Saturday, August 10, 2019

Arrived!

We arrived back home in Obule!  Thank you for praying for us across the many miles.  Hard to believe a week ago we began the journey.  After the stress of packing and the sadness of leaving, we flew to Qatar.  We had a wonderful shower, meal and 8 hours of sleep in a bed!  

It is fascinating to see another culture and country.  Even in the international airports I look around and see the nations.  I was struck this time by the way in some cultures the men wear white and the women are covered in black.  It speaks so much more than color.  I found myself praying often.  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Oh, Jesus, may all come to truth!  

We were welcomed to Uganda Monday by our friends the Dwires.  We spent three nights at their home where we were able to rest, adjust, and get the needed supplies.  We are so thankful for good friends to help us, care for us and make our coming back such a blessing.  

When we arrived and text to our friend in Obule his response made us feel so good, "What a joy in my heart to hear that you are back!  Friends you are most welcome home."

Thursday we drove to Obule.  Everything went well on our seven hour drive.  The kids said they had butterflies in their stomach as we got closer to our home.  We did not know what to expect with our homecoming.  We arrived to our road to find the local high school and some other friends welcoming us back!  They all cheered as we drove passed and followed us home.  Other friends had gathered at the house to welcome us too.  We felt loved.  After lots of hugs and welcome backs, the high school students sang for us.  Micheal (FIC leader from Pingere) prayed, thanking God for watching over us.  For the next hour we enjoyed greetings and reconnecting.  Slowly our friend graciously left so we could rest.  We were so thankful to be home!

We are now settling back in and look forward to reconnecting with everyone and everything.  There is a lot to restart and some frustrations, but overall things are well.  We have been blessed with cool temperatures, clouds, and some rain too.  It is SO nice!  One less thing to have to adjust to.  Everything is green and growing.  What a blessing.  We love being in our home, back in our beds, and even look forward to starting school Monday.  

Although we haven't sat down and caught up with everyone yet, we are thankful that everyone is well.  It sounds like the Freedom in Christ ministries - teaching in villages, radio, prison... is going very well and God continues to work in peoples' lives.  Just in the prison alone two Muslims came to Christ!   Because of a lock down in prison the last two weeks, 300 inmates, have come to the Bible study to hear Charles teach.  We are so thankful God has kept everyone and is at work here.

Thank you for your prayers.  God has been faithful in keeping us and helping us.  Everyone here sends their greeting to you.  We will be in touch soon!

Hello from Qatar!

Our drive to Obule.
Our welcome back!



The high school sang to welcome us back.


Thankful to be with our friends again.

Thankful to be home!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Heading Home

               Our time in Michigan is almost finished as we will leave for Uganda on Saturday, August 3.  We always depart with mixed emotions.  We are looking forward to being home in Uganda, seeing our friends and church family, and being part of the ministry again; however, we also hate saying goodbye here.  We are thankful for spending time with family, seeing friends, sharing at churches, and enjoying the beauty of Michigan.  On top of all that are the mixture of emotions regarding the adoption (see our blog for more details).   Part of missions is living in paradox – love and hate, hellos and goodbyes, coming and going, packing and unpacking, joy and tears…  Pray for us as we pack up and head back to Uganda to unpack and adjust back to life there.

Adoption Update
                Many of you know that we were chosen by a birth mother the end of May to adopted her baby in Michigan.  The baby boy was born early, June 24, but the birth mother changed her mind and decided to parent him.  We were excited to add to our family and everything seemed so perfect. The change of mind brought grief, disappointment, and confusion. 
We are back on the waiting list to adopt another baby, but as missionaries timing is complicated.  After praying, we decided to go back to Uganda to wait.  Once we are placed with another baby we will return to Michigan for the adoption.  There is always uncertainty in adoption, but living in Uganda seems to add to the uncertainty.  We continue to relinquish control and choose to trust God in this process.  We are praying for wisdom each step of the way. 
We still desire to adopt. It is another way to show God’s heart of adopting all of us. However, it is teaching us more about how God feels.  He waited for us.  His adoption plan was perfect, yet He was rejected. His love is unrelenting. He is true and faithful through it all.


