Saturday, November 30, 2013

Relief, Rest and Relaxation

So if you haven't heard by now, Patrick passed the Technical Evaluation! I won't lie: it was a stressful time! He finished everything Thursday afternoon, and it was a full 24 hours before we were called in. That was not a fun 24 hours for either of us! I am so proud of him, and we are so excited to have this milestone behind us and now be ready to move forward. We spent the last two weeks since the TE enjoying some celebrations with my extended family in Charlotte, a few days of rest with our little family in the Smoky Mountains, and then Thanksgiving here in Kansas with Patrick's family. It has been a busy busy month, but I think everybody has done really well. (Except Caroline. She has become an octopus. or a barnacle. or some other really clingy thing that won't let go of me. To be honest, I'm not sure she remembers Minnesota at the moment. Today she was walking around the house we are staying in and out of the blue asked, Mommy, where is my home? Wherever I and her Minnie Mouse are!) 

I did not take alot of pictures in Charlotte. I want the pictures, I just dont want the hassle of taking them. But we had to commemorate going to the Panthers/Patriots Monday night football game. My dad took Kim, Lara, Meghan, and Patrick and I. It was fun! 

Pigeon Forge

Watching pottery being made 

At the Old Mill 

The kids were awed by all the activities and entertainment available, so although we were there to enjoy the mountains, we did do some fun things with them the first day. Charlie and Hannah got to drive their own bumper cars, which, as you can imagine, was quite the disaster. But they had fun. 

Our hiking backpack did not fit in the car this trip, so we were thrilled to find we could rent one very reasonably! Patrick definitely "shouldered" that responsibility. She is heavy! We did two hikes. The first was uphill and challenging for the kids, up to see a waterfall. The next day was through a wooded area, and to tour some historic homesteads. 

We knew that most of the park's 1500 bears would be hibernating, so we were thrilled to see one at the very end of our trip! 

Towards the end, Charlie had definitely had enough. He told us he wasn't going any farther. 

We were very grateful to have some time together, in the middle of this crazy November. 
Thanksgiving was good, although we missed the presence of Patrick's great aunt Jean, who passed away only the week before. Tomorrow, we will be at our home church in Pratt, where we will share a short update and hopefully see lots of you. Then Monday, its back up to Minnesota. Thank you so very much for your prayers and encouragement this last little while. Excited to begin the Advent season this weekend, celebrating the coming of Christ to earth, and looking to His second coming! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Reporting live from the JAARS Center in Waxhaw, North Carolina

Aerial photo of the JAARS campus

So, we have been here at JAARS for 2 wks now, and have really enjoyed our stay. Our apartment is in the very top left corner. The bottom left shows the RV park, where people like my Mom and Bob keep their camper when they are here volunteering.  If you're just getting caught up, all prospective missionary pilot-mechanics have to do some sort of an evaluation. Some organizations do their own, but AIM Air, and many others partner with JAARS, which is a branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Wycliffe is actually headquartered in Florida, but here at JAARS is where all the training takes place. Not just for pilots, but in a variety of fields such as IT and Vernacular Media Services. Missionaries from many different agencies send their people here. There is also a missionary retirement community. All the people who work here are volunteers; some are missionaries who have spent time overseas and are now working in a different capacity, others are retired people that come work for a few months or a few years. The cars in the parking lot sport tags from all over the country. You don't have to be a church planter to be a missionary. The people here are supporting Bible translation through working in the cafeteria, library, housekeeping, childcare, and a host of other areas. I won't go into everything that happens here, just hit some of the highlights for us. (If you're interested in finding out more, click here.)

I should do some kind of top 10 things to know if you will be coming to stay at JAARS. If I were, one of the top would be the bread dock! A few times a week, a van runs to some local businesses (such as Panera) and picks up the bread and bakery items they aren't going to use. A blessing and a curse! Everyone who takes advantage of this service donates a few dollars to cover the cost of gas. We just happen to be right across from the dropping off point. 

If God provided loads of chocolate chip cookies to remind me He loves me, then He also threw something in for my daughter. Why was a brand new leftover size 6 Halloween costume there? Not sure. Sometimes they get random items, such as the fire extinguishers there alongside the bagels ;-) But it was there for somebody to take, and it sure made Hannah smile. 

