We’re here. By ‘here’ I mean in the US. We arrived on June 2 and yes, time is zipping by at warp speed. I don’t know what ‘warp speed’ is, but I think it’s pretty fast. Picking us up at the airport was not only Pastor Carter & Laura, but Tanika was with them. So great to see her. She is officially a college sophomore! We had wonderful services at Faith For All Nations Church in League City, TX, and Conroe Christian Center in Conroe, TX. Both of these churches are awesome partners of ours. We were blessed by how well we were received and thoroughly enjoyed our time with both Pastors, families and congregations. Nothing like communicating to people what their support is doing as they commit to the Great Commission.
Tanika sang on the worship team at Faith For All Nations.
Tobi added some rhythm!
Neal preaching. Nice threads!
This past Thursday, we flew to Portland. Trae and Christi were there to pick us up. It was so great to see them. It’s been over 9 months. Here are the lovebirds now. Wedding day: T minus 4 days. June 16th.
Though we’ve known Christi for awhile, we’ve not met her family. At least not face to face. And when I say family, I mean FAMILY! There are 9 of them. So this was the big meet and greet. Our flight was a late one, so we didn’t get to Mosier (according to Christi it’s not a functioning town) until 11:30 or so. I think. I was still trying to figure out jet lag from our international flight so this one put me back a couple more hours. But what a greeting! The fact that it was almost midnight didn’t matter a bit. The family was all up and waiting for us. When we pulled in I saw Philip – the youngest who is 11 – race through the house and out the door shouting for Tobi. So sweet. They were all just as welcoming and there were bowls of hot soup along with hot tea which I was so thankful for for 2 reasons. It had been 12 hours since we’d eaten, and it was 5o something degrees. I bit chilly for me. But I love both soup and tea when it’s chilly. Their welcome made us all feel so welcome.
Ann (Christi’s Mom) and I have been waiting to meet for a long time. After all, our kids are going to be marrying each other — it’s time we got to know each other. We’ve done a lot of chatting over the past year so I feel that I knew that she was a pretty amazing lady and someone that would be a friend. However, I must officially say that she has far exceeded my expectations. Though our personalities are different, we have so much in common. She is already a great friend and I’m thankful for that. God has not only provided a wonderful new family for Trae, but a great friend for me. And He knew I needed that. We’ve been running together, talking nonstop (according to Trae), and having special times of prayer. We both know that this wedding is going to be an amazing event. No – not just an event, but the making of a covenant that will result in the Kingdom of God advancing. Big time. I thank God for my new friend.
By the way, here’s where some of our running is being done.
Mount Hood, Oregon
Mount Adams, Washington
These views are all on the same 1/2 mile gravel road. Pretty incredible and quite different from my normal running scenery on a sandy, hot softball field! Such a wonderful break.
As for the rest of the family, they’re all just as awesome. Tobi and Philip have pretty much been inseparable since we arrived. I’m serious. I’ve barely had a conversation with him. But Philip is the kind of kid you want your kid to spend time with. Caela is Christi’s younger sister. She’s sweet and capable and so pretty. Then there’s Daniel – who is getting married 2 weeks after Trae and Christi. It’s quite fun to have all these lovebirds around. Mark is 16 and what a talented guy. And he is so sweet and thoughtful. Josh is one of Christi’s older brothers and he’s married to Anna. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them. Patrick the oldest has just arrived home from a 4 1/2 month world tour. So glad he is here too – he’s got some great stories. Then there’s Jon (Christi’s Dad). He ties it all together. I’m so thankful that our son is marrying someone who has such a godly father and mother. What an example they are. They are truly a family that takes the Great Commission seriously. To learn more about what they do, check out their website. harvestministry.org Also for some great books to motivate your family to missions, check out Ann’s books – The Mission Minded Family and The Mission Minded Child. You can find those on their website or on Amazon.
Christi and Trae have been showing us the sights. And beautiful sights they are. I’ve been to 46 of our 50 States. Until now. Two of the 4 I haven’t been to were Oregon and Washington. Check those off my list. Now been to both. Only Alaska and Hawaii remain.
Our first 2 days were freezing. Or at least close to it. They took us into The Dalles and we went to Hood River. The fact is, you can’t go anywhere without it being a gorgeous drive on windy roads. They had planned for us to climb up Dog Mountain. They kind of eased us into it. “It’s not too far”, “You guys will really like it”, “It’s not that hard”, “It’s a good hike”, “It’s cool at the top”, etc. You get the picture. So off we went. Nine of us in the Highlander. Here’s some of us at the beginning of the climb.
