Long Time Friends and Partners – On the Road

I’m pretty sure it was just last night Neal and I were laying in bed at home in Niger talking about our trip to the US that would take place the next day.  It wasn’t just last night, however.  It was almost 6 weeks ago.  In fact 3 weeks from today we get on a plane to return to Niger.   “Time flies when you’re having fun” is an understatement.

Let me see if I can concisely communicate where we’ve been in the last 6 weeks.

June 2:  Arrived in Houston, TX to be met at the airport by Tanika and Pastor’s Carter and Laura Ware.  Carter and Laura are partners and their church has invested in Niger big time.  We had a full day of ministry on Sunday and then the next couple of days were used for shopping for wedding stuff.  Neal needed a suit and I a dress.  Neither of us had purchased either of these items in 14 years.  Fortunately Carter and Laura were there to guide us (help us know what was and was not stylish).  Tanika and Tobi were both in the wedding party.  Tanika already had her wedding attire, but we needed to get Tobi’s stuff.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a dress shirt for a 12 year old in ivory.  They’re all white and blue!  But alas, we did succeed.

Eating isn’t all we did, but we did do a lot of it.  Here we are with Carter and Laura, and Master and Kim Garza.  And that silly grin on Tobi’s face?  He’s excited about his broccoli.  I’m not kidding.

Next stop, Conroe, TX where we had a wonderful time with long time friends and partners Pastor’s Alan and Donna Anglin We loved ministering in their church –  Conroe Christian Center.

Here we are with Alan and Donna with Luke and Andrew.  Incidentally, Luke and Trae have been friends since they were 4!

Yep, eating again…

June 7:  Fly to Portland, OR, to be picked up by our son, Trae, and our almost daughter in law, Christi.  From there we went to the Dunagan home in Hood River where we were able to spend a week getting to know Christi’s family.  A wonderful time it was.

Yep, eating again.  This time in the Dunagan home.  One of many great meals.  One must eat to live.  That’s what I’m going with.  This happened to be an amazing salmon meal.

June 14:  Travel to Moses Lake, WA, where the wedding of our son and his beautiful fiancé, Christi would take place.  Had a few days there to further understand how blessed we were for our son (and us) to be marrying into this family.

June 16:  The Wedding.  It was incredible in every way and deserves it’s own blog post.  Soon…

But here’s just a taste…Personally I think this one should be on a magazine cover.

Family Picture

June 18:  Begin our journey to Minnesota with my mom and dad, and my brother and family.  We spent 2 nights on the road and 1 day in Yellowstone Park.  Beautiful!  Hopefully, another blog post.  We had a great time together and arrived at my folks home in Park Rapids, MN on Wednesday the 20th.

Yellowstone – just to prove we were there.  More pics later.

June 23:  Having picked up our 5 week rental car, we began our journey to Farmer City, IL.  This is a church that has been partnering with us for about 15  years now.  This past December, Pastor Scott Millis brought a team to Niger to minister and to witness all they have been a part of.  They had a wonderful meal planned on Saturday night and we were so blessed by all the church members that came out to visit with us.  The church blessed us in a HUGE way!

The Victory Christian Center team that came to Niger in December.

Neal speaking in the church.  Check out the screen in the back.

June 24:  Our 23 Anniversary!!  We ministered at Mason City Christian Church in Mason City, IL.  Partners Pastor Joe and Cheryl Briseno have been friends of ours since ORU, but we only hooked up through ministry a few years ago.  A real ‘God connection’.

Here we are.

Before moving on to our next location, we spent a few days with good friend Kyle and Kim Kopp.  Got laundry done, worked on paperwork, shopped a bit, ate great food and Neal even got to drive a farm tractor and ‘help’ harvest wheat and plant beans.

Kim & I.  Don’t even ask why I’m wearing my African outfit here…

Neal, the farmer.

This was no mom and pop farm operation!  Neal drove this thing with Kyle.

