in leaving, peace in going." "Matthew 19.29 Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. Phil 4.19 And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Phil 4.13 I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. These verses challenged and spurred us toward the most difficult thing we had ever done: leave. Although we moved forward, confident that this was God's plan, the pain was grueling. This wasnt just causing us to hurt; we were causing pain to our children, asking our families to sacrifice, and leaving our friends and neighbors. Yet we believed then - and still believe now - that we would rather model obedience to our children and to those around us than grasp at all things secure and comfortable. As we cried through those last couple of days in San Diego, three words kept coming to mind: He is worthy. I reflected on the eternal life that was mine because of Christ's sacrifice. When pain returned, we would press through it, taking one step at a time and asking for His strength to carry us. Jumping in to the unknown was freeing. We all agree that we miss our loved ones and the comforts of home. But the prayers of the saints have carried us and we have a new, more vivid longing for Heaven. we know that we will be with our loved ones who know Jesus forever, and we'll never have to say goodbye again."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I'm not sure exactly how long since i've gone off on something, but i hope long enough that I can do it again. because i cannot let this go. again. walking through the atlanta airport, patrick and i admired alot of the artwork adorning the halls of the train tunnels. if you choose to walk in between terminals, you can be entertained with the history of atlanta, various displays of african art and sculpture, etc. And then we came upon this one. As you can see, it's referring to elephants. elephants, people? yes, i realize they have no voice. you know why? its because they have no soul. and therefore, are a lower life form than those of us who do have voices, who do have souls. now, i wish that the world were such a wonderful, peaceful, happy place for us people that we had enough time, energy, and financial resources to worry so much about the state of these precious little elephants on this poster. But i gotta tell you, that is not the case! If you are a kind hearted person who wants to stand up for someone who has no voice, can i point you in a different direction?

Machine Gun Preacher: http://www.machinegunpreacher.org/about-sam-childers/ I put this one first because its pretty easy to watch a movie. We all do that regularly, I imagine. I'm not advocating for this unique "preacher", so much as I am the cause of the children he's fighting for. His methods are questionable, but the point is, evil is out there, and we do have to fight it. Its about southern Sudan (yes, i realize everybody thinks I run that into the ground, and I'm sorry), and the children there. Started by Sam Childers, ex-criminal from Pennsylvania.

Invisible Children: www.invisiblechildren.com This is an organization dedicated to rehabbing abducted child soldiers, specifically those taken by the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) in Central Africa. Many of these boys are kidnapped when they are very young, and forced to commit and witness unspeakable horrors. Eventually, they fully adopt that way of life. They are using a variety of methods such as radio to reach these children and encourage them to surrender. There are a few residential facilities where the ex-child soldiers can go, and they help them find their families, if they are still alive.

Make Way Partners: www.makewaypartners.org Their mission statement: "Through the hope of the Gospel, we go to the most vulnerable and least protected to end human trafficking and modern day slavery." They have people in a few different countries, but they started in Sudan as well, doing much the same things as these others I've listed. Started by Kimberly Smith, average wife/mother/churchgoer/American.

Amazima: www.amazima.org. Started by Katie Davis, a young girl from Brentwood TN doing a short term mission trip in Uganda, and ended up staying. And adopting children. And opening an orphanage. Because she was in love with Jesus, and so she loved what Jesus loved, to the exclusion of everything else. Uganda has been completely traumatized by the LRA as well. An amazing, amazing story. These are all amazing stories. About average people who are confronted with the horrible truth about the world, and do above average things. and therefore end up changing the world.

Hudson Taylor said "“What does the Master teach? Is it not that if one sheep out of a hundred be lost, we are to leave the ninety and nine and seek that one? But here, the proportions are almost reversed, and we stay home with the one sheep and take no heed to the ninety and nine perishing ones!” It was true in his day, and its true in ours. But they arent just lost. They are being kidnapped, raped, maimed, murdered, and forced to do the same. But hey, let's hope those elephants get all the help they need. It would be a crying shame if they were hungry or cold. or extinct.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

here there and everywhere

about a month ago, the kids and i drove up to my mom's, i wasnt exactly nervous, but it is an long drive (not as long as meghan had, mind you, and with one fewer kid than she has, so i'm not complaining!). we set off pretty early, to have one long day, 14 hrs or so, to stay in grand forks, nd. we were trucking along pretty well, caroline was having a rough time but the rest of us were fine. and wouldnt you know we blew a tire, close to the nebraska south dakota line. alas, we did not have a spare. we waited about 30 min on the side of the road, me and my 3 babies, and it took that long for anybody to stop to help us. did i mention it was about 107? and we were a ways from anywhere. the miracle of the day was that Patrick and his boss trade alot of hay up in that area, and Patrick had a business contact about 20 miles from there. He came and picked us up, took us and our tire into town, we got a new one, and he put it on for us. it added 2.5 hrs to our trip, but still, not a bad resolution!

