Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Pair of Ducks

Our transition continues and all in all things are going pretty well. Adalynn started school at Sunset Elementary here in Craig with 20 other classmates and is doing really well. Her transition to school in a class where she would be the youngest student was probably our biggest concern after choosing to move back to Craig. She has settled into the rhythm of the class and has not had any problems keeping up in her school work. Cora and Jack weren’t able to get into school this late in the year but they are able to attend a preschool program one morning a week at church while Tracey has a women’s bible study and a great child-care situation for the days Tracey works. Cora went to a kindergarten welcome night and is excited to start at Sunset in the fall.  Jack can’t wait to start Preschool in the fall either at his sisters’ school or at my work, that also has a preschool.

I have started my job and am figuring out the world of school finance. We have a great superintendent that has been great to work with so far and all of my co-workers are helping with my transition. They have held onto certain aspects of my job that they took on when there was no finance director and are handing them back over to me as I am ready instead of just dumping them on me in my first weeks on the job.

Tracey just started working at the family practice clinic run by our local hospital. It is a real answer to prayer for her to be working in a place where she is known and wanted and where she can work part time and still be home when Adalynn gets home from school.

One of the most fun parts of our return has been watching our kids love skiing as much as we did. We had the last day of the season last week and for the first time the kids skied from the top of the mountain to the bottom. They get excited about going and it such a joy to do it as a family. I never knew I would have so much fun making laps on green runs, but those laps were more fun this year than the runs I was able to do when skiing the “big stuff.”

There are tough days for Tracey and me as with any transition away from the field. We call these days re-entry days and just try to support each other while we work through it. One minute we love being back here and what it affords and the next we long to be back serving on the ship or somewhere else. One minute we feel guilty about getting to move back into our house and think we should just stay in our little rental that has been such a blessing for us in this transition time. The next minute the house we own isn’t good enough and we desire to get into something bigger that might fit our family better. One minute we are having a good time making runs with our kids at a ski resort and the next questioning the purchase of a dresser from a thrift store. On one hand I am dealing with a 20 million dollar school district budget where there just isn’t enough money to go around and the next I am thinking of the schools that we  worked with in Africa that were supported for less than 10,000 a year. The list goes on and on. It is such a crazy thing to work through.

When we were at our debriefing course last month, our facilitators place two ducks on a table for us to see. One was shiny and new, basically out of the box. The other was drawn on and scratched up and well worn.

They told us this was our pair of ducks and would be facing us for the entirety of the week. They did this because the transition back is full of paradoxes (get it pair of ducks, paradox). Our facilitators who did 10+ years in the Philippines with their children wanted us to know that we would be dealing with these paradoxes for the foreseeable future. Our time with Mercy Ships was an amazing time that has forever changed who we are and how we see the world. What we learned and will continue to need to remember is that it is okay to live in this tension. None of the things we are wrestling with are wrong in and of themselves. We just have competing view points from our life experiences and the worlds that we know.

We met some wonderful people at our debriefing course and it was an amazing experience that involved lots of laughter and tears as we all worked through this process together. The kids bonded with other kids who where there and enjoyed the kid-friendly debriefing program. One family lives in Colorado Springs now after 15 years in Morocco and we hope to spend more time with them in the future. Another family with two teenage daughters, home on furlough before heading back to Zambia, was also part of the group and they brought great laughter to our group and we hope that we are able to visit them in Zambia at some point. There were also two ladies who were retiring after teaching and working in South America for a long time. So our group covered the gambit of different re-entry scenarios but we all commiserated in what we were experiencing and that was by far the best part of that week. There is camaraderie in shared experience that we so desperately needed after our return.

Our small group

Those ducks and that camaraderie were great for us as we settle into life in Craig. We know that there will be ups and downs, but we know that our Father loves us for who we are and not what we do. It’s okay for us not to do for a while we work through these tensions and adjustments. We will continue to live lives that, hopefully, honor our Father and just follow the path that is before us, a path with a pair of ducks to remind of us what we have been a part of and what is still to come.

