Adieu, Canada!

Having already bade farewell to the USA on the 14th of December, our family is now sitting near gate 71 in Vancouver International Airport, a little less than 2 hours from boarding our flight to the Philippines.

We owe big thanks to Sora’s parents, who put us up at their house for 16 days, and had their empty-nester tranquility subjected to the craziness of four kids and two adults. They cooked many delicious meals, and kept us entertained with cards and visits from the cousins. Thank you, Mickey and Robin!

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We took a ferry from Victoria to Vancouver, and during the crossing, we managed to play a few more hands of bridge with Sora’s sister Tama, who appears to be strongly addicted to cards.

On arriving at YVR, we had Tama take an obligatory photo of us with all our luggage.

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The luggage carts were free. So is the WiFi (otherwise I would not be blogging right now!). I remarked to Sora that I am very impressed with this airport. It is easily the nicest I’ve ever been in.

We checked twelve bags, including my tennis bag containing three racquets, a badminton set, and a ping pong paddle (yes, I love racquet sports), and Sora’s guitar case.

After checking bags, we stopped by an airport store to buy three neck pillows for the kids:

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They posed with some polar bears:

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And now they’re watching Studio Ghibli movies and eating tiny gouda cheeses and granola bars while we wait for our flight to start boarding:

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Pray for a safe flight! I’ll blog again when and if I find another internet connection on the their end of our flight.

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Diocese of Western Canada and… Cuba

We had a delightful 10 days before Christmas, visiting the two REC parishes in Canada west of the Rockies. (We had previously visited St. George’s in Ontario.)

Our first stop was Holy Trinity in Colwood, BC, which is pastored by Bishop Dorrington. If anyone asks, “How is there a bishop for a diocese with two churches?”, the answer is that there are 18 other parishes in Cuba that are also under Bishop Dorrington’s missionary oversight. If you want encouragement and inspiration, read the story of how these Cuban churches came under the Bishop’s oversight, and how they are growing and thriving. It is a story full of God’s amazing providence and grace.

Bp. Dorrington was one of the clergy who baptized Sora some 14 years ago. (The other was Rev. Rod Ellis of the Church of Our Lord, whom we will see this Sunday.)

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(Matt with Bishop Dorrington and Deacon Barry Lavine)

That same week, on Thursday, we went across the Georgia Strait to Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast to visit Pastor Theo Hoekstra and his family. Their church, Grace Covenant (CREC) was a home for us during our year on Texada Island in 2006-2007. Because we were “sore let and hindered” by BC Ferries, which canceled all its sailings on Wednesday due to gale-force winds, Grace Covenant kindly moved its Bible study to Thursday night, and gave us the whole time to present.

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(View from the ferry on the way home from Gibsons. Click for larger version.)

The next Sunday, we drove over the Malahat to Courtenay, BC, to visit Living Word REC, pastored by the Rev. Bill Klock, who is a scholar and a gentleman. I knew Fr. Bill from Facebook, but we had never met in person. He graciously let me use his pulpit (sermon in text and audio may be found here) and gave us time to present our missionary plans to the congregation. After the service Fr. Bill and his wife Veronica invited us over to their house and fed us a delicious lunch.

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(Fr. Klock with Matt and Hosanna)

We were also greatly blessed to stay overnight on Saturday at the house of two friends of Sora’s parents, Glenn and Denise. They are also Anglicans, as it turns out. More importantly, they are wonderful people, full of grace and love, who know how to exercise gifts of hospitality toward kids. The girls had a great time with a trunk full of dress-up clothes:

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Just three days now! It is rather amazing to us just how many churches God has managed to send us to visit. Deputation is almost over, and it has been a joy. Just one parish left, and then off we go!

Merry Christmas!

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That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3 ESV)

Christ’s birth was the original and archetypal missionary work: God’s love had to be conveyed by the sending of a person. God came as a man to touch and speak to us face to face, to enter into relationship with us. He is our light.

With only 5 days left until we fly out of Vancouver, we want to wish all our readers and supporters a very merry Christmas!

