Week Two: June 25-July 1
Our second week in Michigan began with a delightful Sunday at our home church in Lapeer. Pedro and I had the privilege of "debuting" our newly completed PowerPoint presentation to the adults in Sunday School as well as sharing testimonies and answering questions. In the morning service the presentation was shared again for those who had missed it earlier, and Pedro also had the joy of preaching. I was summoned to the nursery for the first of many times so far this furlough as Silas struggled to adjust to new places and faces. Our littlest guy has fun wherever he goes but depends on a familiar face (Mommy's or an older sibling's) for security, which is totally understandable! The church had a special outdoor service and picnic at the Shepards' home in the evening where Pedro was able to share again from God's Word and we enjoyed a more relaxed opportunity to interact with the church family.
I am thankful for the timing of our visit which allowed Pedro to participate in a pastors' seminar on Tuesday. I know it was an encouragement to his heart to rub shoulders with other men in ministry and catch up with many he had not seen in a long time. That evening, our family had a wonderful time at the home of our friends the Ruhlmans. Although most of their children are older than ours, they were so sweet and attentive with each of our kids and made it such a fun evening for them. We are so thankful for their hospitality and friendship!
On Wednesday, our kids were super excited to visit their cousins' new home for the first time. (I say "new" because even though they have lived there several years, they moved since we last left for Chile.) They enjoyed the trampoline, riding bikes, visiting neighborhood barns and attempting to rescue dying birdies. (Yes, really.) It was great to relax and catch up on conversation and try Lindsey's famous Italian egg soup! Isabel and Owen had an awesome opportunity to accompany Emma and Eli and our home church youth group to an outreach event in Detroit. I held my breath and prayed as they drove off with their teenaged (licensed) cousin behind the wheel, but she did great! Afterwards Owen stayed the night and fished the next day with Eli. I am so happy for the sweet friendship they are able to resume despite the many years in between visits.
Thursday was a day of study for me as I pulled together my final thoughts and photos to share what God had laid on my heart with the ladies at First Baptist of Lapeer. "Mosaic Stories: Beauty from Brokenness" was the theme, along with encouragement from Psalm 103. A definition of mosaic is "the assembly of many pieces, sometimes broken, to create a larger and more beautiful whole." As I shared my personal testimony of God using infertility to lead to adoption, and adoption to lead to crisis pregnancy ministry, and this to lead eventually after many years to opening FLORECE and seeing God restore first the lives of our volunteers from beauty to brokenness and now our clients as well, it was a powerful reminder to me of the greatness of our God! Psalm 103:2-4 (pictured below) instructs us to "bless the Lord" for what He has done, and I pray that I accomplished that to His glory. I only wish I had taken pictures because the ladies' tea was so beautifully prepared with fresh flower arrangements and fancy teas and pretty fruit plates, all evidence of a labor of love for the Lord and one another!
Reunions resumed on Friday with a drive to West Branch, Michigan where our friends and personal supporters Mike and Amy Joley sacrificed a day of their family vacation to meet us at a lovely park where our kids could connect and play. Last furlough our travels took us to their home in Wisconsin but that was not going to be possible this year, so we were thrilled they were in Michigan and and willing to spend some time together. Mike and Pedro have been friends through high school, college, standing in each other's weddings, and can always pick up right where they left off. We are so thankful for their sweet family's friendship and testimony of faithfulness to the Lord in the workplace - Mike as a physician's assistant and Amy as a Kindergarten teacher in a very tough public school. Our kids and theirs enjoyed a pizza picnic, wading in the river and a bit of wiffleball together before we had to say our goodbyes.
Sometimes you find friendships where you least expect it, and that may have been the case with the family we visited on Friday. Jeff Butler was the teacher of our young marrieds' Sunday School class when we arrived in Lapeer back in 2001. When our daughters were young, they loved visiting the Butlers' house! Jeff and Ruth's daughters Emily and Katie are several years older but always played so sweetly with our girls. During our years of pre-field ministry the Butlers watched our girls (and later Owen) on several occasions as a ministry to our family. At a point when Pedro needed flexible work at the tail end of pre-field, Jeff even hired Pedro on a house building project which was a brand-new learning experience that Pedro remembers fondly. Despite a few bumps and bruises as our kids enjoyed the bikes at the Butlers' house, our time with them was sweet and their kindness and gentleness was as present as ever. We are so grateful for good friends that are gifts from the Lord!
Note: As I read over this post, I realized I used the word "sweet" many times. There really isn't a better way to describe what these friendships and special moments are to us! Proverbs 16:24 says, "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." What a blessing to share these times together.