This past month has provided us with opportunities to be with a number of very special people, including: one of the only people still living who knew and loved Paul’s parents well; a couple who came to us as seekers back in 1999 and who now lead marriage and family ministry in Georgia; a missionary family we did life with from 1992–1994 while we were at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; a college student we’ve known since she was very young; a family whose mom was a student of ours at GCTS in 1995; and the leadership team of CURE International — a ministry we’ve only been connected to for two years.  Over and again, we’ve been humbled by God’s faithfulness to these whose lives we’ve had a small part in through the years, and we’ve been encouraged to not grow weary in the battle for godly homes.

Backing up to late October, we weren’t home long before we flew to Rome, Georgia, on Oct. 22 for a week of ministry orchestrated by Nate and Jeannie King.  We still haven’t gotten over this precious family leaving New England to return to Jeannie’s roots in Georgia.  Our relationship with them is over a decade old now, and began when they came for premarital counseling back in 1999.  We’ve been so blessed as we’ve watched God draw them more and more deeply into His heart through the years.  We’ve had the privilege of marrying them, of dedicating each of their four children, and of partnering with them in Engagement Matters.  We were blown away when we joined them in Rome for a week and got glimpses into the many and varied ways they are serving the Lord in their community.

To kick things off, we did a day-long parenting conference for their home church, Pleasant Valley South Baptist Church, on Saturday, Oct. 23, and though the turn-out wasn’t “great,” those who came seemed to really appreciate it.  That night, we spoke for a “date night” sponsored by Battlefields Ministry lead by Nathan and Jane Phillips.  The team did a beautiful job of creating a welcoming and romantic setting and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening.  Paul preached at PVSBC the next day, and together we taught all the adult Sunday School classes on marriage.  We really appreciate that church and their ministry in the community.

Date Night sponsored by Battlefield Ministries was yummy.  :)  Nate and Jeannie helped shape this successful evening.

The Kings wisely scheduled nothing else Sunday afternoon so we could have a date with the Patriots.  :)  Watching the game with fellow diehard Pats fans was a treat; there probably aren’t many of them within such close range of the Falcons.

Monday we met with the founders of Battlefield Ministries, Nathan and Jane Philips, and shared hearts which beat so similarly for families and marriages.  That was followed by a lunch meeting with the planning team for the marriage conference we’ll do for First Presbyterian Church of Rome in late January.  Tommy and Priscilla Overton lead that ministry and we had a wonderful time with them.  We’re really looking forward to partnering with them in late January.  That evening we did a parenting seminar for Unity Christian School and met some really wonderful people.

That night, Jeannie arranged for us to stay overnight at Winshape Christian Conference Center. The center, operated on the campus of Berry College by Chick-Fil-A, is as plush and resort-like as Campus by the Sea is rustic and resort-like in a totally different way.  :)  We had a sweet getaway night, enjoyed delicious meals, bicycled around the vast campus all the way up to the “House of Dreams,” and fully relaxed for most of the day.  That night, we met with the Battlefield Ministries team to do the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator with them in the context of team building which was both fun and insight producing.  We love doing stuff like that!

Wednesday a.m., Oct. 27, I spoke to a Mom’s group on parenting and that was delightful.  That night we taught on marriage at First Presbyterian to seed the water for the retreat in January.

Whew!!!  In between the engagements, we hung out with Nate and Jeannie and their precious children. It was a full, rich week of ministry, and we are looking forward to returning to Rome twice in early 2011.  

A highlight for Mister Paul was making chocolate chip cookies with Emi and Cammie, who proved to be able assistants.
We were home very briefly (less than 24 hours — during which time we did the Patriots' couples study) before we were off again, this time by car (and truck.)  Julie had flown in to Boston from California to pay the dentist a visit before starting her first physical therapy internship in Fairfax, Virginia, on Nov. 1.  She’s using one of our cars during her internship, so we drove the ole Camry down while Paul drove a borrowed truck so we could transport some of my parents’ memorabilia back to Boston.  En route to our conference in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, we had the privilege of stopping in Lemoyne, PA, to visit CURE International headquarters.  CURE operates eleven pediatric hospitals in strategic places in developing countries (www.cureinternational.org), and Julie volunteered at their Mbale, Uganda, -based hospital in 2009.  We had a wonderful time meeting Dr. Scott and Sally Harrison, the founders and directors of CURE, along with several others on their team.  We’re very impressed with CURE’s vision and with how God is using them to bring hope and healing around the world.

