And just like that, he’s 4.

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“Joseph” means “May Jehovah add.” Well, He definitely “added” to our family when He gave you to us! He added laughter, tears, frustration, and volume!

Ever since birth, you’ve reminded us of a miniature man. At birth, you had your wrinkly forehead; at 4, you would rather work outside with Daddy than sit at home and play. You have a better work ethic than most teens and even some men these days and for that, we are so proud!

What stands out to me the most about you, though, is your joy. You are almost constantly happy, finding joy in whatever is going on. If I’m crying, you’re the first to snuggle up and wipe my tears and then try to make me laugh. You are a clown – and you KNOW it!

You have enough of your Daddy in you that you would rather be alone than with a group, so even though you beg for play dates, you still end up playing by yourself. You just like knowing others are there, but you’d rather not have to actually interact. You would live outside if you could (although currently, noises are scary so you don’t like to be alone out there). And Spiderman is the best thing there is besides lollipops, even though you’ve never actually seen him on TV!

You are inquisitive, smart, friendly, and super sweet. You have “added” to our family more than we could express. God knew we needed you. I hope you will remain my Buddy, your sister’s protector, your brother’s friend, and your daddy’s helper. Jesus loves you, Joe Joe; maybe this year you will make the decision to give him your heart. He’s got some big plans for you, little man. Live up to your middle name and be a Christ follower! That would make us happier than anything.

Happy birthday, Buddy. We love you!

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selfies with my boy – last year (L) and this year (R)

Take 3.

I have sat down and begun this blog entry two other times! Hopefully tonight, I can actually finish it.

Since returning from SD, we have been trying to settle back into a semblance of a routine. E began 1st grade and is doing very well. She loves school, rules, and routine and is thriving. We had a tough week last week since she was very tired and fighting a cold, but she powered through (and so did we!). We had a proud parent moment when, after a very difficult week of not wanting to apply herself, she still came home with 100% on her first ever spelling test. Just the night before she was too exhausted to even care, so we were very proud of her!

I began preschool with Big J:

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Oh this little boy was so excited to begin ‘school’! We are now in week 3, so we’ll start the letter “C” this week. He’s doing well!

Brian jumped back into siding. He also did a variety of routine maintenance on homes as soon as we got back. In the evenings, he’s been working on the next BCM World, so he’s keeping steadily busy.

I began the fall programs at church this past week. We had an extraordinary kick-off night on Wednesday! We had 28 excited children and so we pray we can keep the momentum going! It was an awesome night and we’re looking forward to an exciting year.

At this point, it’s common knowledge that Brian hurt his back last week. After a day in the ER, we were told he has a bulging disc. He’s in excruciating pain, but thankfully the meds he’s on have gotten the pain down to a manageable roar (for the most part). He’s been walking and able to do small jobs with the hope of doing a little bit more later this week. Last week was a little more difficult with him immobile most of the week and unable to lift anything (like, small children). We’ve been married 11 years and he’s had some pretty crazy injuries, but this one was definitely the worst. Pray he heals quickly and completely without the need of physical therapy or any additional measures.

Coming up:

  • I’m hosting a brunch for the MRF ladies this Friday. Only two homes are empty at the moment. There are 18 kids on the property (including our 3) and 3 families (including us) are attending the same Christian school.
  • Saturday we host the annual MRF Board picnic
  • Sunday we’ll celebrate the big kids’ birthdays – Big J turns 4 on Sept. 27 and E turns 6 on the 29th.
  • The BCM World will be out within the next week!
  • Next week, we’ll travel to Vermont to speak at our supporting church up there and give updates! Contact us if you’d like to see us!
  • October is a full month of children’s ministry events, programs, and planning. It’s also time for Brian to get the property ready for winter.

Our biggest need at the moment is simply prayer for Brian’s back. Considering his job, a bad back is just a tad restrictive. We appreciate all the offers for help! The jobs that he has left to do this fall can be put off until next spring, so there is nothing that is an emergency. A few things he can work on slowly, as he feels better, taking his time. It’s just that, if you know Brian, you know sitting still and letting his back heal is probably worse torture than the disc itself.

