Dear Friends and Family,
“But the LORD abides forever; He has established His throne for judgement, and He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgement for the peoples with equity. The LORD will also be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble; and those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.” Psalm 9:7-10
As I have been reading through the Psalms this year, I am struck with an aspect of God’s character that I don’t often think about. I am well acquainted with talking about the love, mercy and grace of God. But He is a God of judgement and justice. David cries out to Him to deal with his enemies. And not gently either! In these times of crazy in the world, I do not need to fret. I come back to the songs of my childhood…”He’s got the whole world in His hands!” And “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do!” Enough said.
While most of you who are in the northern hemisphere are in your cold and snowy (for some) season, we are in our warm season. The rains are usually somewhat predictable but they have been sporadic over the last several months. Some areas of east Africa have suffered both drought and flooding. For the most part, we are enjoying pleasant weather with some rain here and there. It’s not so critical for us but for neighboring communities, these abnormal fluctuating seasons wreak havoc on their farms and cattle. And so we pray to the One who brings rain, that He would provide what is needed, not too much, nor too little.
While it was wonderful as always to have Drew and Rachel home for the month of December (and beyond), we were in a season of firsts for our family. It was our first Christmas without Josh with us so all the traditions that come with the season were bitter-sweet this year. Even things like eating at a favorite restaurant and not having Josh with us felt sad and yet we know that it is normal for this stage of life and it is also good! We arrived in Tanzania with two kids, added a third, and now are back to two and will be sending off another in a few short months.
If you would have asked us several months ago what our plans were for the months of January through March, we would have told you something quite different than what is actually happening. Drew and Rachel were delayed almost a month in returning to R.V.A. so we had extra time with them at home while they did online school. They were not very excited about that but we did get to do some fun things while they were here. They are now back up in Kenya and enjoying being back to in-person classes. We look forward to seeing them in a couple of weeks for a long weekend. While Omicron swept through Tanzania and Kenya during the holidays, causing the delay in returning to school, things in that arena seem to have quieted down again for which we are grateful.
We were supposed to have had an AIM Tanzania retreat back in September but prior to that, it was Delta that was sweeping through so we postponed the retreat until the first weekend in February. We spent many long hours organizing this retreat and Jon led the worship. We were excited to have some of our leaders join us as well as welcome some representatives of our local partner church to one session as well. Overall, we feel the retreat went very well. Our prayers leading up to the retreat were that God would be glorified throughout, that people would enjoy sweet fellowship with the LORD and with one another and that our people would come away refreshed. We believe that these prayers were answered accordingly. Of course, it was not quite as refreshing for us so we took a day off shortly after the retreat to recover.
We had anticipated that February would be packed with travel and various meetings but much has changed. We will travel to Kenya to see Drew and Rachel over their mid-term weekend, and celebrate Drew turning 18! (His birthday is today!) In early March, one of our teams will be having a retreat to celebrate and evaluate their first year on the field. We will be participating as needed but as they will be staying in Arusha, it won’t require that we travel far away from home. Jon will have some Unit Leader meetings later in March in Kenya and then Drew and Rachel will be home again for easter break.
We very much enjoy the role that we are in now and feel that we work well together in using the gifts that the LORD has given us for His Kingdom work. I, Melissa, am looking to become a language consultant for missionaries in our region. I have spoken with and shadowed others who are currently in this role but who will moving on. I will likely take an online course just to fill up my tool box but it mostly entails coming along side missionaries and helping to equip and encourage them in language learning. One of our core values here is to become belonger’s in our communities. Language is a significant aspect of belonging. It requires a LOT of time and a LOT of work. I know this from experience. I am not particularly gifted in language so I hope that this will enable to especially encourage those who struggle as I have.
While July is several months away, we just want to let you know that as Drew is graduating from high school this year and heading to Letourneau University to study in the aviation program, we are currently planning to return the U.S. from about mid-July until late August. We will spend most of our time in Pennsylvania. The purpose of this trip is set Drew up for college and get him there. Letourneau is in Texas by the way! We hope to see many of you who are in the Hershey area but our time will be short.
We thank you for your prayers and support, for your friendship to us. It’s hard to believe we have been serving the LORD in Tanzania for 16 years and that we were in the preparation phase for about 8 years before actually arriving here. Josh has been working with the local high schools rugby team a few times a week. One of the coaches asked him to come to his history classes and tell the students about growing up in Tanzania and Kenya. I was sorting through hundreds of photos for him to use. What wonderful memories we have. We have been so blessed to live and work here and to raise our family here. And to see the fruit of many years of service and of many missionaries and church workers here in Tanzania. Please continue to pray for a harvest of souls among unreached people groups. And ask the LORD of the harvest to raise up more workers for the fields, both form within and outside of Africa. Pray for our family, that each of us would seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
With much gratefulness to the LORD,
Jon, Melissa, Josh, Drew and Rachel