Category Archives: General

May…2 months planted

As I sit here in the office, typing these words to so many, my heart aches. How do I put to words the last few months? Overwhelming emotions, wonderful moments of rest, the blessing of familiarity and a refuge here at Johnson, the ache for the challenge of language and cultures in France, or the joy in feeling God’s purpose fulfilled in our lives. This is a tip of the iceberg of emotions that coming back to America has filled us with.

In passing people ask “So! How was France?” “How are things since you got back?” and there aren’t words to explain.  How do you explain a year, which was so much more than a vacation? How can we explain that we fell in love with another world, that only those experienced in regular culture transition can get? It was home to us! To give an example of what I mean, Hosanna talks about France quite a bit. Specifically the people we shared time with. That was a crucial year for her development, as well as a huge chunk of her memories. She had no recollection of America, and transitioned back successfully. She is at a stage in life in which she is constantly absorbing new information. She has to move things to the back of her mind to take new things in. Yet, when we Skype call our dear friends John and Rachel in France, She LOVES seeing Pepper the dog, and remembers well that the Mumford family had a trampoline. She laughs with her French friends. Lucas, is a bit more in depth right now. Upon our arrival to America, we had only just left the Chicago airport when my tender hearted, confident little man said “Yep. This is America. I’m used to it.”  If it were only that easy for ANY of us.  After our 8 week church tour, when we finally got rested in Knoxville, both kids asked me every day for the first week “Are we leaving today?”, “Is today the day we are going home?” and I explained that this was our home for a little while. Even now, 2 months planted, when we leave and have to pack more than diapers, they ask if we are “Packing the house leaving” or just “Weekend leaving”. On the risk of being too vulnerable, I will say that I finally stopped having panics every time I walk down the hall and thought about packing our house back up. It occurs to me that maybe this will get better, but we still have a bigger journey ahead.

In the last few months we have been quite busy! After our arrival in Knoxville Bart began working for Pioneer College Catering (NO connection to Pioneer Bible Translators…really…it is completely wild that they have the same first name!) in the cafeteria on Campus. He worked the exact same position he is working now in 2010 before we left Johnson! It just so happened that the guy that was working the position had put in his 2 weeks’ notice the Monday before our arrival. People have told us we are lucky. I laugh and say “We know the King who owns the cattle on 1,000 hills! Luck has nothing to do with it”. God. Always. Provides.  He has continued to provide for us through you, our financial partners and prayer warriors. Even now, as I am keeping tears back after a Skype meeting with a fellow missionary who now works stateside, my mind is overwhelmed with the ways our awesome creator has poured out His blessings on us. He has provided for unexpected bills. He even went as far as to provide furniture from other missionary/students who were moving into a furnished place. Within a week (7 days of 1’o clock in the morning unpacking) our house became home. Unloading totes from storage was the commonly known “Christmas” of stateside assignment that missionaries mention. We found things we had forgotten about and celebrated. There were also some moments in the weeks following when we stepped back and thought “Why don’t we have a toaster?”  We realized we were more excited to have a microwave (see France posts if confused) and toasters really aren’t all that necessary.  We use a small pan and it works the same and takes up less space.

We have stumbled into old friends and limited ourselves from making too many new ones. This is, after all, only a year and our hearts are still full. We have found a refuge hear at Johnson. It’s been called the “Bubble” before, because it does tend to cut one off from the real world. It would be easy to hide away here, and to some degree we have. Bart worked from 8:30a-1p 4 days a week and finished up a class while the kids and I slowly emerged from a lot of everything. Some days we stayed inside until lunch when we walked up the enormous hill by the cafeteria…and then we returned (Bart in tow) and hid away for awhile. Summer has come and classes have ended. Bart is finished at the Cafeteria aside from a few events that he is helping with. The emotions are becoming less extreme. We have finally established a routine, albeit beautifully chaotic. Some days we are barely home or inside at all. Hosanna is signed up for preschool at the Early Childhood Learning Center. It begins in the Fall. It is an amazing Student Teaching preschool on campus, and she squealed when I told her that she would be able to go. The Johnson University Teacher Education Program works alongside the ECLC and each Fall 10 or 15 little preschool children grow and celebrate learning with a Bible based program. Lucas is signed up for Kindergarten this fall and I am going through denial. I will probably cry the entire first week those kids are in school. That’s ok because I nursed them both though my chest bled and swelled, rocked them to sleep, taught them to walk, and watched them fall. I taught them to pray and love Jesus and others through my own broken attempts. Now a new season is starting and I am letting another teach them for a time, until our season here in Knoxville is over. Our hope is to home school them. Not because we think public schooling is wrong, but because I love teaching them and feel like God has given me that capacity.

Now May has started, Lucas just turned 5. Hosanna turns 3 in 5 days. Benaiah is 5 months. None of them are slowing down. So I cherish every second, every fit thrown, lesson learned, sleepy eyed smile, sticky handed high five. I look at the next 7 months and the last 7 years and my heart aches. Oh dear friends. The Bible says we are a vapor, a mist, a cloud of dust that blows away. We are created with a purpose, and God uses us, in all of the dirt that we are. He doesn’t wait. Our time isn’t our outcome, 10 years away. Our time is now. Until last week my heart was broken, thinking of the journey ahead and how many more times I have to pack up a house. I almost let my worry, my exhaustion ruin me. I was making myself, instead of collapsing in my Lord’s arms and letting Him make me. This summer we travel to southern Indiana for a couple of months. We have precious moments with the next generations. We get to pour ourselves into youth at a summer camp called Mahoning Valley. We get to challenge them and we get the challenge of convincing them that God wants them now. He wants them, not for what they will be, but for who they are. He wants them because they are His and He is faithful to His creation. They are priceless and powerful, as are we. We don’t get the choice to ignore a calling, or a command. The Holy Spirit, which was sent on the day of Pentecost didn’t suddenly die. The God of peace is alive and moving, whether He is moving you to pray in this moment, or rest, or maybe pack your bags and tell the nations (and generations) about Him.

When we return to Johnson in August Bart will recommence his classes and working at the cafeteria, the kids will start school and I will continue at home with Benaiah. I might decide to take an online class to get closer to getting my Bachelor’s complete. I would love to eventually (years in the future) complete a degree in Counseling, but this is simply a vapor, talking about the future and knowing that it is not in my hands.

Our teammates, Eric and Melissa Davis and Sophia, will be welcoming a baby boy to the world in August. We are thrilled for them and hope to be up to visit before he arrives. They have been devoting their time and energy to restoring a house that they will be able to rent while they are in West Africa.

Again we thank you for your consistent prayers and support. We continue to pray for those in West Africa and we ask the same of you. Pray for those working to share the Word. Pray for the people to be receptive. Pray for healing and transformation! Our God is a God of wonders!

In His great love,

Andi

Our return from France (posted 6 weeks after being written)

Newsletter 2-9-2015

Hello Friends and Family!

I originally wrote this blog 6 weeks ago… but without regular internet connection, and with all of our travels it is just now being posted.  The dates are about 6 weeks behind. As of now we are in Knoxville, Tennessee. Bart is finishing his Master’s and we are all fighting the stomach flu!

Let me share with you the story of our return!

The last week in France is foggy in my memory. We were all exhausted, and would not have made it through without your prayers and the help of our dear French friends who came to our rescue!

For us to move out of our apartment we had to have all of our things packed, or organized and bagged to be given away. This might seem like a small task, but we have discovered time and time again how hard it is to live in a place for such a small amount of time. We gave our extra groceries to our wonderful friends and neighbors (Probably 5 or 6 big bags). We packed, and packed and repacked according to what the scale said. We made arrangements to stay in an apartment a few blocks away via Air B&B (A LOT less expensive than hotels). This gave us the ability to clean the apartment, pack all of our belongings and not have to repack any extras. We had to sell some things on a French website that is similar to the American Craig’s list. We were very blessed by the apartment we stayed in. Though the apartments in France are compact, this one had beautiful floor to ceiling glass doors that went out onto a small balcony. We were able to look over most of down town Lyon from the 7th floor. It was a comforting way to say goodbye to a place we fell in love with.

