Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In Conclusion.... In the mean time..... Looking Forward....

My Dear Friends and Mission Supporters,

Thank you for your ongoing prayers, thoughts and support. Without you, this work is not possible.
It is nearly the end of July and four months since I have returned home from Kenya and Uganda.
I am writing today because, at length, there is a conclusion about what's next. Please do not stop praying for me, our family, our new season in Belington, W.Va. and for future missions at home and in far away places.

First, In Conclusion....
The mission in Kenya with Archdeacon Mary and Rev. Simon was full of surprises. The most common surprise to me was the way God guided and directed each step. The schedule was full of visitations, preaching opportunities, teaching Sunday School teachers and meeting the people in Kirinyaga Diocese.
Bishop Joseph is a kind host who personally took me to his land where he is creating a beautiful park for people of all ages to walk though the great Gospel stories and reflect on the impact of that long-ago trail. I was particularly impressed by the Bishop's teaching about the cross and Christ's resurrection. Jesus is alive and well and moving powerfully in that Diocese under Bishop Joseph's Godly leadership.
Mary and her wonderful husband, Alex, are generous, patient and loving hosts. I miss them! We laughed together and prayed together. They took me in as one of their own and exemplified to me the brotherly love that was so attractive to new converts in the first century. Pray with me for them as they are soon to welcome a new baby into the family. Life will surely change and they are the best kind of parents!

Rev. Simon is an incredibly gifted young man. He shines Jesus' love. Simon escorted me to most of the 7 teacher conferences. We taught together, as a team. He interpreted (and corrected when needed) my words as we joyfully encouraged the Sunday school teachers throughout the diocese. He has now been appointed to lead a multi-diocese task force that writes simple, usable lesson plans for the teachers. They have a strategic plan for helping the teachers to become more effective as they share the gospel with the thousands of children who are being touched by God's word.

This mission was an important picture for me of the connections we all have in Christ. You who pray and support through encouraging words and financial support are just as present to me as those with whom I am working face to face. We, together, are part of the embassy of the Lord's Kingdom here on earth, we are His ambassadors. As one prays and gives, another writes, another goes, another welcomes home, we all work together for His good.

And a special thanks to Mosaic, my sending church. Thank you Rev. Elaine Storm and all those who so faithfully pray and give. Thank you for your encouragement and for hearing my stories when I return. Thank you for caring about the people in far-away places and for those in Imperial who do not yet know Christ. Thank you for being willing to make sacrifices in order that others may come to know Jesus. Thank you for being my home when I am in this part of the world.

In the mean time.....
My head and heart are spinning. When I arrived home on Good Friday, Emily, Karl, Cambria, Greta, and Dietrich were already preparing to move to Sewickley. They have lived with us for at least 4 years and I love having them here with us. I am so very excited for them in their new home. They have returned to the neighborhood where we lived until Emily was 10 years old. They can walk to school, to the shops, the park, to church and to the YMCA. They are happy and active in their new place.

At the end of May, Nathaniel bought a house in Baden which is down the river from Emily. He packed his clothing and a few items in boxes and off he went to begin a new adventure of his own. As an auto mechanic, he will continue in the same place he has been working since he was in college. He is a good helper for Chuck as they work to build our new home.

In a few days Abby will move to Mt. Washington as she too begins a new season. She continues to work as a nurse in a place where challenges are at every turn.

Soon Erin and Austin (now nearly 3 years old) will move to a new home in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. Erin works as a nurse in Pittsburgh as well and continues to be a blessing to many families who come to the hospital with great fear.

In 12 weeks Chuck will retire after 35 years as a police officer with Moon Township. For 2 1/2 years he has been working hard to build a home for us on the shore of the Tygert Valley River in Belington, W.Va.

As you see, WE ARE IN TRANSITION!!! My head and heart are spinning. There are days when I just simply do not know were to begin, I don't have Greta and Dietrich jumping on my face and singing "Shake it Off". I'm living in three worlds. One in Oakdale where we are working to get our house ready to sell after being here for 23 years. One in Belington where we do not yet have plumbing and struggle to get the hot water to work in the outdoor cow trough bath tub. One in Africa where I long to be again.

