Monday, August 27, 2012

We expected this in Uganda, but in the UK??!

This is one of the lions we saw on safari in Kenya back in 2009...has it been tracking us all these years?!

I just happened to be browsing on the internet this morning and the top story on MSN news was this:

This is 15 miles from our house! They still haven't captured the lion and the nearest zoo, which happens to be in our town of Colchester, does not have any animals missing! Perhaps this beast has been tracking us since our safari in Kenya back in 2009 and had only made it as far as England when, to his utter astonishment, his job became miraculously easier when we suddenly turned up to live in the UK!

A quick trip down memory lane - we went on a safari in the Masai Mara in Kenya in 2009 with Alisha's parents, Ken and Karen Berry.
We came across a lion kill - this was the male, so he got to eat first while the 6-7 females who had done the work and made the kill had to wait their turn. Reminds me of another animal species I know of...though perhaps this guy helps with the dishes afterwards as well.
Brodie looking out the window at the lion - a mere 10 feet from the vehicle (which is why I prefer zoo's ...though apparently even those aren't safe!)

Friday, August 24, 2012

We have arrived!

 At SFO, just prior to checking in with our 19 bags!

We have arrived and after a week and a day, are feeling fairly settled here in Colchester. I’ll briefly rundown the past week as it’s been like a blur and with jet lag and all we’ve done.
The flight was un-noteworthy, except that at check-in we were charged 2.5 times what we were expecting to pay for our 4 extra bags. We spoke to the manager at the British Airways counter, a Hispanic woman, and things just seemed to get worse with her. I don’t know if she had it in for us because we work for a Christian organization or what it was, but it was clear that she was going to be antagonistic from the start. At one point, she told us that she thought we should be paying more so that the first class passengers wouldn’t have to pay anything since they had paid so much for their flight tickets! Obviously, we were a little shaken by it all but we did stay calm and let her know that we didn’t much care for what she was saying, especially since it directly conflicted with the BA website. We took down her information and intend to contact BA to get to the bottom of why we were charged more than was stated on the website…we may add a bit of commentary about our experience at the counter as well. J
Upon arrival though, everything went very smoothly. We were able to hire a porter with a cart to help us through customs and to our vehicle. Mike Woods (the guy I’ll be working with here at EMIUK) was there to meet us and we easily fit all 19 bags and carry-ons in the van we’d rented ahead of time. Also there to greet us and help with transporting us the two-hour drive to Colchester were Mike and Helen, the lovely couple whose house we’ve rented here.
The rest of the day was a blur, but we loved the house right off and Mike and Helen gave us a detailed tour of the certain inner-workings that we’ll need to know about (many more than you would think!).  Mariette (Mike’s wife) brought us over some delicious spaghetti, and after an hour or so, around 4pm, everyone had left us to rest and recover. But instead, we got right to work, and by 2am all 19 bins were emptied and put away! I have to give credit to Alisha, who is certainly the most productive and driven person I’ve ever met when it comes to getting organized. She really is amazing at organization! I was her labor boy, hauling the 50-lb bags and bins here and there, and then putting away all the empty bins and cleaning up all the messes left in the wake of our bags and bins.
Our house here in Colchester - we love it! The blue mini-mini-van in the driveway is ours too.

The next few days we spent a lot of time at the second-hand furniture store a few blocks away (said “a few roads away” here :) ) that’s run by a local hospice charity. They had very nice things there for very cheap prices, so over the course of a few days we found the majority of our furniture there – the boys’ beds, table and chairs, couch and chair, nightstands, curtains, chest of drawers, and even our clothes washer and dryer.
In the middle of all that, Mike gave me a bit of a driving lesson around town. It’s funny how similar the rules of the road are to Uganda, except that no one follows the rules in Uganda and everyone follows the rules very closely here! But driving back on the left side of the road (and the right side of the car) came right back to me after having done so in Uganda for nearly 3 years.
But with a few hours driving around town under my belt, on Friday we decided to go as a family down to just East of London, about an hour away, to visit the Ikea store there. In all, we ended up spending 8 hours in the store and pretty much completed our furniture buying there. The boys were troopers – at one point they were so exhausted and hungry that they were each camped out on a bed or rug trying to rest! Having skipped lunch, we ate dinner at a McDonald's on the drive 11:30pm! Needless to say, this won't look very good on our parents of the year entry forms.
Mike and Mariette had us all over to their house out in the country for a welcome dinner/going away dinner for their summer intern. They made a big bonfire out in their 'garden' (yard), which is 5 acres of beautiful grass with large trees.

So, as I write this now, a week and a day after arriving, our entire house is setup – excepting the internet and landline phone. We feel so blessed to be in the house we’re in and to afford the simple but very nice furniture we purchased. And especially, the house we’re in is ‘absolutely fantastic' (more UK jargon). It is in a very nice part of Colchester, so getting to live in this nice, quiet neighborhood with such an amazing home that is now fully setup feels like nothing short of a divine gift - especially after having traveled around the US homeless for the past 6 weeks.
Just two, significant struggles remain for us. First, our internet isn’t scheduled to be installed until next Weds. We’ve once again realized that living without the internet is almost completely debilitating. We have borrowed a small USB stick from one of the UK Board members, so that’s at least given us something to use, though we have to stand at the top of our stairway hall and hold the computer on the window ledge in order to get the USB signal! We can't wait for the cable company to come install our household wireless router!