John and Rachel Mumford, our dear friends, came over on our last evening and helped us get rid of all of the extras we had acquired (QUITE a lot!). It gave Lucas and Mia (best friends forever!!) a chance to visit and play, as well as Sophie, Hosanna and Louis. Rachel and I cleaned and cleaned while the guys made numerous trips to the other apartment to drop things off, or bring things back. When our landlord’s mother-in-law came to evaluate the apartment and get the keys, none of us were quite ready. I had spent weeks planning our departure, the goodbyes we would need to say, and the processing we would need to go through (because we all know that planning emotional adjustments is possible….NOT) I wanted to cover the anticipated adjustments in as much grace as possible.  Somehow in the moment of leaving our apartment, my heart jumped from my chest and refused to leave, like a child not wanting to leave the playground. My feet felt like concrete and I just wanted to stay. We packed as much as possible into the Mumford’s car. The weather was appropriately cold and rainy, much the same as our day of arrival. That evening we prayed, cried and shared a communion with our friends. There really aren’t words.

That night, no one slept well. We were all buzzing with the energy of a huge change. Our suitcases were stacked and piled. They were full to the brim with our life in France, and yet we were leaving so much we loved behind. Bart had made arrangements with a taxi driver to pick us up in a HUGE SUV. Bart made 5 trips on the escalator from the 7th floor, down some stairs, and across a long walkway to the taxi. The driver was so kind in letting us borrow his kid’s car seats so that we would not have to fasten ours in and get them back out. When we arrived at the airport we realized we had forgotten the last link on our paper chain! The kids were heartbroken! For the kids, that was something we had been working on for weeks. At the same moment, I received a text from Rachel telling us that she had the last link of the paper chain in her car. She understood the significance of the chain and so recorded herself on her phone breaking the last link for the kids. Again, such a sweet God ordained moment that our best friends could be the ones who “ended” our last day.

We were quite the sight with 12 suitcases packed to the 23 Kg limit, a double stroller, our carry-ons, and Benaiah riding in the ring sling. We held up the line for nearly 45 minutes as the clerks printed ticket after ticket (we actually broke their machine) for all of our checked baggage. They informed us that we had too much baggage. British Airways has a special 3 bag allowance for each ticket holder for missionaries who go through a specific travel agency. We had purchased our tickets through said agency and thus were supremely shocked at this news. We were charged 450 Euros, tried not to cry, then took the remainder of our stuff to the “fast lane” security checkpoint and ran to our gate. We have since been in touch with British Airways and they are kindly reimbursing us for the misunderstanding….eventually.

I sat in front of Bart with all 3 kids, of my own choosing. The man needed a break! He’d been lifting and loading our suitcases nonstop! The two hour flight passed quickly. The kids were thrilled and asked lots of questions. Lucas had a pretty bad chest cold and slept for most of the flight. When the stewardess came around with our lunch and drinks we gobbled them down, already hungry after a light breakfast of Pain au Chocolate. The London airport was enormous! Unloading all of our stuff from the overheads, and getting everyone off the plane we entered a nearly empty airport. The tram took us to a more congested area, closer to our gate, where we had an intense search done in the security area (1 of 4 we would have done that day). They checked some of our unnecessary carry-on luggage for free. We hunted for our gate, went to the WRONG gate and then had to take potty breaks. Mercy. What a day!

Upon arrival to the gate we were informed that Bart was “selected” for an intense security search. By this time he had JUST gotten his shoes tied from the previous search, and the kids were finally content from being pulled out of the stroller. My calm tempered husband was over it and I was close as well. We unloaded Benaiah from his ring sling, unloaded all of Bart’s carry on, took off his jacket, belt, and shoes. By this time, being the priority flyers because of having babies was pointless. Everyone had passed us, and when we finally boarded the plane with all of our belongings we had to make several people get up to allow us through. We were very blessed to get to our seats and have one of our seat companions offer to trade any one of us seats to make it easier. Bart sat in front of me with Lucas and Hosanna. Benaiah and I sat next to a very kind woman (I’ll call her Karen) whom I made great friends with on our 8 hour flight. The kids were amazing and we had only a few emotional meltdowns from pure exhaustion. Benaiah slept the ENTIRE flight aside from feedings and diaper changes. Karen offered to hold him so that I could eat and he ended up staying with her for 2 hours, completely content while I ate, slept and watched a movie. Karen shared with me that she also loves Jesus. She allowed me to pour some of my brokenness, excitement and exhaustion into her and joyfully heard my stories. She was a beautiful buffer between cultures. God keeps putting these extraordinary people in our lives, sometimes for only a moment, but sometimes a moment is all it takes.

I still remember sitting in my seat and listening as the plane landed. The jolt of the tires onto tarmac was all it took for my eyes to overflow with tears. Karen smiled understanding the surge of emotions. In Chicago it was only 5pm, Eastern time, but our bodies thought it was 11pm. We normally let everyone else off of the plane first, as it is nearly impossible to move our family of 5 coherently through large groups of people.  After we left the plane a stewardess helped us get our belongings to the stroller. We were all completely exhausted, but our feet moved hurriedly. I just wanted to see my dad’s face. To know that both our dad’s would catch us in their arms and that from that point our burdens and baggage would be much lighter.

We loaded our suitcases onto 3 luggage carts and, with the carts, the double stroller, and a now screaming Benaiah trying to jump out of his sling we barely made it through the doors that led us to our family. We looked, and looked, and a sense of dread filled me. Had they gone to the wrong place? Where were they?! “I’m going to look around and find them” I said to Bart. It only took a minute before I saw them sitting a couple of gates down, looking calm and relatively lost. I ran and jumped into my dad’s arms….Ok, well, maybe it was more like a big bear hug! I did still have a baby attached. We arrived at the camp at 1:30 the next morning, 7:30 Lyon time. We had been awake for 24 hours and crossed 5 time zones. We collapsed into bed.

Since that day, nearly three weeks ago, we have been on the go! Our first 3 days were spent sleeping, sorting and absorbing the shock of our return with close family nearby. Our stomachs have gone through mammoth adjustments, with much nausea each night. It also took us over a week to be hungry at the right times.  Bart and I then left for a 3 day sabbatical time. After that much needed breather we spent time with my family. We came back to Converse to spend some much needed time with family, and supporters here. Currently we are visiting churches and supporters, explaining the change of plans and preparing for a move down to Knoxville, Tennessee where Bart will finish his Master’s. As of now we have time planned in Indianapolis, Indiana; Knoxville, Tennessee; Owensboro, Kentucky, and Paoli, Indiana. We will be spending the summer living at Mahoning Valley Christian Camp in southern Indiana. We will then move to Knoxville, Tennessee where Bart will finish his Master’s at Johnson University and we will pursue ways to continue speaking French. Some of these ways include taking French class through Johnson, as well as joining a French club via Alliance Francais.

Our long term plans are looking more hopeful as time passes! We are excited to be welcoming a new teammate! Our teammates and good friends Eric, Melissa, and Sophia Davis will be welcoming a new baby in August! We are so excited for them and continue to pray for them as they grow this beautiful blessing. We have agreed, as a team, that it would be better for us to arrive in West Africa as close as possible to the same time. This would allow us to process culture shock together, go through orientation together, and draw close to one another in some of the most overwhelming weeks of our first term. We are expecting, at this time, to be leaving the country in January of 2016. We are continuing to pray for the missionaries who are there, for their effectiveness and well-being. We long to join them on the field. We are also praying for the people in West Africa, that they would have dreams and visions of salvation and the truth of the scripture.

