I can get six-year-old Gwen to tread water for a whole minute: I start her counting and she happily counts as she paddles. Weird, I know, but perhaps you’ll extend me some grace for the numbers we’ve all been enjoying lately.

God raised up four people to be baptized, aged 8 (our Matti!) up to 89. Another four have already stepped forward asking to join them in two weeks. Shifting from spiritual to physical new life, four ladies in the church are carrying the next generation due to arrive in spring. Two weddings are on the docket, one couple in their 20’s and the other in their 70’s and beyond.

If those aren’t big enough numbers, all 20 folks in the Radical Mentorship program (RM, a year-long discipleship program) made it to our monthly meeting despite the COVID quarantines meandering through the congregation. And from our church of about 160, 25 folks attended a Saturday Share Your Faith evangelism training day with Rich, spread throughout the sanctuary, of course. Lastly, our girls helped pack 45 boxes of Thanksgiving dinner fixin’s that the church delivered to folks in need.

But clearly numbers don’t tell the whole story. A less calculable but no less adamant praise results from God moving folks to willingly give their Friday afternoons to preview the Sunday sermons and give suggestions for improvement. And from the many people who step up to serve in a variety of ways, helping another local church feed the needy, teaching our children, leading small groups and myriad little tasks that happen almost without notice. It is a true blessing to be where 80% of the people do the work! Clearly God is active here – and was long before we arrived.

Nevertheless, we covet your continued prayer for wisdom as we counsel many couples in marriage, disciple this amazing RM group and tread the narrow line between drawing people to fellowship while encouraging them to consider each other’s need for masks and other COVID measures. Let us know, too, how we might stand beside you before the Almighty, who was and is and is to come: to come and take us, His bride, into His wedding feast (Rich’s sermon last Sunday on Revelation 19 – who would have thought we were in the middle of a giant Jewish wedding?)

As we look forward to celebrating Jesus first coming, let us also reflect on the glorious coming that is to come!

Amazing skies, morning and evening (though the Wind River Mountains hide the sunsets).

A couple of Donna’s projects…

Our home doubled in size last weekend when two thirds of its residents departed for their own new home. The 11 Wilhelms took with them more appreciation than we were able to express for paving the way for our landing here in Lander. Our prayers go with them as they settle for the winter into their third temporary home this year before building their "real" home next spring.

As God responded to your prayers of last month, fun and fellowship during our initial retreat with the elders and their wives mixed with deep affirmation and encouragement of the team God has formed here. Building on that foundation, Slick / Rich is excited about the big-picture direction of the church’s ministry in general. Stepping in closer, we see that direction being borne out in intentional mentorship pairs cropping up around the church. We have been also able to connect with a number of couples involved in the year-long Radical Mentorship program, which we mentioned last month.

Thank you for joining us before the throne in support of all of this and ask that you’d continue, that God might work in the hearts and minds of those who are meeting to know and experience Him more deeply. We’d also appreciate if you’d lay the groundwork of prayer for some endeavors on the horizons, like unpacking (our stuff arrived yesterday) and a triathlon the church wants to host next summer.

In the spare moment behind all this, Donna’s study of the Bible continues to inch forward, both online and toward being in print. To learn more, consider joining her mailing list (you can unsubscribe at any time).

Please let us know how we can walk with spiritual journey together by agreeing with you in prayer. Surveying all we have to be thankful for, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving (a little early!).

A whirlwind trip to Yellowstone, including this yellow gorge.

Gwen got to ride a horse for her 6th birthday – one of the things she was looking forward to the most about Wyoming!

Let the settling in begin again! We had asked God for His superintendence over our travels and He answered with characteristic abundance: all our travels went completely smoothly, our twenty bags and boxes arrived intact and with us and even Hachi our dog proved to be a great traveler. If that weren’t enough, four drivers in black suits and white gloves whisked us across Tokyo in style, the airline’s club spoiled us with snacks and showers as we awaited our flight and the US customs agent just waived us through despite the banana we accidentally brought from the plane (oops!). Many humble thanks for God for all of that!

But as we approached Lander, WY, the spitballs* intensified. As Slick (now Rich again) passed through Nebraska in the U-Haul with our stuff from NJ, the trailer carrying the van got a flat. Then our house in SC flooded in the storm that passed through. In the next week that flood, combined with the tenants’ departure inspection brought to light a slew of issues, from minor cleaning to major roof and floor repairs.

On the flip side, Rich has found very fruitful work here at the foot of the Wind River Mountain Range. Conversations about the church and the Lord abound and ministry meetings have gone exceptionally well so far. Though we clearly are under the protection of the Monday morning ladies’ prayer team, we would very much appreciate your continued intersession for us to integrate and lead as God desires.

Specifically, we ask that our Elder’s Retreat help prepare our team for the challenges to come, that we might connect in a meaningful way with each of the men and women who have stepped into the year-long discipleship program called Radical Mentorship and for gobs of grace with each other as we figure out living and schooling here.

