30 May 2009

Future Missionaries Retreat

This past Wednesday through Saturday, Jim and I spent time right out of town at the Quaker Ridge Camp and Conference Center for a Future Missionaries Retreat that was put on by the Evangelical Friends Mission. Jim grew up in the relatively small denomination of the Evangelical Friends Church, and has very strong family ties amongst its members. We heard of this retreat not too long ago, and decided on a whim since it was close and wasn't too expensive, that we might as well check it out.

WOW. We were so BLESSED these last four days. There were 28 "future missionaries" in attendance, from all over the country. They ranged from just having graduated from high school to "second career" types. Some knew missions was three, four or five years away, and a few are headed to the field in just a few months. Church leaders from all over the country came to support us, as well as retired missionaries representing over 200 years in service all over the world.

The Friends are a small, lesser known church denomination, but their heart for missions and their generosity of time and resources is to be admired. It is just incredible what the Church has done in the past 80 years all over the world. The people I was privileged to meet this weekend are some of the most humble, loving, and fun I have ever met. Even though Jim and I will not be going with EFM, they were interested, supportive and excited about our work just the same.

The information that we received is somewhat similar to the preparatory teaching that we were given during our candidate week with AIM in November, but what a blessing it was to hear it again and let it sink in a little further. We are excited to share insights and teachings with you that struck chords within us during this time...we won't be short on blogging material for a little while!

27 May 2009

Summer Vacation is Here!

We started our summer vacation with a bang last Saturday! We headed up to Denver to spend five days with some wonderful friends of ours that we have known for many years. Jim and Benjer were friends and roommates during college, and then Jennifer came into the picture a few years later, around the time Jim and I were engaged. Benjer is a youth pastor, and they are wonderful parents to one-year-old Bethany, with another bun in the oven! They are getting ready to move to Ogden, UT to be a part of a church there. So we wanted to have a good chunk of time to spend with them before they left. We decided to do some Denver sightseeing, since we don't usually do that sort of thing when we visit, and we had such a great time!

The Denver Zoo!
High-flying backyard fun!
What a fun little girl
At the petting zoo...Joel did a lot of observing...
More petting zoo
On the Belleview park train...I think Faith will talk about this for a long time!
And some good playground fun!
We will miss having these dear friends of ours so close by, but we are excited for what God has in store for them and for their new church home in Utah!

20 May 2009

The Journey to Here

For a while Jim and I wondered if this would be our last year in Woodland Park, heading to Africa the summer of 2009. That all changed back in November, and I was quite comforted early this year knowing there was still one more year to tie up all those loose ends and get ready. Yesterday was our last MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting of the year. I will continue to serve our church through MOPS next year, but my position is changing, and the team is changing as well. I was caught off guard suddenly during the meeting a few times, holding back tears. I didn't think I'd have to cry until next year!

A really wonderful mom I have served with over the last two years is moving to Las Vegas next week. This came on somewhat suddenly this last semester, and it was hard to say goodbye yesterday. At the beginning of this year, I wondered if it would be me saying goodbye on the 19th of May, and I wasn't sure if I would be able to handle it. It has been good to talk with JoAnna through her process over the last several months, gain some of her insight, and see her handle this transition with prayer and grace.

We are asked pretty often about how we reached this point of being appointed missionaries to the Rift Valley Academy. I have felt incredibly blessed lately to be filled with peace that we are where the Lord wants us to be and we are going where He is clearly leading. I cannot believe the journey we have been on over the last five years. It hasn't been ANYTHING that we expected, or even thought we wanted, yet we have been so blessed.

Five years ago, Jim and I were getting ready to be married in July. We had talked about all sorts of things we were going to do as young married "kids". I was going to get my master's and become a teacher with Jim, we would travel and explore and be adventurous on our summer breaks. We wanted to stay in Woodland Park for three years or so, and then go teach overseas in a third-world country for a few years, then we'd get back and have some cute kids and raise them in the same place until they left home.

These plans and dreams were turned upside down pretty quickly. My twenty-first birthday present in September was a positive pregnancy test. Life went fast and we grew up fast from that point on. Faith was born six weeks early, another unexpected turn of events...we were not ready at all! (If there really is a "ready" when it comes to having kids!) I worked on convincing myself that this was God's plan, and I didn't know what was going to become of our hopes for serving a community overseas. We quit talking about it because we weren't sure how it would fit in. Life looked so different from what we had planned.

