Each month we seek to encourage you with a glimpse of God’s working in our corner of the world, wherever that may be. But secretly a part of us feels like we spotlight mere shades of blue and green when elsewhere God covers the landscape with rainbows of living color. So this month, be encouraged by the tale of another ex-missionary pilot and his wife, a nurse, in Kenya who are dear friends of ours.

Even as they sneak up through their 70’s, V and G battle on the frontlines daily. With no natural children, they embody fulfillment of God’s command to a culture where a barren woman was a disgrace: "’Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud…For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,’ says the LORD."* V and G have over 100 twenty-somethings who call them “Mom” and “Dad” – children of faith whom they have introduced to Jesus despite real persecution, both from people hostile to the Gospel and from the church itself.

Here are some snippets from the last few months: Shortly after lunch I heard the call, “Dad! Dad! Come!” Two of our daughters (both from AMWR**) were sharing the Gospel through Facebook to an individual in one of the most closed countries on earth. It’s a country mentioned in the Bible, and a lady was ready to accept Christ! These two daughters invited me to be part of it….Wow! Every time I get to that point and their answer is YES, I rejoice! I feel goose-pimples, and tears usually come to my eyes! In fact, tears are coming to my eyes now as I write about it…

Yesterday, two times, a lady stayed after one of the Bible studies and accepted Christ. After the last Bible study, a man out of AMWR** closed in prayer like this: “Lord, I never thought I would see so many from my country come out of that other religion to know Jesus Christ and receive His salvation and joy!”

The day before this we suspect both G’s and my computers were hacked… Attacks from this source have happened at least twice before… Recently, two of our kids on two different occasions were attacked and needed to see a doctor to dress the wounds. Another has been threatened with a gun to stop helping us. Another was abducted and beaten and questioned about why they brought the missionary into their area. We had to pay ransom money for their release. Another has been harassed by phone calls and had to ask the police for protection.

Despite all this, V and G hold 5+ Bible studies per week with 200+ in attendance, many from countries, religions and families openly hostile to Jesus. For many of them, to follow Jesus means paying a real and high cost. Yet they do, with gusto. So be encouraged – God is on the move, even today!

Please help us refine the aim of our prayer arrows for you. Also, please let us know if you want to come alongside the work God is doing through V and G and become part of their stories by supporting them financially and/or in prayer??

* Isaiah 54:1

**AMWR – Another Major World Religion, about which it is dangerous to email/post online

A snow squall over the Pacific Ocean, take from cross country skis as we slid along the beach. Can’t do that just anywhere in the world!

As if after a long summer hike through a dusty desert, a young gal sat at the library table with me, tangibly thirsty for God’s Word. Not for a book that talked about the Bible, but for Scripture itself. It made my spine tingle! Please pray for K as we meet weekly now. We are beginning a 6-week journey through the entire Bible – and she has some great insights and questions. So encouraging to witness God’s work in a heart!

We’d love to report that all of life is so inspiring, but as is usually the case, while a "high" unfolds, a "low" parallels it on the railroad tracks of life. Sadly the women’s ministry here has all but ceased due to a complicated situation. Please pray with us for clear guidance for the chaplains as well as the balance God desires for us between truth and grace.

Back on the other rail, Slick’s instruction and professionalism has received high praise from all levels of the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) with whom he works. While he’s deeply grateful to be enabled to do all as unto Christ, we continue to pray for opportunities to shine the light of the Gospel into this very polite but dark country.

It almost seems a reward for excelling at work, but God has afforded Slick some unexpected free time to finish his dissertation, pending final reviews. Now we simply ask that he’d be able to defend it later this year and officially become a Dr.

On the lighter side, we thank God for our family reaching a long-time goal. With Gwen able to get on and off ski lifts with either parent and roughly keeping up with everyone else, it is a frivolous but welcome blessing to be able to enjoy skiing together at last. We are also thankful for a bit more clarity on direction for us, though continued prayer on that front is always appreciated!

Please let us know how we can be lifting you up before Him who sits on the Throne.

Taking advantage of roads closed due to snow. Believe it or not, there is very little snow this year compared to normal! And yes, Zoe is pulling the stroller and all three munkins are cross country skiing!

Happy New Year!

One night as the girls and I thanked God for things that happened that day, Gwen’s rambled, "And please help me to be a good mom when I grow up." So precious! And Gwen certainly is growing up. Not so much we have to pay for her skiing yet. No, she is skiing free, both monetarily and from Mom’s help, very carefully back and forth like a pro. She’ll even sneak into the forest sometimes and glide back out onto the run giggling with glee.

