Hello again friends! It has been awhile since our last post, so let me catch you up on what's been going on. I'm happy to report that we had a very successful furlough trip, both from a work and personal standpoint. God continues to bless His servants and His work.
Let's start with the work. We drove for about 2,000 miles as we visited with more than a dozen congregations of the Lord's church. That was a lot of time on the road, but we are excited about the work that we get to do. It is a pleasure to share with our partners in the US some of the good things that they are helping to make possible. I think that it is encouraging to people to know that the Lord's kingdom is indeed thriving and growing.
We were also taking that opportunity to let people know about some special needs that the work here has. The Lord's people responded, and it gives me great pleasure to report that around $30,000 was donated to buy Swahili Bibles, print tracts, and sponsor preaching students. Together with the efforts of team members all of our furlough fund-raising goals were met. Thank you for your immense generosity and kindness of heart!
Most of the visits that I made were to churches, but I also had the privilege of being invited to speak to the students of Foundation Christian Academy. This was Abby's school when we lived in Bowling Green, and they made us feel very loved and welcome. Abby spent the rest of the day at school reconnecting with old friends and teachers.
Children learning about missions is an important "side-benefit" of missionary reporting. I had young people at several congregations approach me after my presentation expressing interest in becoming missionaries one day. If just one of them follows up on that dream, then that alone would make this a worthwhile furlough.
On a personal level, it was so refreshing to spend some time in America and to see friends and family. We saw all of our immediate family, and kept holiday traditions. We ate American food until it made us sick (that happened pretty fast actually). We were reminded of the immense support system that we have behind us. The kids even got to experience a little snow. We NEVER see that in Africa!
At last it was time to go home. We packed up our 10 suitcases and 5 carry-ons, using every single pound that the airlines would allow. That sounds like a lot, but there were still so many things that we WANTED to bring back that simply wouldn't fit in our baggage allowance. We had to make some tough choices about what did or didn't make the cut.
Traveling with small children is not for the faint of heart. Our family getting through the airport is like something straight out of a comedy movie. Then two very long flights are a tremendous strain on a kid's ability to sit semi-quietly, and on a parent's ability to remain sane and calm. Add to that a long car ride, dealing with customs, border control, and multiple police checkpoints. But with God's help we all made it through the trip.
Life in a foreign field is exciting and rewarding, but it can also be very draining and wearisome. I don't think that I ever felt shocked at the culture, but there were times leading up to furlough when I was pretty tired of it. Don't get me wrong, I love Tanzania, but we all needed a break. Furlough provided that much needed mental break for the whole family. It is difficult to understand how badly this is needed if you haven't lived in a culture very foreign to your own. I know I didn't fully understand.
Since we've been back, we have a refreshed ability to appreciate the wonderful things about where we live. It's actually kind of odd how comfortingly familiar our surrounds are to us now. There was an unexpected feeling of relief and ease when we finally made it back to our home away from home. And we've experienced joy at seeing some of our good Tanzanian friends again. Now we're ready to hit the ground running and get back in the trenches. The fields are white, let's go harvest!