We have been so blessed to see so many of you these past weeks! We continue to be blessed abundantly by your prayers and support. As we have grown through this experience we see the blossoms of faith popping up in our lives. We praise our magnificent creator for each one of you. As last year came to a close we recognized many blossoms popping up, and each of them were evidence of the prayers, faithful support and encouragement we have received from you. Before we left France we were able to make “Thank You” cards and photo cards for our friends. As Lucas left school on his last day, he was very quiet, and more than a little heartbroken. Many times we have heard “You just have to learn that home is where you are together!” Usually the people saying this haven’t moved as often as we have, though some have. Not many have had to look into the eyes of their little one and say “I know that you’re heart is aching, that these are your best friends and your favorite teachers, let’s thank God that we were able to know them and love them!” knowing in your heart that, even if you return to Lyon, most of these families would be impossible to hunt down. What’s extraordinary, in pain, is that there is nearly always something that we love or are thankful for that has caused that pain. In our case we are aching to hear French, to bite into a crunchy baguette with cheese, or mostly to wrap our arms around the tremendous blessings of friends we have made. Do you know that we wouldn’t have any of these friends if you hadn’t chosen to believe in God’s calling? We wouldn’t have been in France with our teammates. We wouldn’t have met my phonetic teaching neighbor, Lucas’ teachers, the cheese lady at the market who loved on our kids, the woman who cleaned our building, and the man who became Bart’s best friend or the woman who became mine. Thank you! Let me say it again! THANK you! Thank you for sacrificing, for having faith, for praying, for your patience and love.

Now hang tight! Keep praying and stepping forward in faith! Our God is big, and His plans are beyond what we could dream!

 

Andi

Benaiah Jude

I decided to write an entirely separate blog about the birth of Benaiah because I know that it won’t be relevant to many but will be extraordinary to others.

Benaiah (Ben-eye-uh) Jude Cameron, was born on December 11th at 1:29 pm. He weighed 8lbs. 1oz at birth and was 20.5 inches long. He was born 3 hours after our arrival at the hospital. His name comes from 2 Samuel 23:20. Benaiah was a valiant warrior, the head of David’s body guards and was known for his courageous deeds.

December is a busy month for my family. My (Andi) birthday is the 14th, the birthday of my father-in-law is the 7th, the birth of my eldest brother is the 12th, my nephews birthday is the 17th, my grandmother-in-law has a Christmas eve birthday and our anniversary is on the same day as my younger brothers birthday, the 29th. When we learned the birth month of Benaiah we were eager to see if he would arrive on one of the few days between already claimed birthdays.

The night of Sunday the 7th, Bart, the kids and I decided to venture out into “la Fête des Lumières”, A Lyonnais light festival that brings the daily population of Lyon from 1.1 million to more than 3 million.  We decided that the once in a lifetime opportunity of attending the 3rd biggest light festival in Europe was worth the craze of the people. With Ziplocs full of popcorn we buttoned up our coats, donned our scarves and left, and when we returned home nearly 3 hours later my contractions started. I knew immediately that they were real contractions, and not Braxton-hicks because of the pain and the way they knocked the wind out of me. I was so excited! We called our friend to come and stay with the kids, and waited for the contractions to really pick up. They had been regular but not strong enough for more than an hour. We figured that because it was the middle of the night it would be better to have someone at the house and ready for when they got stronger and we had to leave. The next morning arrived, contractions continuing, but still not strong and we continued about our schedule, sending our friend home. We continued on like this until Tuesday morning, when we went ahead to the hospital, just to see if I (as every pregnant woman dreads) was completely crazy, or if I really was having contractions. They said that I was about 2 fingers dilated (We took this to mean 4 cm), but that the contractions weren’t strong enough or regular enough to admit me. So I went home and did what any normal woman would do. I walked the stairs. I took the stairs from our 5th floor (4th French floor) to the ground floor, and walked all 7 floors. I then, called the elevator and went to the bottom floor where I repeated this 4 times. Finally, after no progress, I went home and cried. It seems a little ridiculous, but I was so tired. I knew that these contractions were real. I knew that we had to plan a trip to acquire Benaiah’s passport which could take 4 weeks to arrive. I also knew that we had already purchased our tickets to America which we couldn’t use without Benaiah’s passport and that at some point we had to pack a house. I wasn’t worried about accomplishing the packing, because I am a bullheaded woman with a strong and equally as bullheaded husband. I wasn’t worried about the passport arriving in time because God has literally blown us away with His timing and providence. I was more just completely ready to meet this boy! I hadn’t rushed the pregnancy or wished away the weeks, so somehow I felt entitled that when these contractions started, I should somehow get a baby on MY timeline. Again, I was humbled. Wednesday night, after several days of contractions, I woke up with hard contractions. I wasn’t going to the hospital too early; not this time! Like I said, I am a little bullheaded.  I didn’t want to be stuck in a hospital or away from my family any longer than I had to be. I wanted to meet this child, but I knew it would break my heart to be sent home early again. That morning I slept in, and at 10:30 I awoke to a contraction that made me cry out…which isn’t how I respond to pain so I knew this was big! I sat up, my water broke, and the race was on. We called our friend back, she arrived, and we departed and rushed to the parking garage of Hospital Natecia. We immediately recognized the woman who came to the waiting room door to accept our dossier (again). She smiled and said she would be right with us, and a few minutes later a lovely, young, curly haired brunette came to bring me to a checking room. They said I was 6 cm dilated and that they were going to monitor me before moving me to a birthing room. Of course, all of this is said in French.

I should pause here. There are some things you should know to catch you up to speed.

Bart and I have spent the last 6 months jumping through about 150 legal hoops attempting to get financial aid from France. France has the world’s best healthcare, and at the suggestion of several friends, if we could receive this certain type of aid, our lives would be significantly easier. We didn’t realize the extensive paperwork, signatures, and such that would be required. Also, you should know that the monthly appointments we had were easily 3x less expensive than a doctor’s appointment in the States. This is also my first pregnancy that was completed with a doctor from start to finish. Lucas was born at a hospital with midwives after completing the beginning of the pregnancy in Mexico with an OB-Gyn. He was “supposed” to be born at a birthing center, but wouldn’t budge and so  41 hours after my water broke he was born at a compliant hospital. Hosanna was born at home in a birthing tub after a midwife led pregnancy. This entire pregnancy was, true to the pun, foreign to me. The price of the entire hospital birth in France was equal to that of about three hundred Euros more expensive than our monthly rent here, but only if we were on the French Aid system. If we weren’t on the system the birth would have been roughly five thousand Euros. Also, about a month before my due date we found out via “the fine print” on a form we were signing that we were supposed to have reserved a room in the hospital by the middle of the pregnancy. We had NO idea how to do this, and in the process of discovering how to do this, also discovered that somehow Bart had been accepted into the Financial Aid system, and the rest of us were stuck as “pending”. Could you possibly imagine the stress? Up to this point I had remained relatively calm, but I do believe I lost it at this point.

I was literally a week from giving birth and completely unsure about how much we were being charged, if I would be allowed to give birth at the private hospital, with the doctor I had come to know, or if I would even have a room. On Tuesday we were given the code to give to the hospital that showed that we had French aid, and that we would be charged the lower amount. We were assured that, no matter what, I would have a room at the hospital because my doctor was through the hospital.

Back to the story….

My water broke at 10:30 that morning, almost on the nose. Upon arrival in the birthing room I was given so much freedom. They had given me an IV line when I was told I was 6 cm, and that they would be admitting me, but nothing was ever hooked up to the line and so I was free to move about. I was allowed to walk around, they came to check on me every once in a while. At one point they came in and suggested that I decide how I want to birth my baby. My contractions were very regular and they said it could be anytime! They had a neat birthing swing, but with how quickly things were progressing I didn’t give it much thought, I climbed up into the bed. My music was playing and that gave me the peace of mind that I needed. Bart was by my side the entire time. I will say, going through an entire labor in French was a little confusing. I do believe that at one point I said “Do they want me to push? I want to push! Can I push??” and Bart, who was rushing from feet to head was translating and encouraging me every step of the way. When Bart caught Benaiah, he laid his beautiful little body on me, and then cut the cord. I held him and smiled. People think that I am crazy for not having pain meds (I did with Lucas), but to me, there is a glorious power and joy that comes with being entirely aware of every push, and entirely alert the first time I see my babies. The pain was still real when I looked in Benaiah Jude’s eyes and saw him staring back. Bart immediately came up to the head of the bed after cutting the cord and prayed for the new life in our family. When the big lights came back on in the room (They had turned them off to turn on the…ahem…spotlight) I looked into Benaiah’s eyes and new that his name wasn’t Benaiah Daniel, but Benaiah Jude (Son from God, and Praise). From the moment he was born, he was calm and at peace. 3 hours and 3 pushes for each baby that has joined our family. Benaiah also cried when he was born, which neither Lucas, nor Hosanna did. He immediately opened his eyes and looked into mine and I was in love.

