By God's grace the mountain has moved and been reduced to a small molehill. We're only five days away from departure, and the list is slowly getting smaller. Anyone who has made an international move knows what it is like to take care of so many details that it boggles the mind: closing down a bank account, getting needed prescription medications, selling your car, calling the airline about excess baggage (we'll have to pay $150 for each excess piece of luggage beyond our usual two pieces of checked luggage per person), getting visas (a stamp in your passport permitting you to enter another country), filing reports and papers, sending out address changes to those who write you and send you information, writing a last prayer letter, setting up a way to work your taxes while you are gone, cancelling insurance for your vehicles, buying last-minute items, writing in your blog, filling out college applications, and a host of myriad other details to attend to. That's in addition to the chaos of packing and the heart-wrenching good-byes which never get any easier. It's hard to sleep with so much on your mind and lots of details to remember. It's easy to misplace items, and then you pack things you realized later you could have used for a specific application during the last days.
It has been a tough home assignment for us. It's not just the changes we're going through, the changes in our mission, the reverse culture shock of living in the US (which is just now starting to wear off), the reality of having teenagers who have had more needs and more likes and dislikes to accomodate, or the financial matters that have preoccupied us. It's more like a combination of all these things plus personal matters and plans for the future.
Even though it has been tought in many ways, we've all grown, and I choose to remember the good things God has given and done. He has provided all of our needs at the right time. I want to sign off with a few pictures from this year, memories I want to cherish forever.
The first picture is from a hike we took in June 2006 just before I left on my trip to Chicago and before the flood which closed down this park. It was taken in Rickett's Glen State Park, a wonderful, backwoods place in PA that I have come to love. I first discovered it when I taught for three years at a school near Williamsport, PA before going to Niger. We hiked down a trail with over a dozen waterfalls, and here is one of them. At the end of the trail (about 4 miles) we had a picnic lunch together in the park picnic site. It was a fun day.
Another picture is of one of my favorite flowers. It's the state flower of both Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Anyone know what it is? It only comes out in the month of June. Note the bee pollinating the flower.
Finally, I want to publish a picture of my family at Easter. We had a great time with Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Carl (actually my wife's great aunt and uncle), both in their 90's. They are the youngest 90-somethings we have ever known and an absolute hoot to be around. We're going to miss them a lot. This picture includes Aunt Jeanette.
I'll publish some more of my favorite photos from home assignment next time around, probably after we get back to Africa, where it's hot and humid right now. We arrive in the midst of the rainy season, and five days after our arrival, school starts for our kids. Daniel will be a senior this year, and Suzanne will be in her sophomore year. Nancy and I will continue our work in Tera, and our kids will board at the school in Niamey, three hours away from Tera. The school they attend is Sahel Acedemy. Thanks for taking the time to read our blogs.