Dear Loved Ones,
“Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” Psalm 95:2
As Thanksgiving in America is upon us, I might be tempted to be grumpy given that our expectations for this holiday have been somewhat disappointed. But I find myself more contemplative than usual, giving thanks for so many blessings. While our family gatherings have been hampered due to covid restrictions, I am so very grateful that we have family that wants to be together, that we have traditions of gathering together as family to celebrate. Not everyone has that. And that for the most part, we have been able to see most of our family that are relatively close by before restrictions kicked in again. We enjoyed a summer family reunion at the beach, Jon’s cousin’s wedding, kayaking with Jon’s parents, a birthday party with my mom, a trip to the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter with friends, and a local amusement park with great roller coasters with friends! The biggest thing on my “thankful” list is time spent with friends and family over these last few months. What a blessing it has been, what a joy!
It’s been a couple of months since you have heard from us. While I can’t really say that we have felt settled, we have gotten into a sort of routine which includes dropping off and picking up kids from school, Bible Studies and certain days becoming lunch and coffee date days. We have been busy but it’s a different kind of busy that we are used to. We aren’t used to having to schedule so much. Not used to getting in the car every single day and going somewhere. Another thing that has been harder to adjust to this time around is the change in weather and daylight. The longer we are in Africa, the more we adapt to life there. But again, there is so very much for which to be thankful. And again, people being at the top of the list. Besides having an opportunity to visit most of our supporting churches and a catch up with individuals, one of the highlights of our time has been to meet regularly with two couples from our former small group for a time of meaningful discussion and growth in our marriages and faith. We also were able to attend one of our supporting church’s missions conference, which was wonderful! Jon kept his plate full with building a shed for a friend, and volunteering a handful of times as a doctor at a Christian clinic for uninsured patients. He also seemed to have quite a bit of Unit Leader work to attend to in the last few months.
Drew and Rachel have done fairly well at Mount Calvary Christian school. Rachel especially enjoyed her volleyball season and still goes outside most days when she gets home from school to hit the ball around with Dad. Drew has particularly enjoyed STEM and 3D art. He built a bridge in STEM, the idea to see how much weight the bridge could handle before breaking. His bridge exceeded the weight of sand available for measuring weight capacity so it sits, still in one piece, on his dresser. He also had the opportunity to go down to Texas with Jon last week to visit LeTourneau University and check out the aviation program there. It was a good visit and he was glad he was able to go in person to the school. It was on our “to do” list for this time in the U.S. so it always feels good to check something off on that list! Josh has done okay at Millersville. It has just been such a strange way to start college. Josh is so social so it has been challenging for him but he made a small group of friends on his floor with whom he ate meals, played games and generally spent time. He also joined a Bible Study and found a small church that he really enjoys attending. He really misses rugby, playing trumpet and social activities. We are hopeful that next semester will give him more opportunities for these things but classes will still be online so it will still not be ideal.
My mom is here in PA for some weeks before we will hopefully drive back down to Florida with her for Christmas and then return to PA for a couple of days before flying out to Tanzania. For awhile there we were in a holding pattern waiting to see what would happen with RVA, our kids’ school in Kenya. Currently the plan is to open in person in January with several modifications in place to account for covid concerns. We have bookings to depart on December 30 and arrive on January 1 in Tanzania. Negative covid tests are required for entering Kenya so we will need to get those before taking the kids to school. In the meantime, we will have a little bit of time in which we hope to start our move from the village to the city. We have do have a house in Arusha in mind but nothing is settled yet. Our first couple of months back are already looking pretty busy with getting the kids back to school, making a move and welcoming a long awaited team to the town of Kondoa where they will be working among one of the unreached people groups in TZ.
Jon’s work and resident permits which allow us to live and work in Tanzania will be expiring in August. Currently, almost no one is granted permits on the first go around of either first time application or renewal. Some people are getting permits granted after an appeal process. And some of those granted are for a final and limited time. So we return with some uncertainty as to how long we will be able to continue to live and work in this beautiful country that has been our home for so many years. Our hope is that we will be able to stay at least until Drew graduates in 2022. We really WANT to stay longer but must comply with the government. Our church partners in Tanzania are doing what they can to try to address this issue and hopefully the situation will change for AIM missionaries. We continue to hope and pray to this end. Would you pray with us?
As much as we are looking forward to returning to Tanzania, we will be doing something we have never done before. Though many have gone before us in this and we are not alone, we will be leaving one of our own family on a different continent. It will be a more painful departure this time as Josh stays and we leave. I remember how we felt the first time we took him to RVA when he was 11. Though we had no doubts about it, it was absolutely agonizing. While this time we leave a young man behind, we will not have the ability to see him for several months or participate in his life in a more personal way. We are confident he is ready for this. But it’s not going to be fun. Please pray for us a family as we go through this transition. It will affect each and every one of us. We are thankful for family and friends who welcome him into their homes as one of their own. He will be looked after but it won’t be by us. We are anticipating that he will come to East Africa this summer for a few weeks to visit with us and also to see some of his closest friends graduate. He missed his own but we hope he will be able be there for this year’s graduation.
We have been encouraged by news from colleagues in Tanzania in terms of continued work among UPS (Unreached People Groups). Both missionaries and national church workers continue on in the work that the LORD has called them to. His Church is growing in Africa. We will be able to give you more of a specific update once we hit the ground but yet another blessing to add to our “thankful” list.
And we are so thankful for each of you who has a special place in our lives. We may have lost touch in some ways with some of you as time goes on but you are someone who has touched our lives and we are so grateful to know you. Thank you for your friendship, for your prayers, for your support. May the LORD bless you and keep you.
Many blessings in Christ,
Melissa for all of us