How God Used our Time in Michigan
We thank God for all He has done while we were in Michigan.  We were able to speak at 11 supporting churches.  Each Sunday we were encouraged by people who rejoiced with us at the way God is expanding the ministry and producing great fruit.  We loved hearing that people could see our love for the people we minister with.  We were blessed by seeing many people who pray daily for us and the ministry in Uganda.  Josh was able to share God’s truth at many churches and people were challenged to share Jesus in their words with others.
People from one church shared that they began to use the FIC Discipleship book in their small groups after attending the Discipleship Course we led two years ago.  They testified that one of the great things about the Bible study is that life-long Christians and new believers all benefit and grow together.  One new believer, after learning it is truth that sets us free, turned himself into police so he could be free by living in truth.   We praise God. He is ministering through His truth in the lives of believers!
In June Josh taught for a week at the Christian Reformed Conference Grounds.  He taught part the Freedom in Christ Discipleship Course.  Each day people were touched by God’s truth. They learned their identity in Christ, identified lies they believe, and saw the need to take their thoughts captive. They were challenged to forgive others. They saw the Biblical difference between our roles and responsibilities.  One person said, “this week changed my life.”  Another man testified, “I had told my wife I would never serve on church council again.  Now I am willing to serve.”  Praise God for the work He is doing in His children.
Lydia and Grace professed their faith at our church the beginning of June.  It was a beautiful celebration of their faith in Jesus!  They each shared their testimonies as a witness to all who heard.  They danced to “No Longer Slaves” and Josh preached a message on being New Creations in Christ.  It was a powerful and meaningful service. We were excited to share it with many of our friends and family.
Lydia was also able to go to Guatemala on a mission trip with our church.  It was a great opportunity to do missions in a new area of the world and use the Spanish she has been learning in school.  We were not surprised when the missionary from Guatemala wrote about how much he appreciated Lydia and when fellow teammates were touch by her joy.  One team member told us we have a lot to be proud of because Lydia is an amazing kid.
We also saw God work through daily life in Michigan as we had opportunities to get to know people and pray with them.  Whether it was the lady at the store, a worker who served us, or someone at a church, they were touched by God when we took time to pray with them.  Lydia is especially gifted in reaching out to people with the love of God.  It is a constant challenge to me to represent Jesus today.

Pray & Praise:
  • Pray for our preparation and travel back to Obule.  We begin our travel Aug. 3 and arrive in Uganda Aug. 5 (after an overnight in Qatar).  We hope to spend two days in the capital city with friends before doing our final travel to Obule.
  • Emalai was seen by a neurologist because of all the headaches she experiences.  The doctor believed Emalai’s large tonsils may be preventing her from getting enough oxygen at night.  After a sleep study last week, the doctor’s belief was proven true.  Emalai’s snoring, jerking and kicking at night and headaches seem to all be related to not getting enough oxygen while sleeping.  So…she needs her tonsils out.  However, we are now two weeks from leaving so we will have to wait until we come back for the adoption.  We praise God that two vitamins the doctor also recommended are reducing Emalai’s headaches.  Pray for Emalai to know God’s protection and healing.
  • Pray for everyone in Obule.  Pray for an abundant harvest this month.  Pray for Angel, one of the youth, who is not emotionally or physically well.
  • We praise God for $4,500 raised for our adoption through the sale of Ugandan things in Mc Bain and in Hudsonville!  Thank you for your generosity!
  • Praise God for the generous gifts from Georgetown CRC and Faith Community CRC for a knee replacement for Lusi!  We hope Lusi will have her knee replacement next month. 
  • Praise the Lord for Achia’s adoption!  Achia has a long story and is now Mandy’s sister and lives in Michigan with Mandy’s parents.  Pray for all her tests and therapy as they help her with her disabilities and seizures.
  • Praise God for Lydia’s sweet 16 birthday July 31!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Adoption Update

Thank you for your prayers as we have gone through the adoption process.  Most of you know that a few weeks ago we were chosen by a birth mom and "linked" to a baby that was scheduled to be born in July.  We were thrilled to prepare for "our" new baby boy.  Sunday morning we got a message that the birth mom was having complications, was hospitalized, and that the baby was going to be born this week.  We were blown away a bit by how quickly it was suddenly moving, but very excited to welcome him into the world.  We were informed because the birth mom wanted us to be at the hospital when it happened.  Sunday night we got a text message that she was considering changing her mind and wanted us to call her in the morning.

