Friday, June 2, 2023


 My heart hurts today.  Living on the mission field I have had this fear of one day waking up to bad news from abroad.   Today Josh saying, "I have really bad news."  I asked from here or from the States.  He said neither.  From Nigeria.  Josh's best friend from Nigeria, Kebiya, died.

Kebiya was our first friend in the hardest days of our lives as we began missions in remote Mahula, Nigeria.  He was one of the first Christians among the Avadi people.  Only a young man then he was presucuted by his family.  He was the first evangelist, really missionary, of his tribe.  Kebiya, his wife Cigoro and four children moved to the other side of the river to be our neighbor and partner with us in reaching his unreached tribe.  I cannot say enough about his man's kind and gentle spirit.  His face always beamed with a smile.  He was so humble, a servant and faithful.  Josh and him did everything together and they became like brothers.  Kebiya helped us learn Tsuvadi (their unwritten language).  We visited all our neighbors together.  Josh and Kebiya taught literacy to the Fulani together.  They began a church together.  Kebiya was there at our lowest and highest moments.  His love for the Lord and His people was real and touched my heart.  

Leaving Mahula back in 2005 meant leaving Kebiya and Cigoro, our co-workers and friends.  It was painful.  Since then cell phones came to Mahula and Kebiya would often call over the years at Christmas time.  It was so good to hear his voice and see the joy on Josh's face as he spoke to his friend.  I was always amazed Josh could still remember the language!  Kebiya moved on to live in and evangelize many other villages in his tribe.  He was loved and respected.

Today we heard vague information from another former missionary in Nigeria that Kebiya died.  Kebiya can't be more than 55 years old so we were very surprised.  Josh tired all the contacts he had trying to get more information.  What we learned is Kebiya had a liver problem, died yesterday and burial was today.  Josh quickly said, "I want to go to Nigeria to be with them."  (He says he isn't but that's how we feel.)  Kebiya leaves behind his dear wife Cigoro and at least six children (many of them grown by now).  Pray for them as life as a widow is very hard in Africa.

We also were told Christians are now suffering from persecution and attacks from Muslims.  So hard to hear when you know those suffering.  Please pray for them and all of Nigeria where Christians are being raided, kidnapped and killed.

So hard to grieve from far away.  It just plain hurts.  Josh lost a long time best friend and it's painful.  We praise God we had the honor of serving with Kebiya.  We rejoice that he is with the Lord who has welcomed him saying, "Well done good and faithful servant!"  Kebiya is one of the every tribe and nation that now worships before the Jesus.  Awesome...      

Thanks for remembering Kebiya with me, praying for us, for his family, and the Christians in Nigeria.

Kebiya on the far left next to Josh in the suitcoat.

Kebiya front and center next to little Lydia with the Church God built in Mahula, Nigeria.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

FIC Family Gathering in England


Five years after our last Freedom in Christ Family Gathering in Malaysia, we finally were able to be together again!  We were so excited to go and see everyone.  Our time together was a true blessing, an encouragement.  We found it very inspiring to meet with God's people from all over the world serving together in FIC.  I met so many wonderful, free people and reconnected with other FIC friends.  I was touched by people's stories and all God is doing in hard places.  God is at work in war torn areas and closed countries!      
Good to be with special friends Howard and Aileen - aka Papa & Shosho (grandma in Swahili).
Reconnecting with Brian and sharing with Neil, the founder of FIC.

Met our friends Rob, Nancy and Josue five years ago and got to know them better this time.  We love their hearts for God's people.  Both Rob and Nancy took time to connect with both of our girls.

Uncle Tim was at the gathering!!! 
So wonderful to have him as a part of  FIC.  We only wish he could have taken his family with him.

Emalai quickly made friends with Sophie and Magima from Brazil and India.
They were inseparable!

Each day of the gathering people from different regions of the world shared what God was doing there through FIC.  Josh shared about the simplified FIC books, discipleship groups, and prison ministry.  He included video testimonies from FIC teachers, a former inmate and prison officer.  It was great to have our Ugandan partners included in the the conference through video.  People at the gathering were touched by what God is doing in the prisons.

FIC are a people of prayer.  I love that their lives have been changed before they take it and share it with others.  It is evident we work with spiritually free, grace-filled children of God.

Our group outing was to Oxford on a very rainy day.
Josh decided to enjoy the afternoon at the hotel with Makai and Emalai instead of have an adventure in the rain.  Good idea.  Our family visited Oxford about five years ago so we knew our way around a bit, which helped us see the places we wanted to see again.

There is an awesome museum with some of the oldest things I have every seen - like 2000BC!  It is really fascinating.  We had fun finding things we had learned about in History class.

There are quite a few real mummies from Egypt.  Mummied Pharos, children, cat, snake, turtle...just about everything was mummified! 

Samurai Warrior!

Just makes me laugh!
Lydia's favorite part of Oxford was seeing the door/figures that inspired CS Lewis's Narnia series.

And the lamp post from Narnia.

