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New [Job] Adventure

December 1, 2017

In my last post, I announced that we would be stepping away from the work with MAF at the end of this year.  I mentioned that Matthew has a new job and that we wouldn’t be moving (yay!).  I am so very tired of moving.  But so many of you, far more than I anticipated, seem truly enthusiastic about what we will be doing next – so I didn’t want to keep you waiting!

So, truth be told, as sad as we are about leaving our MAF family, we are very very excited about Matthew’s new role and challenge.  And, even better, it is with actual family!

A little over two years ago, Matthew’s brother started a business in Portland creating adventurous room escape games – the perfect team building, fun night experience.  They launched into the escape room business head on.  A year ago they began selling their rooms to other escape room companies around the country, traveling to build the rooms, often specially designed for the other company’s theme – a historical reenactment museum has a fur trapping-themed game, Philadelphia has a Revolution-era game, etc.  They have over 20 rooms around the country, their Portland storefront is going well, and it was time to branch out, continue to do good business, and continue creating awesome rooms.  What they really needed was someone to come along and take care of the corporate business that was building up as their popularity and expertise grew.

Enter: Matthew.  As things at MAF began to take shape this fall, the projects were nearing their end, and us just feeling like the fit wasn’t what we were hoping it would be, Matthew’s brother was catching us up on his business and the needs he had for someone who knew a little this and that (or a lot) about managing a business – finances, HR, strategy, ideas, etc.  Matthew weighed this option for a long time.  Going into a new business with many little people to house and feed, working with your brother knowing that puts a different spin on the relationship, going from missionary to the entertainment industry?  Huge leaps, big considerations, and lots and lots of prayer and discussion.

However, we are really really excited.  His brother (and Dad and other brother and one significant other) all spent the week of Thanksgiving at our house and we talked of little else but the business and strategy and past experiences.  We played a few local escape rooms to get a feel for the business and the local scene.  I got to play one and had a great time and a new appreciation for the work that has been done.

So, what’s next?  Matthew will first start out by immersing himself in the existing business.  He will travel to do their upcoming builds and see this side of it, he will spend some time in Portland to get to know the staff and location, then he will get to work sorting out the complexities of the future of the company from a business standpoint.  We have a lot to look forward to and it will certainly be an adventure!

For me, it’s a new era where I’m not officially involved.  With MAF, I was a staff spouse and had active, official involvement constantly, volunteered for a lot both in Kinshasa and in the states, and kept up contact with supporters, got our prayer letters out, wrote thank you notes (not as often as I wished), and still held that official connection.  This new job won’t have me very involved, but at the same time, because it’s a family affair (Dad and other brother are both also quite involved in different ways), I’m part of the whole experience.  Mostly, I will hold down the fort here in Idaho and continue home schooling and getting better acquainted with the complexities of American life.

So, please do pray for us – and thank you for so many of you offered to pray for us through this transition.  Traveling and being apart will be new, though the hope is that it will only be a lot at first, then occasionally.  I so appreciate Matthew’s brother being amazingly attentive to our family and needs/desires/concerns as he gets Matthew up to speed on what this new role will be.  Starting out so well gives me a lot of encouragement for the future.

And, if you haven’t played an escape room game yet, gather a few friends and go do it.  I promise it will be an experience you won’t soon forget.  (Caution: these can be addicting!)

On Saying Goodbye

November 25, 2017

This is an excerpt from our current prayer letter, out this week:

In January of 2011, we interviewed at Mission Aviation Fellowship HQ for a short-term position. That short-term position has changed into a lifestyle and career choice. We have enjoyed this career – this work of raising a support team, learning a new language and culture, moving (a lot), finding a new definition of family, and meeting tremendous people all over the globe. This calling has been an amazing challenge and blessing.

However, at the end of this year, we will step away from MAF and the work. This was a difficult decision that required a lot of prayer and critical discussion with people both inside and outside the organization. The reasons are complicated, but essentially, we feel that our work with MAF has come to an end, and we are ready to move on to a new adventure.

