Tuesday, January 29, 2008

In "Monster-dam"

We have to check in for our flight to Uganda in about 2 minutes, but I wanted to let you all know that we made it here safely and enjoyed our 24 hours in Amsterdam (now affectionately called "Monster-dam" in our family thanks to Graysen). The boys did fine on the plane, though none of us slept very much - the boys probably slept for 2-3 hours, so not too bad. So when we got here, we took a 2-hour nap in the hotel, before catching the shuttle back to the airport so we could hop on the train into town.
We walked around for a little while, then ate some authentic Netherlands' cuisine: McDonalds. We took a boat ride last night from 8-10pm all through the canals around the town - it was really fun. The boys are loving "Europe" and feeling pretty cool that they are on another continent, though no cross-cultural shyness has set in yet! Brodie is into generalizations, for instance: "Mom, look at that man smoking - everyone in Europe smokes!" "Hey, that man just littered. Everyone in Europe likes to litter." Gotta love it - it's probably how prejudices started way back when!
We slept pretty well last night so we're hoping to stay up on this flight so when we arrive at 9pm Uganda time tonight, we'll just go to bed when we get "home" and jet-lag will be a non-factor...we'll see how that plan works out. Thank you all for the prayers - have to go for now!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

16 hours and counting...

Well, we have 13 bags packed to the gills (yes, that's one extra bag for those who are counting) and we're as ready as we can be. We've had a great week with both sets of parents (my parents parked their RV nearby Alisha's parents' house in the Bay Area) and lots of visits from friends. It's been so fun having all the grandparents together - I think the boys are wondering why we don't just live like this all the time.
I'd like to report that we're the picture of perfect calmness and 100% stress-free, but I think you'd all know I was lying! Trying to pack your life into suitcases, while fighting back the emotions of leaving loved-ones is not a task for the faint hearted. So, as two faint-heated people, I'm happy to report that God has intervened and given us the strength to get through!
So, now our biggest prayer request is that KLM will allow us to check our bags all the way through to Uganda. Technically, because our connecting flight out of Amsterdam is 1 minute past the 23 hour 59 minute limit on checking bags through, we're slated to have to retrieve our bags at the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. But we're praying that the sight of all our bags and 3 kids with smiling faces will win over the baggage checker.
Our plane leaves at 3:25pm PST out of SFO and arrives at 11:00am (2:00am PST) in Amsterdam. After a 24-hour layover, we fly out at 11:00am (2:00am) Tuesday morning and arrive in Entebbe, Uganda (about a 40 minute drive from Kampala) at 9:00pm local time (10:00am PST). If you haven't done the math, Kampala is 11 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time.
Thank you all for your prayers, kind words and support in sending us out. We feel so incredibly blessed to be embarking on this unbelievable journey, and to have so many family and friends joining with us by praying and supporting us. If you're wondering, we have definitely had the "what are we doing?!" thoughts come and go over the past week, but we have total confidence that God has led us to do this, so despite our feelings of inadequacy and fear at times, God has shown Himself to be so capable even this week, as we had a glitch with our overseas medical insurance that was able to be resolved in record time so we'll be covered in time.
So, 2 years to the month when Alisha and I decided to devote each Monday to prayer and fasting to seek what God's will for our lives, and probably close to 2 years to the day when I first contact eMi, we are ready to depart and are so thankful for this opportunity. We will miss our friends and family dearly, but we are so thankful for this communication and computer age where we can see each other and talk on 'Skype'. I can't imagine how it was years ago, when becoming a missionary often meant boarding a ship and saying goodbye and not seeing or talking to loved ones for many years. God gives the measure of faith required to each according to how He calls us, but I sure can't imagine being able to do that! So Bon Voyage ~ see you online!
Pictures: 1) Girls' lunch - (LtoR) Alisha's mom, Alisha, my mom and our 3rd grandma Cheryl, who is Alisha's brother Brian's wife's mom! 2) Alisha with our dear friend Libby Fifer and two of her kids, Klara and Casey; 3) Grammy and Papa and Alisha and boys walking in Pleasanton on the way to the movies; 4) at the movies with 4 grandparents and great-grandma Delma to see 'The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything!" 5) Alisha and long-time friend Julie deJong.
Quote of the week: (Graysen earlier today) "Grandma, the Pilots who don't do anything are going to drive the plane to Monster-dam tomorrow."

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

One week & counting...

