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….
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.