Thursday, May 23, 2013

Update and February trip out west

The office has looked like a print shop lately as we got our
latest project report out the door, on schedule!!
I don't know if it's 'legal' to do this, but I'm going to blog out of order! That's because right before my last project trip, Alisha's parents came for a visit and took us out West in England to see a part of the country we'd never been to. The pictures are way better than anything I could describe, so I'll let them do the talking...with some minor commentary in the captions. It was sure a nice getaway from the miserable weather we had all Winter. It's improved some over the past month, but even still, high 40's and low 50's doesn't feel very much like May!
As for a current update...
*Our project report was finished and mailed out two weeks ago! The three interns did an awesome job of finishing it up and we are really excited about how it turned out. And most importantly, the ministry was very pleased as well, though they are having some lingering land issues that could use prayer. Those cute kids you've seen pictures of really need a proper school, so let's pray the land issues can be resolved quickly so they can get building.
Interns Matt (CAN), Jonny (NI), and Dan (UK) were a standout
group. We are really missing them around the office since their
last day was May 14. Same old story - just when you're getting
to know the interns, it's time for them to go.
Interns Jonny and Matt, with Rob finishing and binding the
reports. We printed and bound 17 copies for this project!
*EMI's new CEO John Dallmann and his wife Gala came for a visit at the beginning of May. It was their first time to the EMIUK office, and the last of the 7 EMI offices to visit in the past 9 months! We had a great time getting to know them - they even stayed with us in our house for half the trip.
*My niece Holli has just returned to California after having lived with us for 8 weeks! It was so good to have her here and we are definitely going through steep withdrawals. Holli will be a freshman at UC Berkeley in the Fall, so she came over to visit after graduating early from high school. It was such a blessing for us to have family here - it made us realize how lonely it can feel here sometimes not having family or friends around.
Alisha and Holli at her going away dinner. :(
*My next trip is going to be...back to Uganda! If I had my way, I'd go to Uganda every time. It feels like home, I love the people, and if I'm honest, it's where I feel I'm most useful since I'm so familiar with all aspects of doing projects. This trip we'll be designing another primary school, this time for YWAM. I am very excited to be working with YWAM as they are indirectly responsible for me taking the path of missions in life. More on that in future blogs as the trip gets closer.
*We leave in 6 weeks for the USA to get our visa's renewed for year 2. Between now and then, Alisha and I are frantically studying (ok, that's overstated - but it feels frantic) for the driver's test here as our USA licenses only let us drive here for 1 year. That's another item for prayer - the test is very difficult, and though we've been driving for over 20 years, many of the rules here are different from what we know.
Ok, that's enough for now, enjoy the pictures!

We each packed a carry-on for the 4 day trip out West to Devon.
It was 5 hours on the train - so nice not to be driving!

We stayed in Exeter, which was very near the childhood home
of our friend Sarah back in Colorado. After getting real-time
directions by iMessage from Sarah, we arrived in the small
village of Ide and went to the house. The current owners were
very gracious, allowing us to walk around and take pictures.

Alisha was texting Sarah pictures as we went. Amazing things
those iPhones and their free international iMessaging!! That has
been such a major difference and blessing of this go-around of
being overseas. Since most of our family (including both of our
parents) now have iPhones, so we get to text and send pictures
for free any time we want!

We went to the two 'Moors' in Devon - Dartmoor (shown here)
and Exmoor, showing in later pictures. Two very different
national parks, but both stunning in their own right.

We took in a castle or ten.

Very intentionally the cheesiest picture we've ever taken. For
those Keith Green fans out there, this may strike a chord in
your memory of Keith and his wife Melody posing in similar
fashion on the album cover of one of his early albums. ...But in
our hearts, we really were celebrating 2000 years of Christianity!

Favorite picture ever! Only took 12 takes to get us all in the air
at the same time. Poor Brodie didn't master the art of bending
your knees when you jump so it looks like you're flying off the
ground. Otherwise, none of us are jumping any higher than he is.

I'm pretty sure this is the England everyone imagines. Beautiful
green country side with small streams and cobble stone bridges.
And of course, everyone still rides on horseback here. I can
confirm that this is exactly what life as we know it is like here.
Every day feels like Pride and Prejudice in our household, too.
(Note: Sarcasm especially strong in this caption.)

Alisha's folks Ken and Karen Berry, who were kind enough to
take our family on this fun little excursion. Pictured behind them
is the southern beach in an area known as the 'English Riviera'.
This beach is in Torquay (said 'Torr-key').

Kids are kids. It doesn't matter where you are or what you're
doing, they will eventually find a way to be bored. In this case,
an historic and quaint little English village just wasn't doing it
for them. "It's just more old buildings." Gotta love the rich
appreciation for history kids always have.

We thought it was funny that all the boats in the harbor are just
left in place while the tide is out. Then when we walked down
in to get a closer look, we saw this boat's name. Who would
name a boat that?

