It has been said that all creation and its workings contain metaphors for spiritual truth – what we see and experience is but shadows of a greater reality. For example, we can testify that in life – and in ministry – there are storms, calm after the storms, quiet times of recovery and preparation before the storm returns. For us, Africa was a storm, South Carolina where Matti was born was the calm after the storm and Germany has been a wonderfully sunny period of refreshment, recovery and preparation. It was so good that it makes us suspicious of the coming storm…

We praise God for His response from your petitions last month for smooth logistics (down to the last checked bag that weighed exactly 50 pounds J ), consolation in the farewells and encouragement from many teammates, both old and new, committing to walk beside us in prayer over the next year.

Trust entwines with trepidation as we depart clear skies, arriving in Palau on 6 September (assuming stand-by seats are available). The pilot/missionary we will replace warned us about some complex circumstances that await us there and the importance of prayer paving the path with patience and grace. Will you echo these requests with us as we cross the pond to the South Pacific?

When Zoe turned 2 we moved to France. Just after turning 3 we took her to Africa. She just turned 4. Off we go to Palau. It’s a tradition we’re hoping to discontinue…

PS: The last of our pictures from Germany…

An isolated island in the rushing torrent of “modern life,” set apart in space and time. No wi-fi, out of cell coverage, no satellite or cable, only one phone line for the office. In the tents and cabins, no electricity or running water. Camp leaped toward modernity with the addition of their overhead projector. But the vacancy left by all these “missing” things goes unnoticed beneath the landslide of life bubbling over from counselors being caught by campers. Acapella songs spontaneously erupt in the dining hall after meals, laughter rings through the woods, smiles and healing tears are never far from expression. The missing technology, the vibrance, the Adirondack forest’s tranquility and the still mist of Davignon Pond in the morning invite hearts to let down their guard and experience God in ways rarely possible elsewhere in the “real” world.

What a great place camp was for our family to spend the summer of limbo between assignments. Sandi helped immensely in the office while Donna watched our kids and did odd jobs like fixing the bugle system. Zoe painted rocks, colored pictures, swam in the lake and played in the sandbox with her new friends. Matti excelled at her primary responsibility: growing. Having finally recovered from bug bites and scratches, we are now in Germany’s Eifel region not far from Luxemburg where Slick soon starts his work with the Air Force simulator program at Spangdahlem Airbase.

While we prefer God give us our marching orders through His Word, through prayer and through the counsel of godly advisors, He chose to guide us through a multitude of closed doors. We have now walked through the only one left open. Nevertheless, we are thankful for His very clear guidance, in accordance with your prayers. Thank you for praying!

He has already given us a great house with a view, lots of space for guests and a wonderful kindergarten. While we continue to seek the right car, we’d ask you to join us in prayer that God would show us the work He’d have us do here. Until He shows us something else, we’re focusing on the basics of loving on each other and raising the girls. But if there’s more to be done, we seek to be prepared and available when and where He directs.

The sisters get along wonderfully.

Many thanks to all of you who’ve prayed for Slick’s parents. He visited them upon our arrival back in the US and had the chance to share the Gospel with them (again) with reasonable assurance that they are coming to know Jesus in this life and will greet Him in the next (John 17:3).

While Slick was out of town, Zoe and Donna got to see God’s hand moving in the NY suburbs. A friend invited us to lunch with Donna’s parents. Grandpa mentioned to the waitress that he was going to pray for lunch and asked if he could pray anything for her. That gave rise to a long conversation about churches in the area, which the waitress Jacquelyn was seeking since she recently arrived in the US from Argentina and was just returning to the faith after a couple years’ rebellion. Dad put her in touch with a friend, Beatrice, who lives just two blocks from Jacquelyn. We all welcomed Jacquelyn to Dad’s Sunday School the following Sunday and continue to pray for Jacquelyn and her new friendship with Beatrice. Praise God for evidence of His work even among “normal, everyday America.”

We’re in South Carolina for a month or two for the arrival of Zoe’s little sister at the same birth center where Zoe swam into the world of light and sound. Due to the many unknowns in logistics and timing, we’ll be sending just this email for this month and we appreciate your understanding. We also request your prayers for God clear leading in our next steps.

Zoe and Grandpa enjoy each other’s company during our brief stay in NJ with Donna’s parents.

In His heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps (Prov 16:9). And sometimes those steps take a sharp turn when we least expect it.

We are experiencing this as God redirects us elsewhere in Africa: our mission agency has invited us to consider an interesting project in another country, combining our French and aviation skills. We have been praying about this for a few weeks and discussing it with our missions pastor, the AIM US director and Donna’s dad, among others. As men in spiritual authority over us, we consider their discernment vital, and they have been unanimous in their affirmation.

So, we have returned to the US for baby’s arrival in April and may go elsewhere in Africa later this year. Some folks in Nairobi expected us to be devastated to leave so soon, but having carefully followed each step God’s asked of us, we’re grateful for the certainty that we’re in the center of His will now, and rejoice that He’s answered your many prayers in directing our next step. We greatly enjoyed our one day between unpacking and repacking, but we seek to grow just a little closer to Him in this situation, as in every situation.

Please join us in thanking Him for the encouragement we’ve been able to offer some of the people here while they went through some pretty dark times, and for opening our eyes to the face of missions in Africa. Now as we move once again we’d appreciate your continued prayer for God’s clear guidance of our steps and for safety for each of us, especially Mom and baby.

