GEORGETOWN, TEXAS  USA - As 2018 draws to a close and our family gathers to celebrate the birth of Jesus, Suzanne and I are filled with gratitude for each of you. 

Suzanne and Steve in Connecticut2018 was a year of transitions for us: leaving our adopted homeland Ghana, welcoming our first grandchild, watching our last-born graduate from Olin College of Engineering, and three months of travel.  We are learning we can't become what the world needs by remaining where we are. Transition is that process of becoming.

In this edition of our eNews, Suzanne writes about Home Leave, and our nine-week trip around the US.  Steve ponders the Anatomy of a Vision Trip and Suzanne shares what that looked like in Can We EnVision Ourselves There?.  

As one year ends and another begins we are thankful for the journey we share and are at peace with the uncertainty of where it leads.   It is indeed the incarnation of peace which surpasses all understanding.
Steve & Suzanne

Home Leave Discernment

by Suzanne
USA. When we returned to the US at the end of June, we started a period known as “Home Leave” – a time to rest, re-connect with the US, our family, and our supporters, and to undergo a period of discerning God’s plan for this next stage of our lives.

In our Righteous Ride (link) we drove through, saw friends and family, and stayed in: Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington DC, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Texas. What a tremendous journey! We have driven through much of the US in the past, especially the Southwest United States, but having been away gave us a new perspective on the vast beauty we saw. Although the areas we visited were all different, it was all beautiful. The rugged, arid Southwest; lush mountainous Colorado; the productive Midwest, the breadbasket of the nation; the grandeur of our nation’s capital, and the rural forests of the East Coast.

The US is truly a wonderful country, unique in the world. The freedom and democracy under which we are able to live is amazing. The scenery and people are outstanding. And the infrastructure! My, it is glorious to have excellent roads, power, internet, and water you can drink without getting sick.

Part of the discernment during this home leave was to decide if we were still called to overseas mission. With a new grandchild in Texas, the draw to stay closer is certainly noticeable! However, we feel that God led us through a gentle process of showing us that we are not yet done with mission work, probably overseas, and we will remain with our sending agency TMS-Global.  In the next few articles we share where we are in this process and ask you to pray about what is next for us.

Anatomy of a Vision Trip

I remember before we bought our first home (back in 1986) we said we would park outside it one night to get an idea of what that home would be like at night: to hear just how loud that freight train rumbled, or when the souped-up truck of a neighbor’s teenage son va-roomed through the neighborhood.  We never did spend the night, and it turned out to be a great neighborhood and house, but I feel like we got lucky. 

Sometimes you make a decision, and that decision turns around and makes you, which is the idea behind a Vision Trip: to go and imagine yourself in a new ministry setting before moving there.  In our case it was Hanoi, Mauritius, and Beirut; a three-site Vision Trip (you can read about those experiences here).
The general plan was to fly in to each place for one week, and spend our time playing along as if this was our next ministry setting.  To be all in, say yes to everything; part interview and part adventure.  After landing, we would meet and learn the names of lots of people, do a few touristy things, and attend ministry events, all the while looking for what God was up to.  At the end of the week, we would begin to have a feel for what daily life and ministry could be like as we encountered this new culture, learned about ministry in that setting, interacted with its people, and tasted its delicious food.  We took local transportation, stayed in homes, hotels, or an Airbnb, and asked a lot of questions with an eye toward joining Jesus in his mission in that place. 

I thought The Vision Trip would be a lot of fun, but truthfully, it was exhausting. Three weeks, three different cultures, three different time zones, all the while trying on each place. I guess part of me  wishes God would just text us the location, drop us a pin on Google Maps, or at least give us a hint like the game “Where is the world is Carmen Santiago”.  But, that isn’t how God is preparing us in this season. Like Advent, we are in a season of waiting. We asked each of the ministry sites to join us in praying for clarity in our discernment, to both be as clear as a stubbed toe in the night, and for the same clarity to be given to both of us. 

Would you join us in praying for discernment?   A decision won’t be made until next year, but it seems fitting that we should have some clarity by Epiphany.  

Can we EnVision Ourselves There?

by Suzanne
NOV. 23 - DEC. 18, 2018.   We left the day after Thanksgiving for a 3 ½ week trip to see the three different overseas opportunities for us: a church in Hanoi, Vietnam; a university in Mauritius; and a church in Beirut, Lebanon.

HIF - Hanoi, Vietnam
Our week in Hanoi was very busy! We spent the first two days pretty tightly self-scheduled, partly to ensure we didn’t have a lot of down time to feel the 13-hour jet lag (and 21 hour flying time, 31 hour travel time) and be tempted to nap. We took two tours, one a full day countryside tour and one half day city tour, before starting meeting with the pastors, staff, elders and parishioners of Hanoi International Fellowship (HIF). We stayed at a hotel the first few days and the last day, and stayed with one of the pastors and his family in their apartment on the 17th story of a high rise apartment for several days in the middle. HIF did a great job of plugging us into the many ministries of HIF, and introducing us to the pastors and their families, all of the staff, most of the elders, and many others who attend HIF.

