Friday, July 26, 2013

First Impressions

After several changes and complications to our travel itinerary, we made it to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Africa! It ended up being a much longer journey than originally planned with the cancelled flight, delays, missed flight, changing airlines and long visa line, but we made it. The kids did fairly well, all things considered. There was a point in the Dar airport at 3am local time when I think all three kids broke down in tears out of exhaustion. It may have helped us get ahead in line, actually.  :)
We have been here over a week now and wanted to give you some of our first impressions through our senses. Feel free to comment with questions for us or the kids - we welcome your thoughts!
New Sights
Isaac: Our trampoline, our zipline (yup, it's true, we have both at the house we're living in for this first year - more to come on the house!), palm trees, bajaji's (little 3 wheeled car type things that are ALL over here). Goats, cows & a couple chickens on the side of the road.
Gretchen:  Insane traffic and daredevil driving. Creepy crawlies -so far in our house we've had cockroaches, ticks (brought in by one of the dogs), a milipede and a few lizards. I've paid a lot of attention to the different type of clothing here - beautiful fabrics, headcoverings, school uniforms, masai dress.  There is colorful fresh fruits & vegetables and surprisingly, a lot of furniture lining the sides of the roads for sale. Church in the coffee shop, which is essentially a covered pavilion type of structure. Mosquito nets surrounding the beds. Beautiful flowers lining the drive way of our house.
New Smells
Gretchen: Campfires. Well, that's what it often smells like, anyhow. We discovered after a few days of being here that it's very common for your trash to be burned.  Our trash goes into a little green bucket in the kitchen & from there to a larger red container out back. Then to the corner of the yard to be burned. My recycling self is freaking out with every recyclable thing I put in there, and I am so glad we are doing cloth diapers - not only for the cost efficiency, but because I couldn't handle burning 2 girls worth of diapers all the time!
New Sounds
Isaac: "Jambo" - "hello" in swahili. "Asante" - "thank you" in swahili.  Minnie barking (one of our 3 dogs).
Gretchen: Roosters in the neighborhood. Birds in our yard. Ceiling fans in every room. Swahili spoken around me. Languages and accents from all over the world! We went to a playground near the market the other day & there were families from Germany, India, Tanzania, England and the USA all present.
New Tastes
Isaac: Ice cream - it tastes the same as in America. I tried letter & number spaghetti with broccoli. I tried mango & didn't like it.
Gretchen: I'm sure I'll do a post on foods eventually, so I won't put too much here. We went grocery shopping the second day we were here, and got local peanut butter, jam, coffee, milk, juice, bread and a few other goodies. Many have a slightly different taste than what we're used to, but not unfamiliar.
We are trying to be good students of the new culture around us, and are learning new things each and every day. Please pray that we would be curious learners and respectful to those we interact with on a daily basis. We are still fighting jet lag - we are +7 hours here and are feeling it and could use prayers for our adjustment as well. We are so thankful to have a few weeks to settle in to our new surroundings before school begins, especially for the girls who seem to be having the hardest time adjusting. Isaac is sleeping like a champ - going to bed a bit late & sleeping in, but not waking up at night like the rest of us.
We are so thankful for all of your messages, encouragement and prayers!!

Sunday, July 7, 2013


We fly out one week from tomorrow! I thought I'd give a run down of our week, in case you're wondering what our last week in the States will look like!

Monday, July 8:
Isaac has VBS each day from 9 - 12 at Fifth Reformed church in our neighborhood. Friends have graciously offered to get him there & pick him up.  Marc has to go to the dentist & girls to the doc in the morning. Afternoon will be spent packing, cleaning & making one final trip to Muskegon to put things in storage.

Tuesday, July 9 - Friday, July 12:
8am orientation at Christian Reformed World Missions til 7ish. Each evening after orientation will be cleaning, packing, writing thank you notes, etc. The kids have different sitters each day. Isaac will have VBS in the morning & then will be coming to the kids orientation in the afternoon.

Friday night the kids are sleeping at my Sis & Bro in laws house, leaving Marc and I time to finish cleaning at the parsonage, any last errands, etc. OR if it's all done already, maybe go out on a date. We still have christmas gift cards to use!

Saturday, July 13:
The last of our furniture is getting picked up & the morning will be spent moving our luggage to my parents house, where we will sleep Sat & Sun nights. Several friends are coming into town & we hope to spend some time with them in the afternoon.

Sunday, July 14:
10am is our commissioning service at Plymouth Heights CRC. You are ALL invited! There will be a light lunch afterwards. One of my students is also making profession of faith. I will not be wearing makeup, that's for sure.

4pm-7pm on that Sunday is our goodbye party. It's at our friends, the Buists home at 2455 Barfield Dr SE, 49546. There will be food around 5 or 5:30pm. This will be open house style, so swing by for as long as you want!

Monday, July 15:
We will likely be to the airport around 11:30am with our 11+ pieces of luggage and many emotions. Our families will be coming to the airport to say goodbye there. Our flight is 2:34pm out of Grand Rapids.

Our flight goes from Grand Rapids to DC, where we have about a 2 hour layover. We then depart from DC and fly overnight to Zurich, Switzerland. We have about 1 1/2 hours there before boarding and heading to Africa. We'll touch down in Kenya (without getting off) and then hop over to Tanzania, arriving at 8:30pm Tuesday, July 16. We will be +7 hours there.

Please pray for us as we wrap things up around here, say goodbye to so many friends & family, pack, etc. Please pray for smooth flights without complications. Pray for our adjustment to a new time zone and deal with jet lag. Pray for us as we figure out all the initial details once we land.

We are so grateful for the love, encouragement & support of you all!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"Jesus in Africa?"

We've been trying to talk to the kids about our move more and more as we count down the days. We want them to be as prepared as possible for a 5 and 2 year old. So tonight as I put Hope to bed, we sang a song ("Jesus song, Mommy!" = Jesus Loves Me), we read a story and before praying I was telling her that soon we would have to say goodbye to our family & friends. She's been getting a bit of an attitude the last few days, and said with all the sass of a 2 year old, "NO!"

She quieted for a bit. Then out of her stillness said,  "Jesus in Africa?"

I responded, "Yes, Hope. Jesus is in Africa."

Hope: "I want to see Jesus in Africa."

Me too, sweet girl, me too.

Matthew 28:19-20
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We are leaving Grand Rapids in less than two weeks. We are leaving our family and friends, our jobs, our church and our home. Our vehicles are sold and every day, pieces of furniture are leaving through our door. Orange, green, and white tubs are more abundant than furniture and meals are becoming reminiscent of college days as we try to eat our way through the remainders of our fridge and pantry. We're selling off winter clothes and stocking up on long skirts, breathable shirts and sandals.

Grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, friends...we are leaving so much much that we cannot pack up in our 11 pieces of luggage. They won't be in Africa. But Jesus will be.

Through all this change, Jesus is constant and he is with us always. In Grand Rapids at Plymouth Heights. In Muskegon at WMC. In Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, Africa at HOPAC.

Philippians 4:4-9
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
We continue to feel God's presence and peace as we pack, clean, and try to prepare. And we move forward, trusting in the God of peace to be with us and near to us as we go, knowing that he will be faithful to that promise - both for us and for those we leave behind.
And lest you think all the conversations with our kids are spiritual in nature, shortly after this little interaction, Hope asked me to sing the Dora song and told me she wanted to watch a Dora movie. I told her that her Dora movies were already in Africa. She now may or may not be as excited about Dora in Africa as she is about Jesus in Africa.