Dear Friends and Family,
WARNING: there is a photo of a snake in this set! We don’t want to lose any of you due to causing unnecessary fear!
We thank the LORD every time we think of you! We are grateful for each of you and who you are to us. Which isn’t the same thing for each of you. Some of you we have known for years, others a shorter time or perhaps we have not even met in person. Some of you are faithful prayer and/or financial partners. Some of you are family. The list goes on. We are richly blessed with a variety of relationships with a variety of people from a variety of places. A taste of heaven, I think.
Toward the end of the last year, we were feeling a financial pinch with two young men in college and impending fees. Over the last couple years our ministry funds went down a bit, but at the end of each year we find that we are still fully supported, and last year was no different. It was a good reminder that God provides. Thank you for each of you who give so that we may serve the LORD here in Tanzania. Truly, we would not be here without you.
You might recall that September through November was an exceptionally busy time with travel and our schedules colliding a bit so we had weeks apart from one another. We wrapped up at the end of November with our annual conference, this time in Nairobi with our fellow missionaries in Kenya. As always, we were refreshed and blessed, not to mention well fed. It was an unusual season and we are thankful to be beyond it. December was a nice break from the busyness and we enjoyed having Rachel home with us for 5 weeks. As always, our hearts ached with being apart from loved ones, especially Josh and Drew. We love our family calls and are so thankful for technology that allows us to not only hear their voices but see their faces. We are grateful that Josh and Drew were able to spend their break together in Bethel, the Hershey Free Church mission house in which they have spent home assignments. What a blessing to have a familiar house and area for them in the U.S. They were quite busy and got to spend quite a bit of time with family and friends. And Drew was successful in passing his FAA written test and finished ground school, so he has his student pilot license now, which allows him to fly with an instructor. If all goes well, he will have his private pilot’s license by the end of this semester. Thanks also to those who helped them out toward the end of their holiday when both were quite sick. Again, a blessing to have people close by to care for them in our absence.
In January, we traveled to Kenya for unit leader meetings. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and a time of looking back and celebrating what God has been doing and a time to look ahead with a vision and a hope for God’s continued work in Kenya and Tanzania through AIM and partner organizations. After returning home, Jon joined most of the other men serving with AIM in Tanzania for a men’s retreat. While women’s retreats happen annually thanks to women who are proactive in planning, this is only the second men’s retreat to have been organized in the 18 years in which we have lived in Tanzania. The men had a fantastic time and have realized what they are missing out on. Next year’s men’s retreat is already being organized!
January 17-28 saw us traveling throughout central and western Tanzania with our regional director and his wife, Tony and Cath Swanson, to visit all of our unit members, driving 2,232 kilometers from home and back again. Tony and Cath were our mentors when we first came to Tanzania in 2006 for language school so it was really special to do this trip together. We enjoyed safety and fun in our travels and were blessed in our various official and unofficial meetings with everyone along the way. Jon got to use his medical skills, not only confirming 2 healthy pregnancies with his ultrasound machine but helping out with various medical issues we encountered throughout the journey. We will let the pictures do most of the talking. Besides sweet times with people, a highlight for me (Melissa) was an encounter with a large python seen in the wild at the farm of one of our missionaries. Before this trip I had only ever seen one in the wild and this was the second on this trip, the first was a much smaller one crossing the road. I know many of you will disagree, but I do hope it made it to safety. I know many people are terrified of all snakes but truly, they are a reflection of God’s creativity and beauty. They are highly specialized creatures!
Since coming home, we have been doing a lot of hosting overnight guests. We are glad to be able to welcome people to stay with us in our home as we are in a convenient location for people coming and going especially to and from Kenya. We look forward to spending mid-term break with Rachel and one of her dorm mates with our family up in Eldama Ravine where my great grandparents were in ministry in the early 1900s. God is building His Church in East Africa. All glory to Him! We have a few tentative trips, including an anniversary get away, in the next couple of months but we look forward to mostly being at home. I will be taking another online course in my continuing professional development plan for language coaching. Jon came back from our recent trip with a long “to do” list and continues to check things off.
Again, we thank God for each one of you and we thank each one of who for being a part of our lives. May the LORD bless you and keep you.
Melissa for all us