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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

We would like to wish you all a wonderfully blessed and Christ-filled New Year in 2010.

October, Part Two

Friday, November 20, 2009
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On October 18 we had the privilege of meeting the good folks at Parham Free Methodist Church, and preaching there. Potlucks at Free Methodist churches are always delicious, and especially in farm country. We heard later that they decided to support us with a generous gift. Thanks, Parham, for your warmth and support. From there we travelled to Yarker for a joint evening service involving the nearby churches of Enterprise and Verona. The fellowship time afterwards was very enjoyable and, again, we were humbled by the supportiveness and generosity of God’s people.

It is so encouraging when others are excited for us when they hear of how God has been helping us and guiding us in so many ways, and also of plans for future ministry in Africa. So many people have expressed in various ways that they wish they could go, or are just happy for us that we are going. With many there is a sense of comradeship, because we know that we are all part of the same ministry. We know that they will be praying and giving while we are going. This really is a joint venture!

We left Yarker and got in late at Wesley Acres for the night. After a tired Monday filled with paperwork and administration, Minister’s Conference started on Tuesday. Blessings at Minister’s Conference included: reconnecting with friends and colleagues, stimulating, thought provoking, and encouraging sessions, I spoke with many pastors who want to have us come to their church to speak, and we passed along boxes and boxes of books to other pastors. It was hard to part with so many books, but feels good to bless others, and to be travelling lighter. We were blessed in return as many pastors made donations to the “Jesus Loves Malawi Fund.” We also had a new family photo taken at Wesley Acres. Glen Snider blessed us with his eye for a good shot, and a friendly chat as we strolled around to find just the right spot for a photo. We plan to update our prayer reminder bookmarks with the new photo.



No sooner did we arrive home from the conference than we headed out the door again to a friend’s house to do an evening presentation for a small group about plans for ministry in Malawi. They had missed our other presentations in Deep River, so this gave us a chance to tell the story once again in a warm and informal setting.

Just a few days later we were on the road again bright and early Sunday morning, heading for Kemptville and the North Grenville Community Church. The congregation there gave us a very warm welcome, as did our friends Pastor Dan and Ann Massey. After I spoke we were presented with a gift which left us deeply touched, humbly grateful, and newly encouraged. God had blessed the congregation with surplus funds, and they blessed us with a cheque right then and there. God has continually amazed us with the goodness and generosity of His people. Praise the Lord! And thank you, NGCC. After the service we were all treated to a cookout featuring one of the kid’s favourites: grilled hotdogs, accompanied by the fun of an open fire. Another chance to connect with some great people!

Back home, we had just one week to finish packing. And, wouldn’t you know it! Flu and cold season hit hard. We came out alright, thanks to God’s hand of protection. But people who had bought items of furniture couldn’t come and get them. And others, who were going to take our garage sale leftovers off our hands (for the free store in Pembroke) were so sick they couldn’t leave the house. Friends came to our rescue, however. They packed up the giveaways and carted them off, leaving us much more room to work, and even came back to help with the packing. Eventually others figured out a way to have friends pick up the furniture they had bought. Bookshelves and cabinets needed to be moved out. A desk needed to be disassembled. The fridge still needed to be sold. But it all came together in a beautiful way. Somehow, God worked things out so that all our larger items that we wanted to sell were sold and out of the house before moving day, which was Oct. 31st. And on that day we were once again blessed with a total of 13 friends who came together to help us move, while many other friends stopped by to say good-bye. A steady stream of boxes and what little is left of our furniture left the house for the truck, and Ken Franklin did a masterful job of orchestrating and organizing the 3D Tetris puzzle of loading our truck. By 1:00 the truck was nearly loaded. Only the cleaning and odds and ends needed to be finished up. But that took the rest of the day. Though we’d intended to leave mid-afternoon, we decided to stay the night. We were treated to Supper and Breakfast at the Merrills, and stayed with our good friend Nancy Schmeing for the night.

The drive to Charlemont was very long, but the kids enjoyed taking turns riding in the truck. The boys and I (Dean) had some great conversations. And Sarah enjoyed shouting “WEEEEE” every time we went down a hill. Daddy enjoyed playing along, too, mainly because it gave Sarah such joy. So we both had fun. Steffi was a real trooper driving all day by herself. She usually plays backup. But this time we were both at the wheel the entire day, until pulling into Charlemont over an hour late. Trucks move a little more slowly, and a soft tire had slowed us down, so we called ahead. But even at 8:15 there was a crew of 6 people waiting to help us unload.

