Soccer, Swimming, and new jobs

We have been really busy lately, but things have been exciting! We’ve lived here for six months now, and in that time God has helped us to grow in ministry and relational ways that are only from Him. I have only done monthly blog updates because first of all, we are so busy! its good though.  Secondly, it takes hours to do it. For real! Were in Africa where internet speed resembles DSL in the 90s. Its not awesome. Nobody wants to read a blog without pictures. I am like a toddler in blog world. “ooh interesting title. Does it have pictures? Ok I will read it”. Hence, the hours of devotion that goes into this. Thank you for reading. Seriously. We need you! 🙂

We have been given an exciting task. We are now the international directors of the Lifegate Children’s Home. We have grown really close to our kids up at the home, and we have been praying for a way to be useful and helpful in their care. Rick and Paula were tackling this responsibility previously. Lifegate has a lot of branches to it. Rick oversees 2 schools, 3 churches, the radio program and the bible telling school construction, along with many other projects. We are now able to take on the job of overseeing the orphanage and making sure everyone and everything is running smoothly. With this new position, we can be more hands on with the kids care and needs, which is such a gift to us as we love these kids like crazy. As part of our new role, I get to help purchase the clothing and shoes for the kids. Auntie Marie and I did this together with the help of our oldest girl, Martha. It was a lot of fun getting to spend that time with them and get the kids some new church clothes. We really love this new role and all our kids!

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In other orphanage news, we have a new girl in the house! Her name is Mariama, typically Marie for short, but everyone calls her Yay Marie. We already have an auntie Marie, and yay is like saying “junior” in a way. She is the middle sister of Idrissa and Isha. We prayed for her to come live with her siblings and we were able to see those prayers answered. She’s an incredibly sweet 8 year old girl. She also needs monthly sponsorship. In addition to Yay Marie, we will be bringing in 5 more waiting kids to the Lifegate Children’s Home as soon as the second house is finished with construction. It just got a new roof placed last week, and Tyler will be putting in a ceiling very soon. These other 5 kids are in need of sponsors as well. You can be one of three givers who donate $30 a month, or give the full $90 a month for the needs of one child. If this is something that is convicting you, please contact our Director of Partnerships, Chance Newingham via chance@lifegateinafrica.com for more information.

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Isha, Mariama (yay Marie), and Idrissa (aka ED). She was very shy but she’s so thrilled to be at the Lifegate Children’s Home!

Some fun stuff we have had going on include beach days and soccer matches. Ty and I were able to get some football (soccer) games going here in the villages connected to Lifegate churches. We have really seen it grow over these last few weeks! We started out playing with the orphanage kids and workers, but as the village communities have come to watch, we have been able to invite huge amounts join in.  Through that its become quite a ministry. We invite the school kids and their parents to come play, and anyone else in the community that wants to join in is welcome also. Jonathan Kamba, the national director of Lifegate, handles sound equipment so we can begin the games with prayer and invitation, and our Pastor, Lamin Conteh, referees for us. We have seen our church grow and we have been able to make friendships with so many people in the villages. Through these relationships, we get a chance to show the love of Christ. 

We have also been able to go on more beach trips in May. So far 10 of our wonderful kids have gotten to come with us for a day of fun and a meal at the restaurant. Most of our kiddos have never been to a restaurant before, so its really funny and endearing to see what they do. They all threw their chicken bones down under the table as that’s what you normally do when eating. Garbage cans are not common in homes and most everyone eats outside anyway. Due to this, there is always an animal of some kind to come “clean up” be it goat or dog or other 🙂 . We have also noticed several wadded up napkins under the table when the kids are finished.Its like a confetti of sorts under that table. Our wait staff is always so gracious. We learned most of the kids weren’t sure how to open soda cans, but now they’re experts. It was neat to watch them experience new things. It also makes us appreciate the blessings we take for granted, like what a treat a meal out can be. The kids loved the meal and all of them got so excited about “chips” (what they call french fries). They don’t get to eat them typically but know of them because some street vendors sell them. When it came to the swimming, they learned a lot as well. Since a lot of people here have stories about the ocean being scary, due to fisherman drowning and most people never been taught to swim, 7 of the kids were afraid of the water at first. With a little help and holding Ty and my hands, they warmed up well and everyone ended up loving the water! Seeing the big boys head into the water with floaties on their arms, holding Ty’s hand, was the sweetest thing ever. We have loved getting to spend quality time with the kids by ourselves and giving them words of love and affirmation on these trips.

We had Mothers Day Sunday in May and it was really great to show these special women in our church how valued they are. I was able to speak for a short while about God’s heart for women and mamas. When I finished we gave all the ladies a cold bottle of soda and a package of cookies as a thank you for the things they do. The dads and kids also got some since we brought enough of share. Its such a blessing to be with these brothers and sisters. 

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Me and the mommas. We could not get a shot of everyone looking and smiling for anything. Our kids were distracting us though 🙂 Missing Paula who was absent due to sweetly taking care of her mom.

