We've now been here for about two weeks and it's high time that we update everyone. We left the States on March 27th, after a parade of goodbyes. I always thought that farewells would get easier...but I was wrong. So we won't say too much about those except this - If we missed saying goodbye to you, or if it was extremely lame, it's because we were trying a new technique. If we pretend that we aren't saying goodbye for a long time it lessens the drama, especially for our kids. We've spoken with many former missionary kids and a theme that stuck out was how hard the times of transition were. So we tried to make it easier this time. I'm not sure it worked.
We also tried something new on our flight back. Our kids are old enough now that traveling with them isn't such a game of roulette. The most direct route between DSM and Johannesburg is a non-stop Delta flight through Atlanta, running about 24 hours total, depending on layovers. Unfortunately that one is usually more expensive. So we find ourselves taking whatever flight is cheapest. This time it was through London and we had the opportunity for a 10 hour layover. So to make the most of it we went into the city to see what is so great about Britain.
But before we get to that I need to share something cool that happened during our layover in Chicago. We had been given a Flat Stanley by a friend's child. When we arrived at our departure gate Amber got Stanley out to take a picture. And as she was doing that we noticed a woman sitting next to us getting out a Flat Stanley of her own...except her Stanley was a girl (which seems like a strange name for a girl, but whatever). So Amber asked if we could take pictures of them together. This started a conversation with the lady, which eventually led into an opportunity to share the gospel with her. She is a native of London who has lived in the Chicago area for the last 25 years. Her mother had passed away in November and she was returning now to settle up her mother's estate. Sadly enough, this seemed to be the first time she had ever heard the gospel in any form. As an atheist she was very polite but obviously wasn't in agreement. Eventually the conversation moved back to her trip and how hard it would be to close her mother's things out.
At that point Drake pipes into the conversation and says to her "I know what you should do."
"What?" she replied.
"You should pray to Jesus to help you."
And he was so earnest about it there was nothing she could say. She just sat there nodding at him, then said "Yes, you're probably right."
At that we were called to board the plane and didn't have a chance to go further with her. But I know this, she had an 8 hour flight to think things through.
Once we arrived in London it took us a couple hours to actually find the correct terminal, get our carry-on bags secured, buy tickets on the train and then get to Picadilly Circus. We had just enough time to take the double-decker bus tour before we had to return. Here are some of the highlights:
-The double-decker bus, which our kids loved.
-The history, such as St James Palace which was built by King Henry VIII as a hunting lodge.
-Buckingham Palace, the guards, the pomp and ceremony. We got off the bus to see the front of Buckingham, and there must have been some official State event, because every 30 seconds or so a small group of people would emerge from the palace. You should have seen the various hats the women were wearing. High comedy!
-Seeing the main sites, such as Westminster, House of Parliament, the Clock Tower (mistakenly called Big Ben by ignorant folk such as yours truly), London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, etc...
-The historical tidbits from the tour guide on our second bus. He was great and we were sitting right next to him so I got to ask all sorts of questions. We learned all about the London fire, Oliver Cromwell, the Thames waterfront, Fleet Street, all manner of things...
We wanted to make sure to get back to Heathrow in plenty of time, so we were careful to keep an eye on the clock...actually, that's just a figure of speech. Because about halfway through the tour we were still moving away from Picadilly Circus so I asked the tour guide approximately how much longer it would be. He said about an hour and a half. So I asked him what time it was. Completely deadpan, with the sarcastic British humor, he says to me (over the loudspeaker so the entire bus-both levels-could hear) "Why don't you turn around? The most famous clock in the world is right behind you." Yep, there was Big Ben, not 300 yards away, telling me exactly what time it was. From that point forward it was easy to keep an eye on the clock. (Bloody British and their cutting wit!)
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. Our biggest fear was meeting up with my brother Caleb. He came along to help us but had to take a different flight. So to our great joy he was there waiting in the lobby of OR Tambo right on time the morning we arrived.
Here is where I have to give a list of so many things to thank God for:
-Caleb's willingness to take time out of his schedule to help.
-Brett and Celita Winson and their willingness to car-sit for us and deliver our car to the airport.
-Tricia Dargie and her hospitality, friendship and love.
-Paddy Winson for caring for our dog, etc...
-Jim and Kim Heffner, who have allowed us to stay in their home for a few months.
In fact, I need to give more information on the Heffners. This is a family that we met last year. God has called them to come serve in Welkom, ministering to and discipling young people in the church and community. I'll need to do another post at another time to fully share who they are and how God has led them. For now I'll leave it that they have become dear friends and have been used by God to bless us in many ways. They are hoping to arrive in Welkom in June and we are greatly anticipating their arrival.
The Heffners purchased a home in December in anticipation of their upcoming ministry here. It was opened to us to occupy until they arrive. We got to Welkom Saturday afternoon. Sunday was a great time to reunite with people from church and rest. Then on Monday we began to move things from our house at RHV. First item on the agenda was to meet with the Heffner's realtor and get access to the house. This being Africa we anticipated several hours of headaches trying to get the house and work with the local municipality to get utilities started. But God spared us. It took 15 minutes to meet with the realtor, get the keys and get into the house. And the realtor had already registered the house with the municipality so water and electric were fully functional!
Everyone from The Village was gone for the day at an amusement park in Johannesburg, so we had no interruptions...an oddity in South Africa. Caleb was an amazing help and we got about 90% of the moving done that first day. We had to return the rented trailer by 8:00am the next morning, but since we still had a healthy dose of jet lag it was no problem to get an early start. With so little left to do we were finished by 7:30 and had the trailer back right on time.
Now we're just working to settle in...both to the house and to reconnect with so many relationships. Of course, that has been the enjoyable part.
Oh, and we were able to get internet access on April 9th...6 days after we applied with the phone company. Last time we needed to get phone/internet hooked up it took 6 weeks. My apologies for this overdue update.
Until next time, keep looking to Jesus.