When we got into the parsonage, another blessing was waiting for us. Not only had these wonderful people opened their vacant parsonage to us. But they had also worked hard at fixing it up before our arrival (we’re only going to be here 9 months, Lord willing), provided some furniture, AND, they stocked the pantry, the freezer, and the fridge with good food, and a bit of “cold cash” (gift cards stuck in the fridge). We have been made to feel very welcome here, and know that we have been blessed in many ways - especially with good friends.

October, Part One

Once again, it has been too long since we posted an update. But, thankfully, the whirlwind has lost a little bit of speed. October was a very full month. We packed a lot in - into the calendar, and the moving truck. In order to make our move to Malawi easier next year, we decided to get rid of as much furniture, books and other “stuff” as we could now, since we are not planning on storing all our belongings anyway. It made for a crazy October, but in between packing, sorting, running numerous garage sales and an ongoing furniture sale, wrapping up business, and giving stuff away, we also found a bit of time for goodbyes, and continued partnership building.

Early in October we were blessed by our friends in the Deep River Chinese Christian Fellowship. They held a wonderful goodbye party for us (complete with a fantastic Chinese meal), to which the whole local Chinese community was invited. Our hearts were deeply touched by the number of people who came. Many good friends expressed their appreciation for our support through the years of both the Chinese Bible Study and the larger Chinese community in Deep River. We shared a bit about our journey and why we feel God is calling us into missionary service in Malawi. And this very warm hearted group of people expressed their most sincere best wishes for the future, and gathered around us to pray for us. Thank you to our good friends in the Chinese Community in Deep River, for your generosity and ongoing friendship. We wish you all of God’s best in every way, and pray that God will use the Chinese Christian Fellowship to touch many more lives.

About a week later we enjoyed Canadian Thanksgiving with our friends, the Merrill family in their beautiful timber frame home. We were thankful for such good friends, and a great Thanksgiving meal. And, our children had a chance to play with their friends, Quynne and Larkynne for an evening.

 We must have been crazy, but we wanted Christopher and Jonathan to have a goodbye party with their friends, too. So, more than a month late, we had a party that doubled as a goodbye party, and Christopher’s birthday party. It had a Narnia theme, and we showed “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” on the big screen (thanks for the projector, Ken). The kids played a Narnia version of freeze tag, and Paulette Merrill made a Narnia cake. At the end, the children all received one of our prayer bookmarks as a reminder to pray for their friends. And instead of handing out party favours, Christopher decided that it would be more meaningful to purchase two goats for families in Malawi through International Child Care Ministries in their honour. The other children seemed to think that was pretty neat, too.

You Know You Have Been Camping/ On The Road A Lot When...

Friday, October 9, 2009

- You want to tell your little one about heaven and say: “... and someday we’re gonna go to...” and she interrupts and shouts: “CAMP!”

- You pull up at somebody’s house where you’ll be spending the night and your youngest says with wonder and amazement in her voice: “We’re gonna sleep INSIDE?”

- You overhear her murmuring as she falls asleep: “Danku Desus (Thank you Jesus), I have a bed.”

- Your kids wake up in the morning and ask you where we are today.

All that said, though, our kids have been real troopers, and we have all very much enjoyed traveling to various camps and churches. It has been a real blessing to meet so many new friends and supporters. If you would like to hear us speak at your church please put us in touch with your pastor.

Our New Home

Monday, October 5, 2009
As if all our travels in September weren’t enough to keep us busy there was also another time consuming question in our lives: where to move. You may recall that the parsonage we have been living in sold much more quickly than anybody expected, and we now need to move out by Oct. 31. With such a busy schedule, and sorting and packing to boot, we didn’t have much time for house hunting. But God provided once again in a way that just amazes us and fills us with gratitude for Him and His people. The Charlemont Free Methodist church has offered to let us live in their vacant parsonage - rent free! What a blessing that is to us! On top of that, we can also keep our dog until we move to Malawi, which is an especially big blessing to the kids, AND, for the first time in 11 years we get to live close to family again, if only temporarily. We actually lived in that area briefly and attended Charlemont before we moved to Deep River. So, in a sense, we are leaving home in Deep River and moving “back home.” Isn’t God good? God’s provision for us and His timing in so many different areas of our lives continues to amaze and encourage us. Thank you for your prayers! And thanks to the Charlemont congregation for being so welcoming and generous!

September

Wow, it’s hard to believe it is already October. September has truly been a whirlwind. We arrived home from our vacation just in time to attend Maple Grove’s 49+ retreat. What a wonderful bunch of people - what a wonderful weekend. We felt very loved, and appreciated all their encouragement, support, and prayers. Below is a picture of our kids sporting their new Maple Grove t-shirts.