 

Also, we have a dog now. We knew we wanted one for a while but were waiting to get settled. When we went to Freetown for supplies one day, we passed a man carrying two tiny puppies with red ribbons. We asked how much he wanted, and he told us 70,000 Leones, which is the equivalent of $12 USD. Needless to say, we couldn’t say no. We asked the kids what they wanted to name the puppy and Sulli yelled out “Ralph”. We realized that Ralph was a girl, but he was so adamant, we couldn’t change it. So now Ralph the girl dog spends her days chasing lizards, laying on the cold tile in the living room, and eating rice and potato leaf. We bought her a bag of dog food and she was utterly unimpressed. She did not eat for two days! I made african one day and she started howling and whimpering until she got her own dish of it. Turns out all the dogs in this country eat rice. She is a Sierra Leonian dog so it makes sense. 🙂

 

I was able to take a rainbow painting art project to both the Lifegate Brigitte Preschool in Brigitte Village and the Kassie school, which is a Lifegate preschool in the village of Kassie. The kids loved it, and they were able to tell their parents about the story of Noah, and the rainbow they made, which symbolizes God’s promises. Once school resumes after rainy season I’ll start doing a monthly bible story and art project for each school. It makes our hearts so happy to see these kids learning about a God who loves them and sharing that news with others!

Ty has gotten a lot finished on the toilet houses. Soon they will have roofs and doors and be open for business, literally 😛 As I mentioned, once thats complete he’ll head over to the orphanage to put in a ceiling and eventually tile. He’s got a lot of projects in the works but were really excited to see God move to make them all happen!

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June is sure to be an equally busy month as we have 5 kids with birthdays, and they are coming to our house for a day of fun soon! Thanks for following along with us and thank you for your monthly gifts that make this all possible. They are so needed. Thank you also for covering us with your prayers. We continually pray for you as well. God bless you all!!!

Teams and birthdays

We have been really busy lately and fell a little behind on updating you all. We have been mostly healthy other than Ty getting malaria, and it was short lived (thank you Lord for this constant provision). We are also very happy. Many exciting things have been happening. Being here in itself is exciting. We feel blessed to wake up here every morning. Ty and I recently listened to a Francis Chan sermon where he spoke of mission work and the utter joy it can give. You are no longer focused on yourself. What you look like, what you are wearing, or what you have/ lack. Everyone around you knows sincere need and it makes your “stuff” fall to the way side. You stop being self focused and become exponentially more focused on others. We had to let go of many things. Thats not a negative truth. It’s so good to purge ourselves of things so were free to grab onto whats better for us. Things from The Lord. One of the biggest things we had to leave behind was people we love. We don’t stop loving them but the absence of their presence is felt deeply. In turn, we crave that love and fellowship and it will fall onto those God has brought into our lives. For us, we feel like we now have 10 more sons and daughters. We have brothers and sisters who we did not know 5 months earlier. We have a deep love for all these people and its not our doing or from our capacity. God has cultivated in us a love for them that is from Him. While we have been settling into a completely foreign place, looking for ways to minister, and learning an entirely new way to live, we have fallen in love with Sierra Leone. Not so much the country, while it is beautiful and broken, but rather the people who God divinely places into our lives each day. We are simply blessed and overwhelmed to be here.

We had a team of friends old and new come to Sierra Leone to see the work Lifegate is doing. One of Ty’s best friends, Chance, came with 4 women and spent a week seeing churches, schools, and meeting the children that live in the Children’s Home. We enjoyed their company so much and loved the time we got to spend with them. While they were here Chance preached on the 10 plagues of Egypt and was so refreshing to hear a sermon in English. Its something we missed more than we were aware of. Chance camped out on our couch with our friend from Liberia, Moses. It was great for Ty to have time with his friends. Since Chance is the director of partnerships for Lifegate, he got to see some projects that need funds raised to be completed.

We also started some new traditions of our own with the Lifegate Children’s Home kids. We go to the beach one time every month and have lunch and play for the day. We decided to start taking the kids two at a time with us. We get to have time with them and they learn some new things like how to eat in a restaurant. We had the boys draw the girls names and vice versa. We took Ishmael and Juliana first. It was so much fun. They had to learn some things like how to use a fork (here people just use spoons) and how to drink soda from a can. They ordered sandwiches but had no idea how to pick one up to eat it. It was really endearing teaching them things and learning how to respond. When it was time for swimming, they were really scared at first. They had been to shallow streams to wash before but not out in the ocean. We brought two pairs of floaties. One for Sulli and one for Julie since she’s very small. Ishmael caught onto the concept and started taking turns with Julie though. So sweet to see a 12 year old boy who is as tall as me heading for the water in arm floaties. They would only go in the water if Ty and I were holding onto them but it allowed us to show them they were safe and it made us feel good that they trusted us. We love all the kids beyond words.

Another fun tradition we have begun is taking up cake and a present on everyone’s actual birthdays. They do not celebrate birthdays in this country. It is not often someone can tell you when their birthday is even. We got the kids info from Jonathan, our national director for Lifegate. This week Idrissa (ED) turned 6 and Alpha will turn 13. When we took up cake and a present for ED he didn’t even know he had to take off the paper. He just held the wrapped box like “cool”. My birthday was the day after EDs and so the other Miller family went up and decorated the house for our birthdays. It was a sweet surprise! Everyone made us cards and we had such a fun time!

I was able to go to the church with some of the women and pray for the church, the congregation, the village, the country, and all of you. It was an amazing prayer time and it was beautiful the way they brought me along in spite of my language differences, and our pasts. We are one family in Christ and I am so thrilled to get to do life with these amazing women.