This is one of two such signposts on campus. If you squint, you can see it is approximately 7,000 some miles to Nairobi. Guess we should start walking. 

This is the office my mom has done work and training in, the VMS building. I think Vernacular Media Services is so neat. Having a written copy of the Bible in your hands and being literate enough to read it is wonderful. But that is a long, long process, and not always the best way to reach a group of people. VMS gets the truth of the Bible into the hands of people all over the world, through MP3 files, videos, recordings of all kinds, and just anything you can think of. In this building, people are trained how to set up a recording studio in primitive surroundings, make and edit recordings, and all kinds of things. Obviously people need to be able to study the Bible for themselves. But in the meantime, there are many ways to share the Gospel. It is really exciting how many people are reached through these methods. 

 It has been a beautiful time of year here. This brilliant tree is right outside our windows, we are on the bottom floor. There are various living arrangements for people, depending on your family size and length of stay. We were given a 3 bedroom apartment right next to the playground! Everything is very well maintained and equipped. Good wireless internet and a free laundry room in the building have been really wonderful! If there is something you need that isn't in your apartment, you can go to the housing office, and walk through their store rooms. Anything is available. We came back with a bathroom stool, box fan, and double stroller to use while we were here. Little things that make life alot easier when you're away from home. Even things like crock pots and any kitchen appliance you can imagine. It is a wonderful place for people to stay when they are in our situation, or home on stateside assignment. We also used the library and the part-time childcare while we were here. And there is a clinic that can administer our travel vaccines.
The kids have made many little friends on the playground. They also quickly discovered the two tricycles and scooter outside the apartment. Here, nobody finds it strange that we don't have a house or household belongings. That we have been in transition since we sold our house 14 mos ago, and will continue to be for a few years. That I don't have a concrete answer on exactly how this next little while will play out. Sometimes it can be challenging for a goal oriented person such as myself to stop and talk with EVERYONE I meet, as people like to do here ;-), but it is really encouraging to hear people's stories and testimonies who have been where we are, and very humbling and inspiring to hear the stories of those who have returned after 20 some years overseas. 

A few pictures of where Patrick has been spending his time. I would tell you more about what he's been doing, but then I'd have to kill you. The TE being top secret and everything. Just kidding. I can't tell you because I don't really know. It has to do with airplanes. Flying them and fixing them :-) 

We didn't take an official tour, but these are just a few of the neat things we saw in the hangar and surrounding areas. The kids enjoyed the many murals. 

 Who notices why I put this earth-shattering picture? Not the age of the vending machine ;-). (How bout those drink machines at Firehouse Subs. Those things are crazy! They seem futuristic to me. A touch screen drink machine? What will it be like when we get back? So cliche, I know.) Only in a place like this would they have to write on it, please don't use foreign coins. I just thought that was funny.

30 miles or so away from this relaxing-albeit-somewhat-strange-surreal-missionary-bubble-world where everyone's cars are junk and most everyone's clothes are a tad old is South Charlotte. What to say about South Charlotte? Shopping and restaurants and spas and gyms (and repeat, repeat, repeat) beautiful neighbourhoods with perfectly manicured lawns, along with perfectly manicured people. Even though I lived here, and still come back regularly, it always feels a bit dreamlike. Forget some place a world away like Sudan, it feels strange that such places exist in the same country as say, Pratt Kansas or Worthington Minnesota. Everywhere I look something is yelling buy me, eat me, try to look like me. Maybe with a little more practice I can transition better between such different worlds. (I would love to claim that missionaries-in-training such as myself are not tempted with such things as shoes and new make-up, or really good food. Alas, I've always told my children that lying is worse than whatever they did in the first place! So we are real people too. For better or worse) My favorite thing about being close to this area is because I have family here. I am so grateful that we are required to be here for at least a few months, and my kids' cousins live right up the road! We are looking forward to it. And I will get to see my sister and dad more than a few times a year. 

The tiny speck in between the power lines, not a bird or a superman, but a future missionary pilot! My future missionary pilot, to be exact.