Looking Forward.....
In Africa
As you may know, Bishop Joseph invited me and a SAMS team to lead a missions conference in November. The date was then changed to December. It is an incredible honor to have been invited to work side-by-side with such dedicated brothers and sisters in Christ. I was excited to return to do so. But is now seems that the timing is not right. For personal reasons which I will explain and because we were not able to gather  a team, I have written to request that a team could come in 2017. Lynn Bouterse, the director of short-term missions and I will work together to prayerfully consider this mission. It is my prayer that another opportunity for mission will present itself so that we can walk together with our friends in Kenya. I am also praying with confidence that God is providing the right people to lead the mission already scheduled in December. There may be other opportunities in Uganda, Ethiopia, and Sudan as well so I pray for clarity of vision and for wisdom as I listen to God's direction.

In Belington


Our new bishop, Jim Hobby, is excited to hear more about what God is doing in Belington. He is open to finding ways to form partnerships in ministry and to think together about the best ways to walk into the vision God has given. Years ago, God showed me a place with a house where people gather to pray, to eat, to worship and learn together. There were small cottages and small gardens and people coming and going, people of all ages from all over the world. We were connected by friendship and for our love of the Lord. It was a place of peace and prayer.
As you see from the Mean Time report, I believe that this 23 acres of land on the river is a place God can use to bring people together for a time and then send them back out into the world. Building a house in a place where there is no electric, no sewer system, no gas, no paved road and very little access to reliable helpers is not easy!!! It is hard. There are days when I question whether or not God is the one who gave that vision, if the vision was for us, if the vision is for this place, for now for .....
I question. And I know that walking obediently with God is not easy, but it is good and right. I know that I may not see the fruit of this obedience until we arrive in heaven. Right now it feels like there may not be fruit. UG.
Belington is a beautiful place. I meet people who are sad, some who are stuck, some who are angry, some who are encouraging, faithful, and full of hope. It is a mixed bag just as those first missionaries found and the thousands of faithful missionaries throughout history.
When God gives us marching orders He rarely gives a detailed description as He did when He gave directions for the building of the tabernacle. I would love those kinds of directions!!! But most often He says, "Follow me, trust me, walk with me day by day and I will show you the way." UG. I want a road map, not a note with the next step scribbles on a napkin. But, when God hands you a napkin it is best to trust those directions and wait for the next marching order.
Please pray for continued clarity of vision, for His provision, for help to complete the house and most importantly for God to show us people of peace in the place with whom we can partner as we share the gospel.

In Oakdale....
Sad to leave. Packing is hard. Organizing 23 years of stuff and not having a place to put my books is hard. We have contacted a Realtor, waiting to hear from him. We will move some things to Nathaniel's house where we will keep a bedroom as a local resting place when we come home. I hope to have a big party before we say good-bye to thank those very many people who have made our house home over the years.
When we first moved here people came to help Chuck tear down a room and build an addition. We celebrated Thanksgiving in this house before the walls were finished, such great memories.
People came to paint and scrape paint, to scrub and just to hang out with us
People came to partner with us to plant the Garden Gate which began officially a week before Ivan hit. And then came a flood of people helping to clean up and work through the mud as we ministered to those is great need.
People came for bible studies, missions planning, youth group, and just to say hello.
When we were looking for a home, we asked God to give us a home that would be a blessing to us, our family and friend for years to come. He answered those prayers in a thousand ways.
And now we pray that God will bring the right people to take over the care of this home that will be a blessing to them for years to come.

Years ago, Eric Taylor reminded us almost daily that change is hard. I always considered myself one of the early adapters, the one who goes out ahead to lead to way to change. And today I feel like the one who is hanging on for dear life. The future us unknown, I have no control, it is not easy, but it is good and right. I will follow Him where He leads. I know you will too.

I love you and look forward to the continued Adventure...












Friday, March 11, 2016

Three weeks since my arrival and three days until Uganda

Good Morning friends,
I know it has been three weeks since my arrival because I took my third dose of malaria medication. Speaking of mosquitoes, they were having a family reunion a few nights ago and I was on the menu! Two nights ago we were having a downpour (which is considered a great blessing here) and I asked if I could open my window thinking that the bugs would not be flying around in such a storm. Alex responded in his wonderfully humorous voice, "No, the grandparents will be coming!"

Mama Joanna showing me how to take
the chicken from the pen to the pot.

It is sheer joy to be here with Mary and Alex and the new baby who will appear, God willing, in September. They are full of jokes and fun but also prayerfully following Christ day by day, together.

Neighborhood boy from Mary's former church.
There have been some internet challenges, I think my yahoo account has been hacked-again! Not sure what to do about it. But other than that small inconvenience, all is going very well. All 7 of the Sunday School Conferences have been completed and Simon tells me that close to 250 total teachers have attended. They were all welcoming, generous, kind and showed interest in the teaching because they really want to do a better job of teaching the children.