June 27:  Ministered in Sullivan, IL at New Life Church, another long time partner.  Was really fun to visit with some who had come on a team we hosted many years ago.  Also visited with Pastor Dave who had just suffered a heart attack less than 2 weeks earlier – he is a walking miracle and we thank God for his life.

June 28:  My mom’s birthday!  Traveled to Branson, MO where we got to hang with some really long time friends and partners (notice I didn’t say ‘old’), Scott & Patty Roberts, and their family.  After a morning spent meeting 2 new pastors, we spent the day on a lake – somewhere.  It was wonderfully warm (hot), which I love when I’m on or in water.  Oh, and I water skiid!  For real.  It was only for a few minutes, but I got right up.  Don’t believe I’ve ever skiid behind a boat that fast before.  Don’t really want to say much about how sore I was….Our time with them (my time with Patty) always goes way to fast.  Patty is the one who inspired me to start this blog.  Read hers here – she’s awesome! walnuts on my windshield

Neal on the tube.

Neal off the tube.

Me on skiis.  I don’t normally post pictures with me and bathing suit ‘in the same sentence’ so to speak, but I must say I was pretty proud.  I’m guessing it’s been between 15 and 20 years since I last water-skiid.

And here I am with my very good friend, Patty.  I miss her!

June 30:  One our way to the Big D.  Not to be confused with diarrhea, as most missionaries may assume.  I’m talking about Dallas.  Or at least it’s surrounding towns.

One of the benefits of driving all over the country is the cool things we get to see along the way.  Like this.

The Arch in St. Louis.  Had to grab my camera and take a snap while driving by.

We spent a few days with Neal’s sister, Sarah and family.  Scott works for World Vision and they will be moving to Lesotho next month.  So we were really glad to have this time with them – even though it was peppered with meeting lots of new people/pastors.  A priority of ours is to always talk about missions and the fact that it is God’s plan (responsibility) for all.  We spent the 4th of July with Scott and Sarah and family with more long time friends and partners Joe & Lenoir Randall.  Thanks you guys for an awesome time!   Gosh – we sure do have a lot of great long time friends and partners!!

With my nephew, Luke, and nieces, Grace and Claire.  And yes, Claire is trying to escape…

Sarah and I.  Look forward to visiting them in Lesotho!

Neal with Scott and Luke – who is too cool for words.

July 1:  Attended Lakeshore Church in Rockwall, TX.  ANOTHER 15 year partner.   Had fun speaking to the Sunday School.   Enjoyed spending time with Pastor Brad and Denise Howard.  Thanks to Anna Holland who is a huge blessing to the church and to us as she keeps the missions council running with excellence.  Had a great lunch with them after the service.  We believe the success of the church is due in great part to their serious involvement in missions!

Also while in Texas, we discovered through some perfectly timed emails that our friend from South Africa was going to be nearby.  Walker and Haley Schurz are ORU friends that helped us in South Africa when we went there for Tobi’s birth.  They have been supporters ever since.  Shortly after we were with them in 2000, they moved their ministry to Zambia.  We will be teaching in their Bible School – Rhema Zambia this next year.  Though we’ve kept in touch, we haven’t seen them since Tobi was born in 2000.  We got to have lunch with Haley and her daughter Jessica who was a tiny thing when we were there.  She’s now going to be a junior in high school and is tall and beautiful.  What a blessing to see them!

July 6:  Began our journey to Lexington, KY but spent the night in Little Rock along the way.  Though short, we always love our time at the Dorsch domicile with our good friends John and Cathie.  Cathie led a team to Niger in 2010 and it’s always fun to connect with people who have been where we live and can understand our life.

Arrived in Lexington and got to know our new friends Miles and Melanie Phelps and their sweet daughter Penielle – who thinks lips are armpits.  =)  Miles went all out to set up meetings with pastors and leaders for us from all over the city.   He has been in Niger as well, and it’s such a blessing to have people who believe in what we’re doing and then act as our PR guy.  It was our first time in Lexington and we know it won’t be our last.  Many ‘mission seeds’ have been planted.  We were in The Vineyard and in Destiny Christian Center and in both places really enjoyed planting the seed of missions.