Mark Bush, Sally and Scott Harrison, Julie, and Dale Branter
Our next stop will go down as one of the highlights of 2010.  We reconnected with Barbara Boyd, long time IVCF staff member and developer of InterVarsity’s “Bible and Life” discipleship weekend program.  Barbara was a colleague of Paul’s parents as well as a close personal friend.  She lived with the Friesens for a number of years when Paul was a little guy, so having dinner with her and hearing her memories of Paul’s parents and their family was very, very special.  At 87, Barbara is sharp as a tack and still completely singly focused on walking faithfully with God.  We left thoroughly inspired and so grateful for the gift of a few moments with her.

Paul and Barbara Boyd shared many memories that night.

On we continued to the home of Liz and Steve Lane for our weekend conference at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church.  The Lanes are dear friends from our days at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (1991-1994) and they invited us to do an all-day marriage conference for their church.  What a joy to be with this dedicated congregation, whose faith background we share through Paul’s Mennonite Brethren heritage.  A large crowd gave up their Saturday to strengthen their marriages and we felt very much at home with them.  That evening, we had the privilege of having dinner with Kathy Stuebing and her son David.  The Stuebings are also friends from our GCTS days, and after dedicating their lives to being career missionaries in Zambia (founding TCCA, a theological seminary committed to training nationals for ministry in Africa), they are now “semi-retired.”  These kindred friends have inspired us for 20 years, and we were so thankful to have an evening to catch up with them.  Unfortunately for us, Kathy’s husband, Rich, was teaching in Africa, so we missed him.

Sunday, Oct. 31, Paul preached at both services and we co-taught all the adult Sunday School classes.  A special delight was having Beth Hendricks and her boyfriend Matt show up for the service, as well as the Stuebings.  It was a reunion of sorts and made us feel very blessed.  It’s SO encouraging to see the faithfulness of God reflected in the lives of “kids” like Beth, whom we’ve known since her young elementary school years.  Now, as a junior in college, she is continuing her pursuit of Christ and is a bright light for Jesus in this very dark world.  And, she’s making very God-honoring relationship decisions.  :)  Way to go, Beth!!!

David and Kathy Stuebing and Beth Hendricks and Matt. We were the last to leave church that Sunday!

After church, we had a lovely lunch with the Lanes and two other couples.  A beautiful table, delicious homemade food, and wonderful fellowship all made it hard to leave!

Going further south, we drove to northern Virginia to connect with my sister Laura and her husband, David, as well as with Lisa and Julie.  The visit was short but sweet.  Julie will live with Laura and David for the duration of her internship which ends Dec. 17, at which time she’ll fly to Uganda for Christmas.  It’s a treat for her to be with them and their very sweet and bouncy dog Maggie.

Maggie isn’t too bouncy dressed up as a lobster for Halloween.  This is her statue pose, aka “I’m humiliated and will not move until you disrobe me!”  She’s adorable!

We headed home the next day with a truck full of treasures from my parents’ life, and our 8-9 hour journey took 12 hours due to a truck fire which closed the highway on which we were traveling for 2.5 hours.  Fortunately it was a gorgeous fall day.  Unfortunately I was reminded of how impatient I am, especially when “wasting” time. :(  Always so much room for growth!

November’s opening days were filled with counseling and Patriots’ events.  After study on Wednesday, I taught the women how to make jam.  I guess you could say we had a jam session.  :)  That time has become a highlight of each week for me.  I love these women and feel so privileged for the opportunity to grow with them.

Our Charleston conference had been scratched  several weeks earlier so we had an unprecedented “free” weekend which also coincided with my 56th birthday.  To celebrate, we chose to go to Long Island to meet up with JMU’s women’s soccer team to watch the athletic trainer.  :)  It was post-season play, and JMU upset Hofstra for the CAA title game, giving them a berth in the soccer sweet sixteen tournament the next weekend.  We loved meeting Lisa’s team and coaches and thoroughly enjoyed watching the game.  Since our girls played field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse, we’re true novices when it comes to soccer.  And I must admit that we’ve always felt it seemed like a LOT of work for very little reward (most soccer scores seem to be in the 1-0 range) and therefore boring.  We stand corrected!  The games were anything but boring and we were thrilled to be there.

We managed to take a family outing Saturday afternoon (Nov. 6th)  when Julie joined us.  Our walk along Fire Island was perfect and we were so thankful to have a few hours together.

A brisk walk along the beach of Fire Island was a perfect celebration of my birthday.  Julie and Lisa are flanked by Paul and me.

Back home for an actual stretch of time....for the first time this fall!  As we “settled in” (read: sorted mail, swept away cobwebs and dust bunnies, attacked stacks of neglected paperwork, etc.), we had time to reflect on the joys of the previous three weeks.  So many encounters with significant people in our lives, spanning the whole of Paul’s life (Barbara Boyd lived with Paul’s family when he was a baby), to the past couple of years . . . and we have been reminded that we are blessed beyond words.  And we’re so, so sure that He is in how we are spending our lives.  Knowing that helps us sleep very well at night.