Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Almost ready for takeoff!

Dear friends,

It's about time we let you know what has been happening in our lives this last month or so, but where to start? Our days have been filled with packing, sorting, giving away, storing and selling our stuff, finding the right kind of overseas insurance, as well as life insurance, finding the best deal on airline tickets, learning how to renew our Ontario Driver's License while overseas (they expire next year), exploring options in order to not lose OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance) while being gone from Canada, making sure that Steffi has a "right to return" as a Landed Immigrant to Canada, getting the remainder of our shots (69 needles for the whole family since Jan.), attending a two week course in Toronto on cross cultural ministry, getting all our paper work ready and notarised to apply for a work permit in Malawi, buying school supplies for our kids for the next two years, as well as Christmas and birthday presents for them (there isn't much available in Malawi), saying good-bye to friends and family, and much, much more. Can you tell we have been busy?
The good news is: we are leaving in less than a week! Our departure date is Monday, August 9, but before we arrive in Malawi we have an extended stopover with Steffi's family in Holland. We are really looking forward to our time there, and the chance to relax and get over jet lag in familiar surroundings before we hit the ground running in Malawi. The last week in Holland Dean will be preparing the course he will be teaching in Malawi. We will then depart from there on August 30 and arrive in Malawi on the 31st.
One big highlight for us this month was our commissioning service at Severn Bridge Camp. Leaders from our sending church, New Hope Free Methodist Church in Bracebridge, and their sister church, Ryde Centennial FMC (which has also supported us from the very beginning) gathered around us during the Sunday Service to commission us, pray for us, and send us out. They have been such an enormous encouragement to us throughout this journey.
On a personal note, we've had some great opportunities to spend time with family and say some goodbyes, (mutually consoling ourselves with the fact that two years will fly by). Over the July 1st weekend (right in the middle of the course) we drove up to Thornbury, where Dean's mother grew up, to celebrate his cousin's 25th wedding anniversary. Congratulations to Jayne and Dave Randall! These two wonderful people not only organized a great family reunion and Gospel concert (Dave sings with the Torchmen), they also offered many people an opportunity to support our mission to Malawi, and a very generous collection was taken on our behalf. We owe a deep debt of gratitude both to Jayne and Dave, and to the many who participated.
It is interesting how God sometimes brings things full circle. Forty five years ago Dean's mother went to a Hewgill family reunion to say goodbye to her sister, Alice (Hewgill) Hicks, who was leaving for Africa with her husband, Floyd, where they would serve as medical missionaries for many years. During that reunion Dean surprised the whole family by showing up early at the Meaford General Hospital maternity ward. Aunt Alice got to see Baby Dean before she left for Africa. Now, this Summer, we found ourselves at another Hewgill family reunion, and this time they were bidding us farewell as we prepare to leave for Africa. It was a wonderful privilege to see Dean's whole immediate family, and most of his extended family on the Hewgill side, and to watch Mom enjoy her family in spite of advanced Alzheimers. Thank you, Jayne and Dave, for sharing your special day with all of us!
And just last week, on the Babcock side, we had a lovely gathering which had the dual purpose of celebrating 62 years(!) of marriage with Dean's Uncle and Aunt, Gerald and Helen Babcock, and, of course, everyone wanted to give us their well wishes and say goodbye. There were some very touching moments as the family gathered around ourselves and Gerald and Helen to sing and pray. Despite the toll Alzheimer's has taken on Uncle Gerald, he could still sing from memory the old familiar hymns he has loved for so many years. And even when the "fog" has drifted in, his attention is right there with you when it's time to pray. What a blessing it is to know God in any stage of life! And what a blessing it was to share those moments with Uncle Gerald and Aunt Helen and their wonderful family.
We should also mention that our appointment was officially announced at the beginning of July. On the recommendation of the leadership of New Hope FMC, and with approval from the Board of Ministerial Education, Guidance, and Placement, Bishop Keith Elford has appointed Dean to the New Hope FMC as Associate Pastor, Missionary to Malawi. We thank God, and His servant leaders, for this important milestone on our journey to Malawi.
So much more has happened, but we shouldn't bore you will all the details. Suffice it to say that we have felt so supported and encouraged by all of you who have promised to pray for us, all the individuals and churches who have sponsored us, and by God, who has been faithful every step of the way.
Our prayer requests this time are that God would get us through a very, very busy week of final preparations for the move. Please also pray for safe travels, that all our luggage will arrive safely, and that we will have no trouble at immigration (with fifteen bags plus carry on - including 31 textbooks for the Bible School, homeschool books, and many necessary household items). Before arrival in Malawi, Dean will need to focus on preparing to teach Church History. Pray for wisdom in preparing to teach cross culturally in an unfamiliar setting, and for the student's understanding. Pray also for the development of good relationships with the nationals, good adjustments for the whole family, and wisdom for every circumstance of life and ministry in an unfamiliar culture.
Once again we want to thank each and every one of you for your interest in us, your prayers for us, and the many ways you have supported and encouraged us.

May God bless you all!

With Love,

Dean and Stephanie Babcock

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