After Maple Grove we came home for two days after being gone for 1 ½ months, just enough time to do some laundry, check the mail, and think about leaving again. Then it was off to Wesley Acres for the 50+ retreat. Again we received a wonderful welcome, many opportunities to speak and share what God has been doing in our lives, and much encouragement and support. A definite highlight for our two sons was when they got to participate in a high ropes course and zip-lining! But I think the highlight for us was at the closing service when Pastor Dave Dyer asked everybody to stand if they wanted to make a commitment to pray for us - nearly the whole room stood up. Many then came forward to lay hands on us and pray for us. What a wonderful
time of friendship, fellowship, and mutual encouragement!

Our next stop was the Frankford FMC, where we got to reconnect with friends we had just made at Wesley Acres, but also made many new friends. Pastor Brandon Shillington was excited that many things I mentioned in my sermon fit beautifully with what he has been preaching recently.

Though we had previously connected with some of the people from Bracebridge, our sending church, we finally met the congregation. On Sept. 27 we enjoyed a service of heartfelt and lively worship, and shared some of the amazing stories of how God has been leading us, and putting together the details in a way that gives wonderful confirmation. Through their partnership with us, this church is an integral part of those miracle stories - one of which is the fact that their treasurer, Jeanne Tucker, championed the idea of coming alongside us even before she knew that we were headed for Malawi. Amazingly, Jeanne herself has been a missionary to Malawi! It was inspiring to hear Jeanne say that our going to Malawi is an answer to her prayers for new missionaries there.

After a delicious potluck in Bracebridge, several of us headed for Barrie to meet with John-Mark and Loreli Cockram, who have been missionaries to Ghana, Africa. They shared so much good advice with us, and helped us to understand the administrative details better. They were also very encouraging. It was good to hear reassurances coming from those who have “been there and done that.” We also enjoyed connecting again with Sterling and Cheryl Cooper, whose church in Hausey’s Rapids is partnering with ourselves and Bracebridge in this venture of faith. It is so good to be part of the Body of Christ. We cannot do this by ourselves. And, indeed, we aren’t. We are grateful both to God, and to His people, for so many wonderful things that have happened.

Jesus Loves Malawi Video

Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Here is a short video that briefly introduces ourselves and the country of Malawi. It was professionally produced for us by Beth Franklin, a very good friend of ours from Deep River. She had some help from a friend named Jake who traveled all the way from North Bay one day to help with the videography. Beth then produced the video, and she did such a wonderful job that we thought we should share it here with all of you. Thank you Beth and Jake for using your gifts and blessing us with such a great video.

Where are we at?

Friday, September 4, 2009
“Where are you at?” is an often asked question in recent e-mails. By this, many people don’t just wonder where we are physically, but also where we are in our preparations to go to Malawi.
Physically, we will still be on the road for a few days. After travelling to different camps and churches this Summer, we had a nice family vacation and are now on our way to Maple Grove, where we will do a presentation at the 49+ retreat. After that, we’ll go home to Deep River. Since the end of June we have only been home for about 1 ½ weeks, so it will be good to be back. Unfortunately it won’t be home much longer as the parsonage has been sold and we need to move out by Nov. 2nd. Repair work will already be underway on the outside before then, so it will likely be an extremely busy and noisy time as we try to pack up our belongings and figure out where to move. We are considering staying in Deep River (which would be an easier and cheaper move, plus we and our kids already have friends there), or we could move further South to be more centrally located for speaking engagements, or move closer to our sending church to build more relationships there. Since we will be living on a limited budget rental fees will play a major part in our considerations. Besides, we will be on the road a lot so it wouldn't make sense to pay high rent. We would really appreciate your prayers that God will lead us to the right place.
Where we are in our preparations for Malawi is a broad question: our employment in Deep River has officially ended, and preparing for missions, moving, speaking engagements, etc. together with occasional part-time jobs will now fill our calendar. We have speaking engagements every weekend in September, a few bookings in October and November, and already some next year. A lot of planning still needs to be fine tuned and we would appreciate your prayers for that as well - that we will be able to set the right priorities and that the timing of various events will fall into place. Once the move is completed we plan to begin learning Chichewa. And in the Spring or Summer we need to take a missions prep course.

At this point, our goal is to arrive in Malawi by August 2010. The Willsons, missionaries in Malawi whom we’ll be working with, will have returned from their home assignment by then and will be able to help us get oriented. One of the first things we hope to do is to travel to the three different Annual Conferences in Malawi, where we will have a chance to be introduced to many pastors, which will help us lay a foundation for future ministry.
So, overall, things are progressing nicely, but we would appreciate your prayers for the many details that remain. Thank you for your faithful support and encouragement.