The past couple weeks Ty has been over at the Brigitte Village Lifegate church working on the toilet pits. He has enjoyed working with the guys there and doing a project. We are excited for the toilets to be complete! I will be going to the church on Monday to start the first art classes at the church. We had to wait a bit for the kids to get back to school after Easter break but Im excited for these new projects. The first one will be mixing primary colors to make new colors. Then they will use all their new colors to make a rainbow and we will talk about God’s creation!

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The Lifegate Children’s Home recently got a new well donated by Water for Life. This is a huge blessing as the kids were walking to the near by stream for water. They now can do everything at the house. It blesses the village to as all are welcome to come and use the well. It is another way to show the Love of Christ to others. We did not have any hand in the well. It was all Rick and the Water of Life organization but we are excited for the blessing it is! We went and prayed over the well on Easter Sunday and we know God will bless those who use it!

Being here, we have gotten to see God doing some mighty works. We want to share with you all so you will be encouraged by them.

Foday, our day guard, has been reading the bible and discussing it with Connor lately. We helped him get a place to live down from us and he wanted to show Ty his room. On top of his meager possessions was the Bible Ty gave him. He is learning about Christ and we are praying for him.Another thing was our well began to run dry. We were so concerned because we are in dry season and rains are a while off yet. We prayed about the well and that day we got a burst of rain. Then again in the evening. Awesome God! Ty recently got to go to a village way off the beaten path with some missionaries who come here several times a year to do outreaches. You have to walk for several miles after parking your car to get there. While in the village he was able to pray for several people who were experiencing troubles we had experienced ourselves. He got to minister to them and encourage them from his story of overcoming and through a God who cares! This village has amazing stories. We pray for them to continue to turn from a Muslim past to a living God. Our car here has been experiencing some troubles. Overheating, and not running well. We have been praying over it every time something has come up, and each time the problem gets resolved. Its truly Gods hand.Lastly, we were blessed with another new donor! We praise God for all the funds He brings in so we be here, and so we can help others in need. Your support wether in prayer or gift is invaluable. Thank you all! Please join us in praising God for the way He provides.

We pray for each of you reading this, in whatever your walk looks like, that God will meet you and you will feel His love. God bless you all!

Blessings and snakes

February was a blessed month, and in some ways a hard month.

On February 11th, Tyler’s sweet grandma, Wilma Miller, passed away. It was extremely hard to be 6,000 miles away from family when someone so special to you is gone. We have all grieved this loss. Granny was a spunky, hilarious woman who made everyone she met feel like family. She was always welcoming and warm. She loved to play records and watch Cardinals baseball. She loved her husband Oke every moment of their 50 years of marriage, and she adored all her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. More than anything, she LOVED Jesus. Part of why we are here in Africa is because of her. When we told her about how God had put it on our hearts to come to Sierra Leone way back in 2011, she smiled and said “When I was a little girl, some missionaries came to our church from Africa. I knew from that moment that I was supposed to go. I never did, but maybe now I will get the chance”. We believe God had started calling someone from that line of the Miller family then, and how wonderful to be the ones who got to come. We know God continues to orchestrate things for His glory.

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Even in her passing, Granny is blessing us. Memorials were requested to be given to our family in her memory and we were blessed with several donations for Gods work here in Africa. We were surprised by this generous move, and so thankful. She was an amazing woman. We have felt grieved to be away from Tys family and ask you to pray for them all.

In other news, we have had an answer to prayer! We have been in need of more funding for our family to make ends meet here. This country is so very poor and yet everything is so expensive. Gas is over $3 a gallon, and cheese is $10+ a pound. Most any food thats not rice is at least double what it would cost in America, and more often four times as much. We try to live modestly but needing money for guards, rent and groceries is unavoidable. When we shared our need for more support, we prayed and asked God to do another miracle. We were blessed with 3 new supporters for our family, and one supporter for the work we are praying to accomplish! With these donations, we will be able to meet our monthly needs, as well as start a meal and bible study time with village women, and begin bible based art projects with the school children! This is an amazing blessing! Thank you for your support. We couldn’t do this without you. We have been praying for these things. So many answered prayers!

Ty is currently in the midst helping plan out toilet pits for the orphanage and church, and building a table and chairs for the orphanage. The wood here is not treated nominal lumber pieces and he’s found that trying to make these chunks of trees work has not been an easy feat. The things you take for granted. Please pray over these projects with us.

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We also had a few run-ins with the police here. We could be put into jail for slander here, so I have to be careful on what I say, but we did not really do anything wrong and we are learning a lot of lessons. So much struggle when getting adapted to a different culture. Driving here is like playing a game of frogger. There aren’t stop signs or traffic lights. There are speed limit signs sporadically but policemen and women don’t have cars or radar guns to enforce that. You basically drive with your hand on the horn and a lot of prayer.

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We have been doing some bible studies with the older orphanage girls on the traits of biblical women. Paula has been the leader and I have loved sitting in and hearing the input.  We recently took some chalk up to the kids. They absolutely went crazy for it! We loved seeing their creativity come out. Creative thinking isn’t really practiced here so seeing them think out some ideas was cool. They drew things they knew. Fish, box, motorcar, table. I can’t wait to continue to help these kids unlock their imaginations. I also took up a pack of Uno cards and taught everyone to play. It was a blast! 🙂

Recently Ishmael from the orphanage was pretty sick with malaria but thanks to Nurse Letty and God’s healing, he’s better. Ty  came down with malaria a couple dys ago and was the sickest he’s ever been. He’s doing much better today though. We realize malaria is as bad as everyone says.

we have also had our guards find a couple snakes around our yard. One is an African beauty snake. It’s harmless but mimics the pattern of a type of cobra. The other was a green mamba which is deathly poisonous. We’ve made sure to educate our boys about these snakes and to be so careful. I also included a picture of the squid we found washed up on the shore during our monthly beach trip. Lots of crazy up in here.

