Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Christmas Letter

December 2014
To all our dear Family and Friends,
Merry Christmas! We’re SO blessed to be home to spend the holidays with family again this year!  Every year, God leads us to a different situation in which to serve and, this year, we spent almost 7 months at Nazarene Theological Seminary outside of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia! 
We flew Down Under in early February, and started work just before 2014 Semester 1 began, after several emails and Skype sessions to determine some of the details of our assignment.  We quickly settled into a suite in one of the dorms (a bedroom and a kitchen separated by a bathroom).  The campus is “in the bush” (wooded) and “chockers” with (full of) wildlife, especially wallabies!  We could see wallabies every day, as we’d walk round the campus after work.  Found a koala too! We were wakened each day by kookaburras, curlews, magpies, and crows.  And we soon fell in love with the Aussies’ accent and their quirky colloquialisms.  The weather was wonderful as well; the suburb of Thornlands is coastal and has a sub-tropical climate!
Dan had quite of list of technical projects to accomplish including; replacing the campus WiFi, upgrading most of the network services, replacing the old phone/PBX with VOIP, upgrade VC (Video Conferencing) equipment in the classrooms, install VC in the Chapel, and improve acoustics in the classrooms and chapel with insulation, curtains and building 30+ acoustic panels
I helped in the administrative office and, one day each week, I did some data entry for the librarian. On Mondays, I’d also spend a couple of hours at the home of Dr Bruce Allder (the principal) and his wife Jacqueline, helping her cook and set up for the Monday night campus dinners. We SO enjoyed the food and fellowship of those evenings!
We became part of a local Nazarene congregation with co-pastors from South Africa and the Netherlands, and made lots of friends there! The Allders invited us on a road trip for Easter holiday in March, traveling to Canberra, the capitol (learned lots at the government buildings), and Sydney (toured the famous Sydney Opera House).  This is one of Dan’s photos of it!  It was autumn then, since seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere from what we’re used to in the Northern Hemisphere and it was much cooler in the state of New South Wales, in the south of Australia.
We returned to the States in early April, to attend a couple of Bible Quiz Ministry (BQM) events and see family. One regional Bible Quiz took us to Boston and gave us the opportunity to visit Marcy and her family too! 
At the end of July we headed back to the end of winter in Australia. Brisbane’s climate wasn’t too cold and spring began soon after, as well as Semester 2 for the college. We were privileged to enjoy several side trips with college coworkers to Bribie Island, North Stradbroke Island, the Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Coochiemudlo Island, and O’Reilly’s Rainforest. We also enjoyed a successful daytrip of whale watching. I’m still crazy about the mix of cultures in Australia – it’s quite a “melting pot” – very British in some respects (tea breaks twice a day at work, fish and chips), while many places still have their Aboriginal names. There also are tons of ex-patriots from all over the world there.
At the end to the college year and graduation, we returned home to the USA, just before Thanksgiving. The jet lag wore off just enough for us to finish final arrangements for a Quiz that Dan was responsible for directing the 1st weekend in December, in Ferguson, MO.  It went very well as over 200 teens and adults attended from 14 different states.  (He is once again looking to pass this on to younger leaders.)
Home now for the holidays, we’re even (almost) enjoying the cold weather since it was getting pretty hot in Australia. Christmas will be special at home this year with Erica, Monica, Caitlyn, and Dylan!
Family news…
Marcy easily graduated from police academy and is a local police officer in Fairhaven, MA. Husband John is still with Samsonite (we still benefit from his samples!). Megan is a junior RA at University of Rhode Island, studying Family Counseling / Holistic Therapy. Morgan is a freshman at Curry College near Boston, majoring in Nursing and played college softball. Both girls work at a local seafood restaurant when they’re at home! Tucker is a 7th grader enjoying life with both sisters away at school.
Monica seems to be enjoying her new job in Belleville as CPA at a local hospital. Dylan is a 7th grader at Zion Lutheran School and Caitlyn is a freshman at Belleville East High School. We have enjoyed seeing her in a holiday madrigal dinner and their Christmas choral concert!
Derick and Nola have moved to New Jersey so Derick can work on the outsides of the skyscrapers in New York City, living his dream as a top-level-certified rope access technician.
Darin still lives in Raleigh, NC, where he makes a living installing satellite TV systems while building custom motorcycles in his off-hours.
Adam does computer work. His and fiancée Dana’s home in Washington, IL, was destroyed in a tornado in October 2013, but they were not injured, and they moved to a new home in Peoria, IL.
Erica is enjoying her management position as purchaser at the Lutheran Senior Services facility where she still sometimes cooks. She lives in our house and takes very good care of it when we’re away. She has a boyfriend who’s a pilot; when they have the same days off, they are active outdoors people – hiking, biking, etc. Her cats Backes and Jax, named after two St Louis Blues hockey players, are still afraid of us!
Leaving for our return flight home.
God continues to provide rich experiences and wonderful people to work with in our retirement from paid careers. Along this pathway there are a couple of important things we have learned (or relearned):
-       The special, never-ending value of family and friends like you. We are truly blessed with your ongoing friendship, prayers, and support as we follow His leading.  We so appreciate being able to keep in touch electronically when we can’t be with you in person!
-       God’s Retirement plan is WAY better than any we might have! He is keeping us active, useful, challenged, excited and growing (see Romans 8:14-15 in ‘The Message’).
We’re headed back to the Eurasia Regional Office in Büsingen, Germany, in January for 3 months of assisting in admin and technology projects with Brad and Nancy Firestone and the awesome team there.
May your Christmas season be blessed and your New Year filled with joy!

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