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September 18, 2019

Hi <<First Name>>,

As you read this we are somewhere over the Pacific on our way to Hanoi, via  South Korea’s Incheon International Airport. We should arrive tomorrow morning, your time. 

While packing yesterday, we learned $42/month is all that separates us from making our funding goal.  Fans of Hitchhikers Guide the Galaxy will know 42 is also the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything".   Ok, maybe a little too nerdy, but there is nothing like boarding the plane knowing this ministry is nearly fully funded.  Thanks again to everyone who joined our support team, we could not do it without you. 

In this final stateside edition of PrayerMatters Suzanne writes about The Long Goodbye, and what it meant to her to say good-bye to her childhood home.  Steve writes about The First Night, riffing off the Asian proverb “A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step,” except a home of 1000 days begins with a first night’s sleep.   Finally, we share what we anticipate our first three months will look like working at Hanoi International Fellowship.

Thanks for continuing on with us on this new adventure. 

Steve & Suzanne

This is the house where Suzanne grew up, in southeastern Connecticut.  

The Long Goodbye, by Suzanne

Well, it’s finally done. Suzanne’s childhood home in CT has new owners, and the U-Haul U-Pack (“pod”) that we used to transport the last of the small bit of furniture and large bit of keepsakes arrived and has been unloaded and largely stored away.  An end of an era of having parents. I think we did a reasonably good job of keeping things that would bring good memories, and letting a lot of the “stuff” go.
Nelda (Suzanne's mom) and our family taken the day we left for Ghana in 2006.  
A friend who recently lost her mother said that she feels “like a 56-year-old orphan”. In truth, the harsh pain of that statement for me has subsided from when I most acutely felt it 2+ years ago. But it still feels true to me, just dimmer. Time does heal wounds. Although we never do forget.

I really don’t know how people get through grief without faith. I know atheists who think that God is an illusion that we create so that we have someone to depend on. I feel very sorry for them, not having the depth of comfort and grace that God extends to me in a very real way. It is still hard for me to reconcile pain and death and violence with the loving God that I am most familiar with. I don’t know why God made things this way. But I do know that death is inevitable and is the ultimate destination for our souls. And every day is a march closer to it, no matter your age. And that wealth, possessions, friends, or even family that you love most dearly will not allow you to escape the inevitable destination. But God is there and will be there, with open arms, to welcome us home.
At the edge of the property, Suzanne's father, mother, and Nelda's second husband lay in rest. 
A recent My Utmost for His Highest devotion says this:

“Living a full and overflowing life does not rest in bodily health, in circumstances, nor even in seeing God’s work succeed, but in the perfect understanding of God, and in the same fellowship and oneness with Him that Jesus Himself enjoyed. But the first thing that will hinder this joy is the subtle irritability caused by giving too much thought to our circumstances. Jesus said, ‘…the cares of this world,…choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful’ (Mark 4:19).”
Oswell Chambers

I do find joy, a lot of it, in my bodily life – the food I eat, my family, my surroundings. A lot of people ask me, as we are preparing to move to Hanoi, “won’t you miss your granddaughter?” Of course I will (!!!), but I would miss my relationship with God more if I didn’t follow the path that He has set before me, following Him, now and into the next life. 
Outside Hanoi in the rural countryside. 

It's the first night I remember...

Like when we moved our family to Ghana in 2006 and stayed in a “resort” a few hours from the airport.  I use quotes because it was seriously run-down and we were supposed to stay only a week, but our housing had fallen through, so we stayed two weeks, and then moved to the student dorm, which was another adventure.   The “resort” looked like about a 45-minute drive, but then there was traffic, it was late at night, and I remember how the road was lit by the kerosene lanterns of the market vendors.  After we had tucked our kids in, Suzanne and I sat at the table, watching them sleep thinking “My God, what have we done?”  Our kids came without their Gameboys (remember those?) and we had only one family computer- an HP laptop, but they were perhaps more ready for the adventure of it than we were. 
This was our Ghana luggage in 2014  This time we travel much with much less. 
The next memory I have of arriving was back in Ghana in 2014 with a stupid amount of luggage.  Ashesi University personnel met us at the airport and we put everything in the back of the small Toyota Hilux pickup, and five us in the cab.  It was tight.  For the next 90 minutes of bad roads we drove to a place that would become home, but that first night I remember sitting with Suzanne in an empty 700ft2 apartment thinking, “My God, what have we done?”  That apartment came to host so many wonderful memories, but that first night, it looked terribly small, and empty but for the wall of our luggage and a bed that was supernaturally hard. 
Today we leave on another adventure as our friends are calling it.  This time it is not a 5-6 hour time difference, but 12-13 hours. Again, we are staying in a hotel the first few nights, and then moving around Hanoi to stay in Airbnbs until we find a neighborhood that feels like home.   