the kids didnt sleep that much in the car, so by the time we found got settled in our hotel, it was midnight, and they passed out. the funny thing is, when i put them to bed, charlie was on the left, and hannah was on the right. i took this picture around 6.30 the next morning, before i woke them up to continue our trek. caroline was much more difficult to get to sleep, and still woke up early. the stinker. but its good to know that it gets easier to travel once they get older.
lara and her boyfriend matt overlapped with everybody too, so it was fun to all be together. a little crazy, but fun. this is lara with hannah (middle on left) and Kennedy, Parker, and Emerson.

we had our own Gibi Lake Olympics, and some of us had quite the outfits to compete in!

me and the kids were the orange team, as you can see.

it has been years since we have had a group picture. and not just for lack of getting together, but even when we are together, it seems we wait for the perfect time, and it never comes. so this time, we made sure to get a group picture!

last year, Hannah went to vacation bible school, and made a piggy bank. she and charlie collected our change all year, and we had over $100. I gave her a few choices, and in the end, we sent it to Samaritans Purse South Sudan Refugee Fund. I was so proud of her! It didnt even cross her mind to ask if she could keep any of it. (or if it did, she didnt have the nerve to ask me ;-)

last week, patrick and I made a huge step in getting overseas. we went to something called Candidate Week with Africa Inland Mission, at their US headquarters in Atlanta, GA. It felt somewhat surreal, as we have been a long time in working towards this, and we were so excited to be there. I will talk more about it soon.

yes, we had the requisite eat with your hands african meal. It was great fun for me, of course, and it was even really good. Every candidate week has a different missionary in residence, and ours was from Lesotho, in South Africa. So that person is responsible for the cooking, and our lady did a great job! (we still went out and got frozen yogurt afterwards. have to take advantage of that while we can, right?!)

We had alot of sessions, hearing alot of speakers and looking at alot of powerpoints. They did, however, try to lighten things up a little. One session was called the African Perspective, and part of that was about oral cultures and storytelling. we split up into groups, and made up an african story, using animals. i was the dying jackal over in the corner, fighting over a dead carcass. fun times, fun times. (in case you were wondering, i did not come up with the story, i was just along with the ride!) Patrick was a donkey, in his group. ;-)  

it was an amazing week, and that has only continued since coming home. we are still, however, everyday people with everyday lives and everyday jobs.  and everyday summer gardens. that make more cucumber than we could ever eat! especially that monster one. it was really nasty though, we threw it away anyways.

and with 3 everyday kids who do everyday things, like build things. it is so neat to see your kids grow, and do things for the first time. we got these nifty toys from barnes and noble, for the car. they stick together, and it took awhile for them to get the hang of it, and they would just stick them together randomly. but now charlie realized he can put them together to make things, and in the past few days he has brought me lots of cars and airplanes. quite the little engineer!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

NC trip

my poor children have been so sleep deprived over the last month! A full blown tantrum proceeded this impromptu nap, here at my dads house. He didnt want to get out of the pool, but it was time. He was so mad at me, I couldnt get his bathing suit off. So i just sat on the floor and waited until he calmed down enough to get some dry clothes on him. He was still kicking and screaming, though, so i started reading a magazine to wait it out. then he sat on the couch behind me, and before i knew it, he was passed out.

traveling with them on the plane was definitely a challenge, but it'll only get easier from here on out. I was so proud of us that we were at our gate early, and all prepared. I sent patrick this picture of us chillin together, and he responds, "is that my daughter eating off of the floor in the airport?" I looked back at the picture and thought well, uh, yes. I guess so. Whoops. and here i was so proud of myself. you do what you gotta do. and while travelling, its keeping them happy so they dont bother your fellow passengers.

We chose this weekend because it was my dads birthday. Chocolate chip cookies are his favorite thing, so Kim, his girlfiend, made him some. Charlie loves helping!

we went on a field trip to see some animals.

Patrick flew us the first leg, to Kansas City, so we could have a direct flight from there. We were very grateful!

me and my own personal pilot :-)

hanging out with the cousins

The high point of our trip was meeting Isaac for the first time! Brett and Jes had an amazingly blessed adoption journey over the last year, and especially the last few months. He became part of their family the day he entered the world, they were at the hospital to welcome him. poor little guy has had a rough time so far, he had some problems with his stomach and small intestine, and couldnt keep anything down. When he was finally diagnosed properly, he had surgery right away to fix it. we're confident he's going to be eating them out of house and home now, and grow up fast!

no more babies for me, but i'm always ready, willing, and able to hold yours!

we were also really glad to be able to make it to my niece's birthday party. Reese is ten days older than Caroline, so it is fun to see them together. (alot of work, mind you; but fun :-) I absolutely loved the theme, and Meghan did such a good job with co ordinating things. She made the girls dresses, too. and of course the cake, it was amazing. and homemade marshmallows: chocolate, vanilla, and lemon. so good!

my mom came down to NC to pick up their new puppy from a breeder down there, so she was able to come to the party too. we fit an awful lot into our time in Charlotte.

but we still had lots of time left to play. Thanks Dad, we had a great trip!