Mother's Union members meet to pass on the leadership baton,
and I got to hols the baby!
Unlike Sunday School at home, here there are up to 250 kids in a class. The teachers are trained and licensed by the diocese. They even have uniforms that are required for the ceremony tomorrow.

Photo op following Sunday School conference at Mary's current church
Yesterday I spoke at the clergy gathering, reminding us all that Jesus gives us truth and that we should never believe the lies of the enemy. Jesus tells us that the truth is given to us in scripture and that because of the words given by Moses, we should recognize Jesus as Lord and savior. Trusting Him is the only way to live in His kingdom here on earth and into eternity.

Mary praising the Lord

On Sunday I get the icing on this wonderful 3 weeks of cake. I get to teach the Sunday School children along with Esther. She has been my helper and friend since I arrived 3 weeks ago. She has such joy in all she does and I pray that God will continue to expand her areas of influence as she continues to serve him so well.
Dear Esther Shining the light on international day of prayer

After Sunday School I will be swept off to Nairobi where I will board the plane for Entebbe. There Stephanie and I will meet, be driven to Kampala and begin a new adventure as Stephanie discerns the location of a long-term ministry in Uganda.


gathered on the porch of Mary's family home
with Mary's dad, sister Grace, cousin and Alex

Following delicious dinner at Simon's house with Esther,Simon,
his wife Winnie, Alex and me in my new dress

Children's choir at Mary's church on Sunday where many people
accepted Christ and rededicated themselves to Him

Simon's beautiful daughter, really tooo cute.

baby praising God during church on Sunday

On the home front, Chuck has returned safely from a sweet visit with his family in Colorado. We are trying to plan a big family reunion soon. He is back at work and going to our W. Va. home to continue getting it ready for moving in. Kids and grand-kids are doing well. I miss you all!!!


 Thanks for your ongoing prayers and support. more news upcoming. Clue: an invitation to help with a missions conference in November. Stay tuned...


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A week and a day and all is well

having fun singing praises at the first of seven conferences
All is very well in Kenya. It is an honor to be here with the gracious people of Kirinyaga diocese.

Sunday School coordinators
Since traveling to Mary's home on Monday it has been one exciting event after another. On  Wednesday at the first Sunday School teachers' conference we were greeted by 100 people. This was a blessing, knowing that so many people from a few perishes in the diocese were willing to travel to the church, participate in training and are excited to continue teaching many hundreds of children in their home churches. What a joy to see them dancing and singing and enjoying one another.
 On Thursday I attended a Diocesan wide Sunday  School coordinators' meeting led by Mary They are leading the way in organizing and energizing the Sunday school teachers throughout the diocese.


donkey cart surfing
We drove through the fields in order to visit a fellow clergy member who had taken ill. I was expecting to go quietly into the home, lean over the bed, lay hands on the patient and leave after encouraging the family. BUT NO!! All of the clergy arrived, the ill clergy friend was up out of bed and greeting us at the gate. There was a meal (of course) prayers and even a clergy meeting. There was a collection taken to help support the family and we even got a glimpse of a new grandbaby. These people really know how to care for one another.
Clergy gathering to encourage an ill co-worker
Esther with the children at the clergy gathering
  On the way back to Mary's I had a special treat.....a phone call with Chuck who is also fine. The children and grandchildren are all doing well so thanks for your ongoing prayers on their behalf.



Seeds of Hope retreat and rehab. center

Twelve Days of Joy

Today is Tuesday, of the second week of the mission. It has been a joy-filled 
  
Children's Choir at St. Mary's
adventure up to this point. Staying in the home of Mary and Alex on the church
compound has been an education. Mary is teaching me to cook some of the 
local foods, I'm watching interesting Mexican Soap Operas in the evenings
which are hysterical, and have had the rare opportunity to debrief with 
Mary and Alex daily. 

On Sunday at St. Mary's the adult choir presented a lively song followed by 
the children presenting a very long Bible memory passage. It was impressive to see even the youngest reciting a lengthy passage. They were all full of the joy of the Lord. 

Loving hugs between Grandmas
After the service (and a meal of course) we went to Alex and Mary's Home 
place in the shadow of Mt. Kenya. The parish had decided to take a Sunday and have the congregation meet in their local villages. There was a large gathering on the hill between the tea fields. there were children, good food (of course),a humorous M.C. who lead the group as they presented me with the gift of a hand-made basket. 