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Theres a team from our hometown area coming for a mission trip next week. We are excited to see them and share what God is doing here in Sierra Leone. Please pray for their safety and for Gods blessings.

Thank you all for your prayers and support for our family and the work God is doing here. Please continue to pray for our kids in the orphanage, for the radio programs outreach, for the ministries we are hoping to begin in the ways of fellowship and teaching, and for our continued health. We praise God for you all!

Heres your sign

We have been doing really well! We love to keep you all in the loop with us and wanted to check in, so to speak 🙂 The boys are doing amazing with their schooling. We took tests yesterday- we do every Friday. They got As on everything. I am super proud of them. Sullivan has loved to learn lately. Its a blessing because for the longest time he would fight me so much. Today, he knows all his letters and can write over 12 of them! He is daily impressing us. Finn has taken a liking to climbing the mango tree in our yard. He recently hung a hammock at the bottom with some help from Ty.  For when he’s on the ground ;). Connor has been drawing a lot. He has also been reading through his bible all by himself. He has the action bible that he really likes to read with the comic book style. He’s just gotten in the new testament. I often peak in after they’ve gone to bed and found him and his brothers still reading with their bedside lights. Its a blessing all of our boys are so interested in books.

 

There was a conference at church recently when Pastor Dwight Haymon from the Lifegate church in Georgia came to Brigitte Village, along with their church music minister Alex. It was awesome to see the church so full with people and praise! I took some pics before it began with the kids but once it was full of people I forgot to take any of the congregation. There were people standing outside even! Dwight brought the message that we can all be connected with The Holy Spirit through constant prayer and thought. It was wonderful to see how people received the message. Please continue to pray as it sparked a spirit of revival and prayer for the whole community!

 

Ty has been working on the signs for the orphanage and the church to place along side the road. This will help people locate them better. It started with some sheets of metal and metal poles. Ty welded them and painted them. It was a labor but they look really good (if Im allowed to brag on his handy work). Now my catchy title makes sense, right? Please Don’t unsubscribe. Cheese is over. Now Ty is working on a table and chairs for the kids. He prefers to work with wood and he’s excited for this new project!

The kids in the orphanage are doing well, Praise God! They have been working hard at school now that they’re back to the swing of things after Christmas break. I was sad a little that they’re back because on Wednesdays I don’t get to see them as much. They often have to stay back extra time for tutoring and such. Baby Junior, Musa and Jeriatu’s baby, is growing like a weed! He was born the week we came so we joke that he will be our measuring stick for how long we’ve lived in Africa. He has a fabulous smile already! All the kids have grown to love him as a brother, just as they do with one another. They are such a wonderful, happy family. Being with those kids is my favorite thing about life here.

 

The boys and Foday have had fun with a pvc and wood bow with sticks for arrows. Ty and Foday built it for fun, and Foday and the boys “hunt” lizards and chickens in the compound. Nothing is ever harmed, because its a stick and all 4 of them couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, and its absolutely hilarious to watch.

 

I recently went to the preschool to visit the kids. They are such a precious bunch. Since life gate will soon have 3 schools it is overseeing I have really wanted to teach art to the kids a couple times a month. I would work with them on a project that is bible based. Please pray for this idea to come to fruition as it would be such a cool experience!

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In other news from around the world, we have a new nephew! My sister Emily had him on January 25th. His name is Barrett Douglas and he’s a doll. I can’t hold him and that is hard but I did get to video call him. We had an intense conversation about politics and such. He was enamored clearly. We actually praise God for little Bear and the blessing he is to our family.

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In a major praise we posted last week that we needed another $500 each month. We were contacted by a few of you amazing readers and we were blessed with $250 of that need in monthly contributions! Thank you all for your prayers and your help!

We pray God blesses you. We so appreciate your love and prayers for our family. Thanks for your support and for reading!

 

 

 

Something to pray about

I love this life. It’s not easy but it’s so worth while. We get to minister and love on people in neighboring villages, in our community, and in our own yard even. We know God has called us specifically and purposefully to be here in Sierra Leone. We have been amazed at how He constantly meets us in our needs through answered prayers.

Now we need help. I hate this part of the journey but it’s something God is working on me about. The asking. We ask and He moves. We do not have enough monthly support. We came here in faith that God would send us more supporters, knowing we lacked the day we left.

Today we have a small community of givers who sacrifice for us to be here. They pour into us in gifts and prayers. We want to be transparent. Their monthly gifts combined total $1,500.

Our monthly expenses come in at $2,200. God has always provided just enough to help us make it through. We really need more givers, though. No amount is too small. It all is used wisely. We have rent to pay, food to buy, and cab fare to come up with. We pay for internet each month and medications to keep us from getting malaria. We also have to pay our guards each month, which may seem like an unnecessary expense, but without them we are at a risk of being robbed. Admittedly, we have not been praying rent thus far in order to be able to meet our other expenses, but it will be due come June.