We look ready for anything. It was a crispy 50 something – maybe 60. Maybe. But that’s good, because we would be climbing and that would warm us up.
The trail was uphill. All uphill. But that stands to reason since we were climbing a mountain. It was a bit overwhelming at first. Maybe more than a bit. Walking at an incline is much more challenging than walking on a flat surface. In case you didn’t know that. The overwhelming part was that it was like that for a long ways. The distance to the top of the mountain was 4 miles. Uphill. Did I mention that? Now I’ve been running so was hoping I’d handle it better. It was tough. I was breathing very heavily. The thing I did notice though, was that I recovered very quickly during the rest times. And my legs were fine. The higher we got the narrower the trail got, the windier it was, the wetter it was, the colder it was. But it was beautiful.
Here’s the first rest stop.
Check out all that green!
Another rest stop.
This was in our future.
Almost to the top. Check out those wildflowers!
The top! Well, almost. We’re told we could have gone a bit further, but was only worth it on a clear day. At this point we were in the clouds. Every once in awhile the wind would blow the clouds away and you could see the beautiful view.
Victory!! We really were in the clouds. And it was so windy and so cold. My hands were so cold I could barely hold the camera.
This would be a good place to mention that we (Neal & I) were the only ones that seemed to find this mountain challenging. Christi and Trae graciously traveled at our pace – while the ‘younger set’ bounded up like they were only conquering small hill. Here they are on the way down – trying to keep warm while waiting for us.
Climbing down of course was much easier – except for me. I have knees that act up when I go downhill. A short distance is no bother, but 4 miles, well, that is a bother. At least to my knees. Fortunately though painful, it goes away quickly. Much more quickly than my sore muscles did. Here’s a scenic view on the way down.
It was even prettier than it looked.
Another good thing about going downhill – other than the obvious – is that it got warmer and warmer. I’m pretty sure at the top, with the wind blowing hard enough to carry away a small child, the windchill was probably freezing.
Here’s a view across the road. There’s a waterfall on the left.
We made it up, we made it down and yes, we were proud of ourselves. It might be an interesting note that it took and hour in a hot tub for this African girl to thaw out. And that was quite nice too.
Another big adventure was our trip to Multnomah Falls. I’m thinking these pictures don’t do it justice, but maybe you get the idea.
Gotta say this hike was a breeze after dog mountain. It was all uphill, but only for about 1 1/2 miles. Simple.
Great view. I mean the river!!
LOVE this picture!
Philip and Tobi – new best buds.
Top of the falls – almost. The trail to the very top was closed because it was washed out. Bummer. But it was still beautiful. See?
Caela and Tanika – new buds.
It’s a blurry picture, but here we all are.
After the Falls, they took us to a fish hatchery. Quite fascinating. Millions of trout and salmon.
That’s where we met Herman, a 70 year old Sturgeon.
Back at the home front, archery was one of the activities. A poor stuffed teddy bear was the target.
Neal shoots lefty.
The weather was so beautiful, we ate most of our lunches outside. Ann and Caela in deep discussion with Neal =).
The hot tub was wonderful. This is what I used to thaw out after our hike up Dog Mountain. Well, thaw out and ease my aching muscles.
Tobi, Mark and Philip were hired to wash a truck. I didn’t know it was a paid gig until Tobi excitedly told me his cut was $3.30.
Lots of card playing was done.
Here Neal is ‘helping’ Jon clean the day’s catch, aka tonight’s dinner. That fish is worth a small fortune if purchased from the store.
So if catching and cleaning the fish wasn’t enough, Jon and Ann created this incredible spread for 18 people. 17 of them were staying in the house. But why is Tobi the first and only one at the table? I think he was pretty excited about the fish!
It was an amazing meal. Artichoke parmesan basil fish. Wow.
Here’s the beautiful Dunagan home, which exudes the life of God.
This morning, Jon took Neal salmon fishing. What a treat! And it wasn’t just all about scenery. Here are Jon & Neal and their 4 King Salmon. The fish that Jon has been catching is the food for the rehearsal dinner and the wedding.
Packing up all the wedding stuff for the trip to Moses Lake.
As you can see, we are having an amazing time. The longer I’m here, the more amazed I am by the family that God has provided for Trae. We were already overjoyed with Christi – but to know her family has been incredible as well. God has answered our prayers above and beyond all we could ask or think.
It remains to be seen what God will do with these two, but we are confident that it will also be more than we can ask or think.
So— I think it’s pretty obvious why my muscles are sore, but even more obvious why my heart is more than full. My God is good.