Three months summed up ;)
I hope all of you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have been really busy with everything going on here these days. I blame the 20 kids! However, we really have not been good at keeping you all in the loop. This is a recap of the last 3 month. As always, thank you for your patience and grace as we try to straddle two worlds. Sometimes its difficult to juggle being fully here and keeping all of you up to date. However, you as our family, friends, and supporters are always in our thoughts.I will try to do a highlights reel for the last couple months. *Full disclosure- I have been drafting (and appropriately edting) this thing for over a month. Seriously, sorry!*
In October, we really enjoyed having one of my best friends, Ginger, here for a wonderful week and a half. She and I went to the villages Lifegate reaches. We taught art projects, gathered testimonies from the people of Lifegate, shopped for items for her new fundraising business -(stay tuned for that)- and spent a lot of time with the kiddos at the Children’s home. These kids are why God called us here and it is also Ginger and her husband Chance’s heart as well. It was great having my two worlds collide and it blessed me so much to see the friend I have had for nearly a decade.
We celebrated Konnah’s birthday, too. She is one of our older girls. She is one of the shiest girls we have, but she has really blossomed since coming to the home. She is also the only child in the home in need of monthly support. In case you were wanting to partner with us. $60 a month is all that is lacking. We are so grateful to all of you who have chosen to invest in these amazing kids, who are the future of Sierra Leone.
In November, we had Thanksgiving with friends at the beach! It was a nice way to celebrate. Sometimes it’s difficult to be away from people we love, but new traditions like that are such a gift.
We celebrated one year of living in Sierra Leone. What an amazing year God has given us! We are so thrilled for this life and the year God has brought us through. A huge thank you goes to our mentors and ministry partners, Rick and Paula Miller. We came to help with the vision God gave them. We are extremely blessed and thankful to play a small part in the things happening with Lifegate because of their dreams and dilligence. We pray God grows this ministry more and that He continues to bless our families and the staff we serve wit here. We also thank all of you for sacrificing financially so we can be here doing this work. You all can not understand what a gift you have given us. This year has been lots of learning and loving and growing. Thank you all.
And again, we celebrated lots of birthdays. Musa and Jariatu, two of our caregivers in the home, had birthdays as well as their baby boy J.J. turned 1. He was born the day we arrived and we have loved watching him grow.
In November, I taught about Adam and Eve at the Lifegate schools. They painted serpents for the art project. It is so much fun watching the kids play with the art supplies and really understand the stories.
We went to our first Sierra Leonean wedding. They make clothing from matching fabric, called an Ashobi. We all had an outfit made, because who wouldn’t want to have something so pink! 😉 We did have a really nice time.
We started back up beach days with the kids. Its kind of the only thing to do here as an “outing, but were not complaining. It gives us some extra time with the kids and allows them to ride in the car (which is a big deal!) and feel special for a day. We are looking forward to doing it every month with 3-4 kids at a time until everyone gets their turn to go.
December was a lot of crazy excitement. We welcomed Tyler’s mom and dad on the 10th and they will be here until the 12th of January. We are so happy to have them with us. We surprised the boys by telling them we were picking up a visiting missionary for our partners, Rick and Paula Miller. When they saw their grandparents come out instead, they were stunned and overjoyed. We can’t believe we were able to keep it a secret.
In their time, we have gone swimming, gone to church, and taken them to some of our favorite spots. Of course, they have been with us when we go to the Children’s Home for work and visiting, too. Everyone loves grandpa and grandma!
We were able to be there for the unveiling of a new podium at the Bunga Wharf Lifegate Church. As with all the Lifegate branches, the people who make it up are family and it is a privilege to be with them.
Our head Pastor, Lamin, asked me to tell the story a couple Sundays and it was really fun getting to practice my Krio, as well as dig deeper into some of the old testament stories. Everyone suffered with my attempt without complaint. I love to learn from the way they tell these stories. It stays with me more than reading it on my own!
We also had the great pleasure of spending another Christmas with our kids and caregivers up at the home. We did cotton candy and had a big meal of Jollof rice and chicken, a tasty Sierra Leone dish. We played games and opened gifts and watched Elf. The kids got new soccer cleats, socks, balls, and pinny jerseys sent over from generous donors in America. My cousin Christi and her husband Chad headed up the task finding generous people to help make this happen. It was a great surprise. The kids here love soccer so much and they play barefoot often. This new stuff made them feel like pros. Thank you everyone who made this happen. Lots of fun was had. We also spent time preparing for the big Christmas party we had on Sunday at the church in Brigitte Village. Sadly, my phone died during before the party . One of the struggles of living in place where there’s rarely electricity- no way to charge my phone = I didn’t get photos at the party!
We were blessed with a donation from a fundraiser done by Ginger and Chance Newingham, our director of partnerships. That, with help from our personal donors, met the needs for a big Christmas party. We had music and contests headed up by our National Director, Jonathan. Food was prepared by our aunties and older girls at the Children’s Home. There was so much food that we fed close to 400 people! We worshipped and celebrated Christmas with Muslims, Christians, non-believers and anyone who wanted to join. We talked about the meaning of Christmas and the program ended by showing the “Jesus film” which is a movie showing the life of Christ. It was an exciting day. I didn’t get any pictures of the crowd at the church, because we were so busy serving up food. However, the front yard of the church was packed! (if you’re sensing a theme, yes, I am terrible at playing photographer).
So far January has been filled with blessings as well. We celebrated the birthdays of Fatmata, who turned 6, and Alfred, who turned 12. This month we have 4 left to celebrate. SO MUCH CAKE!
In between the highlights, we spent time with all our kids. We had them all over here at our house and went to visit them. We celebrated birthdays and good grades. We doled out discipline and had meetings. We have bought supplies and planned for school activities.
We have worked on projects around our home, like broken cars, and planned projects up at the Children’s home like shelving units and solar panels.
We struggled with sickness and discouragement. Some of our kiddos in the home had the typical illnesses like malaria or flu, and John had surgery to remove his hernia. God continually heals though, and we praise Him for that! Connor had terrible malaria and had to go to the hospital for IVs twice. He was a trooper in it all, and we praise God he’s healed. And that Ty’s parents were here to help with the other boys.
We have major praises as the money needed for the house is 3/4 of the way provided! Thank you all who gave and partnered along with us. We are simply overwhelmed. May God bless you all in return. We can not wait to move and see the kids every day. We are there about 5 days a week now and we drive for an hour at least. This is an amazing gift you have given us.
We are excited for 2017 and everything that God is planning. So far it has been filled with joy and blessings. We wish you the same! Thank you all so much for loving us and praying for us.
“THANK YOU SO MUCH for the newsy letter and the pictures. We really enjoyed it tremendously. You people are doing a lot of work for GOD and we appreciate your efforts so much. We’re sure it took a lot of time and effort to get all of that done, but just know it was appreciated to the “ith degree”!!! We are so looking forward to the return of Tom and Cathy to hear all about their experiences they had, all of the love they shared and know it was a trip they enjoyed beyond all imagination. We hope their return trip isn’t marred with snow and ice at the airport as so many have been lately. We’ll certainly keep them and their arrival in our prayers, as we do all of your family and your “goings on” every day. We know you’re really busy people, but every chance you get, send us a note on what you’re doing, how you are, etc. THANK YOU AGAIN!!!!! Much love to all,Grandpa & Grandma