Week Four: July 9-15
Sunday the 9th was an early morning as we had a longer drive to Ypsilanti to visit our supporting church. Living Water Community Church is a unique congregation which has been meeting in local schools for years, beginning their set up each Sunday morning around 7:30 AM and working together to make sure classrooms and auditorium are ready for when members and guests arrive. We were blessed by very caring nursery workers (a husband and wife) who were gracious with our antsy and clingy little Silas. In fact, the husband was so kind as to run out for milk when I realized I had forgotten to pack some for Silas' bottles! This is the church which a few years ago asked our kids to take part in a song they were creating. Their song "What If (you could reach around the world)" can be viewed by clicking on its title in this post, and at the 1:13 mark you might recognize a few really cute faces! While we were with them this furlough, Owen admired some shirts their church had printed with the motto REACH which stands for "Recognize Everyone And Communicate Hope." They made Owen's day by gifting us several of them to take home! It was so encouraging to receive positive feedback from the people after Pedro's sermon and to share lunch with many families that afternoon. A church picnic and baptisms were scheduled at a home on the lake and we enjoyed the fellowship but sadly had to miss the baptisms in order to make our next commitment.
Our evening ministry assignment was in a little Michigan town called Byron. During our last term a new pastor arrived and he has often encouraged us through personal notes and responses to our prayer updates. What made the connection even more special were his own years of experience as a missionary (and missionary kid) to Brazil. We also learned he and his wife had a connection with our colleagues in Chile through a church in Indiana. Small world! In preparation for this visit, he made it his personal goal to challenge the church folks to memorize our kids' names and make them feel welcome. After the service, the church served pizza and hosted a fellowship time which allowed us to interact with other families a little bit longer. We are thankful for the kindness shown to us as we visit each of the churches with whom God has given us the privilege to partner!
On Monday we had the chance to travel down the road to Lake Orion to spend the afternoon with Pedro's Aunt Joyce and Uncle Don, Matt and Tamara and their children. We are grateful for these brief moments of reconnecting ourselves and our kids with extended family!
As we approached our final week in Michigan, we ran into one "slight" problem. We found ourselves with five ministry commitments on the other side of the state but needed somewhere to stay. I didn't realize - but soon learned as I looked for lodging online - that western Michigan is a huge vacation spot! Normally there would be a number of cabins or homes available for rent but they were sold out. Hotels were at a premium and required two rooms for our family size. I began to worry but soon found out that God was going to surprise us once again with something very special!
A year and a half ago while attending a regional conference in Peru, we met a family from Michigan. Mom, dad and two daughters traveled to Peru with the sole purpose of working alongside Dr. Jim Cook and his wife Susan as they ministered to the younger missionary children, including our three boys. Our kids already love the Cooks and they soon loved the Kerrs as well! After the conference we became online friends, and it was through this connection that they learned of our need for housing. We were incredibly blessed and humbled when they wrote us - a family they had met only once! - to offer us the use of their lake cottage in western Michigan to meet our need. Once again through His people, God surprised us over and above what we could ever have expected! Not only did we have a place to stay, but our children had the opportunity to swim and kayak and create some incredible memories.
I've often returned to the illustration of furlough being like one day at Disney World - lots to see and do, fun and exciting but exhausting at the end of the day. We all feel it, but as adults we see the bigger picture and the overall schedule and we are already familiar with the people and places we are going to visit. Our kids have been troopers with all the running this summer, but understandably they get tired physically, mentally and emotionally. I felt like our five nights in Pentwater were a special gift from God just for them, and I hope that somehow they were able to understand that and remember it as they grow older.