She’s not the only natural, either. We put Zoe on skate skis and away she went, happily chattering away as she (mostly) gracefully slid along. Matti was not to be outdone either, eagerly joining a spontaneous mom-daughter outing on her little cross country skis. We glided up the same beautiful, snowy trails where Grandma and Aunt Ginni (Donna’s family) had snowshoed just a few days before. Truly a blessing to enjoy holidays with family that we get to see so rarely and to do so in so amazingly peaceful and picturesque a place as Whitefish, MT where we have been cozily ensconced for the last two weeks.

Truly a blessing also to look back on God’s clear work in us and through us this month, with the successful end of the fall semester for the women’s group and many positive comments from folks who attended a marriage retreat we got to lead. As a result of Slick’s excellent work and favor with the Japanese, they are looking to hire more instructors like him. We simply hope and ask that his professional competence opens a door for the Gospel.

Looking forward to the coming days, weeks and months, we do covet your prayers for clear guidance on several fronts – camp for the Donna and the girls and work for Slick, as well as many more minor decisions that hinge on those two. Please also help us cover with prayer some tough conversations that are likely to occur soon after our return to Japan. If only we could skip out on the hard parts of the Bible!

Please let us know how we can be in prayer beside you. And a very Happy New Year and New Decade!

Our first day out, at the top of the Whitefish Ski Resort – the only day of sun so far! But the snow is good 🙂 Glacier NP and Canada are in the background.

Almost daily I’m reminded of Dad’s humor and quips, like "aging right on schedule – whatever that is!", "two days: this day and that day," and "another an opportunity for spiritual formation."

Running seems to grow daily more painful, but it’s hard to know how much is age and how much is tripping on the dog when she’s excited by the crowds competing in the Turkey Trot. Zoe ran the 6K and Matti biked with an occasional push as I (Donna) attempted to keep us three together and our crazy puppy out of everyone’s way. Or how much is running the stairs through the Tori gates in Kyoto featured in Memoires of a Geisha? Three miles straight of them! Thankfully we only walked through the temple, imperial palace, bamboo grove and monkey refuge later that day. Sightseeing Douglass style, like aging, is not for the faint of heart!

With an eye toward "that day," we’ve been blessed by many dinner guests offering mutual encouragement around the table. Likewise, Thanksgiving with five other families, formed a household of faith as snow drifted in the air to the music of children’s laughter (lots of children and laughter!).

Between highlights such as these, there remain "opportunities for spiritual formation" at every turn. Slick is thrilled to have finished not only his current class at seminary, but also the first draft of his dissertation. Preparations for a marriage enrichment retreat which we get to lead in two weeks are also near completion. Meanwhile, Donna has been given the challenge to serve faithfully in the midst of adversity while waiting on God’s timing with the women’s ministry. Please join us in asking God for clear guidance and for truth to prevail such that wounds may be healed, marriages strengthened and ministry move forward.

Through it all, we are deeply grateful that we can rest in the confidence that the One who desires the best for us also knows the best for us AND is able to accomplish it. Truly, perfect love drives out fear and leaves us free to serve with joy. Please let us know how we can come alongside you in your walk with Him who is faithful and true.

Rock climbing at Kuji. The cliff is right behind Hachi, who has replaced all fear of heights with a dread of being left at the bottom when Mommy climbs the heights.

If "every good and perfect gift is from above,"* then laughter is from God, too. Some events, like girls’ comments and Matti literally bouncing with energy, cause immediate [and often stifled!] laughter. Other events take some time to age into laughables. Someday, The Battle of The Bedbugs will age into humorous, though at that moment it is cause for much fervent petition and tentative praise: after a week of heavy fighting, we haven’t detected any further infiltration. We never did see a single one, nor any evidence besides the intensely itchy bites. Crazy!

A second good gift from above came, like many, only after what seemed like humiliating defeat. Gwen is now happily ensconced in a Japanese youchien (preschool) near our house with only one other American. She’s learning rapidly and loving it, as are we. It’s a much better situation that we’d been working toward for over a year. "God blessed the broken road…"

Though not without its accompanying difficulties, God has also blessed Sandi’s hard work with favor among the Japanese he serves. He has been able to make significant inroads in serving them and building relationships and credibility with them, personally and professionally. Would you continue to pray with us for "an open door" for the Gospel** among these Japanese who are also precious to God?

On the ministry front, we continue to move toward leading a marriage retreat in December for a local church and toward becoming certified marriage counselors with Love and Respect/Dare to be Different. Having two targets painted clearly on our marriage, please join us in extra prayer cover for intentionality, diligence, connection and protection.

