Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We're home!

      For all of you avid blog followers, we apologize that this is coming about three weeks late, but we are indeed home safely! We arrived in Albany, NY at about 6:30 p.m. on December 1st where we were met by my (Jess') parents. We collected all of our luggage then headed off to Subway for our first meal stateside. We then headed back to Lowville quite exhausted and running on fumes. Elias was able to stay awake a bit longer than I could, but the first few days were quite challenging to adjust to the time change.
     For this post I am going to copy and paste our final newsletter so that all of you who don't get our newsletters can also get a taste of what our final month looked like. So here it is:

Our final month
The first day of November marked our final month in Gambia. We knew that this month would fly by in a whirlwind of packing, moving and wrapping up. 
            The month began with our final three weeks of Bible studies with our groups. For the most part this went quite well. Some of the youth were sad to see us go while others simply acknowledged that it was time for us to leave. During this time we were able to meet our goal of finishing the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. 
Also throughout this time we began packing up our small, one bedroom house. For a long time I didn't think that this would be a very big job. While we had a decent amount of "stuff" that we had accumulated I felt that it was nothing compare to packing up our apartment in the States before leaving. In reality this was true, but the job was bit bigger than what I was expecting. Thankfully, with my (Jessica's) parents coming in August we were able to send quite a few gifts and souvenirs home with them making room for the items that we needed to take home. The rest of the things that we used this past year either stayed at the house for the new tenant or went to Gary and Denise. 
After our final week of studies we devoted one week to pack and moving to Pirang along with trips to the city for forgotten items. On Saturday the 20th we borrowed the truck from Jeremiah (the director of MEHDA in Pirang) and officially moved out of our house and into the guest house in Pirang. We stayed here until Monday and then we headed off for vacation until Friday. On Thursday of that week we were blessed to have Thanksgiving with Gary and Denise along with EMM workers Beryl and Andrew from Guinea-Bissau. 
Our five days of vacation were a nice time of rest and reflection on our past year in Gambia. We took a time of talking about all of the positive things about the past year and the culture. We chose not to mention anything negative as it is too easy to get caught up in the negative and let it overpower the positive. This was a really wonderful time of reflection and it was a true blessing to see all the things that God has done for us and through us this past year. 
Upon returning from vacation we were left with only four days to wrap up our remaining "to do's". Saturday we went to visit our groups in Gunjur Beach and Madina Salaam for one last time. We too a small bag of rice to each group and had a wonderful time of fellowship and goodbyes. Sabadu from Gunjur Beach even gave me some beautiful Fula fabric as a gift, that is woven by locals from the Fula tribe. 
Then on Sunday we went to visit the Kiti group one last time. This was the group that we were closest to since we were able to spend the most time with this group and through that time we had developed the deepest relationships out of all of our groups. We went early for church and stayed through for lunch and some time of visiting before saying goodbye and heading back to Pirang for supper. Elias was able to visit with some of the men and male youth while I learned how to "properly" crack and shell peanuts leaving my fingers rather sore, but my heart full that I had been able to once again experience a part of daily life in the village. 
Monday I had my hair braided in preparation for our journey back to the States. Tuesday was once again a whirlwind of packing and last minute running before heading off to the airport at 5:30 p.m. for our 9:00 p.m. flight
After a few hiccups, we were through security and waiting in the gate. Overall traveling went well and we were both touched when the pilot for our flight into Dulles said "welcome home". A few hours later we flew into Albany where we were met by my parents.
Our last few days in Gambia we were able to really see the beauty of the country and realize just how blessed we were this past year. While we looked forward to coming back to the States for a long time, we recognize that this is our temporary home and we never want to lose sight of that. We want to strive to keep God first in our lives and marriage even when life gets busier than it was in Gambia. This will be a challenge, but it is one we are praying that we will be able to maintain. Thank you for all of your prayers that covered our time this past year. The power of prayer is indescribable and made our time so much easier than it would have been without this covering. 
Getting my hair braided by one of the girls from Pirang

"From two to three"
In our last few weeks in Gambia we decided to make an addition to our family. As we have mentioned before, there are many dogs around our house in Methodist Mission. In Late August-early September one of the dogs that we had named Betty, had puppies. We heard the little pups crying in the woods in front of our house. After a few weeks, Elias decided to venture out and find the little guys. A little while later he came back announcing that there were two male puppies that he had found. 
We are unsure if there were more in this litter or not since there were a few large monitor lizards that had been coming around and bothering the mother. It is not uncommon for monitors to eat puppies so it is possible that a few were lost to this. On the other hand, the mother is getting quite old and has had many batches of puppies leaving the possibility that she only had two pups this time.
We figure that the puppies were about 3-4 weeks old when we found them and from this time on we would go out and give their mother some food and water and hold the puppies. One night however, it began to pour and their mother came to us in distress, so we ventured out and brought the puppies to our flower bed in the front of the house where they would stay dry. From then on we played with and cared for the the puppies that we had named Pickles and Scrumpy. 
Our cook Agnus quickly decided that she would take Pickles once they were weaned, which left us wondering what we would do with Scrumpy, who at the time was quite quiet and anti-social. Agnus then told us that there was a woman who worked at the Methodist Mission dental clinic where she cleaned who was looking for a dog. We thought at this point that we now had homes for both puppies, but we then found out that the women who wanted Scrumpy doesn't feed her dogs or give them water. After caring for this little guy for a little over a month we knew that we couldn't let him go to a home that wouldn't love him. So, we made the decision to bring him home with us!
We had friends who had done this back in July so we knew it was possible. We then began vet visits to a German vet and had him vaccinated and de-wormed. We then set out on the challenging job of finding a kennel for traveling However, we knew that this decision could not affect our remaining time for our ministry. I was slightly concerned about this, but it worked out and he didn't detract from our remaining time at all, he just created a bit of extra work. In the end everything worked out and he is now in the States with us trying to adjust to the cold! He's doing quite well and we are very happy with our new family of three! 
                                            Scrumpy at 3-4 weeks when we first found him
                                                             Playing with Pickles
                                                                    Getting bigger!

                                                                      Our final family picture before heading home!
-We were able to finish strong!
-We have made it home safely!
-We have left with some beautiful new friendships and some very promising future leaders!

Prayer Requests:
-Please continue to pray for us as we transition back to American culture and the cold.
-That the youth will continue to grow in their faith, knowledge and leadership abilities
-That the church will continue to grow and more and more Gambians will come to know Christ.

So, this was our final newsletter. If you have any additional questions or if you would like to hear more about anything please let us know and we will fill you in. I will do my best to update you on our readjustments and where we are at now. We are currently living with Elias' parents in the apartment attached to their house. I (Jess) have been officially accepted in to massage school in Albany so we are now in the process of trying to find housing and a job for Elias before I begin school on February 22. We know that God has a plan for us, but please be praying for as we continue to adjust and seek God's will on employment and housing. Right now we haven't heard anything on job availability and we are hesitant to do anything with housing until we know how much we can afford, and until we know that Elias has a job. Maybe this is lack of faith or maybe this is time that God is giving us to readjust. We just continue to seek and pray that God will reveal his plan to us. Thank you again for all of your prayers and support! We couldn't have made it through this past year without the power of prayer! Many blessings to all of you and Merry Christmas!