After a couple of hours, a room opened up and we were taken to the part of the hospital I would stay at. I was given a delicious meal, and for the next 3 days I was given the ability to rest, and get to know my new little boy. The normal in France is to stay on for 4 days, but I was determined to head home and get adjusted to our new life. Bart stayed home with the kids and brought them to visit each day. They had the first night at a friends’ home but from then on were at home with Bart. A favored memory of the labor was after things had settled down in the delivery room. The doctor had chuckled when I first told him I wanted to have a natural birth “You’re going to cry” he said. My first inclination was to hit him in the head with my dossier, but after rethinking I just smiled and said “Ok”. This was a continued reaction. People, upon looking at my paperwork would be baffled and question me as to why I would have a natural birth. After Benaiah’s birth, I was telling the midwives “thank you”, because they truly were just incredibly sweet and encouraging throughout the entire thing. One of the midwives was chattering about me not having an epidural and said “Comment un chef!” or “Like a boss”. I think I will always remember that. She said that Benaiah and I were amazing.

Benaiah celebrated his 2 week Birthday on Christmas and his 3 week Birthday on New Years. He is loved tremendously, and even though we are all processing a million emotions, we are holding together really well. Lucas and Hosanna have been awesome. They have processed Christmas in a foreign country, gained a brother, endured repeated “transition discussions” about all of the upcoming changes, Lucas is preparing to go back to school and Hosanna is continuing to be an awesome big/little sister. Bart has been pulling super dad duty and allowing me to rest by spending gobs of time with Lucas and Hosanna as well as continuing to keep our house stocked with food and livable.

We thank you all for your prayers as we continue to figure out being a family of 5. We feel God’s presence with us always, especially in the hard moments when we are falling apart.

“3 turns and you’re there!” Lessons on trusting God

The New Year has arrived! We hope that it has greeted you warmly, aside from the weather. This year has brough new goals, new hopes, and new adventures. I think survival would be our biggest goal for the next transition.

There are many things that I struggle with in my life. Stubbornness is one of them. Yet, I wouldn’t say I “struggle” with stubbornness, but rather it is a gift that I am exceedingly good at. If you tell me I am incapable of completing a task, I will do it and probably be laughing the entire time. If I have a belief, or a passion it is nearly impossible to take it from me. I am very competitive, and this can be a weakness as well as strength. Of the many things I struggle with, one that is painstaking would definitely be navigation. To say that I am “directionally challenged” would be so kind, it would nearly be lying. I am so bad at directions that my dad used to have to tell me how to navigate the grocery store in order to buy eggs. This was mostly so that I could find my way back out of the store before the age of cell-phones.  When Bart and I first met, I once made a 2 hour trip to Terra Haute, Indiana into a 5 hour trip. The biggest change in my navigational abilities is my ability to keep calm now. If I were to get lost even 4 years ago, there would have been tears, panic, and near complete refusal to try again. The first time I attempted a trip to Rainbow Christian Camp, where my husband was raised, I tried patiently to explain that I never went anywhere alone, and that my sense of direction was that of a battery-operated helicopter with half the blade missing. He assured me over and over that he could get me safely from Richmond, Indiana to the small and beautiful farm town of Converse, Indiana.  “It’s only a 2 hour trip and I can get you here in 3 turns once you are on 27-Chester Blvd”. I was so full of doubt, but he kept assuring me “3 turns and you’re there!” It was the first of hundreds of times when my husband’s navigational abilities astounded me. I left with my Verizon flip phone in hand, and enough money in the bank for a tank of gas and some McDonald’s. 2 hours later I arrived safely to the parking lot of the conference center at Rainbow. That was more than likely my first successful trip more than 10 minutes away from home without making at least 1 wrong turn.

Looking back now, I can see a strong parallel from my story to the one God is writing with us now. I see Him beckoning us to take a risk, asking us to trust Him, and providing a way. The big difference is, I have never heard God say “3 turns and you’re there!” I have never heard Him give me a detailed route to where we are going. Bart and I have learned that we daily must submit our plans to Him. We now take joy in asking God to “go before us, make a clear path for us, and bless the way which you have called us”. Our life now is no exception. From the first week we arrived in France until this very moment we are constantly being taught to trust God. Here are some examples of how God has challenged us:

  •  When we arrived we were all very sick and had to find a French doctor (severe respiratory virus and Bart had shingles)
  • We began French school anyway, including sending Lucas to a French preschool
  • I struggled with every effort I made toward learning French
  •  both kids endured huge stress from culture shock including Lucas’ refusal to speak French
  •  We became pregnant
  •  The necessary change of plans for our departure to West Africa (delayed)
  • Bart spent more time in French government offices than either of us have ever spent in an American government office (in order to prepare for baby Benaiah’s arrival)
  • To receive financial aid (French Medicare) for the baby’s birth, Bart and our forwarding agent were scanning, emailing, mailing, and praying over our government papers (such as birth certificates, passports, marriage license etc.) that they would be recognized by the French government.
  • We were informed that it would not be possible to continue our current timeline to West Africa, and thus we began praying, readjusting, re-planning, rehoping, refiguring…and well…you get it.

 

What makes this whole process even more challenging is to do it in a way that helps our kids and our family not fall into survival mode, but do it all while trusting Jesus to provide the grace. We need all of the prayer we can get during this time, and we appreciate it greatly.

So what are our plans? For those of you who also read our newsletter, this will be covered there.

We have begun sorting, pitching, giving away and selling some of the things we have here. During a recent phone conversation someone said to me “Well you can’t possibly have gained THAT much stuff in a year! What is there to sort?”.  When we came to France, we had full expectation of leaving here directly for West Africa. Everything we have owned in 7 years is either with us, in about 8 Rubbermaid totes underneath my sister-in-laws house, or in West Africa in a giant container waiting for us. This includes many of our children’s toys. Thus, upon arrival, there were some definite necessities for a family of 4 that we had to purchase, as well as simply acquiring things that others have given to us.  A good friend complimented my packing a few weeks back, and it occurred to me how much we have mastered planning for packing. Almost all of our kids toys can collapse, fit into a small container, or lay completely flat. We learned to differentiate between a frivolous extra, what is necessary, and a necessary extra. During the last few weeks of pregnancy I began pre-packing. I knew that once Benaiah Jude arrived, it would be all I could do to help in the basics. I wrote out all that we own into lists and categorized them. Is it sellable? Is it staying in this apartment? Are we giving it away? Is it coming with us? This will be tremendously helpful. I also made freezer meals, and even organized the things in our cabinets in groups so that it would be easier to pack.

Our departure date is January 22. Our hearts are full of emotions. Our kids have expressed to us in many creative ways their emotions about the coming changes. We have tried to affirm them, and explained that all of what they are feeling is ok. We have all felt some fear, sadness, joy, and anticipation. We fly through London, and then change planes before flying to Chicago. The trip should take 14 hours. Lucas and Hosanna are very excited to fly. We are sure there are reasons we SHOULD be stressed about taking a 14 hour trip with 3 young kids, yet we know that God has gone before us every other time, and does not fall short of our needs. The first week back will be spent resting and organizing our stuff!

Our first 8 weeks are packed full of visits with churches and individuals. We also have some much needed transition time planned. We encourage you to check out your weekly bulletin and see if we are coming soon! If not, give us a call or an email and we will get in touch with you! We are making plans that involve spending more time in Knoxville at Johnson University. Bart will be finishing his Master’s during our time stateside, and I will be (ideally) finishing my Bachelor’s. We will both be pursuing methods of French study, including the possibility of taking courses through Alliance Française and French courses through Johnson.