You can also pray for E as she adjusts back to a school schedule and for wisdom for us as we raise her. Lastly, pray for a fruitful trip to Vermont – a clear presentation on our part and for more to join our financial support team in 2016.

Across the Country…and Back Again!

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Day #2 of our trip out west, about two hours in, and this was what our GPS said. 540 miles, 8 hours of driving, before the first turn of the day. Literally. The road was basically just one straight line that last day. Iowa and South Dakota may be pretty, but they are also pretty boring!

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See what I mean? Even the kids slept through Iowa.

The trip out took two full, long days. It is 26 hours driving – no stops, no kids, no traffic, no construction… no way around it. The first day, we got stuck in construction in Illinois and stopped for the night around 10pm in Iowa, literally moments before the torrential rain hit. The cities in Iowa where we were at all flooded that night, but we still made it out just fine in the morning. The second day was almost as long, but thanks to the time change we got in around 8pm (MST). We were wiped, but thankful to be there and done driving.

Saturday afternoon and evening we spent with Brian’s parents, one of his brothers and his fiancee, a nephew, and the fiancee’s brother and sister. We visited a popular drive-through animal park which the kids LOVED (even though it was more driving!):

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The elk was licking E’s window. They said “up close and personal” and meant it!

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Sunday morning, I joined a meeting at the church we attend out there while they planned for their fall children’s ministry. I was able to give them additional options for their curriculum and hopefully it was helpful! It’s always fun collaborating on children’s ministry.

During the week, we were able to spend time with good friends and Brian’s family. Our birthday was that Thursday and we spent it in one of the best ways possible: at our friend’s house with their four children.

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When we were first married and living in South Dakota, Clay and Miranda (above, with their youngest) were our closest friends. We did everything together, spent every spare moment together, and basically lived in each other’s houses. When we decided to move to Peru, it was a toss-up what was harder: leaving Miranda or leaving my mom. Coming back to visit is always refreshing and this time did not disappoint. It was like walking through a time warp as they are now officially settled in their home (they’ve been working on buying land and moving out of town since they got married 10 years ago) and have a nice little farm and four kids. It felt just like old times, except we’re all the old ones now! Their dog even did what he’s always done – fell asleep on the recliner next to Brian – except now, Bruno is old and gray and not a puppy! Amazing how time marches on even when you’re not around to witness it. The best, though, was seeing our kids get along and play (loudly) the entire time we were there. Seven kids – 5 boys and 2 girls – between our two families and it was an absolute blast.

The main reason we went out to SD this time was to be there for the wedding of one of Brian’s brothers, Scott. Sunday afternoon, the 21st, we celebrated with Scott and Christine as they got married:

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Bride & Groom with all the nieces & nephews (minus BabyJ who was sound asleep)

It was a very pretty wedding and we’re glad we got to be there for it!

We were able to purchase a van the week before we left for SD, which was a huge answer to prayer.

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However, it had a few issues and as we drove cross-country, they became more apparent. Brian ended up taking it to the dealer early in the week to get it fixed. Naturally, they didn’t fix it. He took it back on Thursday hoping it would get fixed Friday or Saturday, but working with a dealer is… fun… and they not only did not do the work, they didn’t even order the part they needed. So, instead of leaving Monday morning as planned, we had to leave Wednesday morning since they finished working on the van Tuesday evening. We figured there had to be more of a purpose behind us being delayed a few days than just the van needing to be fixed and we were right. Monday, the kids were able to spend some really good quality time with their uncle who’s a police officer and doesn’t get many days off. Then Tuesday, E woke up very sick and we couldn’t have traveled anyway with how sick she was all day. And Tuesday evening, we got to spend a good amount of time with Scott, Christine, and their two kids – something we hadn’t gotten to do before the wedding. So, leaving Wednesday was definitely a good thing.