I hate this stuff and I imagine you hate reading it. But I ask you to please consider becoming a donor. If you can give any amount it will be used wisely I assure you. Nothing is too small. God can use many hands to meet the need. If you simply can’t give then pray for us, please. We believe God will answer those prayers and send us donors. He provides every time.

If you currently give, we want to make sure you know that it matters. Each gift is thanked for specifically and sincerely. Each time you remember us and give so selflessly we are blessed by you and we know we simply could not be here without you. Your sacrifice is doing things for God, I assure you. Thank you, thank you!

Thank you all for your time to hear this need and pray about helping. May God bless you!

Relationships

Lately our pace has gotten into a groove that is more fitted to the lifestyle here. This country and the people who call it home care much more about relationships. The pace is slow. Life happens. When your life is a daily struggle, you tend to focus more on the people you do life with. The American definition of success doesn’t exist here. We have learned just how much of a gift each day is. We spend time with The Lord and we focus on what God has given us each day. More so, who God has given us. We have been blessed with relationships and we are nurturing those. That’s why we are here. You’ve likely heard the phrase “I don’t want a religion, I want a relationship”. We have very little impact in sharing the Gospel if we don’t practice what we preach. We have been really trying to cultivate these wonderful relationships we are given into friendships that lead to testimonies.

We have spent a lot of time with our guard, Foday. He’s in our daily life. He’s also a Muslim. Devout in fact. And he’s also the sweetest guy. Yesterday I caught him washing Sullis dirty feet with care after Sulli jumped in some muddy water. This guy is a sweetheart. Ty recently gave Foday a bible. He’s promised to read it. We feed Foday every day and do other things for him that I won’t say because it’s not about that. My hope is that these daily interactions will turn into a relationship between him and Christ. Please pray with us.

Another relationship we have been blessed with is the one we have with our driver, Allucine. He has gone into church with us the last two weeks and said it blessed him so much. He’s very kind and we have loved getting to know him. We know he has had some struggles and hardships and we pray that he will continue his walk with God.

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My favorite relationship is the one we have with 10 boys and girls. The lifegate orphanage kids. We see them throughout the the week and get to share life with them. I’ve started doing art projects with them. This week they made masks. It’s so much fun to see their personalities come out. These are the sweetest, most loving, most amazing kids. They started another semester of school and I ask that you pray for them. Please also pray for the older girls, as Paula and I are going to start a bible study focused on traits of a Godly woman with them. I am so excited to continue cultivating the relationship we have with these girls. In other news with the kids, Ty brought binoculars up on Saturday. They had never been able to see anything like that before. The shrieks and giggles were amazing! It’s such a joy to experience new things through their eyes.

we have also loved the relationship we share with the members of our church here in Salone. lifegate church in Briggitte village has given us a chance to worship and be encouraged with other believers. With Rick’s successful work to share bible stories on the radio, people all over Salone are hearing about Jesus. Please pray for God to grow this church as He sees fit!

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Our relationship as a family continues to grow as well. We have time every morning to pray and study the bible together. We have more time to be together. We get to serve The Lord as a family.

Thank you for your support and prayers. It’s not an easy life but we often say “we can’t believe its ours” because it’s such an amazing one. We couldn’t do this without you all.

A New Year

We are so grateful to all of you who have read our blog. Its been viewed over 5 thousand times in 2015. That means you are all on this journey with us. That is such a wonderful blessing. We couldn’t be here without people like you who care about missions enough to invest in us in prayer and giving. So, thank you!

Christmas was a little hard here. We have been told holidays are hard as a missionary, and we see why. Being away from loved ones and all that is familiar is a daily sacrifice we make. When times come and go where we would normally have traditions and memories to make, we feel a little isolated. However, it is not without its rewards. Both seen and unseen. We know God promises us to redeem every moment that we struggle and hurt when we put our Hope in Him. So, we made some new traditions this holiday, and spent our first Christmas Day at home. We had not done that ever in our 10 years of marriage.

We started our celebrations early in the week by having a lunch with the other Millers, Rick and Paula and their daughters Grace and Faith. We took communion with one another and talked a bit about hopes and dreams for the ministry. We are so thankful to have friends who feel like family to do life with. Its such a gift from God that they have gone before us to do all the work they have, and have allowed us to come along side them to partner in what God is using them for. This month they will have bible stories being told on the radio in a couple different languages people here speak. This is a huge way to reach masses of people as radios are constantly playing- silence is a rare thing in this country we have found. It is loud all day and most of the night. The radio stories will allow people to hear about Jesus for the first time in some cases. There will also be a weekly call in time for people to ask questions about the things they have heard. This has been a dream and labor of love for Rick and we are so thrilled to see how God has moved in this. Some other big plans for Lifegate include work on the church and orphanage- in ways of plumbing and structure. Ty has been so excited about working on a few of these projects.

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Another exciting thing recently accomplished was our getting approved for our business visas that allow us to live in Sierra Leone and work for Lifegate. We went and got photos taken at a shop outside Waterloo. We were so excited that while we waited they had cold Cokes and Sprites in a cooler! This is a rare find and a special treat. The owner also painted a mickey mouse on the sign out front which is funny because most people don’t know who Mickey is. Sullivan was elated to see this though!