Melvin
I met Melvin who is 13 years old. He patiently showed me various aspects of his family's farm. Melvin is articulate and observant for his age. I expect God has very good plans for this young man.

Fermented porridge in a large dried gord
We left the gathering and visited Alex and Mary's house in progress. It is a large creative home on a quiet plot of land. There are cows, sheep, goats, chickens and even a rabbit. The young farm helper takes good care of the animals and the crops. While meeting Alex's sister-in-law I was served fermented porridge which sounds yukky but was actually quite tasty. 
Alex and Mary's new home

After all this, we went to Mary's sister's home and met the whole family. On this nearby farm the extended family works together, cooks and eats together. They love one another and share the love of Christ from their home on the hill.
Mary's family

We slept well and late on Monday. we did some washing out of clothes and rested. We even went to Mary's former church village and ordered a dress and skirt to be made. I can't wait to see them. 
That night Mary and I cooked mashed potatoes, goat stew and gravy and had ice cream for dessert. It was a semi-American meal and the first time I had cooked goat meat. 
Tea Fields

Today was the third of seven teacher conferences. there were 85 Sunday School teachers present. We talked about looking around and using what God has already given. We learned about the learning square and taking baby steps to reach the larger goal. We talked about debriefing and reviewing our work in order to better meet the needs of the children. It was a great day and they blessed my socks off with a gift of a plaque for the wall. ...and food of course. 
A room filled with happy teachers

On our way home, we visited a church leader who was suffering with typhoid and malaria along with his wife. We pray that they both feel better quickly. Their daughter happily received a small card drawn by Cambria our granddaughter. 

I find the people here to be gracious and open to learn new ways of helping the children learn about Jesus. They are dedicated and spreading the gospel in ways that I believe will be helpful to use in Belington when I get back home. 
Mary with her Sunday School teacher

Many thanks for your ongoing prayers. There are more conferences, preaching, visiting and playing with children ahead, and food of course. 
I send greetings from the precious people here as they are praying for you as well.
Blessings,
Deb

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Mission Begins

'Queen' Mary and her sister Grace at home

 Dear Friend, It is a great joy to let you know that I have arrived in Kenya safely. Thank you for your ongoing prayers. As planned, I arrived in Nairobi on Friday, Feb. 19th in the evening. After a few hours in the airport, the driver met me and took me to the Anglican Guest house in Nairobi.

On Saturday I rested and recovered from jet lag. Sunday I walked to the All Saints Cathedral where we worshiped the Lord and heard a helpful sermon about fasting and prayer. 
'King' Alex wanking through the Bible

Taking the wrong way back up the hill gave me a good view of the city and stretched my legs. That afternoon I had a lovely visit from Miriam before dinner and more rest.

Monday was a day of seeing Mary and her 'king', Alex. The road to Kirinyaga was smooth as we passed tea fields, towns with open air fruit markets, donkeys carrying heavy loads and smiling faces of the children. We could see the outline of Mt. Kenya as we drove along the way.


Bishop Joseph, Mary and I
 passing books from Peter Walker

Esther, smiling as always
Tuesday I visited the Bishop who explained part of his plan for the children of the diocese. I walked with Simon along the Walk of the Bible path and even had my hair braided.



Today was our first children's conference. Over 100 Sunday School teachers attended. Their warm welcome was a great encouragement. It helps me to imagine the Sunday School teachers in Pittsburgh diocese gathering together for training, mutual support and strategic planning. There are helpful materials and good support for the teachers who are impacting for Jesus 1000 children just in that archdeaconary (21 parishes, on of 7 archdeaconaries in the diocese) !!!!! God is at work in Kenya.

Teachers dancing at the conference
A new friend
dinner at Mary's


We talked about life in the Kingdom of God and I believe I am getting a glimpse behind the veil as I travel around this place and meet His servants.













 The mission continues. God is on the move. Now I will be eating dinner at Mary's. Thank you for continued prayers for us all. Tomorrow is a Sunday School teachers planning meeting with Mary and Simon and others. Friday another conference and preaching so pray for our planning.
My health is very good, all is well. Mary and Alex are kind and patient hosts in their home near the church.
More soon.
Blessings,
Deb


Monday, February 8, 2016

Ten Days and Counting

If you have ever prepared for a journey, you know that in the last few day prior to departure there are a myriad if details swirling around in your mind. The check-list of final preparations is .... where did I put that check list? OK, so today I'm making the final check-list and will be extraordinarily pleased to CHECK off most of the items on the list.

