June 17, 2014

As I mentioned in the last update, we are coming to Boston for an extended furlough.  Since we have been with YWAM for more than seven years already, we are eligible for a 6-12 month furlough.  And since Margaret has graduated, we no longer have to rush back for an early August school start date.  Isaac will have more flexibility to see us, now he has graduated.  Triza, the lady who has been helping me with Phoebe at home, is returning to Malawi.  So, it seems like the right time to take a furlough.

We will be in Boston from July through the end of the year.  I am so excited to see you all, be in a familiar culture again, enjoy fall and winter, and celebrate Christmas in winter.

Specifically, these are some of our goals, in no particular order:

  • Reconnect with our church community.
  • Fundraise, as the budget we drafted nine years ago does not accommodate ongoing inflation.
  • Visit Alberto’s family in El Salvador, who have never met Phoebe.
  • Get Phoebe an insulin pump, which is the next step in diabetes management.  This pump will be attached to her body and administer insulin, and has been on our wish list for awhile now.  Phoebe’s endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital requested we make a six-month commitment to being in the Boston area to receive support during our learning curve.
  • Put Phoebe in an autism program through the Boston Public School system.  I have been managing Phoebe’s education from home these last few years, and I am in need of more support.  I would like to learn new strategies and technologies that may help her.
  • Provide a home-base for Margaret as she figures out the details of her gap year.
  • Study.  I am five classes short of a Masters of Art in Urban Ministry at Gordon Conwell.  I would like to take some live classes at CUME, the urban branch of the seminary.
  • Do some manual labor on our Quincy house, which has been rented to the same family since we left Boston.
  • Rest.

We will be staying with my parents in Weymouth for the month of July, and at Park Street Church’s apartment from August through December (with the option of extending, should we need it).  Gratefully, we have found people to stay in our Cape Town house who will watch over the property and the pets.

Getting all the details ready for a big trip like this has been exceedingly stressful.  Adding to the stress was a very challenging and unexpected situation.  Last week we were harassed and threatened by Richard, the husband of Triza, the Malawian lady who helps me at home with Phoebe.  Richard decided that we owed Triza more than $1000 for sick leave that she never took. Legally, there are no cash pay-outs for sick leave.  But Richard was on a mission, and decided he was going to take me to court.

This was a complete slap in the face to us, since we have treated Triza with the utmost respect and a generous wage.  I sought legal advice, and was told that his claims were unlawful, that I should register a harassment complaint with the police, but be ready for a possible tough outcome since judges tend to favor the laborer, regardless of the law.

I reached out to our Missionary Care Team and asked them for prayer.  And then a miracle occurred!  Richard did seek legal advice, and was told to go home, as he had no case.  He came to me in repentance and explained his motive was out of fear, since Triza and their sons are moving back to Malawi soon, and he feels great financial pressure.  We were able to give him a gift, which is much more freeing than being forced to pay someone.

This whole situation was very unnerving, not because of the money, but because of the threat from someone we considered a friend.  I felt like I was trapped in a very unhealthy relationship.  We have since straightened things out with Richard (Triza never seemed involved one way or another) but our relationship will never be the same.  Knowing the law is flexible is also a very unnerving feeling, and gives me greater empathy for innocent people who are judged guilty by a corrupt system.

Alberto recently participated in a Restorative Justice conference and is pictured above speaking on forgiveness.  Since he is always telling me stories about the inmates, I thought I should be more intentional about sharing them with you:

“Xholani is so thankful to God for sending us to prison where he is doing his sentence.  His first language is Xhosa.  He is incarcerated for armed robbery.  He had no problems with drugs or alcohol.  Guns, women and money were his weak points.  Before the Restorative Justice conference, he was having a very challenging life filled with revengeful thoughts.  With the information he received at the conference, he gave himself the best chance of a new life by giving Jesus the opportunity to be his ally in his journey.”

Margaret, Phoebe and I flew out of Cape Town on Monday  (the same day Ana flew to Hawaii.)  One of the perks of living so far away from the US is lay-overs.  Frankfurt is a major lay-over city between Cape Town and Boston, and is not far from Zurich, Switzerland.  So, Margaret Phoebe and I are currently visiting Daniela Roth-Nater and her children in Switzerland!  I met Daniela 24 years ago when she was working in the missions office at Park Street Church. Naomi and Margaret have been friends their whole lives!

Coming to Switzerland has been a dream of mine since I was a child.  Spending time with Daniela is sweetness to my soul.  Being with such a good friend in a neutral environment is helping me process the stress of the past few weeks and allows me to rest before the busyness of our Boston trip begins.  We arrive in Boston June 27.

Meanwhile Alberto is finishing up more house projects.  He is a hero.  He will meet us in Boston July 1.

Last month, Isaac graduated from Messiah University with a degree in computer science and a minor in finance.  Ana and I attended the graduation, much to my joy!

It was wonderful to see Isaac, see his world, meet his friends and their families, and spend so much time with him.  I loved every minute!  Ana was present for the graduation, but left shortly thereafter for a missions conference in Kansas City.  My parents, sister, niece, and friend Rochelle Karakey came to the celebration as well.  What a happy reunion!

I assumed I would be worried about Phoebe, having never left her for that long of a period of time, but I was able to release her into Alberto and Margaret’s capable hands, and they did an excellent job!  Thank you to all of you who prayed for this trip.

Isaac is now working for Ambassadors Advisors in Lancaster, PA.  He and his college roommate are living in the basement of the roommate’s parents’ house.  Many of their college friends live in the area.

Equally as exciting is Margaret’s graduation from high school.  It was bittersweet for her to graduate, as many of her friends will leave Cape Town and not return.  On the flip side, Margaret is more than ready to embrace what lies ahead, as unknown as it may be.

Margaret is taking a gap year before college, though does not know exactly what she will do yet.  She will look more diligently for work when she gets to Boston later this month.  She is no longer considering a DTS through YWAM, despite the fact that I think she would love it, and God would use it to draw her closer to Him.  It is something I have released to God, knowing He is creative in His ways to connect with us.

Happy 15th birthday, Phoebe!  I continue to learn more about God, life, perseverance, joy and living in the moment, through Phoebe.  (She has two candles on the cake as she is still working on blowing them out!)

Daniela and Phoebe at the Rhine Falls on the Swiss/German border yesterday.

After spending a few months with us in Cape Town, Ana is now in Kona, Hawaii embarking on the next chapter of her life with YWAM and Frenchie, pictured above.  She is currently fundraising to work with the YWAM headquarters and a local indigenous youth group.  You can read her latest update here.

Payer Requests:

*Safe travels
*God’s guidance and blessing on our furlough time
*Ana’s fundraising and adaptation to the Kona base
*Isaac’s new work life
*Margaret’s gap year
*Phoebe’s pump and school placement
*Deon’s daughter was recently shot in a gang cross-fire, and is now suffering from PTSD.  (Deon and Deborah run the soup kitchen we support.)