Monday, February 20, 2017

No longer at Sea

So it has been two months since we left the ship. The amazing thing already is that almost feels like a lifetime ago. We did a lot of reading on transition and re-entry and I think we were prepared as we were going to be for this period. We are now in Craig, CO (where we lived before joining the ship) and I have accepted a job with the school district for our county.
Here are a few things that have happened in the two months since we left the ship.
- We have lived in three places (with a fourth coming soon).
- We have purchased two cars (one of which had to be returned because it was no good). We also had a car given to us.  I had no idea how much cars cost now or how difficult the process to buy one was going to be.
- We were given smart phones and then purchased another when one of those gifted phones died. Just three months ago I was still typing text messages by hitting a number two or three times and waiting to do the next. I about fell over when I saw someone speak a text message and turn on the TV using their phone. Not to mention learning that traffic is determined by keeping track of the locators on people’s phones.
- After eating on the floor for a few meals in Craig, we now own a table a bookshelf and are borrowing beds and a couch and trying to learn what the value is of other purchases to come.
- I paid for a haircut ☺
Costs are so much different than when we left and we feel kind of like we are just swimming especially when we think about where we just came from. My first culture shock after coming home may have been seeing a Big Mac meal for about $7. I was even caught off guard by the cost of light bulbs since I never had to change one on the ship (we weren’t allowed and had to call the electrician to do it). Everything feels so expensive that we just don’t know what to think about the value of anything anymore.
Another thing that has really caught us off guard is the pace of life. Life feels so fast back here in the US after our four plus years on the ship. Driving places to visit friends and church, going to stores and buying things, cooking and other things all take up so much time. Just a few months ago just about anything we did was done within steps of our home. Schedules here are packed (including ours) and it was difficult to work out when to see people and do things. At times it made our head spin.
In learning about the pace of life, we have also experienced maybe the hardest part of transitioning back to our home culture. That being that life has carried on here for five years while we were gone and we are just trying to catch up to everyone. People have their lives here and just like our friends can’t possibly have the context for what our lives have been like for the last five years from facebook and blog posts, neither can we understand what their lives are now like. When we would visit the US while serving with Mercy Ships, people would want to know about all that we were a part of and would ask a lot of questions. That continued when we first arrived but we were also asking them questions trying to understand what life is now like in this place that we call home but don’t really completely understand anymore. Now the questions about our time with Mercy Ships come much less often and we are still trying to catch up with everyone else and learn what it is like here.
Since we have returned we don’t have much feel for what is happening on the ship or in Benin. We don’t have friends just down the hall to go play a game, invite over for a chat or send our kids to go play with. We have chosen a town to live in, Tracey and I will start new jobs soon, Adalynn will start school soon and there is a new person who will take care of Cora and Jack, who are not in school. It is all happening so fast, that it feels like the last five years are quickly becoming just a memory. I told a friend the other day it is a similar feeling to when I got married. The times I had while single were great but after marriage and kids those times quickly faded and life turned to our new status. It feels like that now, except I was happy to leave singleness behind. Now though we don’t really want to let go of what we were a part of.
We are secure in that we know it was the right time to leave. In all of this transition, we really have had some amazing family time getting to ski and go to parks and the library and playing games with the kids. We have really come together as a family. The kids’ transition has been nothing short of amazing. Our move to Craig and the jobs here really fell in our lap and are confirmation of where the Lord was leading us as we left the ship (more on that later). We are happy to be in Craig in our home church and have been amazingly supported as we moved back to the community. But in all that, we still mourn what we have left behind and we ache for the life we were leading just two short months ago.
Before I start my new job, we will be going to a re-entry debriefing course for a week in Colorado Springs (27 Feb thru 3 March). Mercy Ships paid a significant portion of the cost of that course and while we weren’t sure if we really needed it when it was booked, we are most grateful to have this opportunity now that we have experienced what we are experiencing. Please pray for us and we sort through these feelings over that week and transition back to “normal life” here in the States.
Thank you again for being a part of our journey and we will put out some more updates as we settle back into life here in the US.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Academy

As time continues to fly by and we are counting down to just 7 weeks left on board this floating hospital, we have had many moments lately of reflecting on things we will miss.  There are so many blessings in this place. We feel confident of God's leading of our family off this ship but we also know that it will be a difficult goodbye.