Matthew will be wrapping up the two main projects he has been working on this fall. He was able to see through the implementation and training (and bug fixing) of a new budgeting software that went to all of the MAF programs around the world. This included training at odd hours of the day, to accommodate different time zones in Africa, Central Asia, and Indonesia, and a few proverbial fires to extinguish. His final project is to assist Mobilization (formerly known as Recruiting) with a new workflow and accompanying documentation. It has been a challenge, but hopefully a help to the worldwide ministry of MAF.

We’ve truly appreciated the years of support many of you have given toward this ministry. We know that our time was not wasted, nor was its timing accidental. We were in Kinshasa at just the times we needed to be to utilize our talents just right. God used our time in language school and on the road raising support better than we could have imagined. Meeting so many, and being part of this global ministry together, has been a fantastic experience. Thank you for choosing to be part of it and for following along.

I truly apologize if this comes as a shock – there was no way to give a sort of warning.  However, this was not a snap decision.  This whole change was the result of careful processing, thinking, weighing, discussing, and being quite open with the people around us.  It’s not exactly something to decide in asking the Internet.  However, we want to expressly thank each of you for your support, following, encouragement, and contribution.  We are so pleased with our seven years with MAF and the work we’ve done with this organization.  We’ve met hundreds of amazing people as a result of this opportunity and we look forward to seeing the work of MAF continue and staying connected with that community.

We are open to questions and comments, if you have them.  Our last official day with MAF is December 22.  This change will be big and we fully plan to keep right on updating you with what is new in our lives.  Matthew’s new job is totally different than what he has done before (and, yet, he will be using nearly all of his previous experiences to do it well) and we are super excited about it.  It certainly deserves its own separate post, so look for that soon.  We are NOT moving, and for that, I am supremely grateful!

Homeschool-ery

November 6, 2017

The number one question we’ve been asked so far since returning from Congo is, “So, are you going to continue to home school?”  It’s a fair question.  Many missionaries don’t choose to homeschool, it is simply the only option (or only good option).  However, for us, we love homeschooling.  It’s an idyllic reality of learning together, and patient children, and reading, and no arguing ever.

Wait, no, that’s not it.  It’s messy and doesn’t always happen the way it should and there is DEFINITELY arguing.  However, we have two kids who can read and do math and think, so I think so far, so good.

Joking aside, we love the freedom of homeschooling.  We really like being able to adjust our schedules.  We like being able to travel at the least conventional (thus, the cheapest) times of year.  We really enjoy adjusting the schooling level to our kids’ needs.

So far, only two of our kids are doing school, Levi (8) and Amelia (6).  They both did their own levels of kindergarten the year we lived in France, where children usually start school at 3.  With Amelia getting a heavy dose of pre-kindergarten at 3 there, she began American kindergarten with me after we arrived in Congo and she had just turned four.  Levi did the equivalent of American kindergarten at 5 in France, and then we began him in 1st grade after he turned 6 the day we arrived in Congo.

We began school that September 2015 in Congo, after unpacking just enough.  But between a Christmas in the village, moving to a new house in Kinshasa in January 2016, Piper being born and staying in the village for almost three weeks in March, and then having a new baby (post c-section), we didn’t finish the school year until the end of August.  By then, we were just two weeks out from our rest furlough last fall, so we decided to make that our “summer” break and start school again when we arrived home in Kin in December.

After Christmas last year, we began school right away, this past January.  But when we needed to begin packing, the books were the first to go in June.  Since we brought all of our possessions back to the US on the airplane, each bin was packed according to weight, so the books were all spread out to the different bags, of which we had 30!  So, unpacking for school has taken a while and we finally resumed the school year, with Amelia in 1st and Levi in 2nd, just after Labor Day.  During these “lulls,” Amelia began to read with more enthusiasm than anticipated.  She inhaled all of her readers, Levi’s readers, some of the kindergarten read-clouds, and other books we had around the house, all before leaving Congo!

I have always had both Levi and Amelia (and often Axel) sit around when we do Bible, history, science, or any other subject that wasn’t specifically on paper.  They’ve basically learned each other’s lessons, and we’ve nearly done first grade twice.