I didn't know that wild ponies were actually a thing. This is in
Exmoor, which if I had to pick between the two parks, was my

It's just so weird to see this little wild ponies. They have it
good - no predators on the entire Island of Great Britain.

This is the North coast, just above the small harbor town of
Lynmouth. This was my favorite place on the whole trip. Two
rivers come together at the bottom of steep cliffs, just before
entering the ocean. The town is a cute little historic place with
walking paths that follow the rivers up a couple of miles.

One of the river paths, though it soon turns to dirt as it leaves
town. So pretty and peaceful.

Finally, Exeter Cathedral. We decided to miss our reserved train
on the last day and stay a few more hours to see inside. Pretty
amazing - and to think the Germans just missed bringing it down
in WWII, bombing a small chapel in one corner that wasn't enough
to bring down the amazing roof and ceiling.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Family update

The earliest reference to Colchester was in AD 77.
It’s finally starting to feel like Spring here in Colchester! The temperature hasn’t been in the 30’s for over a week now, and we’ve actually had a number of days into the 60’s with plenty of sunshine. It’s amazing the difference it’s made. So, a good time to update on how we’re doing here.
This picture was from a few weeks ago, before Spring arrived.
We took the boys to the Clacton-on-Sea pier during their Spring
Break...and froze!
We did let them ride one ride - the roller coaster to the right.
Given the weather, they were the only ones on the ride at the time!
My niece Holli Morrow has been staying with us after graduating
early from HS. She will have been here 8 weeks when she
leaves in 10 days - it's going to be very dull without her around.
First off, some news. Though perhaps you’ve already learned this from other bits we’ve put out on Facebook or by email, we’ve decided to stay in the UK for another year. We had a number of discussions with the leadership of EMI, both in the USA and the UK, and after praying about it, we all agreed that we felt God was leading us to stay here one more year to help the UK office.
Specifically, we have agreed to stay on until June 2014 to help give this office the best chance for remaining solvent going forward. At that time, EMI-UK will decide if the office will remain open in its current format, or if we will need to restructure it for the time being to allow it to exist for the foreseeable future - we will by that time have three staff families sent out in the field so some solution will need to be figured out. We have already begun to make plans for contingencies if we have to restructure, and honestly, it may very well be that this was why God needed us here - for me to come and help Mike keep the office afloat to give Mike the space to work on getting things set up to function well going forward. So stay tuned on that note...
One real blessing in this decision is that we do not need to seek any additional funding to stay here for a second year beyond what we currently have. There were a number of significant costs involved in staying a second year - most notably, having to return home to the US to reapply for another year of visas - but this money came in while we were in the process of deciding whether or not to stay, without our asking for it or communicating the need. This is a huge blessing. It is very expensive to live in the UK, and we feel so blessed that God has provided for us to be able to say yes to His leading to stay on here in the UK.
We feel overwhelmingly thankful for the generosity so many of you have shown and continue to show to our family and EMI over the past 5 years. I hope it is clear that we never take for granted the role our financial support team plays in our ministry. One thing I like about the support-raising model that EMI uses is that it naturally holds our ministry to accountability. Whenever we think about decisions like this for what we’ll do and where we’ll go, they are always made from the standpoint of what is a good use of the resources God has provided through our supporting friends and family. Honestly, it feels like a great responsibility, making sure we are being good stewards of the money God has provided us to do this work with EMI. But it’s also a major blessing to see God use the resources of His people to accomplish His work through our ministry - just a very humbling position to be in that I don’t know Alisha and I could ever adequately describe.