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To celebrate Christmas with the kids at the Lifegate Childrens Home, The Millers and us had a party with the kids. Paula made cakes and we sang happy birthday to Jesus. We brought a cotton candy machine that was donated to us a couple years back and that is a gift that keeps giving. Those kids (and the adults who work in the children home) all went crazy for the cotton candy. Effie (Fatmata is her given name but her nickname is pronounced Eff-ay) was given the first treat being the youngest girl. She was so scared of it! We couldn’t get her to try it but with a few minutes of watching everyone try and love theirs, and some help from Grace, she came around. And Smiled from ear to ear about the cotton candy. I made the kids some decorated sugar cookies as a treat, too. They had so much sugar they were buzzing around like crazy! We felt like grandparents giving our kids all this sugar and then leaving later, haha. We also went to the church to rehearse the Christmas program the Miller girls had helped them practice. They did a fantastic job and it was too precious for words. As always, we had the best time playing with the kids, and leaving at the end was rough. The kids are our family and we love them so much. Thank you for helping us be here to be in their lives. Its such a blessing to us.

On Christmas Eve we went to Tokeh beach. Its about an hour drive to this particular beach but its the nicest, cleanest beach in our opinion. Its a slice of paradise. There’s a restaurant there so we can eat a meal I don’t have to cook-which is a huge luxury. There aren’t drive thrus here. You eat at home or grab a chicken foot from a vendor off the street, which could make us very sick from the way its prepared. In Freetown there are a few restaurants where you can eat a meal thats safe, but its a 2.5 hour drive and something you don’t do often. We met the Millers at the beach and played in the water and searched for sea shells all day. It was a wonderfully relaxing day.

Christmas Day we stayed home and watched movies and opened gifts we brought over in November. Our parents made sure they sent us with Christmas gifts for the boys, knowing a barrel would take at least 2 months  before arriving to us. I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast and we watched Home Alone. The boys played with their new toys and we talked to our family through Facebook video calling. I am so thankful for technology that allows us to stay in touch with our family and friends.

Lately, Ty has been working on metal signs for the Lifegate Childrens Home and the Lifegate Church. Ill post pictures of the finished products as soon as they are complete! He’s also going to start tiling the front of the church in the next week or so. We are praying specifically for the church to grow in size in 2016. We know God has big plans for this church and the community it serves.

We have also had some pest control issues. Its not unusual for us to see a lizard but we find them in our house at least three times a week. We also had a snake in the pantry/laundry room a while back. I ran out screaming. The newest pests have been rats. Giant rats! Several mice have also come in. Ty has been on a hunt trying to rid our house of these. Sticky traps, poison, and so forth ( if you are concerned about the humanity of the rats, I assure you they have caused terror in our house and this is for the best. If you are still sad then come trap them, by all means :)) After many days and sleepless nights we finally have caught 8 mice and 3 rats. I am serious, please pray over our house. I don’t handle critters well and this country has a lot of them. On the plus, at least the mice outnumber the snakes inside. I can’t do snakes.

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(in this picture Ty is waiting to smash the rat with a board. Huzzah, Africa)

We have been blessed with a great day guard. His name is Foday Conteh. He has really bonded with us all, but he loves when Ty is working on projects in the yard so that he can help and learn. He’s 27 and studying to be an accountant. He has recently told us he is Muslim. He is the kindest guy, and we love having him. We are always taking advantage of opportunities to minister to him and we pray that he will be a lifelong friend.

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Ty cleaning the solar panels and Foday 🙂

 

Our night guards have been less than great, as we often find them asleep and it has been a bit of a headache. We have had to replace one already and we hope that we find a good fit for us soon. This is just one of the tough parts of the reality of living here though. You need guards as robberies are a concern at times. However, we know we have a big God protecting us all. One day in particular we were having some concerns. Our night guards had been found asleep and we had heard a few stories of bad things happening to missionaries. Discouragement is a tool satan uses often and this day was one where things just felt heavy. Ty and I decided to do a devotional this morning to help us get the yucky stuff out and it was about a missionary in Africa who had to travel along a dangerous road for supplies. He found a  man who had gotten hurt and helped him by treating his wounds and getting him medicine. He left him in a large city and then returned to his village. The next week he returned and the man he helped came to him crying. He admitted he and some friends were going to ambush him to rob him and take his money and supplies but they saw that he had 27 armed guards surrounding him. The missionary  insisted he was alone but the man he helped argued otherwise. Months later the missionary traveled home and shared the occurrence with the wounded man at his church. One of the attendees of the church asked about the day he spoke of and was in total shock when he heard the date. The congregation member shared that on that same day, he woke up early and felt overwhelmed that he needed to pray for the missionary. He felt so strongly that he asked more men to come pray with him. After asking those men to stand, it was discovered that 27 men had gathered to pray that day. GO GOD!!  This story spoke directly to Ty and I. We share it with you all to encourage you to always pray for us please. Your prayers are heard and they matter so much! They are what encourages us on the hard days and helps keep us safe.

On that note, I want to thank you for your prayers and support. We ask that you pray for us to do what God wills and keep our focus on Him constantly. Please pray for the ministry to reach many people. Please pray for our continued safety and health. Please pray for God to send the donors we are currently lacking so we can have our monthly needs met. We are about $300 short at this time. Which is small in Gods kingdom! Also please pray for God to reveal His plans for us here in Sierra Leone for this new year. We look forward to this new year with excitement and hope to be useful tools for God’s plans.We love you all. May God bless you in this new year with His goodness.