University Church, I believe around 1000 years old. 
We climbed the stairs up the steeple to view the city.

We were wet but had a good time together exploring Oxford.
Even got to enjoy a Starbucks coffee and Krispy Cream doughnuts - old Oxford and modern world collide!  I think that makes our village just old.  
(By the way my doughnut was in honor of the King's Coronation.)
Luka was in his glory every evening watching soccer (or football, depending where you live) and drinking a Cherry Coke, which we can't get in Uganda.  Go Liverpool!

We have such a fun FIC family!  The Latin America snack night ended up being a whole festival with treats, flags, and music...then dancing broke out.  I so enjoyed watching our FIC leaders have fun dancing.  We had African dance, Latin American dance and Europe and America trying to dance :).  Everyone was filled with joy getting to know each other in a new light. 

We even had the king at the gathering!

We celebrated the coronation with our English friends!

The whole FIC family went for a stream engine train ride.

Luka was invited to the engine to shovel the coal -a hot job!

So thankful our whole family can be a part of the FIC family!
Lydia was mother for the week, taking care of Makai so I could enjoy the conference.  Grace was the photographer for the gathering.  And all of our kids loved meeting new people from around the world!  Everyone there also appreciated our children.  A highlight for me was Lydia and Grace making friends with young people from three other countries.  To see them together laughing and taking pictures blessed my heart. 

I was inspired by so many people at the gathering.  I can't name many of them because of where they are serving.  One of them grew up in a communist home and now is reaching out in communist countries.  He goes into the frontline of the war and is seeing God do miracles.  He said for the first time the churches are uniting, as a result of the war.  Soldiers are begging for Bibles.  They are praying for their enemies and reaching out to them.  I love hearing the good news we don't hear from these places!  He also ministered in Turkey after the earthquake.  He said the people there told him it is because they are the leading area in human trafficking that this earthquake has destroyed them.  My new friend's prayer request was for him as he goes back to his country facing court and possibly 1 year in prison for smuggling Bibles.  I don't know what to do with that kind of faith and service to the Lord in some of the hardest places...I am humbled.  What do I do?  Complain a lot about how hard it is to live where I do.  Forgive me God.

Another new friend who inspired me lives in a place where he could be arrested at anytime for serving the Lord.  His country is in the midst of civil war.  He shared some of the saddest pictures and told us he picked the ones we could handle.  He wept.  We wept.  In the midst of such darkness and death, he and his wife oversee churches and a Bible school.  What faith!  Light and Life for people there.  Thank you God for your servants willing to sacrifice their lives to bring freedom in Christ.

I was fascinated by a FIC ambassador to the Arabic speaking world.  He came to Christ in an underground church in Saudi Arabia.  He now works at the Pentagon and yet is still passionate about bringing freedom in Jesus to his people.

I could go on.  A man from a communist country who took days instead of hours to get to the airport to come.  Living in a place with little resources and persecution of the church.  Yet the church is growing!  Freedom in Christ in a closed country.

I was touched by the Latin America group.  Their unity, passion and relationships were beautiful.  It make me want to be part of their group!  One night the Africa team and the Latin America team joined together (with all our different languages) for sharing and prayer.  It was a joy.

Honestly, we got to know and shared with so many wonderful people, we were exhausted.  From 8am to 11pm we were filled with amazing people and their stories.  You can't even meet all 200 people in a few days together.  There is nothing better than to be together, sharing the same unity, serving Christ.

This awesome couple leads GenFree for FIC.  It's exciting stuff for young people! 
They even interviewed our kids for their website.
The Latin America youth also made iGen, an awesome discipleship resource.  I was so proud of them and excited to see how God is going to use it to free young people!

Part of the African team - Uganda, Zambia and Ethiopia.
Some of our new friends from India!
This family's story was so beautiful.  Serving Jesus where it is not the norm, adopted two children where adoption is not accepted, rescuing babies who would be temple babies or unwanted, and doing it all with confidence and passion.  They were a blessing to be with and so much fun!

Praying for FIC founder Neil Anderson, International leader Steve Goss, and American leader Dan Studt.  I was encouraged by our leaders knowing and appreciating us.  They are personal.  It was good to finally get to know Neil.  We were touched to hear him tell us how touched he was by the prison ministry and blessed by our family.  Steve encouraged us too by seeing Josh as a gifted teacher in FIC.  I am excited to see what this new season of greater things with FIC holds for us. Thanks God!

Our family had one last day in England before leaving, so we went to a nearby town to enjoy the history and culture one last time.

It was sad to be done with the wonderful time we had...

There were so many goodbyes again, including Grace who went to Michigan for the summer.  Poor Emalai did a lot of crying between saying goodbye to her new friends and her sister who was leaving.  Hard to separate.  Makai told people we went home but Grace got lost.  Little guy can't understand.  We are all adjusting back to Obule and life without Grace for now.  Always seems to be a mix of joy and hardship in our lives.  Thankful God is our constant in all of life's changes.