Our friends, we are so very eager to see you all again. God has given us peace in this time of change, and again, we covet your prayers. Our two biggest needs right now are prayer and patience. The first weeks we are home will be packed with emotion. There will be many tears as we readjust and we encourage you to ask us questions, and give us time to answer them honestly. You don’t have to fix how we feel, we are very excited to have someone to share our stories and experiences with. We don’t expect you to understand all of them. Thank you for your willingness to let us be honest. Here are ways you can pray.

  • Pray for the people of West Africa, that God would speak to them through dreams and visions of His son Jesus. Also for the physical well-being of the people there.
  • Pray that God’s steadfast love would guide us through the upcoming transitions and travel.
  • Pray that we would be able to say goodbye to all of those we love here.
  • Pray that we would be able to close all French accounts without problem.
  • Pray that we would stay healthy during all of the travelling 

If you would like to get connected with Bart and I during our time in America, please feel free to get in touch with us!

Bart@bartcameron.com

Andi@Bartcameron.com

The official “Change of Plans” blog

In summary, in the last 2+ months we have been visited by our West African Branch director, gone on a cruise, Bart hiked up Mount Kilimanjaro, we hugged our teammates goodbye, and we officially began our 37th week of pregnancy. This means baby can come anytime and (usually) be healthy and strong. In September the kids began asking me to make a paper chain for us to keep track of things until we leave in January….

At that point the paper chain would have been over 250 links long, and so I procrastinated. When we finally made the paper chain in October, we had 88 links, and the chain went halfway through our living room and all the way down the hall. We now have less than 60. Every event is marked by a doubled-up chain link, and the next two events are my birthday, and the birth of our baby….

Unreal.

For a few more details, first thing is first:  our visit from our branch director. We are so very blessed by the team of people supporting us with Pioneer Bible Translators (PBT). We have an awesome counselor, many experienced and educated superiors, a training coach, a prayer coach or Chaplin for different branches, and our teammates (aside from others who have left the field to which we are going). Bart and I have both graduated from Johnson (Bible College) University with degrees in Intercultural studies (a Bachelors and Associates, respectively). We also pursued online training through Johnson while participating in the Residency program in Dallas, Texas with PBT. In this program we lived on the campus of the Global Institute for Applied Linguistics and studied under experienced missionaries who have lived where we long to go. I am telling you all of these things not to brag about our studies or training, but because I hope that you can understand our heart ache right now. After much prayer and waiting, our branch director informed us that it will be impossible for us to head to West Africa according to the timeline we had planned. The health risks are too big, and the stress too overwhelming for new missionaries to arrive right now.

This said, we have begun praying and planning about our life in the States. We have been told that in the best-case scenario we will be able to arrive to our location in West Africa in August. This means an added 5 months of time (at least). We had begun creating some back-up plans, knowing the situation was unpredictable. So…as of now our plans continue on as we had previously arranged, with church and family visits for the first 8 weeks. As of March we are trying to arrange to move back to our “home away from home” Tennessee, where Bart hopes to finish up most of his classes to receive his Master’s degree in Intercultural Studies. If August arrives and we are still delayed, I will begin classes to receive my Bachelor’s in the same field.

We are finalizing other plans currently and praying that every second in the States would help us be more effective in ministry. If all things work out, and we are able to move back to Tennessee, we will pursue French classes at Johnson, and possibly more venues at the University of Tennessee. We do not want to lose the French that we have worked so hard to get. We do ask that you use discernment in sharing this information, as we have done. We also covet your prayers! We literally could not survive life’s challenges without them.

Many of you have been wondering how Bart’s hike went, and I wish that I could tell you! What I can tell you is that after 10 days with my kiddos, we were a stronger and really, truly, exhausted family. None of us slept the night before Bart arrived home. We were giddy with anticipation. Bart left on a Thursday morning and on Friday the kids and I packed up to head to a friend’s house. I had already planned to spend most of the week prepping for the baby, but we were very blessed to go and enjoy some time in the countryside with my very kind friend and her family. I was able to accomplish an unreal amount of things while my kids napped.

We walked the 3 blocks to the metro, suitcase in tow, and then got off at the necessary stop that connected us with the bus we needed to take for the 20-minute ride to a park. From there we were picked up by my friend and drove about 10 minutes to the country side. It never ceases to amaze me how much I miss living….NOT in the city. The hustle and bustle of people is constant here. There are crowds of people moving at rapid speeds to get where they are going and even the parks are full. Yet, the mountainside, and the little village of Sorcieux-Des Mines has become a home away from home for us. We have a beautifully clear view of mountains, small villages, the sunset, and the huge, looming fog that the cold brings. This family is also the perfect ages for our kids to play, and they speak both French and English fluently.  The weekend was a time of reprieve.

We took the bus home on Sunday after church and the week began! Lucas comes home for lunch during the 2 hour lunch period at school, and so I took him in the morning, picked him up at 11:30, then dropped him off at 1:20 and picked him back up at 4:20. This schedule is for 3 days a week, while the other two he has short days. My wonderfully helpful kids did awesome with daddy gone, but we all reached a point of grumpiness and had several days where “start-overs” were in order. I was able to use the week to spend some great one on one time with each kid, and to do some prep cooking for when the baby comes. Every night we prayed for each person climbing, and for the families who were missing their daddies and husbands. We made a big banner for Bart’s return, and took a link off of our chain. We went to the grocery store, which meant walking 10 blocks (total) with the chariot and Hosanna.

The Saturday of Bart’s return, the kids had FINALLY lain down for a nap. I heard a noise outside the door and peeked through our peep hole to see the, very scraggly, very sunburned, man of my dreams. I threw the door open…and as they say “The rest is history” ;)

In truth it was awesome. It’s not a huge deal for our family to do things like this. Maybe it comes from all of the moving we have done, or all that God has led us through, but in truth, I was thrilled by the week with the kids. It was as though I was proving to myself that I could still do it, and grow stronger. I love challenges. When Bart worked as an EMT with the ambulance, he had a very erratic schedule. Also, we spent the first few years of our marriage building relationships hundreds of miles away from both of our homes, and learning how to not only survive, but to thrive. The hardest part was not having ANY communication with him while he hiked the mountain. I received some text messages the day they began the descent.  He shared with me that on summit day “My body was physically strained more than anything I have ever felt before” and last night as we lay in bed, I asked him what God has been teaching him lately. His response “I am still processing through what He taught me on that mountain.”

About 4 days after Bart’s arrival home, our teammates departed for America. This literally makes us the only Americans we know. We have several French friends, a few British friends, but no one who comes from the same culture. We are so thrilled that they have arrived safely in the U.S. and we are planning some visits while we are stateside together. Would you pray for them, and our team as we adjust to these new plans, and spend time seeking God’s direction? Though we know our plans are being altered, and the suggestions have been made by some friends that “maybe this is God leading you away from West Africa”, we still very strongly feel the call to move their and truly understand that this is a long term process. Our branch director said it best: “This is a marathon, not a sprint”.  It is better to wait, and continue preparing, than to arrive and burn out.

And today I am 37 weeks pregnant, and very excited about meeting this little one.  Not a day goes by when I don’t wonder when “the time” will come. We are all very tired but continue to schedule French meetings, and study. We pray for you, our friends and family, and miss you tremendously. Please continue to pray for us as we prepare for the amazing changes coming up.

Beyond Imagination

This blog is going to get a little personal, just a disclaimer, warning, or even an invitation.  It will also be long, covering my surprise gift from Bart… a cruise!

In Ephesians 3:14 and on, Paul writes some pretty passionate words about his desire for the church in Ephesus.  He says that he hopes they can be strengthened by the power of God’s Holy Spirit at work within them. Then he closes his letter by saying “now to the God who is capable of doing immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout generations forever and ever amen.” 

Our purpose, in all of our messiness, is to bring glory to this extraordinary God who works in us. A God whose desire is to love, to reach people with His purpose…not to check them off of the “church attender, saved, good deeds” list, but because He is a God who longs for His children. He wants everyone to come to know the radical, life changing hope of Jesus Christ.  Hold on to this for a second, and let me catch you up.

