We're Not in Uganda Anymore

We left the land of no winter (Uganda) on Jan. 16 and re-entered the land of perpetual winter (New England).  What a difference one day makes!  It was clear immediately: we're not in Uganda anymore.

I love both lands.

Within 20 hours of landing at Logan Airport on Jan 17, we were driving in a snowstorm to our annual H.I.M.-sponsored Midwinter Family Getaway, held for the first time at The Anchorage Inn in York, Maine. 150 people gathered to swim in the snow—or more correctly, swim indoors while the snow fell outside.  Well, all but about 15 enthusiastic teenagers, who decided that a polar bear dip in the frigid Atlantic would be a very "cool" thing to do. They made a memory, for sure!

It was a high-energy, dynamic weekend which held a little bit of everything: worship, teaching, fellowship, community meals, and, of course, swimming.  Brian Dietz and Will and Becky Barnett (from Highrock Church of Arlington, MA) took on the programming for the weekend and did a great job.  It was the only way we could agree to hosting the event, since we were flying in from Uganda less than a day before the conference began.  Jim and Sue Martis took on feeding everyone and did a remarkable job, especially given their "outdoor" camping cookstove set-up.  

Paul and I taught two sessions to the adults, one on parenting and one on marriage.  The families present ranged from those with very young children to those with high school/college kids, so it was very multigenerational in a very healthy way.

We were perhaps most encouraged to see such a great group of teens at the conference. They were positive, engaged, helpful, polite, and very alive. They helped with the younger kids during our teaching sessions, participated in worship and every other part of the program, and were "all in."  Most of them have attended family camp together for years and it was obvious that the friendships between them are real and meaningful.  Very hope giving. 

The low point of the weekend was the Patriots’ loss to the Broncos in the AFC play-off game, though given how depleted our ranks were with season-ending injuries, I'm not sure how confident we were that we'd be able to take down the Broncos in their home.  We had a great season, really, and we've moved on to next year's prospects.

Brian Dietz lead worship and had a lot of help for
"Days of Elijah" as well as for the "Butterfly Song."
 A segment of the very fun, interactive game "Fishbowl"  was part of each large group session.
Men against women.  Always exciting.

Jim braved the elements to feed everyone.  Dedication!!

The Westermark family successfully completed the family activity,
which will allow the impact of the weekend to continue in their home.

The unusual shape of this pool provided for many creative games and fun really was had by all.

We ventured to the Nubble Lighthouse in the frigid cold and were rewarded with this great view of it.

All too quickly, we were driving back to Bedford on Monday, Martin Luther King Day, but would sleep in our beds for only 3 nights before heading out for parts northwest. And that was a 33% increase of what had been planned! Originally we were to have been home Tuesday for counseling and then leave for Washington state on Wednesday, but the arrival of another N'oreaster caused our Wednesday morning flight to be canceled. So, we had a true snow day and flew to Washington on Thursday. That seemed like a gift at that point, as we had been wondering aloud, “Who schedules our life?!?” No buck passing here . . . we swear to our own hurt.  :)

We thoroughly enjoyed the unexpected day at home and felt very ready Thursday to hop on a flight to Seattle and make the drive to Moses Lake where we spoke at the ministerial association’s "couples night out" that evening.  How we've grown to love our partnership with Moses Lake over the years!  This night reminded us of how much health there is in an area when pastors unify for the cause of the gospel and partner rather than compete.  It was in our heart to encourage them as pastoral couples to tend to their marriages, which can so easily be neglected due to the tyranny of the urgent which is part and parcel of the demanding nature of ministry. 

The Moses Lake Ministerial Association’s couples' dinner
gave a shot in the arm to these ministry couples.

Friday we drove to Clearwater Lodge at Camp Spaulding in Newport, WA (just north of Spokane). Speaking for the Moses Lake Alliance Church marriage conference is like having a family reunion, having now partnered with this group five times over the past seven years.  Our hearts for this group are very deep and we consider it a great privilege to be on the journey with them.  Kent and Staci Copley facilitate the conference and do that so well. The weekend was blessed in every way. One person wrote, "We cannot express what a blessing you are to our marriage & for your friendship. Such a very short fellowship but a sweet time. LOVE you guys!"

The Moses Lake Alliance Church annual marriage conference.

One of the highlights of being in Moses Lake is being able to hang out with the Copleys and their precious daughters Tori and Britni. We love this family! Their friendship is one of the rich dividends of this itinerate ministry. It always feels like the time is too short.  Another highlight happened while we were at the conference: Paul's first cousins Bob and Chris Clark came to spend the day with us.  They live in Spokane, where both teach at Whitworth College.  It had been years, and we so enjoyed renewing our relationship.

Paul's first cousin Bob Clark and his wife, Chris, joined us for a day at the conference.

Early Monday, we drove to Seattle and had the sweetest 30-minute visit with Richard Dahlstrom at a coffee shop along the road.  Speaking of time that's too short . . .

We treasure our friendship with Richard Dahlstrom and were thankful
for even a 30-minute rendezvous along highway 90.
The balance of the day was spent with our long time friends and co-authors (of the book Restoring the Fallen) Earl and Sandy Wilson. Reconnecting for the first time in three years, we shared joys and trials, updates on family, and vision for the future. We are so grateful that the Wilsons are in our lives. They remind us that God is in the business of restoration and He is our hope. We celebrated so many stories of redemption that God is producing through their story of redemption. This is the gospel.

Our "nightcap" was sharing a cup of coffee at Starbucks with Hannah and MaryAnn Bastedo and Rachel Weeks, three dear-to-our-heart CBS staff girls who are attending Seattle Pacific University.  So happy to get to see them even briefly!

Back to New England the next day . . . just in time for another storm.  :)  Though some may find this unbelievable, we were thrilled to be home for another big storm.  Honestly. We were so thankful that our previously scheduled ministry tour to Trinidad (originally scheduled for Thursday through Tuesday) was postponed until May so we were able to be home to enjoy this storm which dumped 12" on snow on our town.  We really did enjoy being figures in a snow globe, burning Devlin-donated firewood in our wood-burning stove, and sorting through piles that had become mini-monuments to our neglect of such non-urgent matters. 

Paul obliged my desire to track the amount of snow as it fell on Feb. 4.  :)

Our dear friends Bill and Helen Challener also paid us a visit during this time, which was extended due to yet another storm. We were all happy!

Fortunately the weather wasn't a factor the following weekend, so Friday, Feb. 7, we drove down to Havre de Grace, Maryland, to speak for the Restore Church's first marriage conference.  Led by Jess and Elizabeth Bousa, Restore has existed for two years and already has grown to three sites. The message of hope they offer is reaching a population of those emerging from lives marked by significant brokenness.  It was truly a joy to minister to this very open, very hungry group of people.  The marriage conference, held Friday night and all day Saturday, went really well, as did the four church services we taught for Satruday night and Sunday morning.  We overnighted with my sister Laura and her husband, David, in northern Virginia before driving home Monday.  Great trip.

Jess and Elizabeth Bousa are pouring their hearts and souls
into Restore Church in Havre de Grace, Maryland.

We were home only one day before commencing on this trip: I'm wrapping up this blog from sunny California, and we're not only not in Uganda anymore, but we're clearly not in Bedford either. As our hometown gets hit by yet another winter storm, we're walking in shorts in California. And having snow-envy, quite honestly.  

This trip will be the subject of the next blog, so for now, I'll sign off.