In Hanoi there are many challenges: the past, and the historically communist government; the air pollution; and the busyness and congestion of life in the city of 9 million and the busyness of the programs and ministries of HIF. However, we learned: tips and techniques for dealing with the air pollution so that it seems possible to live there; how to get around the city; and that the government and the church actually have a good and symbiotic relationship. We also learned, or re-learned, the history of colonization and war in Vietnam and its current united embrace of western philosophies and values. It is an exciting time in Vietnam as they develop their country and are no longer oppressive regarding religion and religious freedom, at least politically. The country has somewhere between 50% and 80% non-believers (depending on your source of statistics), with about 10% Buddhist, 7% Catholic and Protestant, and 1% Muslim. There was a palpable curiosity that made us excited about coming alongside HIF to help share messages of love, peace, and faith.

ALU - Mauritius
Then it was on to Mauritius, the beautiful island country smaller than Rhode Island off the coast of Madagascar, east of southern Africa. We again took about a day to recover from the overnight flight, and stayed most of the time in a hotel not far from African Leadership University (ALU), then on to a cheaper Airbnb for the weekend.  Wow, what a lovely, laid back island paradise, quite a different locale than bustling Hanoi! Of course, like Ashesi, ALU itself is bustling as well. Words like “scrappy” and “entrepreneurial” come to mind when I think about how to describe ALU. They have a similar mission as Ashesi University in Ghana, to educate ethical leaders for Africa, but using a different teaching & learning, and organizational, model. During the visit we learned more about their model and met with  students and several staff to learn about their needs and for them to learn about our gifts and passions.  ALU has two sites, in Rwanda and Mauritius, with two different sets of degree programs at the two locations. We also visited Lighthouse Education, a K-12 Christian school adjacent to ALU that has a lot of ALU commonalities but is also quite distinct and different. We worshiped at the island's International Church, Community Baptist Church and heard about Mauritian Bible Training Institute in Mauritius that has some associations with Lighthouse and that is also a possible place for Steve to use both his ministry and teaching experience.

ICC - Beirut, Lebanon
Lastly, we flew to Beirut, Lebanon. This was perhaps our busiest week. Beirut is one of the world’s oldest cities dating from the 15th century BC.  Some call it the doorway to the Middle East, and it was fascinating to learn about its history and the resiliency of the Lebanese.  We spent the first day with the pastor of International Christian Church (ICC) of Beirut and her daughter, who was home from university for the holidays. She took us to lunch after our arrival and introduced us to the Dean of Students at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, who is also the pastor of the Arab Christian church in whose building ICC meets.  Part of the beauty of this trip was meeting many different people, like this Dean of Students and pastor, who are people of peace and love and in whom we can feel a comradely of connection despite the cultural differences. We did three different homestays in Beirut, all in apartments, the typical housing mode in Beirut, a city of 2 million people. Several ICCers took us around the city, including to a number of museums. The first full day there it was raining and so we saw the movie Capernum, an excellent but intense and apparently realistic view into the plight of refugees, migrant workers, and the lowest class of Lebanese in Lebanon. ICC has both ex-pat members from a variety of nationalities, many who work in NGOs or faith-based organizations that serve the migrant or refugee populations, and also domestic and migrant workers from different African, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries.

Closing Thoughts
Thankfully our time in each place was blessed in its own way, and we had smooth travels – our only missed flight was on the way back to the US after Beirut, and we got an all expense paid overnight near JFK ;-)

We could see ourselves, and see a very good fit to our gifts and passions, in each of these opportunities. Christ’s mission in the world is in many good hands, and we feel blessed to feel called to come alongside many capable people already doing Christ’s work in these locations. We are still praying about which one is the next place for us, and we think we will continue the process a 4th opportunity that is stateside in the short term, which is also a potential longer term opportunity (after our next term of service overseas). We are beginning to feel some clarity, but during the whole vision trip we have wanted to stay true to the process, and so we want to continue with the process of praying for clarity until we are sure.

Thank you for joining us in this journey through your prayers and support – we couldn’t do it without you!
Thank you for your continued support as we seek God’s will for this next major stage in our lives and in our calling to follow the path God lays before us.  Transition is indeed a process of becoming.  

May the love of the savior be born again in the cradle of your heart this Christmas.  
Steve & Suzanne

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About Our Mission to Ghana

From 2014-2018 Suzanne and Steve lived on the Ashesi University Campus in Berekuso, Eastern Region, Ghana.  Suzanne served as Provost and Steve taught Leadership and tended to the spiritual needs of the campus community. 

They are on Home Assignment as they discern their next steps to where God is leading them.

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