Three quarters of a century! We celebrated with Donna’s mother and aunt, identical twins, their birthday marking 75 years. Impressive!

Just up the hill from our house, at the church, Wednesday evening Life Night kicked off in mid January and has received positive feedback. Together with the morning men’s and women’s groups, we’re thankful to see people seizing the opportunities to get to know one another better and to be together in God’s Word more.

Praise God also for a set of 13 year old twins who were baptized last month, and for the 10 new members inducted at the January membership meeting. Exciting beginnings!

In a small church, covering all the necessary tasks can be a challenge, so we’ve enjoyed the front row seats to watch how God has been raising up folks to step into a wide variety of roles. While we continue to pray that God would bring in the outsiders living around us, we are excited to see the body beginning to function as a body, and to hear feedback from visitors about how welcomed they felt.

We so appreciate your praying and praising alongside us for each of these areas. Please pray also for specific individual needs for several of our members, as life at the moment is exceptionally challenging for them, as many of you know it can be. Thank you for praying, and for the words of encouragement many of you have sent! May you also see the Master Artist at work in your corner of creation. And as usual, please let us know how we can pray for you – it is our privilege!

Celebrating Mom and Aunt Dorothy’s 75th birthday, Douglass style.

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"Peace," the text read. N__’s mind had been running wild as she prepared for bed. She doubted that she could sleep. Suddenly her phone received that text. Though it was from a friend who probably sent it off-handedly, N__ thanked God for the deep sense of Peace that settled into her heart, and remained through a sounds and refreshing night of sleep.

On the home front, after much deliberation and prayer, Donna queried about writing an article for Christian Camp and Conference Association (CCCA)’s magazine. In a sense, she was asking God if now was the time to write. The first reply was a polite "no," as expected. But the second email explained a glitch they had just run into, "perhaps providentially," and asked not only if she could write an article, but if she could write it quickly for the next issue. So as we cautiously move forward, we’d appreciate your prayer for us to only follow, not run ahead.

And finally, we much appreciate all who can stand beside us before the throne during the next week or two, as Rich coordinates and directs many events following the passing of two well-respected and well-loved long-time members of our church. One had been in hospice for months; the other was a sudden heart attack and remains a shock to many. We ask the God would comfort, unify and heal as only He can.

Thank you for walking with us on this road. Please let us know how we can share your burdens as well. Let us praise God for all He’s done in the last year and be on the watch for where He’s working in this new year!

Ginni and Donna take a meander down memory lane when we played Christmas duets as kids on various instruments. Never knew Ginni could play clarinet that well!

The girls sport their new socks. The came this way!

How fast relationships form varies directly with how mobile people are. In highly mobile military communities, friendships form at “mach” speed. In the stable south, they come much, much slower. Here in New Jersey at the end of just three months, we recognize God’s hand moving in many relationships between us and church folks to develop great depth in such a short time. Only He could prepare the hearts for this to happen and we thank Him for it.

He’s also brought more children and youth to the church, and inspired some moms and dads to ask for a family-friendly Wednesday night program, which we’ll begin in January. He is beginning to answer your prayers for the Word to be established in the hearts and minds of young folks. Please keep them going!

On the camp front, Donna was invited to speak at the Association of Cedarbrook Camp’s national conference. She shared the leadership program she wrote last year and taught over the summer. The presentation led to an invitation to write other staff training classes for the Association. We’d much appreciate your joining with us in asking for guidance for her future involvement in camp. There is always plenty to do, especially with a family and a church, so she is waiting for His word that this is something He wants her to do.

Other requests for intersession mount: As former missionaries, we were able to encourage a younger family who is passionate about missions to the unreached. The legacy of the family of God continues. Lord, please strengthen and guide Noah and Noelle as they begin this journey! And looking forward, our church sets up a life-size nativity scene on the lawn this weekend for the local commuters and neighbors to enjoy, but more importantly to turn their thoughts toward Jesus as they pass by. Lord, draw them into the church (not just past it) and let them receive You.

We do continue to pray for you, so please tell us how to sharpen our aim!

The church…and our house is just behind that little forest, out of the picture to the right.

Over time, the fresh excitement of new beginnings wears away to expose deeper and more lingering challenges. We have definitely begun to battle some of those, but are even more deeply encouraged when we reflect on how God’s hand has been moving.

On a typical Sunday we have about 50-60 folks come to worship, but last Friday night more than 25 youth came to a “Coffee House” at the church with intentional discussion about God and worldviews. And we have been blessed to experience His presence here in North America as He responds to His people when they pray: 12-year-old Zach found his phone just after praying last night, and is now convinced that it was God who helped him find it in the dark on the grass! God is good.

On our home front, we were able to go on a date for the first time in a while – to a banquet given by the local women’s resource center, First Choice, and praise God with them for the 700+ babies last year who were allowed to be born as a result of the center’s work. If that weren’t enough, the dinner raised almost $500k for future efforts among young women and even in public high schools in north and central Jersey. God is very good!

Would you join us especially this month in prayer for the youth, that God’s truth would take root in their hearts and minds; and for the Bible studies to experience the fellowship of the Spirit and encouragement of the Word. THANK YOU for walking this path with us. Please let us know how we can be praying for you. God is so very good to us all!