Truthfully, each time we left it has felt like the most natural thing in the world to do and isn’t that just how The LORD designed it?  First, God puts the desire in our heart, and then the opportunity to fulfill it.  Leaving is the easy part, it's that first night when the reality of what we have begun hits home.  People from Hanoi International Fellowship will meet our flight to help us get to our hotel. After they are gone, I’m sure we will find a table to sit at and fight jetlag. Then we will look at each other and wonder “My God, what have we done?”  

So pray for us about 11am on Thursday when it will be 11pm in Hanoi, and you know what we will wondering as we sit at the table.
Worship at Hanoi International Fellowship

Hanoi International Fellowship

We are so excited to be joining Pastors Jacob Bloemberg and Jason Fizzard at Hanoi International Fellowship.  HIF typically has about 600 people in worship at two locations in the city and at 3 different services on Sunday. In addition, there are myriad small groups, outreach groups, and activities throughout the week.

For the first three months, we’ve been asked to rotate through the different departments of the church and learn about what they’re already doing and how they are doing it. They asked us to then lead the staff through a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), since we will be coming to HIF with a fresh set of eyes and with extensive experience from different churches and organizations. At that point, we’ll both start diving into our roles, which will likely include leading University and young adult fellowship groups, Steve taking on some form of discipleship pastoring role, and Suzanne taking on some form of an administrative role. All the while we’ll be learning the language and culture, and building relationships within the church and community, so that we can fully transition successfully and be a blessing to HIF for the long term.
Worship at Hanoi International Fellowship

Preparing for Departure

Over the last several months we have been preparing for our departure to Hanoi, Vietnam, which is now - Today! While we are both nervous (at times petrified) and excited, what we mostly are is wholly dependent on God to guide us through this transition. We know it will take a miracle for these two old minds and bodies to be nimble enough in body, soul, spirit, and language acquisition to successfully navigate the abyss between American culture and suburban life to Vietnamese culture and urban life. But we also know that our God is the God of miracles!

The church operates in English, but knowing enough Vietnamese to manage on a day-to-day basis is a must. We have been using thee free App Duolingo for the last three months (Steve also has been using Rosetta Stone), and we will enroll in language school when we arrive (we are told that one of the best language schools is in the same high-rise complex as the church’s office). We attempted to get a Vietnamese tutor while we were still in the Austin area, but we were not able to connect with a tutor that wasn’t on-line. We definitely know enough to manage at a restaurant. Immersing there we’ll quickly learn what else we really need to know, and then learn it. We know we’ll need to know more words for common things we’ll shop for, for example.

We decided to stay at a hotel the first four days, since we found one that is a short walk to the church office, that has good reviews, and is in our price range. We arrive Thursday night and will go into the office on Friday, and there is an event at the church office on Saturday that we’ll attend, plus church on Sunday, so our first few days will be a blur. Then on Monday we’ll transition to our first month-long AirBnB. Since we’ll be there only 3 months at first, we decided using AirBnB would allow us to try out living in different buildings and different parts of the city. Our plan is to sign a longer-term lease for our anticipated return in February.

Thanks for praying for us as we make this significant transition to Hanoi, Vietnam!

Five Star Church Approved

If your Central Texas Conference United Methodist Church is looking for a Missionary to support, Steve & Suzanne are Five Star Church approved. Ask your church to join their financial support team and be one step closer to becoming a Five Star Church. 
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