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Farewell and the Trip West

We departed from Cincinnati last Sunday, after saying farewell to many dear friends at Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church. My farewell sermon is posted here. Fr. Wayne and Sandy McNamara came down from Dayton. We were also delighted to see some our senders from outside our church: Tim and Monique O’Neil and Wendy Jacques and her daughter Jenna. The Jacques family was the very first to pledge monthly support for our mission, so they occupy a special place among our supporters. Here are a few shots of the gathered crowd of friends:

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Words of encouragement were spoken, toasts were proposed, and we were very blessed.

Then we started driving. And driving. And driving.

Our goal was Las Vegas, where my wacky brother and his beautiful fiancée Trudie were scheduled to be wed in the Luxor Hotel on Wednesday evening. That is 2,000 miles in 3.5 days. Our kids saw the last snow they are likely to experience for three years – in Texas, of all places!

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We stopped in Amarillo, TX for the night. We make it our policy always to choose hotels that offer breakfast as part of the package, and we had a good experience with the Staybridge Inn and Suites in Amarillo. They had some very nice waffle-makers:

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We started driving again, and had gone one exit on the highway when we realized that Isaiah had left one of his hearing aids on a table in the hotel lobby. We turned back and reclaimed it. After that, we made such good time that we were able to stop and see the south rim of the Grand Canyon, which you can read about in an earlier post. Our kids are fantastic travelers after five months of trips to the East coast to visit churches.

(Click on the panorama picture for a larger version.)

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The next day, we pulled into Las Vegas. My brother and his bride exchanged their “I do’s” and enjoyed the company of several friends who came all the way from Maryland. We’re pleased to report that Isaiah was kept safely away from the gaming tables, and we escaped Vegas without visiting either the topless revue or the exhibit of plasticized human cadavers. The kids were impressed by the Egypt theme:

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From there, it was a mad dash to Victoria, BC – a trip that took 1,400 miles as we attempted to avoid the Rockies. We ended up making the trip in only two days, and actually made it to the Tsawwassen ferry by 4:15 on Friday, just as the sun was setting:

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Hosanna, hearing us discuss the ferry boat before we boarded, inquired, “Are the fairies making the boat go?”

Now we are safely arrived and comfortably lodged at Sora’s parents’ house. We had planned to visit three churches to share our mission to the Philippines, but God, in what we have come to know as His usual way, has made it five – four Anglican and one Presbyterian.

Please pray that we’ll be able to sell our van, and that we will continue to have God’s mercy attending us as we travel. Pray that our vision for missionary work will be a blessing to the congregations we visit.

Also, please continue to pray for the people of Mindanao who have a long recovery ahead of them after the recent typhoon and the devastation it brought. Both of the mission works we’ll be involved with are working on bringing the love of God to the affected areas, with hands and skill to heal and help.

Grand Canyon, Vegas Wedding

We’re in Las Vegas for the wedding of Matt’s brother Grant and his fiancee Trudie. Because three successive time changes (EST to Central, Central to Mountain, and Mountain to Pacific) worked in our favor, we were able to visit the Grand Canyon on our way. Our penultimate destination is Victoria, BC, where we will visit some more Anglican churches and share presentations about our mission.

The Canyon was well worth the short trip out of our way to see it.

Isaiah and Naomi at Mather Point.

Isaiah and Naomi at Mather Point.

The wind was so strong, Naomi was almost blown over the edge.

The wind was so strong, Naomi was almost blown over the edge.

Flumbo has been Isaiah's companion on most of our journeys.

Flumbo has been Isaiah’s companion on most of our journeys.

After the Grand Canyon, we proceeded to Las Vegas for my brother’s wedding. Vegas isn’t where I would want any of my kids to get married. But Grant is not one of my kids, and it was worth spending a night in this ridiculous city to be there for him and Trudie. It was also nice for our kids to spend one last sweet time (in the hotel room, not in the casino!) with their paternal grandparents.

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Congratulations, Grant and Trudie!

