Sunday, July 16 was our final Sunday in Michigan during our summer "tour." We stayed up late packing as much of our belongings as possible into the van the night before, but still rose around 5 AM to finalize cleaning and organizing the lovely home we had enjoyed in Pentwater. We encouraged the kids with the promise of a good breakfast (okay, drive-through at McDonald's) on the way to church. North Casnovia Baptist Church is another church which is dear to Pedro from his growing up days and he always looks forward to being back on familiar roads and seeing old friends. We enjoyed our brief visit and afterwards Pedro shared that a special encouragement was being greeting by a new family to the church who said they had seen our family on the missionary display and had been praying for us the past two years!
It was one of those "catch-22" afternoons where there was not enough time to return to the home where we'd been staying due to distance, but there was too much time in between the morning service at one church and the evening service at another. We opted to take a little longer with lunch and then look for a park where the kids could run around a bit. Unfortunately, they were not really in the mood for running - I think we all felt we'd been doing enough of it for the past month! So we set up some folding chairs and settled in the shade near soccer fields where we could hear Spanish spoken by the players and just rest for a bit. I snapped a few pictures before we piled into the van again.
We were encouraged to meet two new pastors at our evening church in Howard City, both of whom have young families and a vision to reach their community with Christ. Something unique that I appreciated about this church's missionary display is a wall with individual plastic frames where prayer letters can be updated for people to read at any time. Below each one is the missionary family's name, photo, and where they serve:
Following church, we hit the road a little later than planned and didn't arrive at our previously scheduled hotel in Ohio until past midnight. After a short but refreshing night, we took advantage of a quick breakfast offered there before settling in for our long (7+) hour drive to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Right on the heels of our Michigan travel came our mission agency's annual M.E. ("Missionary Enrichment") Conference which we are required to attend every five years. Last furlough, all our kids got sick with the stomach flu the first day of the conference and were unable to attend at all. So we were especially looking forward to the experience for their sakes, knowing that rubbing shoulders with other MKs from around the world would be a blessing to them. The conference began Monday evening with dinner prior to the first session. After my confusion about nurseries led to a lot unnecessary running around, I barely made it only to be summoned 5-10 minutes later to care for a crying Silas! Oh well. I enjoyed providing an extra pair of hands to all the sweet little MK babies that night, and the next day we transitioned Silas into the toddler nursery where he did a little better over the course of time.
Our children did indeed make friends from around the world and had a great time during their morning and evening sessions. Pedro and I were personally encouraged by the many testimonies of ministries on different fields, and by opportunities to interact one on one with other missionaries and hear how God is using them. On Tuesday we were invited to participate in an interview onstage ourselves. I was very nervous but God graciously guided our words and it was a privilege to share about the ministry and needs in Iquique!
Although our afternoons were free on Tuesday and Wednesday, as crazy as it sounds we still couldn't just let down. Instead, on Tuesday Pedro and our kids visited with Pop-Pop so that Mom-Mom and I could drive together to Delaware where we needed to pick up a vehicle and items left for us by the Rubins when they returned to Chile. And Wednesday we spent our free time looking at houses with a realtor who has been helping us over the past months long-distance. Together with my two sisters, we have been searching and praying about the possibility of Pedro and I purchasing a home near our parents where we can take turns living while on furlough. It has been a challenge to find something adequate within our budget, with pressure mounting because Fishers traveled all summer on pre-field by faith without a home to return in August.
Nonetheless, the M.E. Conference was uplifting to our family and we are glad to have been able to participate. We packed up Thursday morning and proceeded to part ways - Pedro and five kids "home" to Ephrata (finally!) while our son Ian and I headed to our mission headquarters near Harrisburg. There Ian would begin his first of two days of educational testing with a missionary to Hungary. Cheryl has two earned masters degrees and her doctorate in education, but we had no idea of her ministry until recently! Ian met with her on Thursday afternoon and again on Friday morning, about a 55-minute drive each way to/from our home. On Saturday, Pedro and I met with Cheryl and with Anna, an occupational therapist (and adult MK) also headed to Hungary, for the results of their evaluations. Both were very helpful to us as parents as we seek the best options for our son in the future. Meanwhile our kids enjoyed some more time with their grandparents (see picture of Pop-Pop with the boys below!) We are so grateful to God for orchestrating this important opportunity for our sweet Ian.