But always we wish to bring your wants and desires to the King – how can we pray for you too?

*Little annoyances sent by an enemy that show his displeasure. While not fun, they do confirm that someone doesn’t like our progress, and therefore, that we just might be pleasing the One that matters.

One last yaki niku meal before departure.


More pictures can be found on our FLICKR page, though I haven’t uploaded the latest yet. https://www.flickr.com/photos/donnadouglass/albums

After a summer of rainy weekends, God blessed us with the first beautiful Saturday in months on Zoe’s 11th birthday. We kayaked and jet skied, ate the best ramen in town and ended with German chocolate birthday cake. Where did all those years go?!

But most of our spiritual focus has transitioned across the ocean to Lander, WY where God has raised up a handful of men and women to begin a 9-month discipleship program with us. Please pray that God would speak to each of us as we "spur one another on to love and good deeds."

We also thank God for tripling the number of youth coming to the church’s youth program. It seems that COVID set up both a willingness to meet electronically and a unique opportunity to listen to and encourage folks. And that, in turn, is drawing both adults and youth toward meeting together…

Which adds to our prayer fodder. Would you join us in asking for God’s wisdom to find the balance between building community and preventing the spread of COVID? They seem contradictory and yet we are confident God can make a way where there seems to be no way. Please help this church find Your way, Oh Lord!

Finally, the journey through the Bible that Donna just finished up with a group of ladies has been fleshed out into a Bible study workbook on the brink of publication. Please join us in asking God for guidance on the details of that venture. And let us know if you want to help us by writing a review (we’ll send more details, but you don’t have to read the whole thing, just a bit of it)!

Please let us know how we might join you in your petitions and praises as well. Thank you for walking this road alongside us!

Now THAT is ramen!

Time off from school turned into an opportunity for the girls to serve the community and to raise funds for Compassion International. Zoe and Matti began a biweekly Gazette for our neighbors and Zoe sewed eye-glasses or pencil bags. She’d prayed that God would help her sell them and in just one day at church, He raised over $50!

And as our time in Japan closes, we’ve been exploring even more: One rainy Saturday found us at Round 1, a three-floor indoor playground, arcade and sports park complete with restaurant and massage chairs for the adults. The girls loved the "bubbles" and the electric scooters best. Following that wonderful weekend was one that involved a canceled overnight at a beachfront resort and four new tires, but resulted in a much better and safer ride in our primary vehicle. As usual, we experienced God’s protection and provision far more during a challenged time. We even checked off our list the restaurant where little electric trains bring your order to your table – it was across the street from the auto repair shop. Who says God is not in the minute details of our lives?

Having moved a few times in the military, we recognize our departure’s approach. The relationships Slick’s been pouring into are coming to a close as those folks’ lives move on. The online journey through the Bible that Donna’s been leading is also ending. Meanwhile, Slick’s involvement in the Lander, WY church has been increasing and God’s been moving both men and women toward intentional discipleship with us using a program called Radical Mentorship.

Also, in preparation for Slick’s pastoring in Lander, we’ve also been able to close uneventfully on a home there (a huge praise in itself!). We’ve noticed in our travels that houses offer tremendous opportunities for blessing. In this case, closing months before we arrive not only simplifies our move, but also opened the door to providing housing for a family in temporary need of it…who are also fixing some minor issues with the house. Thank God for His working in the details – yet again!

As you join us in thanking God for all these things, and asking for His continued superintendence over this move, please let us know how we can be representing you also before the throne.

The coast of Kitayamazaki

Matti in one of the "bubbles" at Round 1 in Morioka.

In direct response to your prayers of last month, the spitballs ceased and blessings began. When Slick coordinated for the truck to be registered, he sent countless emails and phone calls but never seemed able to answer all their questions. Finally he thought he had the temporary registration on its way to Atlanta to meet up with the truck. When it arrived, however, it turns out they sent regular tags and a discounted full year of registration! Continuing in the auto vein, he took his car here in Japan to a shabby-looking body shop. But when they returned it to him, not only was the crack on his bumper expertly fixed, but the check engine light which had been plaguing us for months was off!

Meanwhile, on the home front, despite the cast on her arm, Matti found a way to bike with us when we drop Gwen off at her Japanese preschool: she squished onto Gwen’s old bike attached via Trail Gator to mine. Consequently, us four girls have enjoyed many cool spring mornings together on two wheels each, meandering along the streets’ wide shoulders. On the very first of those days, her first day back after two months off, Gwen bumped into a friend as we arrived and the two of them ran hand-in-hand, giggling up the school’s walkway. It warmed and comforted her mother’s heart.

If that weren’t enough, Slick has received the call to pastor a church in Wyoming! He’s been able to Zoom, FaceTime and Skype with many of the church folks to get know them from 14,000 miles away. He even “v-preached” (preaching via virtual means) the Sunday on which we had hoped to candidate. God is not only good, He is also a Wiz with technology!

While we are grateful to know the next step, we would love for you to join us in praising God for the clarity and direction He’s given and in asking Him to reveal to us the timing of the many details that still need to happen between now and our arrival in back in the States. Lots of moving parts and lots to consider.