This past week, we were in Monument, Colorado (about 10 miles north of Colorado Springs) along with 16 interns for our new staff and intern orientation. We stayed at a homestyle Christian retreat center The Hideaway that was very nice and quiet. The days were long, as we were busy from 7:30am to 11pm almost everyday of the week, but it was an excellent time of preparation and fellowship.
We sat in classes on the history of missions, cross-cultural adaptation, God's view on poverty and heard dozens of testimonies of each intern and eMi staff member from the Colorado Springs office. There were bible studies and small groups, as well as role plays and games that gave us a chance to meet and get to know each of the interns that will be heading out to all 5 of the eMi offices around the world.
We also got to go rock climbing at a climbing gym, play team building games at New Life Church (you may remember the church shooting that occurred here last month - our activities were in the exact location of the shootings), and go for a hike in the snow through some gorgeous rocky wilderness.
We missed the boys terribly, but Alisha's folks did an amazing job of watching them and keeping their minds off mommy and daddy being gone. On the last day, we were commissioned to head out into the mission field by the CEO Glen Woodruff and the other Colorado Springs office staff. We also had the chance to have lunch with Gary and Judylynn MacPhee, one of the eMi VP's and his wife whose story of coming to eMi 10 years ago has many similarities with ours.
After returning to the Bay Area, today we were brought before Alisha's home church from childhood here in Castro Valley that is also our 'Bay Area home church' whenever we're visiting. Mark Teyler, Alisha's Youth Pastor growing up and now the Pastor of adults and ministry development at Neighborhood Church, prayed for us in the main service and then interviewed us in the 'Home Builders' Sunday School class afterwards. They also filmed a short video of us telling our story that they will play in the main service sometime in the coming months. We were so encouraged by the outpouring of support from the people after the service, and also by the church standing with us as we head out. Since both sets of our parents were there with us, our cup was full and overflowing by day's end.
So one week from right now as I write this, we'll be flying over the North Atlantic Sea somewhere between Greenland and England on our way to Amsterdam. Alisha is going through the boys' suitcases now to pare down to 2 suitcases per person, weighing 50 lbs. each. We're finding the weight limit to be the most restrictive.
Overall we're feeling really good and excited to finally get the show on the road, though the reality of leaving home and everything we know to be 'normal' is staring us right in the eyes! But God has been so good to us we have full confidence that He is directing our path. Please pray for a safe trip, and for all the craziness of all our bags and dealing with the boys in the airports and on the planes - that it all goes smoother than we could even hope for. Pictures: (all from the hike at orientation) 1) the group hiking through the canyon; 2) Alisha and me mid-hike; 3) Me, Alisha and the 4 Uganda interns - (LtoR) Jill, Heather, Zach & Jeremy; 4) The whole group attending orientation.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

So-Cal Adventures

We've wrapped up our time in Southern California and what a great time it was. We stayed 6 nights each at my sisters Traci Morrow's house in Glendora and then Terri LaBrie's in Arcadia. The boys had so much fun playing with cousins and aunts & uncles. On New Year's Eve the whole family (22 were there) hung out at the LaBrie's in Arcadia playing 'Mafia' - that was definitely a highlight!
Then this past Monday thru Wednesday, we spent 3 days at Disneyland and California Adventure. We were joined by Grammy and Papa, and some of the Morrows and LaBries.I can't believe we lasted 3 days at Disneyland. The boys were daredevils, riding any and everything they were allowed to ride according to the Disneyland height restrictions. The 'Tower of Terror' ride in California Adventure was definitely the biggest stretch of their courage, and they showed no signs of weakening. The same cannot be said for their father! As we walked off, I asked if that was scariest thing they'd ever seen, and their resounding response was, "No!".
Some lowlights were: Graysen woke up Tuesday morning with a terrible ear ache, and by mid-afternoon he was irreparable (see photo below in Alisha's arms at lunch). So on a tip from the First Aid station in California Adventure, we called a doctor who makes house calls and he met us 40 minutes later at our hotel room, diagnosed him with a pretty bad ear infection, gave him antibiotics, and we were back at the park after just an hour and a half! We were amazed that we were able to get him seen and treated so quickly, and the doctor even brought the prescription with him.
Another lowlight - right before we left to take Graysen to the hotel for the doctor's visit, Brodie tripped and fell and slammed his head into the side of a concrete pilaster. The bump on his head was the weirdest thing - at first it looked like the Grand Canyon inverted, with straight, jagged walls protruding about 1/2" out from his forehead. Unfortunately, by the time we got the camera out, it had smoothed into a normal looking bump (see below).
The last lowlight: As Alisha was getting off the Dumbo ride with the boys, our camera fell from her lap, bounced on the concrete and straight into the pond below the ride! The was a collective gasp from everyone standing by in line. Fortunately, we had a new camera waiting for us already in the Bay Area (christmas present from Alisha's parents). But unfortunately, that happened on day 1 so we couldn't take pictures the whole time we were there. Thank you to Grammy and Papa and Aunt Ta (Traci) for emailing us their pictures!
So not to focus on all the lowlights, but they generally make for better stories! The highlights were many and we had a great time hanging out with family at the happiest place on earth. The crowds were very light so we didn't spend a ton of time in line. (I highly recommend Disneyland in January, after the holidays are over and people are back in school/at work.
But now we're back in the Bay Area, our adopted hometown for the time being. (By the way, this is our new in-country address, so if you need to mail us anything please email me and I'll give you the address. While I'm thinking of it, if you'd like to mail us something to Uganda, I can give you that address as well. Mail using the post office (not UPS or FEDEX), and it usually takes 3-6 weeks.)