The last blog I wrote was on faith and righteousness…and the day I wrote it everything crazy started happening….because crazy has never been a part of our lives before right?

That was the morning of the 4th, and we were supposed to drop our kids off at a friend’s house that afternoon for our surprise getaway. Bart plans something each year, because I love surprises, and because my birthday, Christmas and our anniversary are within weeks of each other. I knew that we would be away from the kids for 5 nights, and that Bart would tell me what I needed to pack.

The night of the 2nd I dumped boiling water on 3 of my fingers leaving 2nd degree burns. I have never screamed that loud aside from child labor. It was definitely not bad enough for the hospital, and we didn’t have any aloe on hand. I tried everything from a slice of potato, tea bags, ice water, and what helped the most for pain relief…white vinegar! I was so surprised by that. Who knew?! Obviously some awesome lady on the internet…

The morning of the fourth we were getting all dressed and ready to head to the playground nearby. I opened the door to our apartment and the kids stepped out into the hall. As usual, I stepped back inside to get my keys from the closet by our door. Bart was heading out the door when I hear a very distinct, loud scream and crying from Hosanna. They like to chase each other down the hall by our door….you know…the concrete hall with the concrete and tile flooring. At some point Lucas attempted to assist his sister in running, at which point she lost balance, flew forward, and bashed her head into the concrete wall. I sprint waddled down the hall, losing all of my grace with Lucas, exclaiming “GET in your room” With the mom voice.  I scooped Hosanna off the floor; she had her back to me. At which point I turn around and Bart says “Andi! She’s bleeding! A lot!” Hosanna had split her head, an inch long and ½ inch open. It was deep, and I could tell that from the first look. We ran her in the house and I put her in Bart’s arms. These are the moments when I thank God that Bart has so much emergency medical experience.  Also, there was no way I could put her head by the sink to rinse off some of the blood with this HUGE belly. We have this awesome coffee table in our living room that is super sturdy and we used that as our work space. I laid out a towel and Bart laid her down. We prayed immediately and checked all of the basic signs for concussion, and she was fine. We immediately felt frustration to the fact that Bart’s suture kit had somehow gotten left behind.  I hunted for butterfly band aids while he cleaned the cut. Hosanna had stopped crying and seemed more fascinated by what daddy was doing. We used make shift butterfly band aids, and I stayed with her while Bart ran to the pharmacy (He’s getting kind of popular there) to get real butterfly band aids, gauze and whatever that stretchy white stuff that you wrap around someone’s head is called. Obviously, Hosanna’s bleeding had stopped almost entirely. She stayed horizontal the whole time, and I turned on Tinker Bell for her to watch. When he returned, Bart made an awesome job of pulling the cut together, keeping pressure on it, and wrapped her head the equivalent of a General Hospital star with a concussion! Hosanna didn’t cry until we mentioned that we might have to cut her hair to get the bandage to stick. She took her nap on the table, and I made sure I rechecked the concussion signs when she woke up. Every emotional faculty I have as a mom was on high alert. Don’t get me wrong, I never once panicked, but when you see your child covered in blood it makes you very aware of how much of a “vapor” we actually are. We called the friend who was going to watch the kids and explain the scenario. We explained that, although we had the situation under control, if she felt in the slightest bit uncomfortable, we would keep Hosanna home for the night to make sure she was healing well. Our friend is a mom of 3 amazing and rambunctious kids, and has the experience of cleaning and changing stuff like this and assured us that she would be fine. Hosanna literally acted as though nothing had happened, and when Bart checked the bandaging later he discovered that it was already beginning to pull back together. We praised Jesus. Our friend came to pick up the kiddos, and Bart and I breathed a nervous sigh of relief.

Now to get back to what I said earlier, about that awesome God who WANTS to blow our minds with love. He wants to give us more than we can ask or imagine! Bart and I left the morning of the 5th, and took a train. I had no idea where we were going or what the plans were. I saw the sign for Marseilles and inwardly smiled. We had come here with Bart’s parents. Maybe we were staying a few nights here and going to explore. Then we took the metro to the bus, and the bus to the middle of nowhere. The bus was awfully full, and I couldn’t figure out where we were going, aside from the fact that it was near the docks. We followed a herd of people and were super excited to see a 1967 red convertible mustang. I love old cars. It was so out of place and so very personal. Up to this point everything was going completely right and in truth I kept expecting something bad to happen. I didn’t want to get my hopes to high because I knew that, well, let’s face it, I’m not that great of a wife, and I am already having an inkling of guilt. What would our supporters think? Would they criticize us for taking this time? We kept walking, getting closer and closer to the boats. Hmmm…maybe Bart was taking me on a boat tour of Marseilles and we would stay on one of the islands nearby. Then I started to notice all of the people we were walking with going in different fence entrances for these HUGE cruise ships. I stopped. I was completely stunned. “Bart, be honest with me” Bart’s face grew worried…. “Are we going to take a cruise?” His face exploded in a smile. “Mmmhmmm”.

Immediately tears began running down my face.

Once we were on the boat we hunted for our room, and upon walking in to ours Bart stopped. I understood, everything was absolutely beautiful! We had a balcony view of the Mediterranean Sea, and the room was gorgeous. “I hope this is right, because this isn’t what I paid for at all! I paid for the least expensive room, and then checked the little box that let us upgrade for free if possible”. We checked the information in the room, and it was ours! It began to sink in that maybe God was just as happy about this time as we were. He seemed to be blessing us at every turn. I sat down and let it sink in. Again, tears ran down my face. This was completely incomprehensible. Soon my soft cry became a pretty big bawl. Bart came and snuggled next to me and I began to say thank you, probably 100x. You see….I was convinced that I was pretty worthless. I think we all hear that message from the world we are in, but mine might have come in a little louder through the megaphone of some really horrible relationships; some pretty messed up people, and even some family. I have forgiven and moved on, but there is no time frame on trust. I never, in a million years imagined myself married to a man who could love me so completely. How could God bring this guy, who prays for and with me, helps me in the house, adores our kids, and accepts God’s call whole heartedly into my life? Our cruise was a huge stepping stone of belief in God’s unimaginable love for me. While on the cruise we ate like kings. The first night I had a famous French soup “Bouillabaisse” and a salad. Like all things French, it came with bread. We had endless drinks on the cruise, and every meal was bottomless, it was all paid for. My husband is awesome at bargain shopping.  It was completely unreal to me. Amusingly, the cruise was advertised as Franglophone, meaning French speaking. Yet because of the destinations of the cruise we were surrounded by Italians. It was sooo funny and entirely countercultural for French.

Our first stop was Savona, Italy. Each night a little paper was delivered to our door that had the excursions for the stops, and we chose to go see the 2nd largest Aquarium in Europe. I love all things water, including seeing dolphins, and beautiful fish. It was very cool! After the aquarium we went on a boat cruise around the cape and saw some extraordinary views. We came back, and stumbled into a couple we had met upon arrival of the ship. They were older than us, but had been married about 8 years. He had surprised his wife just like Bart had surprised me! They also were native French speakers, so we made arrangements and ate with them for the next two nights! We also went to the cruise spectacle, which was a musical display of gymnastics, incredible voices, and an amazing performance. I knew almost every song by heart, and they even did a tribute to Whitney Houston. The next day we went to Barcelona, Spain and we were able to see Gaudi’s amazing artwork. We took a bus tour and had a small time to do some souvenir buying. We came back to the boat, and spent time at the pool, which was a salt water pool…where I very quickly learned that salt water is an amazing (ly painful) cleaning agent for open blisters. We had incredible weather the entire cruise.

