Into the Promised Land

It’s still surreal, but what follows is our FIRST blog FROM AFRICA!

We have been praying and preparing for this journey for so many years that it is surreal to be here in Africa, home and belongings left behind.  There are long periods of time when I feel normal and settled and then moments where the enormity of it all hit me head on.  In those moments, I quickly take those thoughts captive and turn to His Word for comfort and confirmation.  “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

Carried along by your prayers and sent through your faithful support, we packed what we could take on the plane and left San Diego while it was still dark on the morning of July 12th.  That last week became very overwhelming as we focused on leaving well, saying goodbye to loved ones, those who had sacrificially given to send us on this journey.  Our beloved partnership team graciously and compassionately said, “You focus on people and packing and we’ll come in and do the rest.”  In the end, we had no choice but to accept their selfless offer.  Our house looked like we had evacuated.  Clean dishes were still in the dishwasher, clothes were in every closet, books were still on the shelves, and there was still a garage full of things left to give away or sell.  We said goodbye to our dog, Princess, who was lovingly whisked away by our dear friends, Sue and Audra.  We left the keys to the van and the paperwork to change ownership for our friends who have a ministry in Mexico (thanks, Eddie and Maggie!).  We signed Power of Attorney over to another friend so he could sell the Mini.  There were technical difficulties into Monday afternoon!  We signed the papers to sell our house at 8 something p.m. the night before we left!  Julia and Olivia’s friends hung on to the bitter end when we finally had to say goodbye at 12:30 a.m. – still not packed.  Chris and I sat and sobbed for a while after that, the weight of it all pressing in on us.  Then, back to packing, our maximum weight and bag allowance quickly approaching even though we didn’t have everything we wanted to take.  At the last minute, we had to leave many things behind that we intended to pack.  We never laid our heads down that night! (Meltdown wouldn’t come for me until today when I couldn’t find my shoes.  Only flip flops to my name and the few belongings I own in THREE different countries!)

I can’t minimize this and say it’s been easy, but God has definitely been with us, providing strength when we need it and grace and comfort for us and our family back home.  As He always does, He even provided comic relief RIGHT when we needed it when we had unloaded ALL of our bags and totes AT THE WRONG TERMINAL in San Diego!  We had to go into Amazing Race mode and RE-LOAD all 19 pieces!  Mom and Joe and John and Lisa were the perfect team to get us to the RIGHT place in the nick of time!  We were able to laugh through our tears as we said our final goodbyes.  Curious stares from those around us forced us to explain, “We’re not just going to L.A.!”

There were more flights after that…L.A. to Boston, Boston to Newark, traffic and a ride in TWO vans to AIM headquarters in Pearl River, New York.  Those two days were filled with meetings, briefings, and visits to financial offices and travel plans being firmed up.  Through it all, we marveled at how God was with us.  He even showed us that He was providing through the inconveniences!  A delay in our ride to the airport gave us the opportunity to receive our ATM cards that had arrived at the LAST minute!  We had an all-night flight to London, Heathrow (where I got my LAST Starbucks Caramel Macchiato and promptly SPILLED half of it!  I even had it in my HAIR!).  The guy was so nice and made me another.  Another all-day flight got us to Nairobi, Kenya where we made it with all but one of our bags!  God brought us humor again when the Kenyan man stamping my passport said, “Welcome, Michelle Obama.”  He also made my dreams come true when I looked out of the baggage claim area to see my friend, Jami waving to me!  Delight!  Delight!  A familiar hug welcomed me.

We want you to know that God has put us together with a group of people who are a wonderful family to us.  As you can imagine, we are bonding quite quickly through a shared experience like this.  We had time with old FRIENDS while at the guest house in Nairobi (Aunty Cathy from Watoto days and Ryan and Heather Murphy) and are now tucked away at Scott Theological College in Machakos, Kenya for our intensive training.  The kids even have classes ALL DAY, six days a week.  We are all learning so much, we felt our heads would burst last night!  The last two days have been spent learning about another world religion prevalent here.

Those of you who were at the CEBC Women’s Retreat last fall will remember our time spent in Numbers 13 and 14 where we talked about the twelve spies who went to explore the Promised Land.  They let their fears get the best of them and never saw the Promised Land.  It is only through the strength of God that I can tell you I have passed through the desert and the valleys of tears, placing my fears in HIS loving arms.  While there are times I feel the tears come on suddenly (I’m sure you’re not surprised!), I have a real sense that I have taken the leap of faith that I have been withholding from Him for so long.  He never ceases to fill me with a sense of peace and hope that I am in the center of His will and purpose for my life.  Before we left, I decided to read the book of Joshua and get the end to the story of the Promised Land.  These words from Joshua 21:44-45 comforted me as I stepped out in obedience and they continue to comfort me now, “The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers.  NOT ONE of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them.  NOT ONE of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel (insert Gennaro here) failed; EVERY ONE OF THEM WAS FULFILLED.”

Even as we sit on African soil, the funds to get us here having served their intended purpose, there is still an opportunity to participate in what God is doing in Lesotho, Africa.  We are consistently reminded of the task before us, “Poverty is great there.”  “Lesotho has the third highest AIDS rate in the world.”  “There is a lot of death there.”  “They still cling to their animism.” There is a lot to do and we’re seeing firsthand how many resources it takes to get what you need here.  Getting clean water, schooling  our children – including providing for Olivia to attend boarding school in Kenya and transportation to and from, transportation into the remote mountains where we will live (fuel costs are even HIGHER here!), driving almost an hour to get food, starting from scratch with NOTHING – All of this takes money that we have to depend on others for.  While this has been so humbling for us, we have seen the beautiful way that God uses the Body of Christ to accomplish His purposes.  Although He has the power to reach people on His own, He chooses to use us to show His love.

At the time we checked out with AIM Headquarters we were at about 93% of the monthly support we need to sustain us on the field.

Please pray with us that those remaining funds will be provided in the coming days.  We trust that He knows our needs and we also trust and believe that He is faithful to keep His promises!  If you are led to participate either one time or monthly, you can either e-mail us back or go to aimint.org/usa and click on the link for “support.”  It will guide you through the process.  There is a place to put a comment for you to add details or designations.

Thank you for all you have done to get us here.  We appreciate all of the prayers being lifted on our behalf, even when we are too overwhelmed to know how to pray.  Please keep in touch!  We haven’t gotten our phones YET, but we look forward to hearing familiar voices SOON!  For now, we continue to have some internet access, usually daily.  We check e-mail and get on Facebook when we can.

WE SAW GIRAFFES IN THE WILD ON OUR WAY TO MACHAKOS!  Just thought I’d add THAT delightful moment!

BTW – The kids are ALL doing amazingly well.  The program they offer for them here includes their own training in African culture and even other world views.  Julia, Olivia, and Jed even got to go stay with another missionary family ON A GAME RESERVE!  They have video of them DRIVING in a VW bug around the plains.  Yes, EVEN JED drove the stick shift!  It brings back memories of me growing up in a place where I could experience such freedom and thrills.  Absent from my upbringing, though, were the giraffes, lions, ostrich, wildebeasts, zebras and other wildlife they got to experience!  They said the giraffes were so close-up and common that they began to look past them for other animals!  All of this is a reminder of God’s faithful provision and abundant love for each of us.  Our Heavenly Father LOVES to give good gifts to His children!  He sure is good to mine.  How I praise HIM!

Because He is WORTHY of it all,

With love, gratitude, and hugs from ALL of us,

Michelle

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