Pictures: 1) The Morrow clan waiting for the group to make a decision about what ride to do next; 2) Alisha and boys at the end of the Matterhorn; 3) Alisha & boys with Mickey & Minnie on Main Street; 4) The boys with Morrow cousins Bradley & Joey, sporting their new 'Mouse Ears'; 5) Aunt T (Terri) and Jonah on It's a Small World; 6) The boys with Grammy & Papa on Main Street USA; 7) Having lunch at California Adventure - Graysen was feeling terrible; 8) Brodie's bump.
Alisha and I fly out to Colorado Springs tomorrow (Sunday) morning for 6 days for the overseas orientation. We hope to have email access while we're there.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year, same ol', same ol'

That pretty much sums up life for us right now - just entering another new year with nothing really new to speak of...ha! We are very excited for what lies ahead, yet still in awe of all the God has done and continues to do. I know that sounds cliche'd, but it's really the way we feel. Many of you have expressed amazement at our courage or faith in moving our family to Africa, but really, we don't feel like we're doing anything other than trying to obey God's prompting at each step along the way.
We've all heard sermons about how you need to find your God-given purpose in life, and that if you truly seek after God's will for your life and allow God to work in you in the meantime, God will bless you and show you His plan for your life. Well, Alisha and I have heard several such messages over the last decade, and each time we would feel so strongly that we wanted that for our lives, but we just felt like God was largley silent, and that we were clearly in a waiting period. Many times we would do things like devote a certain day of the week to prayer or fasting to see if God would reveal His plan for us - and some amazing things happened during those times - but we never received an answer to our question of big picture life goals.
Well, obviously, in the end, after about 8 years of this, the timing was right and God began to reveal to us the path we should take. But it didn't come overnight, and was never in bright lights on a billboard like we were thinking it would be. Instead, it came in the form of a series of small steps with a few big choices mixed in. And with each step, it required a small amount of action on our part, and a lot of faith and patience to see God fill in all the gaps.
In time, after this process repeated itself over and over again over the past 2 years, the faith part of it has become easier and easier as we continue to see God do amazing things in working this all out. That's not to say that we have expectations of everything working out absolutely perfectly - God isn't calling us to an easy, perfect life, that place is called 'Heaven'! But we do have faith that He is working in our situation and each of our needs will be met in one way or another, at His perfect timing.
So why have I written this little summary of our process? To encourage any of you who may be at one of those earlier stages, waiting on God or trying to figure out how to direct your God-given passion in life. We are not super-Christians or extra-holy missionaries who live some fairy-tale life of perfect unity and harmony with the Holy Spirit. We feel like little nobodies who are taking baby steps in learning to live for God as He works out His perfect plan for our lives. And He continues to prove His faithfulness as He completes the work He's started in us.
We pray that in 2008, God blesses each of you and that you in turn allow Him to work out His will in your lives as He is more than capable of doing. Thank you all for the part you have played thus far and continue to play in the work He is doing in and through us. We are so grateful for the love, prayers and support of so many of our family and friends. Our cup is full and running over! (These are some of the pictures from the road as we've traveled around visiting friends and family. It's been such a treat to spent this time with loved ones who we'll miss dearly: me with Uncle Lou, Alisha and college friend Kristi Ellis, our nieces Bayli and Danielle - Dani (red scarf) will be joining us in Uganda for a year beginning in July to help us out!, Aunt Alisha leading the cousins in prayer before bed, Alisha and me with college friend Brodie Carroll and his wife Jenn and son Joseph, me and my brother-in-law KC, Aunt Mary & Uncle Sam & cousin Anna Rose, me and my brother Bart on Venice beach - caught in a totally "candid" moment, and Brodie playing a duet on piano with 'the master' - my roommate from college Ryan Greene).