And just as important, please let us know, too, how we can stand beside you before the King!

So now that we are moving, we’ve been looking at houses…

And seeing some sights. These are the Hotokegaura Cliffs on the Shimokita Penninsula, aka, "the Hatchet."

Spitballs again. Often, even predictably when we get into ministry, spitballs1 start to pelt us and threaten to get in the way. This time the air conditioning on both cars failed just as warmer weather hit, Slick’s car incurred some other damage…then Slick broke 5 ribs in a bike accident and Matti broke her arm rollerblading. As I drove home from the hospital yet again last night, the need for your prayers of protection swept over me.

So what ministry is inviting this spitball barrage? We’re not entirely sure, but Slick is on the brink of being called to pastor a church. God’s been paving the way to connect with people and groups in the church, to begin building relationships and encouraging them. Is this why God preserved him through a night at home with a partially collapsed lung before he shocked the folks at the ER with how well he was doing despite the internal damage?

Elsewhere in our world, Donna’s been appreciating the positive side of COVID-19: gals’ schedules have been clear enough for a group of them to go through the Bible with her. While it is hard to assess from afar the impact on their lives, we know they are in the Word and there is one who doesn’t like that. So would you join us in asking for God’s protection from further hail damage and continued opportunity to serve through this time?

Please let us know how we may have the honor of standing with you, too, before the throne of grace.

1Spitballs are annoying little things that steal our margins of time and energy.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, we were able to host a virtual triathlon as a fundraiser for the Misawa Sharks Youth Swim Team that Zoe and Matti swam on this past year. Gwen and Matti did the kids’ race and Zoe finished second in the shortest adult race! Great fun was had by all!

Once upon a time seven cousins, five parents and two grandparents and an assortment of other relatives gathered on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas in Thornewood, NY at Dad’s childhood home. Thirty years later, a new generation of grandparents gathered their progeny for holidays and the rest of us transitioned to occasional family reunions. But in recent years, time and space joined forces to prevent extended family from visiting at all. Then we were told to stay apart – and incredibly, that brought us together! Across six states and four countries we gathered Zoom style to celebrate Easter and family together. What a blessing!

That theme continued with Matti’s virtual 8th birthday party with "cousins" across the US. They played Scattergories and 20 questions, sang, blew out candles and ate a big bite of cake – all at 8am for us! Abundant, undeserved blessing.

Yet a third blessing was Slick being able to defend his dissertation from the comfort of his office – and receiving a passing grade for his two years’ work!

And a fourth blessing has been a Bible study group Donna e-meets with weekly – a wonderful group of gals in five states and two countries digging deep into WHY we believe the Bible anyway. A 12-week overview of the Bible is next. Any takers?

We recognize, however, that for many this time is still fraught with loneliness and uncertainty. Will you continue to pray with us for the isolated and those in danger during this situation, as well as many doors for the Gospel to open in new and fruitful ways? Will you join us in thanking our faithful Father for the ways He is working on many fronts, including making many aware of their own mortality and need for Him? Thank you for standing with us from afar, and please let us know how we might meet with you before the throne – even without the use of technology!

Sand Dollar Beach on the Pacific Ocean’s west end

Some of the sand dollars we took home, which we dyed with our Easter eggs

Ironic…or divinely appointed? In January we discussed doing online schooling with the girls. We decided against it, but only barely. Now we are getting a free trial…and quite enjoying it! When we consider Romans 8:28 and just how God works all things together, we stand amazed at just how many things He is able to weave together for good – all at the same time!

In New Jersey, Donna’s mom noted how many families have suddenly appeared in the neighborhood, laughing, working and playing outside together. We’ve heard many comments about the great family time and even more about numbers of people seeking God and turning to Jesus. We’ve even sensed a hint of God’s judgment against some of the evil we’d been seeing recently. In the context of a dark tragedy, there are points of light like stars to praise God for.

We also praise Him for restoration of some relationships, one simply stretched by distance for a time and the others far more complicated. We also thank Him for what seems to be a dawning of gifts and passions being used again: Slick’s to pastor and Donna’s to write. But even as the horizon is getting lighter on one hand, on the other we look forward with grave concern toward the unfolding pandemic around us all. While the closest cases to us are ten miles away, what disquiets us is the collateral damage that we may not hear about for years to come, if ever: abuse of children kept in unsafe homes; emotional harm to the lonely elderly in the name of physical protection; the hard-working poor living pay check to pay check now cast out of jobs; youth just beginning to find their way now barred from healthy outlets like gyms, playgrounds and basketball courts…

Would you also join us in doing all you can to stop the spread by willingly keeping your distance and urging others to do the same? More importantly, will you stand with us before the throne for these folks and these issues, as well as asking God to turn people to Him in this time? Thank you and please let us know how we might represent you before the throne as well!

One last day of skiing – at Hachimantai Resort with our kids and some of their friends. A very fast group!

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!