Starting to feel like home

So we have been home in Sierra Leone, Africa for 21 days now. I don’t know how far into life in a foreign country you really are home, or if you ever do. Ty and I were talking in bed, wondering out loud if we will ever feel truly like were home anywhere again. We realize that this country has, for some better and some worse, ruined us. We will never define “need” like we once did. Ignorance can be bliss. But we will also, I pray, appreciate things more than we ever once did.

With that said, we are settling into life well. We have found a routine of sorts in this place that is so maddeningly and amazingly different than anywhere you could ever go in America. The boys finished their first official week of homeschool in Africa. They did great. All of them. Even our youngest who struggles with learning as he has autism and a very small attention span. Sullivan has learned 10 of his letters completely and he knows most of his shapes and all his colors. The big boys are getting history and science this year. They have a lot of work each morning but they appreciate the routine too.

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We have also started to do more work around the compound (our yard). We have tons of fruit trees and a couple vegetable plants growing here and cant wait until they produce some edible crops! The yard was super overgrown and unwalkable, but little by little Ty has been making it a nice place for the boys to play!

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Outside of our house, we have been blessed with time at the Lifegate Childrens Home. Rick and Paula Miller have poured into those kids in big ways and it shows. Seeing them a couple times a week is our favorite thing to do. Ty has taught them how to play American football and baseball, I have painted with them, and the boys have made wonderful friendships with all the kids. They are a family with each another and their caregivers, and we feel blessed to be let into this family the way we have. To say we love them is an understatement.

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We also have been blessed with a cab driver named Allusine. He comes whenever we call and has been very kind and helpful with all our needs. We get to share Jesus’s love with him and while he is Muslim, we know God will grow that relationship and we pray to continue to minister to him in various ways. His family was coming to see him today (its not uncommon for husbands and wives to live separately in this country) and after he returned us home from church, he brought his wife and kids to meet us. We considered this to be a huge honor and he was telling us thank you for the way we help him to provide for his family. We are able to help him because some of you support us and we need you know the impact you’re allowing us to have! Sincerely, thank you!

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Today after church, there was a naming ceremony for Musa and Jeriatu’s baby boy. They are the caretakers of the Lifegate orphanage, and they recently had a baby. Babies here don’t always make it past the first couple weeks of life so people are hesitant to share the name they decide upon. This little guy is doing amazing though, and we pray many blessings into his life. His name is Jonathan Turray Junior. Named after Pastor Jonathan, one of the lifegate pastors here in Salone.

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I am still working on learning Krio and I know with practice I will improve. Ive been blessed to learn from a lady down at the market named Hawa, and from the ladies in the church and orphanage. They are patient with me as I learn. Paula and her daughter Grace have also been helping me hone this skill. Their family is amazing to ours. Im including a picture of the market outside our compound:

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Ty will be helping Rick with some upcoming projects for the ministry. One is putting a sign up on the road down from the orphanage and another is getting toilets placed at the church in Brigitte. Hes excited about getting some things done and being able to help Rick in all the tasks he has to do.

We have started to try to make Christmas happen in our house. Its hard here, being away from family and having it be 90 degrees. We have been blessed to make some friends in the ladies that meet every Thursday here. They are all missionaries here for different villages and callings, but meeting and sharing has been great for the boys and I. They will all be coming this week to make Christmas cookies.

To let you know how rough the wild life is here, every day I scream about seeing giant spiders and having lizards in the house. That’s just not my cup of tea, people. One bug, called a champion bug, crawled acrossed Connor and the secretions left burns on his chest and face. Now that he is all healed up, I am sharing the damage that it left. I am sharing the Before. Hes totally fine now, thank God! The boys now all sleep with mosquito nets on (though that name is deceiving as they’re “Dont touch us while we sleep ANYTHING” nets.)

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We ask for prayers as we prepare for another week of life here. Please pray for us to continue to stay as healthy as we have. We have avoided malaria and stomach issues thus far, by Gods grace. We also ask for prayers as we learn the language and try to make relationships with those around us. Those relationships will allow us a chance to share the love of Christ and His redeeming goodness with all we meet. We also pray for more supporters to meet our monthly needs here. We do not yet have enough coming in to pay for our rent but we trust that if we share the need, God will bring the helpers. We love you all and are so thankful for you reading! May God bless you all.

 

 

First week in Salone

 

Well, one week ago today we arrived in Sierra Leone, Africa. It’s been a whirl wind thus far. We have experienced every emotion possible I think. The trip here was blessed. God met us in every situation to help us arrive safely after the threat of terrorism in Belgium. Also, our boys were amazing fliers. They were patient and quiet and just SO good! We were super happy with the whole trip. When the plane landed at Lungi Airport we were so excited! It was such a surreal feeling to be back, but with our boys this time.

When we finally got through the airport chaos, we met Rick Miller (he and his family have started Lifegate in Africa and they’re our missionary teammates) as well as our good friend Pastor Edwin Moses from Liberia. They got us home safely. We arrived at 10pm and went to bed fairly soon after that. The next morning, on Monday, we hit the ground running. We had (and still do) so much work to get done on the house. Moses came over that morning and helped Ty get some plumbing done.IMG_4077

The boys having breakfast with their “uncle” Moses.

