Week Three: July 2-8
The First Baptist Church of North Branch holds a special place in our hearts for several reasons. The first is that Pedro spent some of his formative years in North Branch as a boy. The second is that this small country church generously allowed us to live rent-free in their missionary home for a year (2004-2005) and it was there we brought home our tiny baby boy Owen. Pedro also taught in the North Branch school district during our time on pre-field ministry. When they were little, our girls affectionately called this "the white church" and our home church in Lapeer "the brown church" as we divided our time between them both while living in the missionary home. Another happy memory we have is of Pedro and Isabel going to pick corn with Mr. Terpenning on his farm, and bringing home a full bag taller than Isabel's head! So we looked forward to seeing familiar faces and were happy to spend Sunday morning with this special congregation. We were saddened by those we could not see - the church is newly without a pastor, and Mr. Terpenning was suddenly called Home to glory. It was a poignant blessing to be invited to lunch with Mrs. Terpenning and have the chance to talk and share with her and the Kitchens (interim pastor and wife) before we traveled further down the road for our evening commitment.
We arrived sooner than expected to Marysville and drove several circles through town, observing some amazing historic architecture and gazing across the water at the border of Canada. Some baby Blizzards from Dairy Queen cooled us down as we waited to connect with the pastor and join the church on their unique summer routine of church in the park! A spattering of rain led the group to gather their chairs under the pavilion where Pedro and I shared about the ministry in Iquique and fielded great questions from those present. This is a church with a big heart for reaching their community and we look forward to hearing how God continues to use them in unique ways.
Monday dawned clear and sunny, and we set out after lunch to join our Garcia cousins and other friends in Frankenmuth for pre-4th of July fireworks. We enjoyed walking around the cute but crowded town and watching homemade fudge being made (and trying it!) Silas was none too sure about his first fireworks experience, initially crying in fright because they really were so near and loud. But they were beautiful and we enjoyed donning red, white and blue to celebrate the United States' independence a day early.
On Tuesday the 4th, we had fun hosting a meal including Chilean fare for the Garcia cousins. We really are so thankful for their friendship and for having several opportunities during our brief time in Michigan to get together. They couldn't stay long and we had a big day ahead of us on Wednesday, but at the very last second Pedro took the older kids except Silas for the fireworks in Lapeer. The next day, Wednesday the 5th of July was actually our 20th wedding anniversary! Alas, celebrations were not to be on this busy day but will be all that much sweeter when the time comes. Instead, we drove to Standish where our kids were introduced to all sorts of rustic Michigan pastimes: tubing down the river, kayaking and shooting guns (just Owen, his daddy and great-uncle.) This all took place on land Pedro's aunt and uncle own on the Rifle River and we were so glad to visit with his cousins and their families, especially one whom we had not seen in over ten years!
However, our trip to Standish was not solely for pleasure because we did have a supporting church in town and a scheduled presentation that evening. This dear country church is also in need of a pastor, theirs having recently retired but present for our visit. It was a blessing to share and answer questions and we appreciated the tenderness and understanding towards our tired children and a toddler who found a way into the front of the sanctuary while Pedro was in the pulpit. We all got a good chuckle over Silas running full tilt yelling "Da-da-da!" while older sister Eva followed, mortified, behind!
This was truly a week jam-packed with visits and on Thursday we were excited to connect with the Parkers (friends and supporters) at a local park. Their kids and ours scouted for fish and our kids listened in awe to Mr. Parker's stories of hunting bear and an alligator and other big game. It was great to catch up with each other's families! Friday we did not have big plans until the evening when we were invited to the home of our senior pastor and family. Silas loved their young children's toys, but especially their shoes which he tried on and traipsed around the house. We are so grateful God brought the Shannons to our home church and appreciate their humility and vision so much. It was such an enjoyable time to learn more about them and allow the kids to run and play in a beautiful, big backyard. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures!
Despite being blessed with the use of their home this entire time, we had been unable to coordinate with the Jones' busy schedule until Saturday. It was so kind of them and the Denney family to organize a picnic get-together in the park, where we could finally stop and talk and get to know each other better. The Denney grandsons were just so cute! Their family is yet another example of young kids we knew growing up and starting families and making us feel really old. During the course of conversation we realized that all three of our families - Garcias, Jones and the younger Denneys - had rented from our mutual friends Jeff and Julie Shepard (the home where we lived for six months last furlough.) What a small world! Really we cannot thank the Jones' enough for their incredible generosity to us this summer. May God bless them as they have us and surely many others!