Monday morning about 9:30 Josh called her.  She said she had already delivered the baby and that she had decided that she would parent him.  Josh tried to express kindness toward her.  She asked if we are ok with her decosion.  Josh said, "I am not trying to manipulate you or make you fill guilty, but we are very sad.  We loved that little boy.  We love him very much."  We had given our hearts to him though we never knew him.  We are aware that he was never legally ours, but we were fully committed to him.

Yesterday we grieved.  Still are actually, but today feels a little better.  We are confused by what God is doing as so many things seemed to line up as if His hand was at work.  We just have to trust that He knows best.  

We have asked Adoption Associates to put our names back on the list for birth moms to see.  We still believe that God knows the baby who needs us as parents.

Originally we were supposed to return to Uganda in late July.  Once we were chosen for an adoption we began to make plans to stay here until November in order to finalize the adoption.  At this point, we do not know when we will be returning.  We will make those decisions next week once our emotions have a chance to process this grief a little more.

Thank you for your prayers.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Chosen!


We are excited to share that a birth mother has chosen us to adopt her baby!  Just three days after our profile was activated to be shown to birth mothers we were chosen!

Thursday morning Josh got the call.  He was so looking forward to for the first time telling me we were going to have a baby.  I was having breakfast with my ladies Bible study.  I had just told them about where we were in the adopting process - waiting.  Not more than ten minutes later Emalai, Luka and Josh walk in with flowers.  Luka and Emalai were trying to tell me that they four flowers are for the four children we already have and the flower in the middle is for the baby due in July!  I was so surprised and excited (confused) that I kept looking at Josh and saying what going on, is this it, tell me...  I was more thrilled that I ever thought I would be!!!  It was so awesome.  I was so glad the ladies, my friends, were all there to experience such joyful news with me.

I peppered Josh with questions.  Is it a boy or girl, what race, where is the birth mother... He didn't think to ask the case worker.  He left with the kids and the ladies and I prayed together with tear of joy for all God had and was doing.

My day was a blur of joy.  I could not stop smiling.  I felt like I was in a dream and had to keep reminding myself it was true.  I just wanted to think about it, our baby, and tell everyone!

We called the case worker back and found out it is a boy!  He is African American, healthy and the mother chose us because Josh is a missionary!  The birth mother is a Christian and it is so special to us that she chose us because we both love Jesus.

God has answered so many prayers and hearts desires!  He is so amazing.  His timing is amazing.  His preparing and orchestrating is amazing.  His provision is amazing.  His love is amazing!  He has worked in every detail, led us, and done it all.  I am in awe of His presence in this.

Ok, back to Thursday.  I met up with Josh with the biggest smile and hug he has ever gotten in
Meijers!  Lydia and Grace were still at home unaware of our great news so I went home to get them (did my best not to show my excitement) and met Josh and Luka and Emalai for lunch to celebrate.  I pulled out the flowers and Luka and Emalai told Lydia and Grace why we were celebrating.  Lydia cried.

We spent the rest of the day telling our family and friends who celebrated with us.  I am so thankful for people who rejoice with us.  What a day.

As the days go on, it is quite a feeling to be chosen by someone to adopt their child.  The trust this birth mother has for us is a humbling experience.  We chose to adopt because Christ adopted us and we can now represent Him one more way be adopting our baby.  Now being chosen by God to love His child is an honor.