From days Monday through Wednesday we spent all day trying to unpack and get settled. I went down to the market outside our gate with Paula (Ricks wife) to buy bread and eggs and such for the day on occasion. Otherwise, we were all here, sweating, working, and more of the like. We all cycled through some big emotions too. Missing home and friends, being overwhelmed by the changes, experiencing culture shock of major proportions, and so on. We would cry sometimes, and feel sad sometimes, and we know that is part of living in a country that’s not your home. However, we are all adjusting really well. We feel more like were home every day and we’re getting to know some people around us. Wednesday we were able to get internet and the ability to talk to loved ones and feel connected is worth gold here. we are so thankful to God for the blessings of technology.

Here are pictures from around the house and yard. We tried to teach Pastor Moses how to play a playstation. It ended with him playing monopoly instead. 🙂

Thursday was Thanksgiving in America. This is not a holiday celebrated in Salone but there are other missionary families scattered around various villages here. One of the families came up with the idea to go to the ocean and play at the beach for the day. We saw it as a perfect opportunity to get away from the clutter of the house and take our boys to the ocean for the very first time. It was the perfect. Having Rick and Paula and their daughters here to help us and love on us has been super amazing too. We are growing into one big family ourselves

At the beach the boys got fries (they were super excited for this) and Sullivan, our son with autism, picked up a stick and wrote his name in the sand. Thank you Jesus!

Friday it was back to work on the house. We put together pieces of furniture and organized things. Its not done (will it ever be?! lol) but its really coming together. We are very thankful. We had a scare Friday as the solar malfunctioned and we were without power. We didn’t know what was wrong. Ty and I prayed diligently and then the Lord showed him how to fix it- a switch got shut off! Only God! So were back to having electricity again. We are always seeing God meet us. We Praise HIM!

Saturday we went to the Lifegate Childrens Home in Brigitte Village, which is the orphanage Lifegate runs. We fell so crazy in love with the kids. They’re wonderful. We loved spending time with them and playing. We played some games, including Duck Duck Goose. So fun! The caretakers over the orphanage, Musa and Jeriatu, just had a baby boy. Please praise God for his health and pray for protection to continue. Also the Lifegate kids are healthy and we thank God for this blessing. They have a dog who just had puppies and the boys wanted one. I said no (mean momma here). These puppies are shockingly healthy though. The dogs in this country are very sick and near death. You don’t want to even think of touching them. The kids in the home take such good care of everything they’re given so naturally these dogs were doing well! The kids were happy and smiling and it made us so delighted to spend time with them. We are continuing to seek God on exactly how we are to be involved with these kids so please pray with us in that.

 

Pictured here are our boys walking up the hill to the orphanage with Rick and Paula’s girls, and our boys playing with some of the kids. They are really a wonderful bunch of kids. They still need supporters though. Today in church they announced on Saturday the kids would be fasting all day and praying at the church for 8 hours in petition of God sending them sponsors. If you feel led to help please contact Chance Newingham at Lifegateinafrica.org. or via Facebook. A small amount each month can meet their needs. Believe me, these kids are so grateful for everything!

Today, Sunday, we went back to Brigitte Village for church. It was a beautiful service with testimony and worship. They speak in Krio and we are still learning but it was wonderful to be so warmly welcomed. The orphanage kids attend there and they prepared a welcome song to Papa Tyler and our family. We really love this group of kids so much.

The pics here are of church and the boys in front of our house before leaving to go to church.

This evening, we will be resting as a family before a new week. We ask for your prayers on a few matters. Please pray for health over all the boys. Connor is struggling with a weird rash and they all have coughs still. We also met a taxi driver this week who is very kind and we feel like God put him in our path. Please pray for opportunities to minister to him because from what we can tell he doesn’t know Jesus. We ask for prayers as we adjust to this new place and people, and for God to use us in his plan. We also came here lacking about $500 per month in support. We know God will provide so we ask you to pray for people to be moved to help as God allows. You can begin support by clicking the donate tab at the top of our website and following the prompts. Lastly please pray for Rick and Paula and all the work they are doing here. We are here to aid them and we know God has big plans.

First 24 hours in

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I wanted to write often to let you all know what moving to another part of the world honestly looks like. Just real truths. We started off by telling everyone we love goodbye. It was the worst. Our parents and friends all gathered together to wish us well and see us go. It was painful but so good to have that chance to live on them. We feel very loved! my parents were there too but they are slower to share pictures with me and I have none to post here just yet. I didn’t sleep the night before we left. A mix of anticipation and sadness. Doing what is Gods will doesn’t mean it’s easy. The first flight to Chicago went great. The boys flew fabulously. They got their final McDonald’s meal and played with the people movers while we waited. After that we headed on to Belgium. It has been a culture shock to the boys. We are spending two days here and will leave Sunday morning. We are exhausted and just needed some real sleep in a bed so I’m glad we pre planned this stay here. The boys are all doing so well. We’ve had emotional moments but we all know that we’re together and that God has us. Pray for us as some of us are fighting head colds. we’re ready to be home in Africa. It’s a lot of changes but it will be good to be where we know people again and where we’ve felt Gods calling. tomorrow when we’ve all had sleep and feel more like ourselves we plan to sight see some and swim in the hotel pool. Thanks for your love and prayers. They are felt and heard!

*Please excuse the odd pictures. I’m having to use my phone and its wonky.

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