Leverage

As we have traveled around the country raising support, we have deliberately put Sora’s ministry front-and-center at every church we’ve visited. There are many reasons for that: midwives are rarer than teachers on the mission field; Sora’s calling preceded and in many ways generated Matt’s calling; and midwifery is the reason we’re going to Davao City, and not somewhere else; and Sora has already been to the Philippines and practiced midwifery at the birth center during her short-term trips in 2009 and 2010, so she has lots of stories that help churches here in the US understand the impact of midwifery in the developing world.

I, on the other hand, have not been to Faith Academy yet. So my testimony about its impact has to be second-hand. Since I’m about to join the faculty, I get emails that are sent to the school’s email list from parents of past students. Two such parents, translators with Wycliffe, gave me permission to share their message:

Dear FAM administrators, teachers and volunteers,

We thank the Lord for you.  We are grateful for your love for God, missions and children, and your skills and training.

The existence of Faith Academy Mindanao made it possible for us to live in Davao and do our work ((New Testament translation for one of the SE Asian languages).  Our son attended FAM for 9 years (1994-2003) and our daughter attended for 12 years (1994-2006).  Now you are continuing to keep missions projects going for a whole new batch of families, as well as reaching an international business community.

May the Lord give you wisdom, creativity, ideas, physical strength, and joy in being here.

With much appreciation,
(Names)

I have often said that one of the reasons we’re going as missionaries is to leverage our gifts in the service of Christ. Yes, Sora’s work as a midwife has been a blessing to many families here in Cincinnati, but it will be a blessing to many more in Davao and beyond. Yes, my work as a high school teacher and Bible teacher has been well-received here in Cincinnati. But it will be even more valuable in Davao.

And there is another way in which this multiplying effect will be at work – one that we have already seen during our deputation time. As we’ve visited churches (all over three REC dioceses and many ACNA parishes as well), it has struck me that as missionaries, we can be a blessing to many more churches here in the USA – churches with whom we would not have any contact or much relationship if we were not going abroad.

Faith Academy Mindanao

Faith Academy Mindanao

“Show them Jesus!”

There have been times during our deputation work when the Lord has taken our schedule out of our hands and given us something unplanned, just to remind us that He is the one driving everything, and that this mission is not being accomplished on our own steam.

That’s what happened during our trip to Tinley Park, IL. We had an invitation to visit St. Andrew’s Anglican Church (Rev. Frank Levi, rector). On the way to Illinois, we received a call from Fr. Levi telling us that we should expect to visit All Saints Anglican as well. This is the REC’s Nigerian immigrant mission parish. We had not spoken with them, nor sent them any materials, but it was plain that their Vicar, Rev. Shola Falodun, was part of God’s plan to bless us this weekend.

Worship at St. Andrew’s was a delight, and we enjoyed lunch with the Levis and their daughter Beth’s family. Here’s Matt and Fr. Levi looking sober in cassocks and surplices:

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After lunch, we headed over to All Saints. The congregation meets in a chapel inside a Catholic high school, normally on Sunday morning. for this Sunday, they had had to change the time of their service to the afternoon because the school needed the chapel in the morning. Thus God brought it about that we could attend All Saints as well as St. Andrew’s. And we were glad we did!

Fr. Falodun gussied me up in a bright purple chasuble (No transsubstantiationism implied in this circumstance), and proceeded to preach a sermon on John 12:21, “Sir, we want to see Jesus”, on the necessity of loving in deeds and not in words only. The most memorable part was when he turned to me personally, as I sat there on the bema, pointed and commanded sternly, “You are going as a missionary. You must show them Jesus.” He said this to me some four or five times. It was just what we needed to hear, and we will never forget it. We will put this picture, with the words, “Show them Jesus” on the wall of our house in Davao:

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Fr. Falodun was celebrating his wedding anniversary and we enjoyed a feast of Nigerian food (Sora was looking up recipes for jollof rice on her phone the drive home!) and more words of encouragement from other members of the congregation. Many were graduates of schools started by missionaries and had a keen sense of the impact that missionary work had had on their own lives and families.

Fr. and Mrs. Falodun at the dinner after the service.

Fr. and Mrs. Falodun at the dinner after the service.

Thank you, Fr. Levi and Fr. Falodun, for making this one of our most memorable visits!