Well, I haven’t kept up as often as I’d hoped, but this is better than 3 months.
We left our wonderful respite in Kingston, TN, but not until we had a canoe ride and once again got rained out. But it was fun. Because when I’m back in Niger, I will remember rain/cold times like that when I’m desparately hot. I will close my eyes and if I think hard enough, I can almost feel the raindrops on my face. Well, maybe not — but I can dream!
We traveled on to Knoxville, TN to visit seasoned Niger travelers – Pastors Jack and Jean Coleman. They fed us way too much, and insisted Neal and I both beat them in a game of Rummikub, even though we were newbies to the game. It was a fun visit!
From there we headed to Knoxville, KY where we stayed with Pastor Carroll and Debbie Parish, and were introduced to New Life Church where their son, Tim is the pastor. We wore our African clothes, and since the people had not before met us, when Neal spoke in Hausa and I interpreted, and then he spoke English with a Nigerian accent, I was pretty sure people thought he didn’t know how to speak ‘normal’. We had a great time.
From there we moved on to Christiansburg, VA where we stayed for 4 nights (a long time for us), at Crosspointe – a Four Square retreat center. We had our own apartment which was wonderful. I was able to start (and finish!) a ministry DVD for Neal’s mom and dad, and Neal and I both had time to prepare for our ministry opportunities for the upcoming weekend. John and Susan Coleman, who run Crosspointe, took us out to a fun ‘hole in the wall’ called ‘ Due South for BBQ and real live banjo pickin’. What fun! Cultural experiences wherever we go.
On we went to Jacksonville, NC where we spent a wonderful weekend with Pastors Wendall and Karen Ward. It was an honor to speak at their women’s meeting on Friday night – and Neal got to speak to the men Saturday morning. We had a great Saturday – went out for lunch and coffee (which was fun, even though neither Neal nor I drink it – I happen to be dedicated to drinking tea), then meandered around a mall. We did the Sunday morning service and were met by God! What a great bunch of people. It’s a blessing for us to be visiting our supporting churches consistently over the years where we can continue building on relationships. It’s also very cool that wherever we go, God seems to really speak to the people, but always in different ways. After a wonderful time fellowshipping with the ‘family’ after the service, we went to Emerald Isle for 2 treats in 1. Seafood, and a walk on the beach. Anyone who knows how much Neal and I love the beach would know how significant that is! Great, great day!
Monday morning saw us on our way to, wait, let me think about it…Ummmmm….I need to check my book. Oh yes, we went to Atlanta. We stayed with Keith and Cherie Spencer. Cherie is Don Powell’s daughter, and Don Powell is the man who is living at our house in Niger right now, and doing some awesome work. Cindy, Don’s other daughter set up some meetings for us -the first with Pastor Tony and Sheryll, Don’s pastors. They were great and really have a heart for the unreached. They were a blessing! Then we met with Pastor James & Marcina, whom we always meet with when we go through Atlanta, and give an update of our ministry. They loved and were moved by our DVD. That was on my birthday and we decided to go out for lunch together. While there, Pastor James ran into some friends and he not only ended up giving us a very generous offering, but his friend as well. But that’s not all. HER friend also gave us an offering. Right in the middle of the restaurant! That’s one way God has blessed us – by giving us influential friends. The only reason that lady gave us a gift was because of Pastor James and Marcina. And to think we weren’t even planning to go out together! While in Atlanta, we had our traditional dinner with Don’s daughters and families at Gumbeaux’s. That food is amazing.
And speaking of my birthday, which was on Sept 30th, Neal got up early, went out and bought me fruit and muffins. Brought me breakfast in bed, complete with a dozen roses. What a great way to wake up! After our meeting, we went out for a movie. As you can tell, a recurring theme throughout our journey is food. So I’ve been working hard to try and keep up with my workouts. After our movie, I did some laundry to get prepared for our journey the next day, and worked out on the elliptical machine. While working out, Cherie arrived home with the birthday cake that Neal asked her to pick up. So there was nothing I could do but stop exercising and eat some cake. But it was chocolate, which I hear is good for me, and filled with fruit – which I know is good for me. So it’s all good. I was very careful not to sweat into the cake. It was a great day! Except I really missed my kids. But I talked to them all.
From there we made our way to Mandeville, LA to visit with Richard and Tina Kravet. They have both been to Niger on medical teams. They are such an incredible blessing to us, and they make us feel like royalty! They insisted we sleep in their room. I must admit it was wonderful sleeping in a king sized bed. (Especially considering the recurring food theme). Speaking of – we ate at a cool restaurant called Zeas (I think) and Neal got to eat lamb, which he loves. Then they insisted we eat dessert at Bops where they force fed me chocolate custard with raspberries and cheesecake mixed in. Then, if that weren’t enough, the next day they took us out on their sailboat on Lake Pontchartrain and Neal learned how to sail. Then they brought us home and cooked incredible, edible shrimp for us. They even took time off work to hang with us!! You guys are great and can’t wait to have you in Niger again. Anytime!
That brings me to today. We tootled on down the road towards Dickinson, TX, but not before we stopped near Port Neches to meet with Pastor Stephen Samuels and his wife, his pastor, and others that have been on teams to Niger. It’s always so much fun to visit with people who know where we are coming from. It was great seeing them all.
We landed in Dickinson and Pastors Carter at Laura Ware’s house – pastors of Faith for All Nations church. We are excited to meet the church family tomorrow. It is the church’s first anniversary and it is an honor to minister here on that special day. They have been supporting us from the beginning.
As you can see, we have been blessed wherever we go. God is good and His grace is always sufficient. Sufficient when we travel hours and hours, when we are away from home, when I miss my kids, and when we are with new people all the time. He has really given us a desire to meet new people, and then blessed us with the people we meet.
PS. I have added a few more of Tobi’s literalisms since we have been on the road – they come to me from my sister-in-law Kim, who Tanika and Tobi are staying with .