Suffice it to say we are very, very grateful for all of you who see fit to partner with us in this ministry, and we sincerely pray that God uses our ministry to bless you as well, knowing you are directly involved in rehabilitating hospitals, or helping orphans have a home and a school to attend, or providing clean water and sanitation for some of the poorest people on earth, or saving people from dying in collapsing buildings by reinforcing them structurally - I do my best to tell these stories so you’ll know the direct impact you’re having, but sometimes I feel like I need a full-time journalist at my side to take note of all the ways your contributions have directly led to each of these items happening for literally hundreds (thousands in some cases) of people.
Ok, a quick family update...
Graysen has really doing well for his football team. He's been
practicing with them since September, but just started playing
in matches a month ago. He's been playing really well, having
fun, and even scoring a few goals!
Sporting his Uganda jersey I brought back from my latest
project trip.
Brodie at a Colchester United match - our local professional team
that is in League One (two down from the Premier League). Alisha
took the boys since Graysen's team got to walk out with the players
before the game. Sadly, I was home sick. :(
Brad - I think you know plenty about me, though I will just mention that we are just about to finalize the report from my latest project in Uganda - the Mustard Seed Academy School we designed.
This is us, standing outside at 4 Privet Drive...if that means
anything to you, then you'll want to continue on at the bottom
and look at more pictures!
Alisha - still homeschooling the younger two boys, and also enjoying having my niece Holli Morrow staying with us for two months after having graduated from high school a few months early. I think it’s safe to safe Alisha struggled through the gray and cold winter here, so the sun coming out these days is no small treat for her. She has begun to help some at the church with the younger kids, both during services and other events. She still doesn’t feel very well connected here, owed largely to the fact that she’s home each day schooling Jonah and Graysen. She keeps in contact with friends back home regularly though. She has felt God leading her to encourage women to be transparent, feeling like so many women feel pressured to appear as if they have everything put together to be the perfect wife, mother, professional, house cleaner, cook, woman and overall glue of the family, when in reality, mastering any one of those areas is nearly impossible and more days than not, most women feel like they’ve failed at more than they’ve succeeded at. So, she has been seeking out these relationships with her friends as opportunities have presented themselves, hoping that she can encourage as many people along the way as possible.
Brodie - our one boy in school is still doing well and loving his school. He is rapidly approaching his 12th birthday next month, and we are definitely getting more and more into the pre-teen stage around the house. Since he’s our oldest, he’s having to suffer through mom and dad cutting their teeth on how to adapt to parenting older kids. Hellllppp!!! Brodie has been training with a football (remember we’re in the UK, so that means soccer) team that he is hoping to ‘sign’ with for next season (that’s just fancy talk for joining the team and playing in matches, as opposed to just practicing, which is what he’s been doing this year since we arrived here last August, too late to sign with a team). He also made the reserves for his school football team too. Otherwise, we try to keep the thoroughbred ‘run’ regularly - he’s caught up with me in pace when we go jogging (about 6:50/mile over a 5K for those keeping score - pretty good for him considering how short he is; not nearly as impressive for me!).

Jonah - overall, he likes home-schooling, but he’s also a social kid so it presents a challenge for him as well. He’s still as creative as ever, and we were able to swap his bed for a loft bed recently, allowing him to build his extensive lego train setup under his bed. He is a good big brother to Graysen, and they have really grown close this year from the home-schooling. Jonah has also been training with a football team, though we have just found him a new team where he will have a chance to trial at goalkeeper, his favourite position (the last team’s GK was the coach’s son - not much chance there!). He has also taken well to Jujitsu, which we started taking the boys to in January (the other two boys have lost interest, but Jonah really enjoys it).
Graysen - life has taken a major turn for the good in Graysen’s life as he was recently able to ‘sign’ on to his football team and has been playing in games. And, he’s been doing really well! He is very aggressive and focused even though he’s the smallest guy out there. He’s scored 4 of his team’s 5 goals in his first 3 games. It’s been so fun to see his excitement in getting to play in games again. Apart from football, Graysen is really enjoying home-schooling, though he says he would love to find a school to go to next year (please pray with us on that - we really have no new leads to speak of in that process). Also, Graysen came to us recently and said that he felt God had told him that He wanted him to one day teach other people about God. He didn’t have any other specifics, but he was actually kind of choked up about it. When we asked him why he was fighting back tears, he said it was because he didn’t think he knew enough to teach people about God! When we told him he could maybe go to bible college to learn more, that put his mind straight at ease. Wow, if only solving our kid’s problems would stay that easy! I’m sure between now and when he’s grown, he’ll cycle through the normal list of things he wants to be when he grows up - astronaut, cowboy, professional soccer player, billionaire tycoon, etc. But regardless, it’s nice to know that at this stage he’s at least thinking about how his faith might play into his future life.
So yes, we had the chance to visit the 'Making of Harry Potter Tour'
at Warner Bros. Studios in London. This was at or near the top
of our 'to do' list while in England since our boys are big
Harry Potter fans. Holli is also a huge Harry Potter fan so we
wanted to try to do it while she was here.
This picture is of the Great Hall - all of the
following pictures are the actual sets used in the films! Such a
cool thing to see - our boys were on Cloud 9!
Brodie and Jonah, checking out Harry's Gryffindor boys' dorm room.
And the Gryffindor Common Room, with the actual wardrobes
for Harry, Hermione and Ron displayed.
Dumbledore's office
Alisha and I at the Ministry of Magic fireplace entrances
Riding Hagrid's bike - 4 Privet Drive can be seen in the back-
ground. The original Privet Drive was actually 12 Picket Post
Close in Bracknell, just West of London. After the first movie
though, they built this replica set at the studios for all filming.
Jonah in Diagon Alley - very cool to walk down. An amazing
amount of detail went into these background sets.
Standing in front of the Hogwarts Castle. All the exterior shots
of the castle were actually of this 1:24 scaled model - there is
no real life castle. The model is amazing though.
A roughly 30-yard section of the bridge at Hogwarts was the
only life-size portion of the bridge built. Actually, one of the
biggest things you learn in the tour is how much of the movie
is actually 'green screened' - shot in studio with no actual set
and then background scenes added in.
The full bridge only existed in this model, shown on the left
side of this picture.
Ok, that’s the update - for those of you who actually made it through this entire family update blog, I say to you:  ‘Thanks for reading, Mom... and Harry Potter fans.’ J