Fast forward three, sometimes long, years: all sorts of adjustment, a serious bout of postpartum depression, another cute kiddo later, God began to place events in our lives again that showed us our next steps. It was a struggle believing and trusting that God created me to be a mom to Faith and Joel during these years that we never thought would have the pitter patter of little feet in the mix. Through the gift of friendships and MOPS, I learned that everyone's world gets turned upside down by that pitter patter sooner or later, and I have come to absolutely ADORE being mommy to these precious souls. This feeling of truly belonging to motherhood and wifehood was a search I needed to complete before we ever jumped on a plane to some remote destination.
After Joel turned one and Faith turned three, we began to think about our future again, this time with a little more life experience under our belts. We noticed a school in Tanzania that could use Jim, this school led us to Africa Inland Mission, who we began interviews and applications with in May of 2008, we attended candidate week in November where we were led to the Rift Valley Academy.

It is amazing how much our lives changed in that first year of marriage, and now in our fifth year. To have the gift to look back and see how God has been preparing us all along, is such a treasure and an affirmation of his hand in our lives. I can't imagine these five years any other way!

19 May 2009

Our little star!

For those of you that want to oooh and aaah over our little Faith, here is her performance at MOPS this morning. I have to say, I think we have a front row girl...she needs a few more inches for that second row! Anyway, it made my day to see her up there, I hope it brings a smile to your face too!

video

15 May 2009

Munchkin Market

These are pictures before the big night last night! The sale continues today and Saturday, and we'll have the church all put back together for services on Sunday like nothing ever happened!

It is amazing to see how this sale has grown. I don't know exactly, but I think it's been around for 10 years or so. It started out small and now we use most of the rooms in the church to display the sale items. The job of Munchkin Market coordinator has no doubt become a very big job!
Moms in our area consign their kid stuff for the sale, and MOPS keeps 30-50% of the proceeds. This allows us to keep our program costs lower for the moms, pay teachers to watch all the kiddos during our meetings, train our leaders to serve as best they can, among other things. And it keeps our kids in clothes and toys and gear for a fraction of the price of new!

14 May 2009

A change of plans...

This week is our big Munchkin Market sale that my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group puts on to help fund our program. (It's HUGE...I'll take pictures tonight to show you!) Our leadership team works all day Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to pull off this event. This is my fourth sale, so Jim and I really have the schedule down pat. This time, we sent the kids to Grandma and Grandpa's house, and although we knew we would both be busy, Jim with the end of school, and me with the sale, we'd still have a few moments to enjoy the quiet, and get some house things done!

Back up a little to last week, I started getting sick on Thursday, then by mother's day, I was pretty much bed ridden, being pampered for all the wrong reasons! I haven't gotten better very quickly: I was sent home early yesterday to rest, which I did, and I'm showing up late today.

It's frustrating to me, because in my mind, this would be a great time to serve our MOPS group, a great time for Jim to get some work done on the house, a great time for us to have a date Friday, a great time to spend my moments at home cleaning...a clean that wouldn't be undone 5 minutes later, and a great time for renewal. And now, I am home instead of at the church, I don't feel so great, and I think it's just getting messier, and I don't have toddlers to blame it on!

I guess I'm really feeling God's calling to slow down and rest even though my list isn't being checked off. And maybe I'll FINALLY read this book a great friend gave me last month!

09 May 2009

Memories to Look Forward to

Many of you know that I (Heather) spent a semester in Kenya while I was at Colorado College. It was a Biology field study program, much different that what Jim and I are about to do. Nonetheless, it was an incredible introduction to the country, and greatly influenced the direction of our lives. I was looking at some old pictures this morning which brings back memories, and gets me excited to live there again. We will be in a much different place in the country, so the sights will be somewhat different, but I am still excited to see some of the same things again. The map is small, but if you can make out the red star, that is where Kimana is, and Kijabe is circled in red.