With Miles, Melanie and Penielle.  Another meal…Pot roast!!

July 10:  That leads us to where we are right now.  Whitestone Inn in Kingston, TN.  What an amazing place.  It’s our 3rd time here.  It’s a wonderfully peaceful and very fancy Bed and Breakfast.  Both the bed and breakfast are amazing.  We have been here 2 nights and have 1 left.  We leave tomorrow morning.  Although it goes by way too fast (Neal just said ‘It’s already 2:00.  Can time go any faster?’) I answered ‘I hope not!’  We truly do enjoy all of the above – visiting, sharing the vision with old friends and new, but it is really nice also to have a couple days of some down time where we only have each other to talk to.  Paul and Jean Cowell are the owners of this Inn, and they offer 3 nights to missionaries.  Not discounted, but free.  Yep, FREE!  It’s a huge blessing.  The place is amazing.

This year, our room is in the Old Schoolhouse on the left, the big window on the top is our room – our suite!  And it’s sweet!

Croquet has become our tradition.

Well, that, and eating…

Next stop, Kingdom Life Fellowship in Richlands, NC.  Our friends Pastor’s Wendall and Karen Ward came to Niger for the first time when we were really green – had only been in Niger for a few months.  An obvious theme through this post is what great friends we have.  God is good.

While we’re running around the country, Tanika and Tobi are spending the remainder of their summer in Minnesota with my mom and dad.  Tanika is working at Evergreen Lodge where she helps with the lodge, golf,  the children’s program and cleaning.  Dan, the owner and the one that blessed her with the job said he might try and talk her into transferring to Bemidji State so she can continue working there.  Tobi is hanging with Grama and Grampa and his cousins.  He’s also been put on the payroll at the lodge on Saturdays.  It’s been great for him and he loves saving his money.  He had saved all year in Niger and had decided he wanted to buy and iTouch.  I think mostly because Trae had one.  According to his research, he was $50 short.  I told him he would just have to pray and ask God to provide.  Next thing he knows he’s offered a job.  He was pretty excited.  Then – even though he had made enough to  buy a new iTouch, Grama had one that she had barely used and sold it to him for really cheap.  So now he’s deciding what else he’s saving his money for.  At the moment, he’s at camp.  We’re so glad he had the opportunity to go.  One of those cases where we’d love to be a fly on the wall or a cockroach in the corner.  Maybe a spider in the sink.  Oh goodness, I’ll stop.  Anyway, you get the picture.  He’s starting his week in a place where he doesn’t know anyone.  Tobi is great at making friends, but I would love to see how he communicates to strangers about his life without us around.  I suspect that by tomorrow, when it’s all said and done, he’ll have a whole new group of friends.  Good thing he has that iTouch – maybe he’ll be able to keep in touch.

I’m quite sure these next 3 weeks will be a blur.  We will meet more people and have 4 more services we’ll minister in.  Still quite a few miles to drive.  Excited that we’ll get to see Trae and Christi a bit before we go.  They’ve been married for almost 4 weeks now – so hard to believe.  That time flying thing again.

We’re thankful that everywhere we go, God has given us favor.  He opens doors as we communicate the vision of reaching the unreached.

And as for my ability to concisley communicate all of the above – I guess I don’t possess that ability.

3 thoughts on “Long Time Friends and Partners – On the Road

  1. Brenda Gay Blotevogel

    We won’t get to see you this trip but we are so glad you are getting to see many of your other friends. We enjoy hearing about your travels and seeing your pictures.Brenda Gay and Phil

  2. Lenoir Randle

    Great news report! Beautiful pictures of wedding! Have safe travels and thanks for letting us be on your “see list”. We loved it. Safe travels , rest, and keep in touch.
    Love y’all,
    Joe and Lenoir

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