Finally, as we’ve moved forward in careful confidence following your prayers for wisdom and guidance, God responded by moving hearts at the women’s Spiritual Health Seminar. Long and deep conversations, soaked by tears, bore witness to God’s work at the event. We continue to ask for God’s wisdom and unity for Donna and her fellow board members, as well as His ongoing work in individual ladies’ lives.

Thank you for walking this path with us. Please let us share your burdens as well.

*James 1:17

**1 Corinthians 16:9

Gwen’s first day of youchien.

A morning run through 3 miles of tori gates and stairs – three miles!! Matti stopped counting them at 2000, about half way through our hike the next day.

After several hundred people shuffled through the lunch line, Slick served the last bit of pulled pork onto the plate of the last person in the line at the chapel’s block party last Sunday. Clearly that was a God-thing! The whole pig had been eaten but brisket, burgers and dogs held out as did all the sides and fixings. But the more important part was that many folks heard about chapel programs and local churches, and a few even showed up at the women’s studies this week as a result.

Not all was roses, however, as deep brokenness and hurt was evident at even so shallow an event. Nor have the studies and meetings we are both involved with been without challenges. We’d much appreciate your prayers for these situations, not that God would give us clear sailing, but that we’d be able to discern where God would build our character through perseverance and where He is shutting doors in His own sovereignty.

On the encouraging side of the railroad tracks, Slick’s been invited to help lead a men-and-boys’ retreat for the chapel and we’ve both been asked to run a marriage seminar through a local church. These elicit both thanksgiving and many prayers for wisdom. Would you join us in those?

And finally, during his week in NY at school, Slick was able to catch up with many folks. For one of them Slick has been praying for years that God would give this young man a disciple to pour into. Slick repeated this request in the man’s hearing as they prayed before hanging up and within moments the man received an email from a friend who was seeking a mentor. From Joe’s perspective, a demonstrative and immediate answer to prayer. From Slick’s, God finally responding to years of praying. Either way, may God be praised. J

How might we celebrate and supplicate with you?

Playing with the next door neighbor Molina who is between Gwen and Matti’s ages. One of the best parts of this picture is a complete lack of boxes (except for the one beside Zoe’s left ear if you look carefully). Proof that pictures can be deceptive!

I thought I sent this last week! Alas, I didn’t!!

School and activities have started for the girls, Slick is busy with a new class of Japanese F35 pilots and we are not insane yet, despite being still surrounded by boxes – so God must be responding to your prayers 😁. It helped to have four days of reprieve to show some Colorado friends all around our area. God gifted us with rare and perfect weather for hikes on Mt Iwate and in Oirase Gorge as well as an afternoon at a local beach interspersed with other sightseeing. We are prepped and ready for our next visitors. Any takers?

With local folks, Slick has seen some "lightbulbs going on" as well as having great discussions with the Gap Year Bible Study group and some of the men with whom he meets weekly. We very much covet your prayers that those morning meetings be effective in an eternal sense and that the women’s group Donna is starting to work with might draw women toward Jesus and His Word. There are certainly some very deep needs among the young couples and families here in this remote place.

How might we walk beside you in prayer during this season?

Showing the McClarrinons Oirase Gorge.

We don’t get to walk across an F2 every day!! But we did at the local airshow.

Sunrise over a run through farm fields near the house.

"Adultery is the process of becoming and adult." "What is bathtisum?" (aka, baptism!) Those remain my favorite quotes of the summer at camp. And my favorite moments were conversations where we really dug into things as widely varied as: how can we be sure the Bible is true? will my dog be in heaven? will God always remember my sins? election or free will? can I lose my salvation?

God clearly sustained Donna as she poured out on people from dawn to beyond dusk each day on an average of five hours of sleep – not something Donna could ever do on her own! He also sustained a team of amazing, godly counselors, mature beyond their years, through late nights, early morning, tough questions and situations of all sorts – running the gamut of exhausting to inspiring on all levels. Each week God worked through these young women to transform scared new campers into happy cabin families, able to share intimate thoughts, fears and feelings, and in some cases, even becoming new, baby believers.

Meanwhile, on the west side of the Pacific in northern Japan, God was answering your prayers to speed Slick’s time away from the girls by involving him not only in productive relationship-building at work, but also in various supporting roles at the base chapel. One family more or less adopted him, and God’s brought several young men across his path for instruction and encouragement.

As Donna and the girls crossed the ocean to join Slick, they felt like Elijah after Mt Carmel, napping and eating well by turns on the 24 hour journey, and even getting to visit Grandma Kohout and Grandpa Douglass along the way! It was the perfect healing balm for sleep-deprived weeks at camp and preparation for reunion.