For instance, yesterday I had the joy of worshiping at Mosaic, my sending church, where they prayed for the mission and promised to continue praying now, during and following the time in Africa. They are a faithful group of prayer warriors whose prayers are essential. Please join them.
In case you might be wondering what else is done prior to leaving...

Cambria's birthday
Chuck gathering a few
 items from the Jeep
stuck until plowed
Renew passport, get visa, get photos for this and a few extras for sim cards in country

Spend as much time as possible with Chuck, our family and friends



Make sure there is money in the account to access from ATM upon arrival in country, get Vaccinations and Malaria medication (I took my first dose of this on Thursday)
Get gifts for hosts
Update blog
Greta's birthday
                            
Find Suitcase in attic and begin to lay out clothing and books (books are heavy), Ugandan phone, water filter, wash line and pins, DUCT TAPE (of course), gifts, sunscreen,

Read passage in Bible when Jesus tells the disciples to go with nothing and  take out half of what was packed
praying with children in Uganda
Make paperwork packet with passport, copies of passport to leave at home and to take, agenda, letters to bishops, notes for teaching and preaching, computer files and notes in order to work on D. Min. project, lots of other stuff I need to put on the check list

Pray for the teachers who work hard to teach the children about Christ's love. Pray for them and me to have hearts ready to share our hopes, dreams and challenges as God teaches us how to better teach the children. Praying for God to give me His words for His people, to give me His love for His people, His energy, good health and a calm mind to share His gospel in unexpected places.


Celebrating ordination in Kenya


Praying for friends in Ethiopia who are devastated by violence and death in their villages as old wounds have been ripped open. Now is a time for deeper levels of understanding, reconciliation and healing to happen as the Lord shines His holy light into the situation. Praising God for the healing!




As for the distractions, they continue. This week Chuck and I are working on a budget and plan for all the systems required for our Belington Cottage such as:

Cottage in Belington which will
be our home in October
a solar system, propane back-up heaters, propane appliances, septic system, a larger generator for back-up electric, building another structure for a proper bathroom and laundry and planning for a garden in hopes that we can find some common ground (no pun intended) with our neighbors. All this without a contractor, architect, plumber, electrician or farmer. And trying to deal with the fact that our taxes were raised beyond what we believe is a reasonable amount.
Just a few distractions to employ my brain while preparing for the other mission at hand. Kenya and Uganda.
Focus, Focus, Focus!!!!!

Next week will be my last pre-mission post, After that, notes from the field.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Three weeks and counting...

A leader announces, "God is good" and the people respond "all the time". The leader continues, "All the time" and the response comes, "God is good". You have probably heard this joyful pronouncement here in Pittsburgh and other places in the U.S. but did you know that in Uganda and Kenya people express their trust in the goodness of God in the same way? In fact I think this expression may have originated with the East African Revival, correct me if I'm wrong.
This is one of the many connections found with friends on the other side of the world. Being part of the world-wide Anglican communion provides a sense of confidence that the Bible is understood to be the trustworthy, relevant word of God, that Jesus is the incarnate son of the father who came to earth, lived, died and rose so that all people everywhere can be restored to the father. We agree that the Holy Spirit is alive and living in the hearts and minds of all who trust in the Lord.
In three more weeks I will be getting on the plane and traveling to Nairobi where I will spend a few days recovering from jet lag and adapting to the culture such as looking in the opposite direction when crossing the street.
Since my first short-term mission trip in 1994, I have found that in these last few weeks of preparing for far-away service in the Lord's army, there are increased conflicts, challenges and reasons to stay home. This year is no exception which is why your on-going prayers are essential, beginning NOW.
Confidence in God's call to the mission field keeps me focused and moving forward but there are loads of distractions and concerns as the time for leaving draws near.
This is one example of a distraction.
 I just love to hang out with our sweet
grandbabies.

If you scan down on last week's post you will find a prayer calendar with the locations of the ministry. Please check it often and pray with me for the people in those places. Pray for wisdom in preparing for the seven one day conferences in Kenya. Pray for good use of the time in between the conferences, for easy travel to each of the archdeaconries and for good communication with hosts Mary and Simon. Pray for my old and scarred body to work the way it is meant to work, for good sleep and loads of energy in the days.
Praise God with me for those of you who have generously provided for the funds needed. Thank you again for this. Praise God for the many details of our time in Uganda as the people, places and provisions are being revealed daily. Praise God for my sending church, Mosaic, for rector and friend Elaine Storm and all the encouragement and prayer support they all so generously give.
Thanks for reading! God is good all the time....All the time God is good.