June 2021 – Serving, Surveys, and Celebrations

Dear Friends and Family,

Once again, time has gotten away from us and it’s been too long since we have been in touch. Here’s a quick rundown of what we have been up to.  God’s faithfulness is beyond measure.

In February, we welcomed the twice delayed team to Kondoa!  It was very exciting to finally have this team on the ground after months of prayer and a lot of questions as to whether or not they would ever make it to Tanzania.  The team had a week of orientation in Kondoa at which Jon and I had charge of the kids.  Most of the day we had 5 kids, ranging in age from just under two years to six years.  After local schools closed for the day and on the Saturday, we had Moses join the group, son of the Tanzanian team members.  It was a lot of fun and a lot of work.  We were ready for a rest by the end of the week!   Pray for the team to continue to grow in their language learning and also building relationships in Kondoa.

We also made a quick, and I mean quick (24 hours there and back), trip up to Kenya to see Rachel and Drew.  It’s so different now with covid restrictions.  We were not allowed on campus so we only had two hours with them just outside the school gate.  But it was totally worth the expense of covid tests and visas to have that time with them.  Especially since we celebrated Drew’s 17th birthday together.

In March we made another trip down to Magambua with both of our vehicles to load up the last of our “stuff” that hadn’t fit into the moving truck.  We enjoyed visiting one of the local churches on a Sunday and we returned home with Tumaini, our friend and jack of all trades who spent a few days with us doing some projects around the house.  It was a joy to be able to employ him even for just a short time to enable him to earn some funds to keep his kids in school.  Not to mention, he accomplished A LOT while he was here, just getting jobs done that probably would have taken us a lot longer to accomplish.

March saw us celebrating 22 years of marriage.  We went up to a small lodge and had the place to ourselves.  The owner knew we were there for our anniversary and went over and above to personalize our stay.  It’s the same lodge where we have ladies retreat so we have built a relationship with them over the past few years.

In April Drew and Rachel came home for a school break.  Kenya went into lock down the day before departure and once again, God worked in amazing ways and all the students made it to their homes without difficulty. We expected to have the two home for four weeks but it turned into six and they needed to start online.  We are so thankful that Kenya opened up again and that they were able to return mid May.  School is very different for them this year and even though R.V.A. is open, there is still much loss in terms of cancelled activities and the fact that we, as parents, are not allowed to participate in activities like we have in the past.  Drew is missing out on another season of rugby and Rachel is missing out on volleyball, just to give an example.  But in the midst of this, we just found out that we are able to join the 8th graders on a camping trip this weekend.  We are very excited about that!

On April 1st, we received a phone call from Kenya.  Our good friend, Peter, called to tell us that his mom, Rachel had just gone Home to the LORD.  Rachel worked in my (Melissa) home from the time I was an infant and was like a mother to me.  Our Rachel is named for her.  This was an unexpected and heavy loss due to covid.  Our hearts ache knowing that we won’t see her again as we often did on visits to Kenya.  But we also rejoice knowing she is with Jesus and that we will see her again in heaven.  Toward the end of the month, we celebrated Jon’s birthday with new friends in Arusha.  What a blessing!

May saw the kids returning to school, Jon took a trip to Usandawe and traveled by motorcycle, as passenger, for four days visiting over 20 villages and meeting with pastors to learn about what God is doing amongst the Sandawe people. The purpose of this survey was to determine if the Sandawe can be moved off of the list of “unreached people groups”.  This does not mean that there is not still much work to be done.  It is simply to a tool to measure church growth and whether or not there is reproduction of indigenous churches in an area.  Jon is happy to report that there are indigenous churches planting other churches, and Sandawe are coming to faith in Christ, not in huge numbers but a steady amount every year.  Praise the Lord!  There are still areas that need support, like Bible translation, Bible distribution, and leadership training. 

Our annual AIM TZ ladies retreat just took place May 21-25.  It was such a joy to all come together for a time of worship, fellowship, refreshment and fun.  It was extra special this year because we were unable to meet last year.  All but one of our missionaries attended which is unusual.  We also had three Tanzanian partners join us for the first time.  We had a total of 23 ladies who traveled from all over the country by bus, plane, car and taxi.  We had 7 nationalities represented.  We were only missing our Korean sister.  Not only did I organize the retreat this year but I also spoke during one of the sessions.  Our theme as from Isaiah 40: 31 “Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up on wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary”.  One person spoke on walking, one on running and I spoke about soaring.  It was neat how the LORD had each of us prepare something different from the passage.  One of my favorite things that I learned was that the word to “renew” actually means to “exchange”.  So literally our strength (or weakness) is exchanged for God’s strength.  I am so thankful for all those who prayed for us ahead of time.  Even though I always had to be thinking about the next thing, I was able to enjoy the retreat and be fully engaged.  Though I did take a long nap when I got home! 

Throughout these last couple of months we have done a lot of hosting.  We are so grateful for this home that the LORD has provided which allows us to bless others.  We have people stay with us for a night or two or three as they are coming and going, especially as those who have come from Kenya need to wait a couple of days for covid test results before they return.  We had two families in AIM that had traveled two days to go to training in Kenya and couldn’t because of the lock down so rather than turn around and return to the far south, they decided to stick around for a couple of weeks.  They didn’t stay with us but it was neat to be able to spend time with them and to bless one of the families by hosting a birthday party for their daughter.

This month we will travel to Kenya to see Drew and Rachel and for meetings.  While Jon meets with leadership and other unit leaders, I am looking forward to catching up with friends that I have not had the opportunity to see in over a year because of restrictions!  After returning to Tanzania, we will travel out west to visit members in our unit in Tabora and the Mwanza area.  We had planned a trip in March of 2020 and it all came to a halt when RVA and the world at large shut down.  So we are very  much looking forward to this trip to western TZ from June 16 to 25. 

We thank you for your partnership and your prayers on our behalf.  We are blessed beyond measure with wonderful people in our lives all over the globe and in having the opportunity to serve our King in Tanzania.  Please continue to ask for favor in the eyes of the government with regard to receiving work permits.  As you probably know, Dr. Magafuli, the previous president, died in March.  The new president, known as Mama Samia, is making some changes which seem to be working to our benefit.  We are very grateful for this and feel more hopeful than we have in a long time regarding permits.  We continue to pray for an open door from the Lord for missionaries in Tanzania. 

Drew and Rachel will come home the first week in July and Josh will also come out for a few weeks.  We are very much looking forward to this time together as a family.  This new season of having an ocean between us and one of our kids lends a different kind of heart ache.  Having said that, we are confident that each of us is where we are meant to be AND we are very thankful for technology that allows for video calls!

Love in Christ,

Melissa for all of us

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