Wesley Acres 2

Wednesday, August 12, 2009
After Severn Bridge we headed straight to Wesley Acres for Family Camp 2, where we again had many opportunities to share our plans to go to Malawi, and talk about how the church’s mission, both local and global, is so close to God’s heart. We added many new supporters to our team and were able to connect with many pastors and lay people who are interested in having us come to their church. Praise the Lord!

We also made new friends from Ghana, and talked to many people that have been missionaries in Africa, both short and long term. It was great to connect with them and learn from their experience.

When we began preparing our kids for becoming “missionary kids,” we talked with them about certain aspects that would be difficult in the next year or so (such as saying good-bye to friends, leaving behind our Golden Retriever and favourite toys, mom and dad being very busy and distracted, etc.). But we also encouraged them to look for the special blessings that God would have in store for us along the way. One of those blessings came in the form of new friends at Wesley Acres who invited us not only for a boat ride, but also to go tubing and fishing the next day, and to have lunch and dinner with them. They also introduced us to several young people from their church and we had a wonderful day with them.


Another surprise blessing came from the camp speaker, Steve Wingfield, and some anonymous friends. Steve offered to bake several pies to be auctioned off for Wesley Acres, and then decided to add two more pies, one of which was for the Jesus Loves Malawi Fund. It sold for $1,000 !!! Thank you very much Steve, and thank you to the very generous buyer(s). We do not know exactly who bought the pie yet, but we are trying to find out to thank them personally. We hope you enjoyed the pie!

Near the end of the week I had the privilege of talking to a man who feels that God is calling him to some sort of mission work as well. Isn’t God good? Pray that God will clearly guide him.

Severn Bridge

After being home for only 1 ½ weeks we were on the road again, this time headed to Severn Bridge. Our main goal for going there was to meet with Dan Sheffield and members of Ryde Centennial and New Hope Churches. We also had a chance to briefly share our vision with the whole camp at an evening service, and also met the Camp Speaker, David Moran. He has been to Malawi, and after hearing me share he said, “Malawi grabs your heart.” It was fun to connect with David and to hear his stories of this exciting and amazing country.

Friday morning Steffi and I met with Dan Sheffield to connect on a wide range of topics, but primarily to take an IDI assessment (Intercultural Development Inventory). In the afternoon we met with members of the New Hope FMC (Bracebridge) and Ryde Centennial Church (Housey’s Rapids, near Gravenhurst), and Dan gave a workshop designed to help sending churches understand missions better. We really appreciate these two churches who have been so supportive from the very beginning!

Since we got to stay till Sunday afternoon, it was also great to re-connect with new friends we had recently made in Housey’s Rapids, and of course we also enjoyed the opportunity to meet new friends and supporters, some of whom took a special interest in our children, promising to support them (and us, of course) through their prayers and care packages. Others have started giving on a monthly basis. We owe a big thank you to all the people at Severn Bridge Camp for being so welcoming and supportive, and also to Sterling and Cheryl Cooper for their wonderful hospitality (once again)!

Saying Good-bye In Deep River

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
July 19 was a very emotional Sunday for us as we held the closing service of the Deep River Free Methodist Church. Many tears were shed, but we also celebrated God’s goodness through the church's 30 years of ministry in Deep River. We remembered that what is done for God will last, and that there will be ongoing eternal fruitfulness because of the life and ministry of this church. We also said goodbye to friends who will be moving away, and had the privilege of sharing about our plans for ministry in Malawi with friends who have been so supportive of us over the past 11 years of our ministry in Deep River.

Maple Grove

When we moved to Canada 12 years ago, Maple Grove was our first home. We lived and worked there for two Summers before being called to pastor the Deep River Free Methodist Church. So, going back to Maple Grove always feels a little like going home, and it was great to connect with so many friends and family. (And great to sit at their campfires. Thanks! :-).
We were deeply touched by their support and generosity when we shared our plans. When we first started thinking about having to raise all our own support it seemed like a gigantic task, but with the help of all our generous supporters from various places we are starting to see God’s plan coming together. We still have a long way to go, but are so encouraged by a good beginning. Thank you for supporting us and answering God’s call to help the church in Malawi in that way.

