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Friday, May 6, 2016

…but grace

Four years ago.  Four years ago we sold our home, gave away a car and a set of couches, sent many of our worldly possessions off to safe places with friends and family and boxed others up into storage.  We were thinking through goodbyes, upcoming transitions, moving our little ones to Kenya, flights, packing, more goodbyes, financial considerations, prayer letters, blog entries etc.  So many things to think through.  We were talking about ‘lasts’ and leaving well.  In short, we were counting the cost of this call He had placed on us. 

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During that final month in the states, our honest prayers were filled with painful, angry, doubtful, yelling. The sacrifice seemed too much and we were overcome by the laying down of things that were precious to us.

We moved to Kenya not knowing WHEN or IF we would make friends here, not knowing WHEN or IF our family would come to visit.  We moved to Kenya not knowing HOW many of the details of daily life would play out.  We had counted the cost, but what we didn’t count on was His grace. 

Christ calls us to do hard things in this life, yes, but He also offers us grace; unmerited blessing to undeserving sinners.  During those months of transition back in 2012, we forgot about His grace!  After all, Ephesians 3:20 describes God as “him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us.”

And did He ever surprise us with his grace!  Four years later, we are still surprised by the outpouring of God’s grace on us daily. 

  • He has given us a growing love for this school and this community, for our students and our co-workers, for our work here. 
  • He has lavished on us deep, lasting friendships here on this side of the world. 
  • He has enabled us to maintain solid, pick-up-where-we-left-off relationships with dear family and friends we rarely see at home.
  • He has provided time and time again caring, Godly teachers for our boys in this school, wise counsel for them and for us when we struggle, and a body of believers to live and serve alongside. 

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And then, during this second term of service, He began showing off his grace to us in the bridging of our two worlds.  And unmerited blessing He continues to pour out!  First, we hosted Kelly, Sabrina and Henry Knapp, having the privilege of introducing our beloved Beaver community to our Kenyan community in 2015. Then, Dan’s parents were able to serve at RVA for three months in 2015, bridging our Alden sending community to this one through their service. 

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And so it continued: It was pure, joy-filled fun to have Dale & Martha Schartner with us in early February and to soak up Martha’s gifted speaking ability at our women’s retreat!  Less than a week later, Dan’s sister Rachel, her husband Dale and their four kids landed on Kenyan soil to serve at a children’s home 4 miles from us.  We spent 6 weeks semi-together as they served, and 3 weeks doing life as a family of 11 in our home. 

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To top it off, dear friends Chris & Ellen Crefeld and their four kids flew in to celebrate the Resurrection with us!  What abundance!!  Even now, we’re thrilled to be planning and looking forward to my mom & Craig’s upcoming visit, their second time to Kenya! He IS able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine and He DOES. 

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And as this 2015-16 school year comes to a close soon, we find ourselves in transition as a family again.  Not nearly as big of a transition as ones we’ve made before, but one nonetheless. Nearly 60% of our staff will go on home assignment or be called away from their ministry at RVA this year.  Over half of our little community!

Some of that 60% are the very people God so generously placed in our lives for the past few years, and we find ourselves counting the cost yet again.  We count it for our kids as we watch their close friends move to different continents and we count it for ourselves in the very same way.  How quickly we forget the grace He extended in even providing those friends! We certainly didn’t expect or demand these relationships, and yet He provided them. A gift.

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I pray that as we enter another season of goodbyes, we would draw near to the One who called us by name, the One who lavishly pours out His grace and faithfully provides more than we can ask or imagine. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Just your typical field trip

6 nights, 7 days, 16 seniors, 3 adult leaders, 1 20-seater bus and 1 awesome bus-driver; put it all together and throw in bungee jumping, white-water rafting, rock climbing, repelling through a waterfall, cliff jumping, camel riding, milking, and eating; this all adds up to a pretty amazing experience, right?

Well, when these guys are assigned to hike with you for protection, you know you’re in for excitement.  Better to be safe than sorry should the scenario arise where we cross paths with a cape buffalo…or bull elephant…or leopard…or lion.  It’s important to arrive without incident so that you can jump off cliffs for the morning’s activity.

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In the course of one afternoon we chilled at a chimpanzee sanctuary and then posed for selfies within feet of the last living male of the Northern White Rhino species ON THE PLANET.  Later, we shoveled his dung.  That’s what you call scarce scat.

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If you were a camel at our Northern-most stop in Laikipia County, you were either on our dinner menu as a burger, on our breakfast menu as a sausage, milked by one of us just after sunrise, or our mode of transportation through the deserts of central Kenya.  50% of those options weren’t terrible (if you’re the camel).

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This was truly a “bucket list” trip.  One of our students had always wanted to be in two places at once.  She nailed it by standing in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere at the same time!

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You know it’s a good day when you have to wait for an elephant to cross the road before passing and you get to snap a photo of 4 sleeping rhinos.

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Then there was the visit to a tree-house restaurant; while waiting for our meal, we hung out with some of the locals (we didn’t see the sign until later…I promise)

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Most of the week, we were within sight of Mount Kenya – a pretty spectacular backdrop, and the actual mountain that another group of students from RVA were climbing while we gazed up at it.

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We petted and fed a blind rhino and learned about conservancy in a room full of artifacts and animal bones with signs that begged us to interact.

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We hiked, we camped, we drove and we slept.

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Each night devotions were led by a pair of students and we all shared what God was teaching us around the campfire. 

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We herded, counted and sprayed cattle for ticks.  We climbed and belayed. 

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We plummeted from varying heights, always wearing our safety equipment with a smile  :)

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A primary school welcomed us with open arms, showing off their newly acquired technology while we shared our dancing “skills”.  Another quick visit to a local village tested our ability to move rhythmically to music as well.

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It was the most exhausting yet rewarding excursion in memory.  We bonded, we sang, we got sick of each other, we shared, we cried, and we got dehydrated. 

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We drove six hours on a rocky desert road at an average speed of about 10 kilometers per hour without ONCE stopping to pee (perhaps the best demonstration of our state of dehydration).

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We were stretched WAY outside our comfort zones, we were challenged and encouraged, we stood in awe of our Creator as we marveled at His creation.  We learned a lot, ate well, drank too little, and slept better than expected.  We sang loudly, laughed often, and grew closer as friends.

Overall, I’d say our field trip* was a success**, eh?

 *This was just one of several trips that RVA’s junior and senior classes take each March, called Interims.  Our group traveled within Kenya while other destinations included Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, and many more.  One of the goals is for the students to experience a different part of Africa from the context that their parents work and serve in.  Another aim is to learn about a current issue affecting the lives of those we visit – our team focused on conservation and the unique struggles that arise between government agencies attempting to preserve “wild” Africa and land owners trying to earn a living.  It was fascinating to hear from both sides of the same issue.

**Success on a week-long adventure like this was only possible thanks to a gift provided by our family.  A quick shout-out to the Meyers clan, specifically my awesome sister, Rachel, for loving on our kids while we were away.  Check out their adventure in Kenya too.

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