Coming home was much harder than going out. Time changes are awful. We took three days instead of two and… ugh… they were long. We couldn’t find a motel the first night and ended up in one that was… lacking. Let’s just leave it there. We kept reminding ourselves it was better than sleeping in the car. We planned ahead for the second day and gave ourselves a goal of how far to get. Brian found an amazing online deal and we got a way nicer hotel with a pool for cheaper than we paid for the miserable place we stayed at the first night. We got in late and just prayed the pool would still be open for the kids since we had promised it ALL day long and they NEEDED to do something! And yes, it was open! And there were two! We took the kids outdoors and let them swim for about an hour. It was so nice.

The last day of traveling was by far the worst as BabyJ decided his carseat was the worst possible place to be and he shrieked and screamed for the better part of our six hour trip.

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Oh the misery. For everyone. Home never looked so sweet. Unfortunately, now pretty much every time he gets put in his seat, this is his reaction. Not cool.

Saturday was school shopping day. We went from having plenty of time to get ready for school to having zero time thanks to getting back later than planned! I spent the day with E getting all she needed. It was a really nice day together.

And now today, we shipped her off to first grade!

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This is the face of a super excited almost 6yr old. She got in the car this afternoon and said, “This was the best day ever!” She is anxious to get moving on learning and thought it was hilarious that mom and dad have “homework” each night (though she doesn’t understand yet that our “homework” is making sure she does her real homework! ha!).

Being gone for two weeks definitely did not lessen our work load. If anything, our work load has probably tripled in our absences, but we’ll make it! Coming up this month:

  • I begin the fall kids’ programs at church
  • I have an article to write for BCM World
  • I begin doing preschool with BigJ at least 2-3 days a week
  • Brian has piles of internet work to do for BCM, including the next BCM World
  • Brian needs to repair at least one or two roofs at MRF before it gets too cold
  • We head to VT the end of the month to share about our ministries

Pray for us. It’s just overwhelming to return home to piles of work, especially when most of it has deadlines fast approaching.

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A picture of us since normally I inundate you with the cuter members of our family!

Speaking, Planning, Eating, Traveling

That title pretty much sums up our week! We spoke at a church and ate amazing potluck food. Brian had four meetings this week and I had two. We ate some more. We planned a lot. And then MRF hosted our church’s summer picnic today where, you guesssed it, we ate some more! So, maybe our friends’ stereotypes of Americans eating a lot are not completely false…

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We were asked to attend Oreland Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s missions Sunday School time this past Sunday. They are a missional church that invited in something like 24 missionaries to visit them this summer – all of whom are supported by the church. Two missionaries per week were given time to share in their adult Sunday School class and invited to stay for the morning worship service. Our Sunday just happened to include a potluck afterwards! We had a great morning sharing about MRF and how it has changed since this church was last heavily involved here – in the 1970’s! Many of the older folk remembered the beginnings of MRF and coming to help do renovations in the ’70’s. It was neat updating them and sharing with them personal stories of how things are going here now and how incredibly important this ministry continues to be.

Brian spent time last week at our BCM HQ in Lancaster, nailing down the exact goals of his interns. The interns have worked tirelessly this week, lots of late hours, and are headed out first thing in the morning as they have completed their time here. While Brian saw them daily, I only saw them twice! They seriously put their heads down and got to work. What they have worked on will be such a huge help in promotion for BCM; it’s hard to know how to say thank you to them.

This week, once we returned from Philly, we jumped in with two feet for a week of meetings. Brian had an MRF Board mtg on Monday, a church related mtg on Tuesday, and another church related mtg on Thursday. I had a regular mtgs on Monday plus a planning mtg for a children’s program on Wednesday here at the house. It was super busy – long, late days that weren’t made any shorter with Big J developing an ear infection in the middle of the night Tuesday (of course it had to be midnight. It couldn’t be something convenient like mid-morning!). I also ended up in the doctor’s office Tuesday for back pain that I’ve been smothering since like June. Or May. I can’t remember. The doctor was appalled and sent me for an x-ray which I finally got done on Friday. I’m sure it’s no big deal, but I’m curious to see if he can figure anything out because… well… back pain is pretty awful.

