Whew! We have just finished our first “home assignment.” As long term missionaries, we spend about 10 months of each five-year term outside of our host country. This time is spent resting and recuperating, praying about the direction of our lives, visiting with friends, families, prayer and financial supporters, and spreading the word about Kijabe Hospital. The last two months have been some of the most amazing of our lives: we’ve been overwhelmed with the kindness, love, and generosity extended to the Mara family.
The first leg of our trip took us from Kijabe to Michigan, where I grew up. The flights were seamless, and somehow Michael’s blood sugars stayed stable through ten time zone changes. We enjoyed a fun family reunion with all five of my sisters’ families, including no less than fourteen cousins!
Kid heaven, we walked to the beach every day, rode bikes, ate and drank together, and generally put the “fun” back in dysfunction.
We took a quick trip to my home town, Midland, and to my alma mater, Notre Dame.
We had a great visit with our friends from Kijabe, Norm and Carolyn Boeve. They treated us to beautiful dinners, great conversations, lots of rest, and even took the kids out tubing behind their boat! They introduced us to Harvest Bible Chapel in Spring Lake, and Pastor David Wisen and his wife Kristen. Before we departed, Norm and Carolyn blessed us with prayer and sent us on our way.
From there, we re-united with my classmates from residency, Steve Kimberly and Jeff Recknagle and their families. Jeff lives on a beautiful lake which connects with Lake Michigan.
The kids had a riot, learning how to water ski and drive a jet ski. Michael terrified me by going full throttle on Lake Michigan in six foot swells, screaming “big air!!!!” I think he gets it from his mother. It meant a lot to me for Ann to meet two guys and their families who have meant so much to me. There were a few uncomfortable moments when my old friends related stories from my “B.A” (before Ann) era, but grace was extended all around!
One of the highlights of the trip for me has been the opportunity to speak at Orthopaedic Surgery Grand Rounds in Michigan and Oregon.
My good friend from medical school, John Anderson, both made the arrangements for me to speak, and invited us to spend time with us at his cottage, also in west Michigan. The kids couldn’t believe their luck, three different lakes with boats for inner tubing and water skiing in one summer!
We said our sad good-byes to my sisters and friends in Michigan, and got back on the plane, now destined for Bend, Oregon. Here, we were extended the incredible gift of a beautiful home and car by Laura Wytsma. The house was our home from mid-July to late August. It is truly a sanctuary of peace and relaxation. The Wytsma family has taken us under their wing, spoiling us with their generosity and kindness.
In Central Oregon, we got to connect with almost all of our close friends from the time we were first married.
True friends are the ones where it feels as if you’ve only been apart for a few days. I got to go on a three day mountain bike adventure, punctuated by an emergency room visit for an emergency epinephrine injection and IV steroids when my airway began to close up. It’s a great idea to mountain bike with your personal physician! The really fun part of that is no one really knows why it happened. So I get to travel with two epi pens from now on. Hmmmm… We got to have some great dinners and outings with my sister Shannon, her husband David, and my nephews Will and Ian. Michael and Jane love their cousins, so it was great to see them get to spend time together.
Our great friend and gifted photographer Benjamin Edwards invited us to speak at Redmond Church of God Seventh Day, and Pastor Sean Mills and the entire congregation immediately made us feel right at home. They blessed us with kindness, generosity, and prayer, and really started the Oregon leg of this journey out on the right foot. Paradoxically, Ben was in East Africa, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro while we were in his home church in Oregon. Ben is shooting a video for the Elisha foundation, and climbed Kili with Eli, a boy with Down’s Syndrome who has also been to Everest Base Camp. If you want to get rid of any self-pity in your life, check this out further at Ben’s website,
A really surprising highlight of the Summer was our visit to Emmanuel Bible Church in Salem. Dr. Bob and Sally Zirschky have been over to work at Kijabe, and they put their church to work praying for us, and then supporting us financially, before we had ever visited the church! We had the most amazing weekend with the Zirschky’s and EBC, and they invited us to speak the message from the pulpit for both services on the Sunday. So exciting (and a little nerve-wracking) to be able to tell stories of how God works at Kijabe and in our lives. The Zirschky’s again showered us with their amazing generosity, and Bob even drove up to Portland to support me as I spoke to the ortho residency there.
We took a pause from public speaking engagements to attend the joyful wedding of Ann’s great friend Erin Lytle to Jay Jones. Ann co-officiated the ceremony with our friend Pastor Brandon Reynolds, who we know from his time at Antioch. What an amazing and blessed celebration. A great bonus of being in Ashland for the wedding was getting to spend more time with my sister Colleen and her family. Returning to Bend, Ann’s brother
Paul and incredible chef Amanda came up from San Francisco and prepared us an amazing feast.
Back in Bend, God blessed us with an amazing evening with our dedicated supporters at Aspen Hall.
So many people made the effort to come out, we had great conversations, and got to catch up with many of our friends, prayer partners, and financial supporters. The time was too short, but we are grateful that we at least got to say hello to many of the people who allow us to do our work in Kenya.
In the midst of all this crazy travel, we carved out three days of real vacation. We dropped Michael
at the first ever Type 1 Diabetes Camp in central Oregon, and dropped Jane with her best friends in Portland.
Ann and I relished three days of rare treats like sleeping in, spare time, lazy breakfasts, sushi, and uninterrupted conversation.
We even spoiled ourselves with concert tickets to see Counting Crows in Portland!!
We then returned to Bend to speak at Antioch Church on August 17th, some shopping for last minute essentials, and then departed Oregon on the 21st. We enjoyed a quick lay-over with Ann’s parents in Dublin, enjoying their amazing hospitality, and spending some good family time. All too quickly, we were back on the plane to Nairobi, where our friend John was waiting at the airport to drive us back to Kijabe.
Kijabe really feels like home, seeing our little house, getting a feverish tail wagging greeting from Bosco, and seeing our good friends here. I’ve been back to work for a little over a week, with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Ann has jumped right back in to trying to find funds to keep the place running, and the kids are overjoyed to be back in school. Overall, an amazing, somewhat exhausting two months. We can’t thank you all enough for standing with us in so many ways.