So here are our prayer requests.
-We meet with birth mom this week.
-We are supposed to be out of our house the beginning of August for another missionary (my sister :)) to move in.  So we need a home to stay in from August-November in Ottawa County (because of the court process).  God has provided a child so we know He will provide a home.
-As the news sinks in, we are processing the fact that we will now be in Michigan a long time.  Today I had to cry about that.  We miss our friends, home, ministry, church family...  It hurts right now.  We are praying about all of this and making plans for school and maybe Josh to visit Uganda.  We are trusting God in our joy and sorrow.

UPDATE:  We had an awesome visit with birth mom and just love her!  Had complete peace before and after.  So thankful!  She gave us the ultra sound pictures!


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Family Road Trip

We wanted to share our South East Sates family road trip with you!  We put on 2,500 miles and God protected us the whole way in our rusted out van.  We got home and a few days later the whole emergency brake in the tire rusted through and wasn't safe to drive.  Thank you God for being with us and keeping us!  We went to the Freedom in Christ office in Knoxville, TN, to our directors in SC, then made our way up through NC, DC, and Gettysburg.  We had a great time and made many memories!  We met so many wonderful people along the way and even got to pray with some of them.  We found all but one state on license plates!  One of our highlights was Sunday worship in NC in an African American church we felt at home at.  They hugged us from the moment we arrived, we enjoyed an hour long truth based message, and they lovingly prayed over us.  So blessed!  We are thankful for all the new places we got to see, exploring God's creation, and worshiping Him everywhere we went.
With some of our Freedom in Christ friends in the Smokey Mountains.





Our rainy morning in the Smokey's we went to the caverns which was awesome.  God is an amazing creator!



Enjoying the mountains!


Took a walk to a waterfall.




Josh did a lot of weight lifting on his walks

Luka and Josh just had to try to swimming in the cold creek!
We saw three bears in the Smokies!






This is our FIC African directors who now live back in NC.
We went and saw synchronized fireflies with their kids and grand-kids and ended up going to Charleston with them - where Howard is from so we got our own personal tour guide! 
Middleton Plantation - most things are too expensive for a family of 6 so we do drive bys and a lot of walking on our trips.



Lovely Charleston!


Having fun together!


We enjoyed our seafood! 
Luka and Emalai were so cute having their "date" together at the restaurant.

I loved the trees there!  They were big, full of moss, and had branches that touched the ground.





We were reading the sign about alligators and then saw him!  His name was See-Ya-Later alligator.

This is Angle Oak - and it is beyond awesome!




A fort we visited from the Civil War through World War II.  We love seeing History!

My favorite Southern resturant we went to.  The best bbq sauce and sweet potato pie ever!

Pretty plantation homes.

We had a family vacation on Myrtle Beach.
We loved playing in the waves everyday! 
We stayed at the Hampton Inn, it is owned by a Christian, and you can tell!  We were blessed with a discount, they have Christian decorations, the staff was great and they have a church there.  We enjoyed truth filled worship at their prayer service while we were there.  They know who they are in Christ!  After the service the pastors wife told Lydia she could see Jesus delighting over her as she worshiped Him.  I love God's family!







Lots of jellyfish we got to swim by but thankfully we were told they won't hurt us they are just shark snacks - oh great!

Sunrise

It is so fun to play together!

Yup, it was hot down there!

Stopped at a warship in NC


The outer banks of NC
William & Mary College in Williamsburg, VA.

We loved Williamsburg!  I hope we get to go back someday.  It was like walking through history.  We didn't even get to Jamestown settlement.  Next time!


Lots of time driving, riding and some sleeping.  This bag was Emalai's baby - what an imagination!

Washington DC



We found this part of our trip very meaningful.  Besides putting on miles, Josh would have us pray before the capital building, memorials, supreme court building and white house.  We not only saw everything but it meant something. 
It is still God's nation!


We saw bus load of vets at the memorials in DC.  It made it all real and we shed some tears.
Freedom isn't free.




Supreme Court

Senate
We got to tour the White House!



View from inside the White house





Our kids loved Arlington Cemetery



The 911 memorial at the Pentagon was very touching to our family.

Gettysburg



We thought Gettysburg was beautiful and the ranger talk was very helpful and informative.
So many unknown heroes.  So much death.  So much war in history.  Oh how I pray we would learn from history.