And then today:

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We loved (!!) having our church out here for a picnic! There’s just something so fun about having your church family come and enjoy the place where you serve and pour your heart.

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My favorite: my kids with church friends. They are developing some seriously great friendships and it makes us so, so happy.

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Happy little boy who played hard the entire day!

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This one has been waiting anxiously all week for her church family to come to “her house.” There may have been a few tears when it was time to go home!

This week will be another busy one. Brian is working feverishly to finish closing up the fixture he built over the rest of the fireplace/stone wall outside the house that had the chimney taken down. He needs to get it enclosed as soon as possible. It’s just taking awhile.

Towards the end of the week, we’ll be heading… way out west! One of Brian’s brothers is going to be getting married, so we’re loading up the family and making the trek to South Dakota! The last time we were there, the kids looked like this:P1010924P1010860

So, it’s going to be a blast taking them back out and introducing the baby to all of his uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents. Brian was there in the fall, you remember, with Big J for his grandfather’s funeral. This should be a little more joyous event. I’ll also get the chance to sit and meet with some children’s workers at the church we attend out there to give some guidance and advice (hopefully!) as they prepare for their fall programs.

If you don’t hear from us, it’ll be because we’re busy on the road! We’ll return in a few weeks. Pretty much no matter how you do it, the trip is going to be long! But – God surprised us with the HUGE blessing of a new van! We no longer need to worry that our transmission will go on the road! It’s been a long year praying our van would make it to and from E’s school and church as the transmission would thunk and miss every time we went out. We’re not sure why it lasted as long as it did, but we’re so grateful. The new van is much more reliable and we are so relieved and grateful.

Pray for us! Brian has a lot to get done before we can pull out, Big J is still on medicine for his ear, and my back hurts if I sit for more than like 5min and we have a 2 1/2 day drive ahead of us. We’ll update when we get back.

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Just in case you were wondering, yes, Baby J is fine, too. Busy outgrowing his pack n play, clothes, and shoes, and laughing hysterically at everything under the sun. Happy, busy little kid.

Brief update… the power keeps blinking and Bernie Sanders on TV is distracting so I’ll make this quick!

Brian was able to finish one pavilion bathroom last week, which will be quite handy when our church comes out for our church picnic the beginning of August!

Brian was able to build a structure over the fireplace outside of Unit #10; now he just needs to put a roof on it and he’ll be done.

We are up late tonight waiting for the two interns for BCM to arrive. They will be here for about two weeks and have a lot on their plate! If all goes well, they will be a huge help to Brian and the BCM tech team. They’ll be staying here on the property, so we’ll get a chance to get to know them, too.

Brian needs to finish siding the main house and fix its roof. He also needs to put a new roof on next door and patch our roof.

I am planning six staff meetings, writing two training courses, working on two ministry presentations, and trying to figure out how to redecorate and rearrange two classrooms. I also have the usual household/mom stuff to do, like changing up the kids’ bedrooms and doing school shopping for E.

Okay, the interns have pulled up. Brian has gone to lead them to their home for the next two weeks. And I’m off to bed!

Up & Around & Back

Friday morning, I headed to Vermont with E and Baby J tucked safely into the back seat. The church I grew up in, Union Baptist Church, was celebrating its Centennial and I really wanted to be there. We stayed with my sister and husband who still live in Vermont, along with my parents who also traveled up for the celebration.

Saturday was a free family carnival. E was ecstatic that there were four (4!) bounce houses – here’s 2:

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My sister and a small team worked tirelessly on a timeline of the church history in conjunction with world events that occurred at the same time. It was huge and well done!

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This is in the gym – you can see how long the timeline was! It was very well done and informative.

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Yup, there’s my family! Yes, that’s me, the little bald baby on the right. I was one when we moved to Vermont and 17 when we left.