Our last day, in honesty, stands out above the rest. The day we left the cruise, we took the metro and the bus again. Again, the bus took us to a beautiful place, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We got off the bus and looked off of the bridge we were standing on and saw such a breath taking view. The Mediterranean Sea was under us. I turned and looked at the beautiful sights, and noticed a pretty blue and white building that didn’t really fit in to it’s surroundings. “That’s a peculiar looking building! It’s blue and white and just kind of juts out from the rocks.” Bart turned “You’re right! Let’s go check it out!” So as we came upon the building Bart led the way up the stairs, turned and smiled that glorious love filled smile. “This is our hotel, Andi, let’s go check in.” Once in our room Bart had to disappear (More plotting). My first discovery was that we had a balcony that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea, and also that the room looked like it was decorated for a princess. Not at all in a tacky way, but it was very soft colored, with beautiful linens and a round curtain that came out from the balcony window. I was completely speechless. Bart didn’t even know he would receive the balcony when he requested an ocean view. When Bart arrived he led me to the bathroom. It was the first bathtub I had seen since we took my mom to Paris. It was HUGE! We quickly changed into our swim suits and went exploring. I was able to swim in the Mediterranean Sea, the same sea that Paul sailed in during his journeys, and was even shipwrecked in. It was beautiful, as was the beach. We ate at a little beach stand that night and the next day we took a bus tour all around Marseilles. We ate our breakfast on the balcony. We didn’t take another trip to Chateau d’if, but we had an amazing last day of adventure. Even now, looking back, it feels like a dream. This….this love, this trip, was truly beyond my ability to imagine. The dedication of my husband during the whole time, his patience when I broke down, or when I was too tired to move from all of our walking, was a powerful symbol of the way Christ loves the church, and laid down His life for it.

The night we got our kiddos back Lucas woke up with the flu, and since then we have been finishing even more vaccinations, Bart has been tested for his allergies, with no real answers. He was able to get the needed vaccine while closely monitored. We have been avidly using a program called Conversation Exchange, which allows us to schedule rendezvous’ with French people who want to speak English. This has helped me tremendously, and most of the time the people want to continue meeting week after week.

I am now 31 weeks pregnant and Bart is preparing for his trip. Lucas is on his break from school, and the cold weather has officially blown in! The wind is back! Today it was in the high 40’s, and I was pretty cold!! I think Indiana might be a little rough on us. Speaking of which! Please pray for all of the travels necessary before we leave the country, and also for our teammates as they will be departing for the US in November and we will miss them tremendously!!

Thanks for reading my insanely long blog post friends!

Andi

Faith and Righteousness

It’s 6:20 am. Some of you may already be awake. Yet, for some like me this early of a morning finds you groggy and drowsy. It’s not that I am NOT a morning person, more that I need a full 9 hours of sleep to function and usually that doesn’t happen. Mosquito’s have infiltrated our home again, and Hosanna and I have each received numerous bites while we sleep.  We hoped the cooler weather had helped, but the combination of excitement and nervousness from Bart and I’s upcoming get away and the itchiness kept me awake, as well as a little girl with a cough. Whenever a child is sick, even with the slightest illness, a parent feels it in the depths of their being.

Yet it isn’t the sickness, or itchiness that awoke me. The Lord has woken me early this morning. I wonder why. Last night I was reading through Romans 4:20 through all of chapter 5. I actually had been reading through Job, which at one point in my life was my favorite book of the Bible. In no exaggeration, I have probably read it 5 or 6 times. I have seen a lot of trial in my short life. I have seen brokenness far beyond 27. I have seen the death of the young, I have felt the deep pangs of chemical depression, I have watched mighty people crumble into sin, and the meager rise up in faith. I have spent countless hours in tears before the throne of our mighty God in heaven, and felt his sweet and tender love as He heard my cries and freed me from fear, doubt, bitterness and the many other chains that the devil used to hold me back from God’s great love. It’s about love my friends. A radical love that has gotten under my skin, consumed me like a burning fire, and entirely filled me with hope.  I began reading in Romans 5, but the chapter starts with a Therefore. Whenever you are reading the Bible and see a Therefore, you need to back track and see what it is there for.

20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

 

Pause. This verse says that Abraham, whom was challenged to sacrifice his son Isaac, never wavered in his faith. Abraham, who was told to get up and go, with his family, but wasn’t told where, never wavered in his faith. I did some research in the Greek, and righteousness in our perception isn’t too farfetched. It really does mean to be just, or right, lacking fault. Yet, it doesn’t give us a measuring rod of tasks to complete in order to be righteous. It even says that Because of Abraham’s faith God counted him as righteous.

Seriously. Read that again.

Faith. I just finished reading a book called “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day”. It echoes a theme that one of our biggest problems to overcome as lovers of Jesus is our lack of faith. It isn’t works. It isn’t applying some new “Live life better” strategy to our lives. It is faith. Faith doesn’t come without a challenge friend. We have been told over and over and over in the scriptures that our faith becomes refined much the same way that gold does. The impurities are BURNED out. Some of you might be thinking….why. Why would a God who loves us, a God who is called Abba, father, BURN something out of His Children?!? WHY?! Because He aches for us, He longs for us. We see it in the death of His son Jesus who was tortured on the cross so that we could have hope! He didn’t do this as a last chance shot at dragging His wayward kids back into His life. He did this because He knows that we are broken, and that we will never be able to earn or deserve it. So let’s redefine righteousness. Let me go out on a limb here. Let me say that maybe righteousness is less about living in fear of doing the wrong thing, and more about taking risks with Jesus leading the way.

You might think this is easy for me to say. I’m a missionary, who has already achieved that “superior level of crazy”. I am fearless right? Completely incapable of not obeying God’s call.

Let me assure you, last week I watched as French speaking doctors vaccinated my kids and my kids screamed and begged for me to not let this happen to them. Yet I knew that we were moving to a country where vaccinations literally will save my children’s lives and I don’t have the option. I have seen my son and daughter break down and cry because of the confusion of another language, and then heard the voices of so many people stateside saying “Oh! They’ll learn the language! They are kids! They are resilient! This will make them better people!” I myself have been on the floor of my bedroom before, crying and asking God if He understood the ache in my heart as I prepare to take my kids back to the states for 8 weeks only to then take them away from the people who would give anything to hold them closest. I have seen my husband  and teammates endure complete exhaustion going from one government office to the next to try and complete all kinds of necessary paperwork in the French Bureaucratic System.

Yes friends. I have fears. These experiences don’t mean my faith is somehow superior to yours. These experiences are just a different type of faith fire than your own. We each have it. We each have moments of complete and total breakdown before God. For you, your faith fire might be your job; a place in which you love the people and the specific tasks so much that you know that the persecution and resentment you face are nowhere near the value of your staying put. Some of you might have a faith fire in your marriage. You may have come to know the love of Jesus while your spouse is still searching. Family may be critical of your “unequally yoked” marriage, or in other ways, but you know that you have joined a covenant and are faithfully a part of that.

I have simply learned that God’s word is complete truth. When I read “God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and sound mind” I trust him entirely. I recognize fear of anything but God as exactly that, as spirit. Then, I cast it out as such, just as the first disciples cast out spirits that hindered. I surrender my perspective, I surrender the doubts, and I trust that God, who is already at the end of my life, as He was at the beginning, knows what He is doing. I have my moments of complete breakdown. Yet, when you have felt God’s call in your life, when you have seen Him pave the way because you have eyes of faith, there is no fear big enough. When I feel fire in my life, I know that it is either from God, for the purpose of making me stronger, or that in some way I have allowed sin in my life. I seek His word, and trust Him to lead me on.

This was a long blog my friend. Thank you for taking the time to read how God is challenging me this morning. Thank you also for your prayers as we are transitioning through many changes in the upcoming months, including:

  • Finding new and creative ways to learn French as Bart and I have both quit regular French school and have been practicing one on one in different settings with French friends.
  • Bart’s trip to Tanzania, Africa in November.
  • Having a baby in December, while packing!
  • Our move stateside for 8 weeks in January!

A reminder, as some have been a little confused. We are learning French in order to effectively communicate with the government, and military in West Africa. There are road blocks along African dirt roads, much like the western world’s have stop lights, and there are military stationed at these blocks that speak French (though slightly different than some of the French we are learning now). We will have to interact in French every time we travel to and from the capital city (6+ times annually), and any time we need to sign papers, arrange visas or passports etc. We cannot just learn basic phrases, but have to hold our own in French.  The people group we will be working with does not speak French. We were told there is one lady in the village who knows some French. They speak an entirely different language. No…it’s not a French dialect. So, yes, we will need to learn an entirely NEW language upon arrival to our home in West Africa. We are preceded by many missionaries who have done this before us, and we would not be doing French language learning if it weren’t entirely necessary.  I hope this clarifies any misunderstandings about the language learning process ahead of us.