Ryde Centennial

Friday, July 10, 2009

Our very first speaking opportunity at a church (outside Deep River) was at Ryde Centennial at Hausey’s Rapids in the Muskoka area. Sterling and Cheryl Cooper welcomed us with open arms and our kids especially enjoyed all the fun they had prepared for them. They got to ring the church bells, sleep in a “cave,” went for pony rides, got a wagon ride, and of course there was the “super swing” with Tim!
Most importantly, we got to meet the wonderful people at Ryde Centennial, and shared a meal with them after the service. We added several people to our list of prayer partners and supporters. We are looking forward to seeing many of you again at Severn Bridge Camp.

Wesley Acres - What a wet week!

Thank you Wesley Acres and Team for giving us an opportunity to share what God has been doing in our lives. This was our very first time officially talking about our plans and many of you responded very encouragingly. We received many response cards. Several people gave very generous one time donations, and a few have committed to support us on a monthly basis. We are extremely grateful for your support. We also felt your love and encouragement in many other ways: meal tickets for our family when it was pouring rain (we were staying in a tent), another mom had fresh coffee for us in the morning and a delicious steak for lunch another day, and another friend let us use her hotel room and supper meal tickets since she had to leave earlier than planned. Steffi said that she doesn’t remember ever having to cook so little at a camp!
Thank you so much to all of you for the little and big ways in which you have shown your love for us!

How You Can Help Us Help Others

Friday, July 3, 2009
We will be going to Malawi with the Free Methodist Church, but in order to go we have to raise all our own support. We need both your prayer support, as well as financial support. If you would like to help us help the church in Africa you can partner with us in the following ways:

If you are interested in supporting us through prayer please make sure you send us an e-mail to: JesusLovesMalawi@gmail.com so you can receive our newsletter. If you would also like to minister with us in Malawi by financially supporting us, you can send your gifts to:
New Hope Free Methodist Church
c/o Jesus Loves Malawi Fund
17 Queen St.
Bracebridge, ON P1L 1H2

Memo on cheque: Jesus Loves Malawi Fund

Monthly automatic drafts are also available. For more information on this, please call:
(705) 645-4926

Camps

As we said, God has done amazing things... maybe we can share some more of those details another time. Suffice it to say for now that many things have happened so much quicker than we thought possible. Because of this we are already able to receive donations and openly talk about our plans. Our church has also given us permission to travel this Summer to speak at camps and churches. We are now able to spent a good part of July traveling to camps and gathering a team of supporters, something we didn’t think we would be doing till next year!
So, if you are going to Wesley Acres Family Camp 1 or 2, Maple Grove, or Severn Bridge make sure you stop by and say hi, we would love to chat with you!

How It Began

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 The last two months have been a whirlwind of activity. It feels like our lives are changing faster than we can keep up, but we should start at the beginning, so here is a very short version:

For many years we have wondered if God would call us to missions someday. About three years ago we felt that God was saying it was time to seriously begin seeking His will in the matter. Even though we didn’t feel that our time pastoring in Deep River was over yet, we began feeling drawn to Malawi, Africa, and the ministry there. At that time, it also seemed that the doors to ministry in Malawi were not swinging wide open. So we just kept praying and learning more about missions and various countries.

At the beginning of 2009, through prayer, we began feeling that it was time for us to actively move in the direction of missions. So we approached Dan Sheffield, our Canadian Missions Director, to find out what opportunities he was aware of. We didn’t mention our specific interest in Malawi, but did indicate an interest in teaching Bible. In his reply to us he mentioned only one country: Malawi! What a confirmation!

About two months ago he put us in touch with the Africa Area Director, Mike Reynen, and since then everything has been going so much faster than we could have ever imagined! One of the first things we had to do was find a sending church, which would partner with us and receive and receipt the donations people sent to support us, since we have to raise our own support.

Ideally this sending church would already have some connection to Malawi. We were not, however, aware of any such church. Mid May we sent a prayer letter to many friends and fellow Free Methodists asking them to pray with us for a sending church. At the time our destination had not been confirmed, so we could not mention Malawi in the e-mail, just that we were going to the “mission field.” One of the replies we got was from a pastor’s wife who introduced us to Jeanne Tucker, who is the treasurer of the New Hope Free Methodist Church. Jeanne was very interested in helping us and having her church become our sending church, possibly jointly with another church. That was great news, but what really took our breath away was that she used to be a missionary in..... Malawi. Her church also sponsors a home for AIDS orphans there. New Hope Free Methodist Church most certainly has a link to Malawi! And God brought us together before either of us knew that we had a common Malawi connection. The board of New Hope Free Methodist Church is now very seriously considering becoming our sending church.

We have seen God’s hand in so many different ways recently and it has been exciting to see how He has been at work. Hopefully we can share some more soon.