Saturday was a nice day of reconnecting with old friends. We haven’t been to Vermont since early 2013 and a few people I hadn’t seen then either, so it’s been awhile! It’s always nice to be back – and always a little surreal. I spent my entire childhood there, yet my entire adult life has been in various other places. But something about Vermont will always always feel like home.

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These were two of my closest friends in high school. We were basically inseparable! Between the three of us, we now have 9 children.

Sunday morning was a big celebration service. {I was proud of my little 5 year old who sat so well during the 2hr service!} The whole service was focused on God’s faithfulness through these 100 years. My dad was invited to come and speak about his time at UBC and the building project he oversaw. The building project took up almost his entire tenure at the church and to this day is still an amazing story. If you don’t know it, some day I’ll sit down and share it with you.

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It was fascinating to hear the church’s history and how, indeed, God has been faithful – over and over – when the church body as a whole was not. God redeemed them, gave them a second chance, and did it all for His glory. I was blessed to be a product of this church and now they are one of our supporters as we do missions work. It’s kind of like coming full circle. Even the pastor they have today was my dad’s associate when I was a little girl, was sent as a missionary to Honduras for many years and then to Texas, and has returned to be senior pastor. Full circle. God is faithful.

I’m very glad I made the time to go. I’m also glad I took my oldest with me and she was big enough to at least hear the stories even if she couldn’t understand everything. She met more people than she probably cares to remember! Yet I’m glad I got to take her with me to experience all of this.

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Before I left for Vermont, I was “missionary of the week” at the CEF Day Camp here at MRF. E was a camper. It was fun, as usual, sharing about missions. This year, I focused on “behind-the-scenes” missionaries and shared precisely what we do within BCM and the importance of MRF.

Meanwhile, Brian was working tirelessly on the home that had the chimney torn down on the work day. The resident was gone for only a week and that was going to be the best time for him to fix the wall, mud, sand, paint, and clean without being a disturbance. After I left with the kids on Friday, he took Big J and they got to work in the house. They put in a full day of work, then ran down to the church to fix a water leak, then over to a friend’s house for supper.

Saturday, they finished cleaning in the home and actually got it done in time! After running more errands, they ran to the airport and got the resident and brought her back to her newly cleaned, fixed-up home.

Sunday during church, Brian got a text from a new friend asking for a ride to southern PA. It was somewhat of an emergency and Brian didn’t even hesitate to say ‘yes.’ The trip took longer than expected, but Big J was rewarded for his patience by a trip to Bass Pro Shops where, surprise surprise!, they had “summer camp”! He got to “go fishing”, shoot a “bow and arrow”, and a BB gun. He had a blast! It was a great way to end the weekend with his dad and a great reward for him being so helpful and patient and not complaining once!

The kids and I got home Monday. We were thankful for little traffic (it’s a 6 hour drive with no traffic and no stops… with two small children, you can imagine it took us a little longer than that!), no road construction, and only one torrential downpour that made us stop for 30 minutes.

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They thought the downpour was hilarious! I did, too – once I was stopped and didn’t have to worry about not being able to see out my windshield!

So, what’s next??

  • Brian is finishing up one bathroom (hopefully yet today) in the pavilion. We really wanted it available for all the summer church picnics happening on the property.
  • July 30-31 we head to Philadelphia to represent MRF at a missions conference. Kiddos will stay with my parents.
  • The end of July we’re joined by two tech interns for BCM. Pray for Brian as details are being worked out right now for what all they will be doing.
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View leaving my sister’s house Monday morning

VBS Weekend

Friday evening, we kicked off our first ever weekend Vacation Bible School with a family carnival.

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It’s been a pretty hot week and they were calling for storms, but we, in faith, set it all up outside anyway. I told my co-workers that it’s pointless to pray for no rain, then live all week like we’re going to get rained out and be all depressed about rain that hasn’t even happened yet. That’s not faith! When I left my house, though, I was a little concerned as it was 4pm (carnival to start at 6) and it was pouring. When I hit the intersection at the interstate, though, literally the rain stopped and sun broke through! We had a gorgeous evening – the weather could not have been more beautiful!