One of the blessings we will miss the very most is the Academy. This school has been such an amazing gift to our family and, especially, the kids. They have received such a rich education that is unlike any other.  This year all 3 kids have classmates and teachers from around the world. There are some things that you just can't learn from books. Interacting with the world right in your classroom is a gift we will not soon forget.

I realize this post was possibly better placed at the beginning of the school year but I never got around to it.  So here's a brief glimpse into each of their classes and who they will have to say goodbye to:

Adalynn is in Grade 1 this year. Her teacher Miss Shea is from Texas. She has 2 classmates, Emma from Georgia and Benjamin from Brazil. The three of them get along so well and really enjoy each other. Miss Shea says that in their free time they write encouraging notes to one another.

Adalynn's class on Jabulani day ("spirit day")-theme: Benin
Pictured with Immanuel one of our Biomed technicians that is from Benin but has been on board as crew for many years.

On their field trip to the rehab tent

Grade 1 class pics :)

Cora is in Preschool 2. Her teacher is Miss Jenelle from Washington State. Her classmates are Lukas from Netherlands and Abigail from Brazil. Cora really loves being the oldest in her class and is excited to be starting to learn to read words.

Jabulani day. Lukas didn't want to go up and Abi was a bit shy.

Wet Wednesday with the Nursery class!

Preschool 1 and 2 class pic.

Jack is in the Nursery. His teacher is Mrs. Tatyana from Brazil. His classmates are James from England and Elle from South Africa. James is just 1 month older than Jack and Elle is 19 months old. They are the best of buddies (most of the time :) ). The mommies of these two little ones are dear friends and we spend lots of time together. They will be missed so much.

Jack's class made flags from each of the represented countries.

With Mrs. Taty playing outside.

Jabulani day.

Nursery class pic (plus Joseph who is not yet old enough)

Monday, October 24, 2016


We had the great opportunity to visit an orphanage this weekend. The missionaries living life with these sweet children are an inspiration to us. They live with very little and make a huge difference in the lives of these children. One of their "children" is 23 and will graduate this year and leave the compound. He has been there since he was a small child. What an amazing story for him to be able to now enter the workforce with a good education and a knowledge of Jesus. Hard stories with happy endings!! What a picture of why Jesus came, to make broken things new again!

It was also such a blessing to see much of Benin we hadn't yet seen as we drove 2 hours into the northern part of the country.  Experiences like these will be missed!

On the drive-The colors and prints of fabric on the people here are so beautiful

Jack with a few of the kids

Preparing to sing for us


The kids with our group and the missionaries that work with the kids. Taken after a great game of kickball in the hot African sun. That's why we are all glowing :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Settling in

We are finally feeling settled in Benin back as a family of 5 (after Cora and my little journey to London).  Here's what our month has looked like:

Lunch and swimming at a local couple's house, Laurent and Ines.  He is French and she is Croatian.  He is the director of the bank that John has been working with. They have lived here in Benin for 3 years. John met them when they came on board for our partner's reception (a fancy party/tour Mercy Ships gives to the companies that help us while we are here).  They are lovely and have invited us over to their oasis whenever we want!! They have an amazing ministry to Catholic missionaries that pass through. They open up their home to many people and are able to bless many with their hospitality.

In addition to the pool, they had fun food and games for the kids and they can't wait to go back. They also sent us away with ice cream :). 

