March 31, 2008

USA trip summary

Where do I begin?

I have four weeks of wonderful memories floating around in my head that I am trying to sort through and decide which to share with you. Warning – this may be a long one!

We are home now, back in South Africa. Funny that I am saying “home” referring to Africa since for the past 2 years we have been referring to “home” as where our families live in the States. I have been thinking about this throughout our visit and on the LONG journey back and I think that I am more settled about living here now that I have been back to the States. Home to me now means both places. While I am here in Africa, I will always be homesick for family, church, and friends in the USA and while we were in the states, I found myself homesick for Africa – wondering how ministry was doing without us and missing friends from here.

There are many things that we love about both places. We love the tortilla chips and restaurants in the states and we love the wild animals and the weather here in Africa. We love family and friends back home and we have great friends and teammates here. I love that there were an equal amount of phone calls from American teammates and African friends calling to welcome us back. We were missed and that feels good.

When our parents purchased our tickets last September so we could visit them, we were terribly homesick, a little depressed, and a lot discouraged. We tried hard to put a good face forward and to press on with the wonderful ministry we have the opportunity to do here, but there were many days where the sacrifice of being pregnant so far from home and wanting to be near my sisters who were also pregnant, the stress from living in a city with so much crime, the unknowns of our future ministry opportunities, the challenges of attending a church where we didn’t feel included in the fellowship life of the congregation, and no friends in our current season of life…lets just say we took turns talking each other into continuing to be missionaries. Thankfully neither of us wanted to quit on the same day!

Last September we changed churches and this has made a huge difference for us. We are now fully embraced and loved by an international church that isn’t too far from our home. We are leading a wonderful group of Christians in a Bible study at our home and Dan is playing drums on the worship team. It feels GREAT to be in a fellowship where we are being fed spiritually and where we can also serve.

Now, after being home to the States and being embraced by three amazing congregations who fully support us and who are extremely excited about what God is doing in and through us in Africa, it feels like we are recharged to continue pressing on here. From the bottom of our hearts we are thankful to all of you! We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of giving financially for our work here, and especially overwhelmed by all the beautiful little baby girl things that were given to Miesha. She ended up with more luggage then Dan and I combined going back! She is a blessed little girl!! Again, we are so thankful to all of you.

Sidenote: please be patient with me on the thank you notes…have tons to do!

Here are a few highlights from our trip ~

Fairfield, ID: This was where we spent our first weekend and it was amazingly restful for us! It was about as opposite to Johannesburg as could possibly be. A small mountain farming community verses a huge metropolitan city the size of Los Angeles. We were told, “The keys are in the car – help yourself. Just follow the tar road into town, you’ll see the church right there.” There was close to 4 feet of snow in Fairfield and we left African weather in the high 80’s F. It was a WONDERFUL and restful change of pace for us. Thank you to all of you in our Fairfield family for taking such good care of us. A special thanks to Jerry for all the planning she did and to her family for hosting us, rescuing us from the snow bank, and for teaching us to snowmobile. Thank you also to Pastor Chuck and Fay for the lovely meals and for keeping us in faithful prayer at your church.

Being in Portland and Vancouver was my favorite simply because that is where I grew up, where all my family still lives, and were I attended the same church for 11 years and have deep friendships. My family got together almost every day we were there. We made some amazing memories and have some really fun pictures of all the babies. Baby Uriah was born in Oct, Miesha in Dec, and Kyla in early Jan and Jake just turned 4. Here are my sisters and I with all the babies!

Being at Summit View Church…it is hard to describe. The depth of friendships, all the memories from retreats, worship team, and working in the office all have meant so much to me and helped to form both Dan and I into the people we are today. It was good for our hearts to be back, great to be with friends, amazing to sing familiar worship songs again, and to share our passion for Africa. A special thanks to all the SVC staff and to all of you who contributed so generously towards our ministry here. We are so blessed to have you partnering with us!

We also loved being in Seattle. I love Dan’s family and it was really fun to spend time with them all. We ate salmon with the family at Jon and Elena’s and we went to a local game reserve with Tommy’s family and had a fantastic time spotting deer, moose and bison. We think it is ironic that Miesha’s first “safari” was in Washington! I loved staying up late talking with his parents and we learned a lot about them while planning their 50th wedding anniversary party. It was a beautiful celebration of their life together and it was great for Dan and I to get to introduce Miesha to many relatives and close friends who came. Dan spoke at a men’s retreat and enjoyed talking with many of his friends and mentors in the camp setting and I got to visit with many friends at a baby shower they did for Miesha.

What we wanted on this trip was for our families to get to meet Miesha and to spend some quality time with us and we really feel that happened. We also were able to spend time with the maximum amount of friends because of all these special events and all the baby showers! We love you all. Our next visit will be longer and we hope to connect with many more of you.

We had a wonderful visit home – thanks to all of you who made it so special! If you have good digital pictures to share, we’d love to receive some. Please send them via email in a condensed format to me. (