The turnout was awesome – constant flow of people throughout the evening. We also had a Pet Expo going on:

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The theme for VBS was “Pets Unleashed”, so we thought a good way to start it off would be with a free Pet Expo. We actually had vendors calling the church asking for a table, so instead of just four, we had I believe six or seven different organizations or individuals represented. It went over VERY well! We had a beautiful photo op in there for families to get pictures taken with their pets, too:

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Outside, there was a variety of games, including a gaga ball pit and a bounce house:

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We had a VBS table set up in order to preregister families for the event. It worked really well and we had families from the community register – and attend both days!

The entire evening was a huge success.

Saturday morning, we began our VBS –

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Once again, we were wondering about rain! When I arrived at church, it was downpouring, so I quickly came up with a Plan B since one activity was outdoors. By the time staff mtg was done, and before kids began arriving, the rain had cleared and the event went on as planned! I had zero staffing issues and everything ran so smoothly. The kids got to play on the bounce house, climb through a giant tunnel made out of boxes, make a dog toy to give away, sing, walk through the Sermon on the Mount, and make new friends. We ended the morning with a free picnic outdoors for the families and more time on the bounce house. If I’m not mistaken, basically every family stayed for the picnic and returned on Sunday!

Sunday, we actually did part of our lesson during “big church.”

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The Gospel was clearly presented, to everyone at church. It was phenomenally done; I was so proud of my team! We concluded the morning shortly after the worship service ended and the parents were provided coffee and snacks while they waited. I figured parents would be anxious to get their kids and leave, but instead, we had to actually go insist they get their children because they were enjoying fellowshiping so much!

It was an awful lot of work for a very short couple of days. Yet, it was worth it. We know of one little boy who received Jesus as Savior; we’ve been praying for him for two years! While it can be easy to focus on numbers, I keep reminding myself that Jesus will go through great lengths to rescue even one child because that’s how much He loves us! It was all worth it.

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E with her dog toy that will be given to a friend’s dog (the goal with the crafts was for them to be given away to show we care for others).

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Big J in his preschool class. He had a blast! I’m so glad we were able to offer it this year!

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I have the world’s best decorating team. They created this fish tank on a blank wall. Genius!

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Most of the group Sunday morning waiting to begin.

Now that VBS is over, I feel like I can breathe again! Even though it was only a weekend, I’m pretty sure it took just as much prep as a week-long event. Now, I feel like I can think about other things finally!

Here’s what’s on our plate now:

  • I’m the “missionary of the week” at CEF’s Day Camp here at MRF all week. E finally gets to attend; it’s fun being her teacher.
  • Brian is busy repairing a home. During the work day, a chimney was torn down.
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Kids playing while the chimney got torn down behind them during the work day.

It had been falling down, so it HAD to come down, but it took with it part of a wall. Unfortunately, the house is being used, so it must be repaired immediately. The resident is out of town this week only, so he’s in there repairing as quickly as possible an upstairs wall, the roof, and part of the downstairs wall, plus putting in part of a foundation and building a wall/covering for the part of the fireplace that was not taken off outside. Pray for him – it’s a lot to get done in 5 days, alone!

  • Friday, I take E and BabyJ with me to Vermont for the Centennial Celebration of the church I grew up in that my dad pastored at for 17 years. My parents will be heading up on Thursday and we’ll all stay with my sister for the weekend.
  • At the end of the month, Brian and I head to Philly to represent MRF at a church missions conference.
  • Also at the end of the month, Brian will have two interns for BCM living here, helping with tech stuff for BCM.

You can be praying that in between the busy-ness of summer we will have family time. Brian has an awful lot of work to do at MRF that can only be done during the summer months, but he needs wisdom to prioritize the needs and get done what he can.

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Kids playing with our co-worker’s dog.