At my computer 'desk'...the window ledge at the top of the stairs!
The second struggle remains the boys’ schooling options. We’ve now applied for school for them, and the nearest schools to us (primary for Jonah and Graysen and secondary for Brodie) are actually two of the best schools in town. Unfortunately, they are both ‘over-subscribed’ (i.e. full) since placement was done back in June. The applications were actually due back in January, so we’ve actually very late. As of this writing, the applications are submitted and we have to wait to hear back. Since we’re in the ‘catchment area’ for each of the schools, we would have an excellent chance of getting in to our first-choice schools next year. But since we’re late, barring some unforeseen turn of events (i.e. a miracle), our boys will likely be placed at three different schools scattered over the town. If that happens, we may elect to homeschool one or more.
So, you can see what our main prayer request is. A lot is riding on this, especially for Alisha, since she would be free to work some if the boys were in school. If not, she will need to organize the homeschooling materials very quickly and get moving on that whole process. School starts Sept. 4th, and we were told that we may not hear of their placement until after then.
So, we would appreciate prayer for those items, particularly the schooling situation. We know what we would like to see happen, but recognize that God may have a different plan so we want to just pray that His will for the boy’s lives be done in the situation.
Otherwise, things are going very well here thus far. We really feel comfortable, even though everything is so different. It’s amazing how different it is, really. With Uganda, we expected everything to be different. I think we were kind of expecting that here as well, but it’s still fascinating to continually run into things in another developed nation that just operate completely different. It shows how diverse of a planet God really created. Yet, at the core, we as Christians believe that in all people there is a common need for a relationship with our creator, which can be easily forgotten or masked by the more noticeable differences we see. It does make you realize, at least in a small way, how complex and big God really is.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The next chapter - EMI United Kingdom!

UK - here come the Crawfords!
It's our last night in the USA - 19 bags/bins (4 more than our free allowance - yikes!), 5 carry-ons and 5 "personal items" (i.e. backpacks) are all packed and in the car waiting for the trip to the airport. It's hard to imagine the amount of energy, planning and work it's taken to get to where we are here on this final night.  We have thoroughly enjoyed our time of seeing family and many friends! It's impossible to sum up all the emotions of the last 3 months of first moving out of our house in Colorado Springs after packing all our things into storage, then driving out to the West coast for visiting and saying goodbye while planning my next trip to Guinea, and then finally packing our necessities into all these bins and bags.  Just listing it out here makes me tired! :)
We have definitely been feeling a bit of deja vu from 4 1/2 years ago when we left for Uganda. The mixed emotions of being sad to leave family and friends and life in the USA while being excited for the next adventure is hard to explain in words. It's actually even hard to experience and make sense of the many conflicting feelings we're going through from moment to moment. However, this past Sunday, we got a bit of a gift at church.

We got to spend a lot of time with my sister Traci and her husband KC this summer - two of our most favorite people on the planet! KC is joining me on the trip to Guinea in September!

We were attending a supporting church of ours here in the Bay Area - the church Alisha grew up in during her junior high and high school years. We had found out that morning after the first service that the main service was primarily about one of the pastors announcing he was leaving, so we even considered not going. In the end, we decided to go mostly because we felt it would help us feel more connected to the church to be there when something significant was happening. Little did we know, we couldn't have asked for a better theme and message.

At the beach in Southern Cal with our cousins Bradley and Joey and our good friends the Reynolds who were visiting from Colorado Springs.

As the assistant pastor spoke about how he had come to feel that God was calling him away from his church home for the past 15 years, a church home that he absolutely loved and where he thought he'd finish his career, we couldn't help but relate to what he was going through. At first, he resisted God in it because it just didn't make sense. But, when he finally gave in and sought out what he felt God wanted him to do, it became very clear that this is what he was supposed to do. So through tears, he spoke of how hard it was for him to be leaving the church and senior pastor he so enjoyed working under, but in the end, he knew that following God's leading was far more important than any plans he'd made for himself.

Spelunking with the Crawford cousins at Lava Beds Nat'l Park

The whole time, Alisha and I just kept looking at each other and feeling that we could have been up there saying the very words he was saying! The last thing he said, in particular, really struck us. He said (paraphrasing), "Even though it's sad to be torn away from something that you love and will dearly miss, in the end, how exciting is it to see what God might do next when we are called to step out and follow Him." For us, it was exactly what we needed to hear, and our attitudes and perspectives on leaving for the UK have been different since.

Camping with the Berry cousins in the California Redwoods 

We really do feel confident that this is what God wanted us to do in this situation. We don't really have all the answers to the why's and what's, but we do feel confident that it's the right decision. We are very excited to be joining an office that really needs help and encouragement, and we are excited to once again be facing a challenge that seems beyond us and our capabilities. God has provided for us abundantly in this and we are very thankful for this opportunity.
So we fly out of SFO tomorrow, Tuesday, at 4:55pm PST. Both of our parents are taking us to the airport, so that will be nice but hard to say our goodbye's to them there. They are always the hardest to leave, but we are hoping that we might get visits out of them (and others!) in the coming year, so that is definitely softening the blow this time around.
Thank you all once again for being a part of our work with EMI. We look forward to keeping you involved through this blog, Facebook and even Twitter now. If you are on either of those, please do 'friend' us and follow me (Brad) on Twitter at bradcrawford_ - don't miss the underscore at the end, and please do remember that I am a complete rookie at Twitter!
United Kingdom, here we come...