Taking a short break from work at home, we ventured just northwest of Nairobi to a volcanic crater. After hiking to the rim, where we took this picture, Donna and some friends continued around the crater to the peak in the distance on the left.

“Next week” finally arrived the night before we left to celebrate Christmas at Sunrise Acres (a group of AIM-owned cabins on a small farm in rural Kenya). 201 boxes, trunks and other items made their way into our home in the hands of many helpers in just over an hour. Many, many thanks for interceding on our behalf! 🙂

Now about 8 weeks into the 12 of maintenance orientation, we slid out to Entebbe, Uganda for a few days after Christmas to scout out where we may live next year. Much more peaceful and beautiful than Nairobi, we eagerly look forward to the chance to serve there.

However, we continue to search out where God would lead us and we would greatly appreciate your prayers to that end: that God would clearly direct us and we would accurately discern what He desires. As everyone knows, there is much work to be done, here in Africa…like elseshere… We just desire to be where He wants us and do the good works He’s prepared in advance for us (1).

(1) Ephesians 2:10

Enjoy pictures from Christmas…and from our trip to Entebbe.

Some of you have asked for pictures of things with wings and props… Here is Slick on the ground after his first flight in Africa: a medical evacuation of a gal from Kasese, a town outside of Entebbe, Uganda. As of now, we’re planning to move to Entebbe later this year (2012), after Slick is done with training. Entebbe hosts the airport that serves Uganda’s capital, Kampala. The airport sits on a peninsula in Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa.

I am glad that we took a brief hiatus from sending regular email while we were at Scott Theological College last month going through AIM’s Africa-Based Orientation. It alleviated much stress, since the power frequently went off and was often off for a whole day at a time. Of course, without power, there is no internet (unless you hook up through the cell lines, which we weren’t doing yet). When the power was on, the only time for internet was at meals, and when one is also trying to entertain and feed a two-year old, multi-tasking did not work well!

In those brief moments when power was on and Zoe was sufficiently under control, usually the wireless was on. But even then, it wasn’t always hooked up to the internet… So, along with what was on the menu, we always approached the intener with the attitude, “well, let’s see what it will be today…” and kept the expectations in check.

Such little things really do help in several ways: by severing our connection to the “outside” world, we were able to visit more with the folks right around us, and we learned just a little more of thinking in terms of days or even weeks, rather than minutes and hours…and being okay with that. “It’s not wrong…it’s just different.”

Zoe loved feeding the local goats. The female, the white goat, gave birth while we were there to a cute little clone of its brown daddy.

In response to your prayers, the transition to the Dark Continent has gone relatively smoothly. More stories to follow, but in the meantime, enjoy some pictures.

Slick pauses on a hike to chat with the local kids who joined us for a bit

“If you get all your bags tonight, and bring the dog home, that will be nothing less than a miracle!” commented the pilot who picked us up at 9pm Wednesday night after almost 24 hours of travel. By 1am, we had arrived safely at the Muringa Compound (a very nice little oasis in the city of Nairobi) – all four of us and all 11 of our bags.

So once again, we’re praising God for how He has so abundantly and faithfully responded to y’all’s prayers. Thank you, also, for praying!

Tomorrow we begin the journey to Africa Based Orientation (ABO), where internet will be very limited. So, we apologize for the more generic nature of this email, and for the fact that we will only be back in touch at the end of October.

In the meantime, we’d love for you to join us in thanking God for His abundant provision and protection. ABO will be a challenging time as we go through more training, immerse into a very different culture and meet even more new friends. We’d appreciate you joining us in prayer for grace during this transition, both in our own relationship and in those with others, and that we would learn what God would have us learn from this orientation.

There they go!

In the few weeks we’ve been in the US, God has greatly encouraged us by showing us His handiwork several times**. Mike, a former pilot and current media guy for AIM inspired us with tails of flying and truths about God that stories have taught him. At the service where he spoke, his teenage daughter was baptized, along with a new believer from Pakistan, who understood that her decision would likely cost her many relationships with family and friends. Earlier that morning, Slick had the opportunity to witness the neighbor boy, a young, struggling teen, make the decision to follow Jesus. So, as the date of our flight to Africa approaches (Sept 26), we’re encouraged to see God working so clearly.

We have definitely felt the cover of your prayers on numerous occasions, and we often that God for you out loud together when we pray for you. Until the end of September, the logistical challenges of departing the US continue, for which we need God’s continued wisdom, clarity and endurance. As we’ve said before, transition times bring a pile of challenges and we continue to ask for prayer specifically directed against the enemy’s attempts to confuse our communication as a couple as well as for an abundance of grace each for the other and for Zoe!

As we face the final preparations to go, we covet your prayers immensely. Thank you for uplifting us before the King.

The Foulkes (left), us & the Dilorenzos (right)

**The fact that you support us so faithfully enables us to pass the encouragement on to others: the Foulkes and the Dilorenzos joined us for a barbeque while on “home assignment” in New Jersey. Both families have dealt with significant change and challenge recently. The Foulkes continue to persevere in their work with Africans living in Marseilles, France, battling almost impermeable Islamic barriers and the ultra secular French culture at the same time. The Dilorenzo’s have been AIM missionaries in Nairobi for 14 years, and recently switched from AIM AIR to On Field Media, AIM’s media branch. Read more about their stories of God’s work in their lives, visit Donna’s blog called “Crisis of belief”.

A farewell to the French Alps: a hike above Chamonix and across from Mont Blanc the week before we moved. More pictures are posted on our Flickr site. Click “slideshow” on the top right for best viewing. Enjoy!

A lake in the Alps

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