As we rejoin and reform as a whole family, will you join us in interceding for a smooth transition to family-hood and ministry in Misawa, as well as a speedy moving process into our new home? Please pray that people would experience God, not Slick or Donna as we lead a gap year group, mentor several men on base (Slick!), and assist with the women’s ministry (Donna!). How might we walk beside you on your sojourn here on earth?

Zoe in her happy place – on a horse. In this case, Justin.

Some the counselors Donna worked with, dressed up for an evening occasion.

Looking back at last month’s update, it cannot be clearer that God responds when you pray. We asked that you "undergird our many travels and Slick’s house hunting by joining us in prayer for safety, expedience and opportunities to serve those with whom we interact." Though not entirely as planned, we uneventfully traversed ten states from Arizona to New Jersey, thoroughly enjoying a crowd of friends and family on the way. The following week, Slick and Hachi arrived safely in Japan and have found a good house already. Donna (after winning her age group in a local triathlon) settled into camp with the girls where she has an endless opportunity to serve. Slick has also begun serving and encouraging several ministries in Misawa Air Base.

Though he would always prefer vocational ministry, Slick counts it a huge blessing to work with humble and considerate Japanese fighter pilots instead of their far more colorful US counterparts. Would you join us in asking for opportunities to build relationships with them through which Jesus might be shared? The Gospel tends to make very slow progress in Japan; culture opposes it in many ways, so we have a unique opportunity with this job.

Please also pray for good rest, supernatural energy, insight and compassion for Donna as she seeks to serve, primarily supporting the counselors at the Camp Mt Gilead in eastern PA. It is an exhausting job! But amazingly rewarding, especially when God clearly works in people’s hearts and in situations to meet people just where they are. For instance, Donna was able to entrust her archery class to the assistant so that she could wait for a camper who had just had a deep conversation with her counselor and needed some time to think. When she returned to the path where Donna waited, she asked what she had to do to ask Jesus into her life. After a brief explanation, the girl shyly said, "I just did." Praise God!

Thank you for walking this journey with us. Please let us know how we can uphold you in prayer as well!

A chance to give Mom an extra special treat – to stand behind home plate at Yankee field and be treated to a game as a military veteran’s guest. The picture posted on the big screen was an extra benefit – lol!

Clearly God has been active this month since Slick is still alive after pulling Donna into the pool. Donna was fine of course, but the phone drowned!

He also finally let us in on the secret of Donna’s 20+ year old collarbone pain after months of doctor visits. The path to healing? Stop the moving. LOL! Thankfully, God’s work through modern medicine has also relieved Slick of constant back pain, the bane of many a fighter pilot. There are benefits to living in the US…

In May, we explored a position in Long Island while friends watched our girls. God abundantly responded to your prayers for both direction for us (we are staying on course for Japan for now at least) and protection for the girls – they have yet to stop talking about how much fun they had at their respective friends’ houses. Not only were the girls safe, but they were blessed and blessings to those who watched them (or so our friends said!). Slick leaves NJ mid-June when Donna and the girls go to summer camp. We’ll rejoin in early Aug. Would you undergird our many travels and Slick’s house hunting by joining us in prayer for safety, expedience and opportunities to serve those with whom we interact?

As we depart the Phoenix area, I’ve lost count of the moments of deep gratitude for the time there, scootering to school with the girls, walking to the library one block away, biking to the YMCA pool one mile away, swimming in Nationals with the Masters team, the two older girls doing their first triathlons, feeding fish at the local pond (and Zoe falling in!), selling enough brownies and iced tea to buy goats for a family in need through Compassion International (totally the girls’ idea), hiking and running desert mountain trails with blooming cacti, road tripping to God’s vast and striking beauty in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks – and along the way, playing in Utah snow on Memorial Day weekend!!

More importantly, we thank God for the opportunity to encourage the folks at our local church and do some work for them, while also reconnecting us through a lost pool buoy with an old friend from a the world of writing (www.brenna-stull.com). On each of her and Donna’s weekly bike rides, she shared the amazing work God continues to do in the local high school and among the community of their church plant. Replete with laughter and discoveries of common ground, dinner with the Stull family this past week was a huge blessing, as was their watching our girls the evening we left so that we could finish packing and cleaning. Praise God for friends like them!

And praise God for friends like you who continue to follow our journeys and to stand beside us in prayer. Please let us know how we can return the favor. We’d love to hear from more of you!

Donna near Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park

Matti, Gwen and Zoe at Bryce Canyon National Park