Adalynn got to be a casting guinea pig. The rehab team needed to do some teaching for the day crew on how to cast so the grade 1 class got to spend the afternoon getting casts and trying to walk like the patients.  She had so much fun!! I worry that she is going to set out trying to break her leg now so she can have a cast for real :)

Adalynn's classmates Benjamin and Emma

Trying to trick Grammie that she really broke her leg.

We took a trip to the local market to find fabric.  We are back in West Africa, the land of wild fabric!! It's so fun to look through the thousands (literally) different patterns. The kids did a great job in the heat and overwhelming market and we found some really great prints.  One of our day crew is a tailor and he took our measurements and is going to make us dresses/shirts!  I'm a bit curious how it will turn out.  Pictures to come of the outfits!

My friend Heather and I walking through the market. I didn't bring a camera so no pics of the kids but this gives you a small taste of what the streets are like.

When we got back to our car we had been boxed in.  John is trying to move the tire on the roof as it was keeping us from making the 20 point turn we needed to get out. Thankfully the owner of the vehicle finally showed up.

We were invited to attend a local church this last Sunday.  Our experiences in local West African churches in Guinea and Congo were not very kid-friendly so we had just assumed that we would not be attending local churches here. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the experience and the kids did great! The pastor has worked closely with Mercy ships and the church is wonderful. The pastor has 2 daughters and a son similar to our kids ages so it was good for our kids to play with them. We are looking forward to going back. I just wish I had a video of the conga-line worship session. Worship is definitely not boring.

Tonight was the first night we were able to get down to the hospital as a family in Benin. It was so fun to see the kids jump right back into it all.  Jack played connect 4 with a gentleman, Cora painted nails and Adalynn played Jenga.  We are excited to get back into the routine of visiting the patients. Adalynn is excited to come up with crafts to do with them in the afternoons after school.

We are really trying our best to make the very most out of these last few months. I am excited to experience more of Benin and connect more with the culture and the patients!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Bonjour Benin!

We are in Benin!! This is so exciting.  Do you remember back in 2014 when we were supposed to come here and we had to be re-routed to Madagascar due to Ebola in nearby Nigeria? Well, it was a wonderful 2 years of re-routing but we are glad to be back in West Africa. We had a fabulous low-key summer in Durban and now we are ready to start a new field service in Benin.

Adalynn and her friend Emma waving the Benin flag as we pull into our dock.

However, as many of you know, it was not an easy last few weeks.  During our sail from Cape Town, South Africa to Benin Cora got very sick.  She was diagnosed while we sailed with a condition called Henoch-Schonlein Purpura.  No one really knows why kids get it but it is thought to be a reaction to an infection with the common cold.  It is a vasculitis-meaning it causes severe inflammation of blood vessels.  Her symptoms included severe pain in her legs that then spread to pain in pretty much every joint. She also had a terrible rash all over her legs and arms.  Most kids recover completely after a few months but in rare cases kids can go on to develop serious kidney issues.  Because of this and because we didn't have the proper labs on the sail to confirm our diagnosis we (Cora and Tracey) were medically evacuated to London to receive treatment less than 24 hours after the ship arrived.  Cora was in the hospital for 3 days and then treated as an outpatient after that. We ended up being in London for 2 weeks.

A happy moment on the sail before Cora got sick.

It was a really hard couple weeks leading up to London and a tough time of separation for our family while we were in London.  It was so difficult to see Cora looking so terrible, especially while we were sailing.  It was not how we wanted to start this field service.

However, despite all those hard things I have to say that some really beautiful things came out of this terrible time.  First and foremost is the fact that Cora is doing great! She is running and laughing and playing and it is beautiful to see! We are so thankful for the prayers of so many and for God's gracious healing of her body. We are not out of the woods yet, but she is doing so great and feels fine. We just have to monitor her kidneys for any long-term damage.