Sleeping Beauty, a butterfly ballerina, Peter Pan and their mother the cow – lol!

Only God can connect a group of people as quickly as the women’s Bible study has connected. Over time, I’ve become convinced that to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus requires at least one time in a person’s life of significant brokenness. And we definitely have that in our little group of women who meet on Wednesdays. Whether for that or other reasons, it’s been amazing to see them begin to encourage one another in such real and deep ways during the few weeks we have met so far. Only in the family of God…

Both Slick (Pastor Rich) and I have been immensely humbled by the outpouring of encouragement and practical support of the members of Washington Valley Chapel not only for us, but also for the church and its family. Though the numbers are small, the effort and commitment the folks put in is impressive. In some ways it is a very healthy church and definitely a testament to the work God has done in their hearts that they give so freely of their time, talent and treasure to often thankless Kingdom work behind the scenes.

For the most part, kids grow so slowly it’s hard to see them actually change, but along with Gwendi’s pants that were suddenly 2 inches too short yesterday, Zoe has begun spontaneously asking how she can help around the house, and actually did the dishes one day without being asked! It’s refreshing to see God working in them as well. And we even see God clearly working in me as His peace surrounds the days I’ve spent being with Matti and Zoe on their field trips instead of moving the painting and unpacking forward. Now THAT is all a God-thing!

However, even with all the good evident in this church body, there are still some very deep hurts that need healing and it is for that which we would appreciate your prayers. God is the Healer and Comforter, but please ask with us for His insight as we seek to be His hands and feet in those endeavors. Thank you for joining us before the throne and please let us know how we can lift you up as well.

Cows, pigs and horses. What else would anyone see in Washington DC?? (That’s Grandma with the girls.)

We are two days into living in NJ again – yikes! When I (Donna) left 23 years ago for Colorado, I never imagined I’d be back, let alone with a husband, three kids and as a retired Air Force fighter pilot turned pastor’s wife!!

Since the beginning of August, Donna and all three girls drove from NY to NJ. Donna, Gwendi and Zoe then flew to NM for two weeks to pack the house. Slick and Matti joined them ten days later to help with the packers and the drive from NM to NJ. We all piled into the truck, with Chili our faithful mutt, to traverse TX, AR, MO, IL, IN, OH and PA en route to NJ. Why the “S” shaped path? Because we visited a handful of family and friends along the way, making it a terrific trip. In all those moving parts, we have clearly felt the hand of God.

In the myriad of “spitballs”* that we’ve experienced recently, the Lord has given us grace with each other and the ability to recognize Satan’s meddling for what it is. It confirms that the enemy is not happy and thus we are heartened! We are also fortified by how God has helped Slick (now called “Pastor Rich” seeing as “Pastor Slick” is just wrong – lol!) to connect with the people here at Washington Valley Chapel in Morristown, NJ. Many have stopped by and truly blessed us by preparing the house and yard in countless ways and providing many things all the way from grass seed to groceries.

The Lord has clearly responded to so many of your prayers and out of necessity we request you keep them going as we move through this last phase of transition to actually living here and serving the church as a family. Please pray that we would be sensitive to where God is working and make wise choices to join Him there, that He would continue to supply us grace for each other and that He would clearly guide our decisions with folks related to Camp and our future involvement there. And of course, that we’d get the house and life here settled in supernatural time and totally uneventfully J.

Please do let us know how we can be praying for you as well!

 

*Spitballs are relatively minor annoyances that seem to accumulate at times. If we look from a perspective of the Kingdom’s advance, it seems like the enemy is peppering us with little spitballs to distract or discourage us, or to trip us up and slow progress.

Crossing the Mississippi River via ferry!

Traveling across the country is hard work!

Abundant and demonstrative. That has been our experience of God in the past when He confirms a path we have begun to walk. In July again He was demonstrative in confirming Slick’s call to Washington Valley: the certification that normally takes months was done and published in less than 48 hours. The last roadblock removed, Slick stepped into the pulpit on 16 July – and spent the first 10 days of his pastorate in his second favorite situation: going to school at Nyack, working on his doctorate.

However, as is nearly always the case in ministry, the road is neither smooth nor easy, so we do covet your prayers for him to speak and act in wisdom and gentleness.

On Donna’s side of the ring, the summer at Camp is already almost over. The last campers depart on 5 August. Praise God for the initials in our notebook of many campers who opened the door of their hearts to Jesus for the first time while they were away in His creation. It is truly wonderful to watch God at work in the stories of these precious lives.

Looking forward over the next month, please do pray that the completion of our move from NM to NJ would be expeditions and uneventful despite all the moving parts. Slick and Matti go to a family reunion in MN next week, followed by Donna and all three girls going to NM to pack. The end of August will find us all together, traveling back across the country in the truck again and finally arriving in NJ to begin the final stage of this transition. Please join us in asking for clarity of mind as we deal with countless details, and grace with each other as we move through these changes. They makes us long even more for our unchanging, turmoil-free heavenly home…

Please let us know how we can be praying for you more specifically. And thank you for standing beside us in this windy journey!

Though it entails much hard work (see below), camp has been fun for all. Zoe was a camper for her first time!

The girls get to enjoy the wood chips that the horse stable helpers loaded into the pick-up truck.