With His hope,

Andi

Standing in awe

Standing in awe…

8 months. 8 unbelievable months have flown by since we have arrived in France. We were able to celebrate both the coming of Bart’s birthday, and the coming of our 8 month marker by a visit from Bart’s parents. Bruce and Pamie arrived on the 21st of September. We celebrated Bart’s birthday a day early with some yummy cinnamon cake, and an unloading of a suitcase full of blessings, including Christmas presents for the kids. We travelled together, and rested together, and in truth it was an extraordinary week. Tomorrow they leave to head back to America, and the crazy ball of activities we have starts rolling again!

We had the opportunity of sorting through and arranging our supporter information while our forwarding agent was here! We were again, completely amazed by the regular support we receive and the love that has been shown. It is empowering to see people’s hearts impassioned for the calling God has placed on our lives. Thank you. Thank you so much.

We have some prayer request friends! We begin the cycle of vaccinations, as well as the coming of baby and the many travel plans. We also need to pack and sort a house, as well as to love on our teammates Eric and Melissa, before they leave France! We have A LOT of paperwork, phone calls to supporters and connections to make with individuals before we leave for America. We also have 2 beautiful kiddos who have gotten very used to French culture. They love going to all of the playgrounds, and meeting people. They love riding in the front of the metro, and swinging on the metro poles. Yet mostly, they love the people we have connected with. They will not see most of them for a very long time. Lucas has teachers, friends at school now, we have friends from church. People who have invested in our lives, encouraged us through prayer and stood by us as we struggled to speak their language. Lucas is old enough to remember many of the people we love in America too, while Hosanna has spent most of her formative time here in France. Also, a month before we leave, we are having our 3rd child! Our kids have so much to adapt to, as well as two parents who have a ton to adapt to. Please continue to pray for these things!!!

Praises

For the good connections we’ve been making with our supporting churches for our time in the states.

For how extraordinary God has been in leading us through this culture

For the progress we are making (slowly but surely!) in such a difficult language

For the ways our team has been challenged and grown during this time

 

Prayers

For continued peace and wisdom as we seek God in this time of decisions

For connections to be made with churches and individuals while we are in the US

For comfort for the kids especially as we begin to transition out of this culture, and in to 2 other cultures in the next 7 months (The USA and West Africa)

For the birth of baby in December

That we would effectively fill out all necessary paperwork and doctors appointments

That our travels would happen without incident

For our time with grandparents and family, as they cherish our kiddos and love on them, as well as say goodbye.

Again, thank you for praying,

Andi

 

Update on our plans to return

Hey friends!!

It’s official! We have plane tickets to come stateside on January 22, 2015. Can I just say how weird it is to type 2015? Time flies so quickly! Yet we each have 24 hours in a day to trust to God. Bart and I are carefully planning and praying over the 2 months….8 short weeks we have stateside!! We already have dates booked in several places in Indiana, and Tennessee. We would love to see so many people; we also have a very small amount of time to pack for West Africa, and to have time with each of our families. What’s amazing? That we are so connected to each of you…our supporters, both financially and through prayer. We have the blessing of being personally connected to each of our supporting churches and each individual who supports us. We can honestly say that we cherish you all!

If you would like to meet with us and celebrate what God is doing in our lives and in this ministry, please contact us!!! We are contacting supporting churches this week about visits and dates. Our time is limited, but we want to see you all! We have even considered having soup dinners, or dessert nights to see more people and share then. Would you be interested in helping to organize or host something? Contact us!!!!!!

 

We love and miss you all!!!

 

Bart.cameron@pbti.org

Andi.cameron@pbti.org

Prayer Update

It is nearly unbelievable to Bart and I, that we have been overseas for 7 months. Especially considering that the next 3 months will be non-stop. Here is a brief look at our next few weeks and how you can pray for us!! 

  • This weekend we will have a team retreat with our teammates Eric and Melissa Davis and their lovely daughter Sophia. We will spend time in focused prayer, in team building exercises, and just enjoying each other’s company.
  • September 10th-14th we have a visit from a missionary to France who will be going over the Culture Stress Assessment test with each of us individually in our team. She will discuss the results of the CSA and where we might be struggling or succeeding in cultural adjustment.
  • September 16th-23rd Teammates travel to Italy.
  • September 20th, Bart’s parents arrive for a one week visit!
  • October is here!! 5th-9th Bart is kidnapping me for a brief and much needed kid free, pre-baby vacation. I have no other details because he is super sneaky! This is our celebration of my birthday (December 14th), Christmas and our Anniversary (December 29th) which we combine every year that we can.
  • October 14th-17th our West Africa Branch Director is visiting us for a review of our language learning, and brief check-up on our future plans.
  • October 19th- Bart is participating in a race with several French friends…something close to the American “Gauntlet” race. He has been regularly running, and exercising and this is his self-test to make sure he’s keeping himself healthy!
  • November 6th-15th Bart takes a trip to hike Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa with a group from Rainbow Christian Camp. An anonymous donor made this trip possible, and all costs were paid outright by said donor.
  • December-Baby arrives!!!
  • January 22nd 2015….departure for America!

As you can see! Our months are filling up fast! Bart and I continue to trek along in our French studies and culture learning. Lucas began school on the 2nd of September, and we are so excited that his teacher has assured us he is doing quite well. He hears only French there, and understands quite a bit. We do continue to ask for your understanding as many people have suggested that our kids will come back speaking French fluently, and that language is an easy thing for kids to pick up. I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that our kiddos endured every ounce of culture shock, stress, and adjustment just as we did and that we were more concerned on helping them stay healthy and learn how to manage the stress of being surrounded by astounding and sometimes overwhelming cultural differences than teaching them French. We do want to make sure they learn about the culture, and that is why we at least once a day, depending on the weather, get them outside into the market, playgrounds, metros, play dates and school.

The best and worst part of immersion is the inability to escape the culture. We truly are surrounded by French in every way. Today as we played at the playground, I had a blast with a little French girl, who was pretending to be an ice cream vender. Her mom asked for a bowl of chocolate ice cream, and I asked for a cone of strawberry, but she said they were out of strawberry, and cookie (Chocolate chip flavor with cookie crumbles in it)!! I feigned being heartbroken and accepted the “chocolate ice cream” she gave me. Lucas played alongside a little boy who shared his cars with Lucas because Lucas (hesitantly at first) shared his dinosaurs with the boy. There is so much that is beyond words. Kindness and gentleness, playing “cuckoo” with a baby on the metro, or assisting an elderly person with their groceries on the escalator, are all things that surpass cultural barriers here. 

Would you please continue to pray for our busy months?

  • Pray for our kids as they continue to transition here, then for the 8 weeks we are in the states, and then in our big move to West Africa
  • Pray for our French learning as I (Andi) continue to struggle, and that Bart would not lose his French as he pursues one on one learning opportunities and discontinues his attendance at school. This was approved by our Branch Director.
  • Pray for our travels! To and from place to place, pray that God would keep us, and guide us to each destination
  • Pray that our visits with the Branch director and another PBT French Missionary would be as constructive as possible, and beneficial to all of us. Pray that we would be given the opportunity to bless them as much as they have blessed us! 
  • Praise God that we have all been healthy, aside from seasonal allergies, and a small stomach bug we have been consistently healthy the entire time we’ve been here 
  • Praise Him that this pregnancy has been uncomplicated, and healthy. We have a doctor who is kind and whom we can communicate well with! 
  • Praise God for the many opportunities we get to speak French throughout the week. 
  • Praise God that Bart has picked French up quite quickly and has continued to progress. He is now at B2 level.

We praise God that we are surrounded with prayers. Thank you for catching up with us!

 

Andi