In Kimana, we woke up each morning to an incredible view of Kilimanjaro. In Kimana, we will look out to Mount Longonot, so it will still be fun to have a mountain in view.
The dry season is DRY.
One of the first Maasai bomas (homes) that we visited. Don't the kids just capture your heart?
I have this picture on my wall. These were some kids at a secondary school where we built some soccer goals for them. Look how closely they stand. Personal space has a diffrent meaning to them!
Eating out in Machakos, Kenya. We will actually live in Machakos for three weeks right after we arrive for our Africa-based orientation (ABO). I am excited to take Jim and the kids out to eat here!
Hanging out at an orphanage in Oloitokitok, just south of Kimana. The children here are all orphaned because of AIDS. We made dolls and cars for them. This little girl has her doll tied on her back just like a mama. (And those are stickers on her face!)
These are some of our professors' kids. My friend, Michelle and I took them on a walk one night, and they just had so much fun. All our roofs were thatched like the one in this picture, and mice would frequently inhabit the space between the straw and plastic. The kids found some mice in this one, promptly took of their shoes, and threw them at the mice until the mice fell out and ran off or were...umm...dead. I wonder if Faith and Joel will aquire those talents.
Oh I just can't wait to go back!

04 May 2009

Missionary Friendships

Over the last few years, Jim and I have crossed paths with a number of missionary couples here in Woodland Park. Recently, we've been able to share meals with many of them, and learn from their experience. The ministry that each of these couples is involved in is very unique, but their hearts share a strong passion for reaching the lost.

Jeff and Jen Musgrave are involved with Push International. They collect and distribute wheelchairs to people in need around the world. Many of their trips have been to Mazatlan, and they often bring along their two young children. I have worked with Jen at MOPS, and Jeff owns his own business building antler chandeliers and sculptures... this allows them to commit so much to missions.

Tim and Laurie Thornton moved in two doors down right before Joel was born, answering a long-prayed prayer for another young mom to be close by us. They have a music ministry, reaching others through the powerful lyrics and music of the songs they write. They are incredibly talented musicians and vocalists. You can hear some of their music on their website. We have been introduced to a whole new side of missions that happens right here, and is incredibly culturally relevant.

We then met Chad and Nicole Corman a year and a half ago, after they returned from Malaysia. They are currently taking an extended furlough from that ministry as they work out some citizenship issues for Nicole. They have been in long term ministry overseas and are just an incredible resource for us. They also live about a block away!

Chad and Kristin Tabor work with e3 Sportreach. Chad uses the universality of sports to bring people together here in the US, as well as around the world, and shares the gospel with them. Most recently, Chad traveled to Argentina to run some soccer camps. Their summers are mostly spent here in the US, traveling around with their little girls and coaching kids at camps. Kristin is also Faith's teacher at MOPS, and Faith just loves her class.

Bruce and Bev McDonald are the grandparents of two of Faith and Joel's playmates here in town. Bruce is also our Sunday school teacher. Bruce was a chaplain for many years in the NBA, and now he and Bev minister to missionaries, traveling to attend retreats and conferences of missionaries. Missionaries don't typically get much time off, so these retreats are rare chances for them to be renewed themselves. Bruce and Bev give of themselves selflessly during these retreats.

It is incredible to see how God has placed all these people into our lives, little by little over the last few years. It is wonderful to have the wisdom and insight of those that have gone this path before us, are still on it, and continue to learn from it. We look forward to the missionary community we will have at RVA, but we feel so blessed to have one already!

02 May 2009

Joel

Big sister has gotten a few posts, but what about Joel? Poor second child...!

Joel really has been growing up and has amazing abilities to communicate and make us laugh...if Faith lets him! So here's a few quotes from Joel this week.

Monday night, Faith fell out of the loft bed and got quite the bloody nose. She was pretty hysterical, and we wanted to know how she fell so that we could check for other bruises and such. We didn't get much information out of her, so Jim asked Joel where she fell.

Joel says "Sissy fall Joel's bed. Sissy fall Joel." I guess she landed on him, but he didn't put up a fuss. He was actually quite concerned for his hurt sister. What a nice (helpful) guy!

And Thursday night, as usual, Jim was saying bedtime prayers with the kids. Joel has recently picked up on the ritual which used to be Daddy and sister, and now he wants to be a part of it. Which is great! He even knocked our socks off saying a prayer on his own Thursday! This is how it went:

"Dear Jesus. Thank you for mommy. Thank you for cars. Amen."

I'm so glad to know I'm at the top of his list!