Secondly, we got to see our amazing ship community in action. The way they rallied around us in this time was incredible. I had a stream of people coming into my cabin before we left offering me luggage, iphones, tablets, scarves, games, train cards, coloring books. . .all to help ease our travel and time in London. While we were there the community prayed for us constantly. There were people doing John's laundry, watching Adalynn and Jack, cleaning the cabin and sending me messages. We were able to stay in a really nice apartment thanks to a Mercy Ship friend connection.  It was so beautiful. When we returned Cora and I were given the most amazing welcome. It was so touching to see how many people really did pray and follow what was going on with us.

The third way this situation blessed us was the time that Cora and I had together to explore London once she was feeling better.  Like my mom said, "a middle child's dream!".  It was really a special time for us.  John also had some good time with Adalynn and Jack.  Adalynn got to sleep in Daddy's bed every night and Jack and Daddy had an hour of time together each morning after Adalynn went to school.  Of course we'd rather all be together but we can see how God brought little blessings through this trial.

So now we are ready to really dive into ship life and get this hospital up and running again. Our first surgery will be next Monday.  We are so excited to be here and finishing out our time with Mercy Ships back in West Africa.  For those of you who don't know, we are returning to the States after what will be a 4 1/2 year stint with Mercy Ships. The plan is to come back to Denver in December before Christmas. We will live in the Denver area at least from December-June 2017.  We don't have specific plans beyond that time. We are just now starting the "job hunting" process.  It will be difficult to say goodbye to this amazing community but we are so excited about the family and community we get to reunite with in Colorado and the States.

A line of people waiting for screening in hopes of a surgery date.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Veloma Madagascar

We closed a beautiful chapter of our lives on Tuesday.  We sailed away from Madagascar, a country we have called home for 2 years. I realized this week that really over half our time on the ship was spent in Madagascar.  What a beautiful place full of beautiful people. It's hard leaving friends behind and not knowing if we will ever return, though I really hope to someday!!  What a gift it was to be a part of the amazing things God did through the work of this ship in this country.  We saw many physical deformities changed and corrected, but we also saw hearts soften, joy created, sorrow lifted, hope believed, despair demolished and people loved. We give God the glory for these things and just feel amazed that we have been given the chance to be a tiny part of it all.  I feel so sad to leave this country, and yet,  this ship is a funny place where you are always aware of a tide moving you forward to a new adventure.  So we leave with a heavy heart today, but also with anticipation of the adventure to come!!

Here are some fun pictures of our last days enjoying Madagascar:

A trip down the Pangalanes canal with 4 other families. It rained a lot but didn't stop the kids from enjoying it!

Our last day with our friend Dannie. She is one of our Malagasy Crew that joined us last year but she will be staying in Madagascar. We will miss her!

Our last trip to Pastor Marc's church in a village not far from Tamatave. He and his family are doing amazing work for God's Kingdom here in Madagascar. We are so thankful to have been a small part of his ministry.

My last lunch with an amazing small group of spectacular women from Australia, Netherlands, Texas and Colorado! 3 of them are not coming back, so it was a tearful celebration of a wonderful group!

Our final farewell to our amazing day crew. We hired around 230 crew this year. Below are 4 of the 5 daycrew that I worked with in the Admissions tent, plus 3 nurses from 3 different countries. The 5th of our daycrew got a job and wasn't able to come but these 4 still do not have jobs, please pray for them to find good work!

Our last family trip to the market and ice cream shop! A new pet giraffe (named Amy :)) And one last gawk at the chickens for sale!

And, finally, one last trip to the Palm Tree Forest for a picnic with some of the other moms and kids.

We are now in the middle of the Indian Ocean and will have a 6 day sail and arrive in Durban, South Africa on Monday June 13.  The ship will be in the shipyard from 13 June until early August. We do not have to move off the ship this year as they are not taking the ship out of the water. We will stay with the ship through the entire shipyard period and then we will sail in early August to Benin. After a busy year, we are really looking forward to a bit of a slower and more relaxed pace of life (at least for the kids and myself). John's job will still be busy at times, but hopefully a bit more low-key. We are looking forward to good family time and a chance to play and enjoy each other. Please pray with us for these things. Thank you for all your continued prayers and support. We are so thankful for you!