What in the World?
What are we doing these days, since Bosnia-Herzegovina was on high alert and locked down with no vaccines available for Covid-19 in May, when we intended to go? We felt led to make some small steps forward in the future New Dawn Retreat Center, while we had a little time before returning to the field (see below). We have property that Merle owned before we were married, on the back side of Lookout Mountain, where we would like to build a few small living spaces and a rejuvenation center. This summer, Merle plans to build a small one-bedroom cottage in the forest, financed by very-appreciated inheritance money from Merle's Dad.
Luke came to help and they began clearing the "jungle," which had been hit by a tornado in 2011 that traveled over Lookout Mt, though by God's protection, the people in the old house were safe. Trees fell every direction around the house, but not on it, apparently protected by angels! Sadly, many of the beautiful trees were lost.
They have been chopping down bent trees, chopping up old trees, creating new electrical poles, getting information for and plotting septic tanks, and keeping themselves hot and sweaty without air-conditioning or even a fan for sleeping at the beginning. A little progress is made each week, though it is overwhelming at times. See below some pictures of their first steps. Please pray with us that the cottage will be completed this year. Because of limited funds, Merle is tackling this project with his bare hands, from the bottom up. What a talented guy! But if we had the funds to hire some of the aspects, it could be finished sooner. If you feel led to help contribute to this "environment for transformation," there is a "give" button above. Thank you so much!
Merle and I both plunged into a counseling and teaching opportunity at our home church, called The Heart of the Problem. It is great for reflecting on the spiritual hardships we endured living 20 years in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and how to best help others to overcome their difficulties, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. We plan to return to St. Croix and the Youth With A Mission base right after Christmas, as they asked us to teach their Discipleship Training class for a week on Evangelism. We believe, Lord willing, we will stay for the winter to help with additional projects Merle can do for them, and tutor the needy children.
Here's another project Merle did with Austin, removing a couple very big crape myrtles for Austin's grandfather, and our adopted "Paw-paw."
It has been such a blessing to spend family time together for special holidays, like Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Jenny's Birthday. Lydia has been able to visit us often this summer, which has been a huge blessing. Having Luke back home is great, too. I wish Hannah lived closer, but 3.5 hours is better than when we were across the ocean. Hannah and Allan bought their first home in Columbia, SC in May. We were so glad to be here to help them move. We are trying to keep our advice to ourselves, which isn't always easy, and grateful to be able to help our adult children in their lives a bit, including helping Luke look for and purchase a car, employ him doing mountain labor, and house him since we now have a place to call home. I am so excited to be able to continue my book writing about our journey and God's hand in our lives, continue organizing our many pictures and home, play my piano again, enjoy American birds, and paint for a church project or with Lydia occasionally.
I celebrated my birthday several times this July! Our dear friends, Josh (from Albania) and Mariela (from Honduras), who accompanied us to the Independence Day fireworks display, took me out to dinner for my birthday when Merle was on the mountain. Our adult kids came for the weekend to hang out and enjoy each other's company. My dear friend, Heather, who also raised her family in Sarajevo, also took me to lunch one day, and Cynthia bought my dinner! Blessings upon blessings! Thank you, Lord, for family and friends!
The many faces of Hannah, or should I say, hair color! She read the picture book aloud for the family that I wrote this summer about the difficult process of adoption of Lydia and Luke. She cried at the part when Russia said "No," but to God goes the glory! She also made me a fabulous rosemary-almond cake with rosemary, strawberry, almond buttercream frosting!
We attended two funerals, Josh's mother, also from Albania, who was buried locally, and one of our dear supporters, Mrs. Ruth Camp. Several people we know have died or been in dire need of prayer from Covid-19, cancer, and heart attack. It causes us to realize that life is truly short and we should praise God every day for the many blessings He pours out on us. God plans something better for us than life on this earth. Only He knows the length of our days.
Delores has improved her walking skills! Unfortunately, dementia has set in. She often doesn't always know who we are, even Merle, her hero. Our new niece, sweet baby Jane, was born while we were in St. Croix working and serving. Life is a wonderful gift.
My family will gather this coming weekend for the Memorial Service of my sweet nephew, Benjamin, 40, who sadly passed away after a seizure and his heart stopped. We miss him, but know he is enjoying heaven, finally able to run and jump! Here he is at 19, in 1999, before we left for Bosnia, twenty-two years ago. The group picture is from last week. My sister Amy's other kids are 17 and 36! She always made such cute and creative cakes for them. The bottom pictures are from Ben's 39th Birthday last September. He was sunshine. His was a joyful and long life, when the doctors never though he would live through the first night. Thank you, Lord, for the beautiful gift of Ben.
"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and all who live in it. They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob." Psalm 24:1,5