So, with all of that considered, we are finishing up this school year just before Christmas and will be able to start our next school year in January.  I will only do one curriculum level this year, putting Levi and Amelia in 3rd grade together, though still on different levels in spelling/writing and math, because Amelia is just barely six!  However, she is a very advanced reader and I’m positive she will be able to keep up and even excel if we can figure out a good balance between her six-year-old attention span and incredible intelligence.

My hope is to just chug along without a long break, finish this next school year early next fall and move right into the next level so that our schedule more closely resembles the American fall to spring school calendar.  Though many of our friends homeschool, it will be nice to be following a similar pattern.

But, then again, that’s the joy of homeschooling – the freedom of changing plans, intentional or not.

Changing Mental Gears

October 11, 2017

Last night I went grocery shopping.  It was one of those major, stock up, out-of-all-of-the-basics trips.  I filled my cart (literally, filled, could not put anything else on it – in and under were filled aisles ago – thus skipping eggs because of a risk of failure).  I got home and unpacked the bags and put things away and realized how much mental effort it was to grocery shop here.  Mainly, how much I’ve had to change gears in my head.

Many (every?) re-entry blog will talk about grocery shopping and how it’s so different when you return to your home country.  Mostly, the talk is about how it is overwhelming – the options, the choices, the cheap prices, the magnitude of the stores, the choices, the variety, the brands, the choices.  So. Many. Choices.  I’m sort of back to normal American status of choices.  I think.  My struggle last night was not LOOKATALLTHECHOICES, but avoiding the bug of over-stocking.

Oh?  The cans of green beans were ridiculously cheap?  Better buy ten of them!  Wait, no, I can come back if the four I really need runs out.

One time the most Western grocery store in Kinshasa had Classico Alfredo sauce for $2 a jar because it was about to expire.  Did I buy all ten of them?  You bet I did.  That stuff was like gold!

They have fall-themed [insert product here]?!?!  Buy them all because who else might want them!?!?  Wait, no, they go to the store, probably often.  Maybe a different store.  They probably already have it.

Two Thanksgiving seasons ago the same grocery store had Oceanspray jellied cranberry sauce for a $1 per can.  Did I buy all EIGHTEEN of them?  Yep!  Because I knew others would want them for their own fall feasts, so I shared them.  

I walked past the popcorn flavor powders and stared at them for a few minutes trying to decide their worth.  I remember movie nights long ago in Kinshasa when this was the main event.  Pilot/mechanic David would make batches of popcorn and his wife, Sandy, would spread out different flavored powders – cheese, kettle corn, Ranch, extra butter…  It was better than a movie theater!

Except, I didn’t buy any last night.  Because I’ve been lazy and poisoning us with the microwave stuff and it’s pretty darn tasty, if you ask me.

But I stared, and pondered, and reminisced.  This also could have been because it was 9pm and I was only halfway through my giant trip.

And there when a few more morsels of energy.

There are choices and varieties, and cheap costs on delicious things.  But there is also the slow realization that going to the store is easy.  The stores are almost always in stock of whatever our hearts and stomachs desire.  The stores are nearby for most of us.  My closest store is a decent-sized one exactly two minutes from driveway to parking spot.  The giant Walmart is six minutes.  My favorite (Winco, where I was last night) is ten.  And there’s a bunch in between.  I don’t need to stock up on anything.  I can hop in the car and go anytime, day or night.

To switch mentalities from one shopping culture to another is exhausting.  Every single thing: grocery item, piece of mail, advertisement, conversation is something I have to sort through – is this for me/us?  Is this something I must pay attention to, or can I ignore it?  Should I stock up on this information because it’s valuable, or can I figure it out later?

This is one of the many facets of reentry and why it’s so complicated.  And tiring.  And makes blogging seem like it’s been getting forgotten on the back burner, or fallen behind the stove.  Because by the end of each day, my brain is tired of making decisions and thinking and sorting information.  Thanks for your prayers.  It’s a fun challenge, and a healthy one, but a busy a season.

Bullet Point Update

September 14, 2017

• We are here!  We are ghosts only according to this blog!

• We have moved into our house and have finally found enough furniture to begin to settle.

• Matthew is finding a routine at work and is finding himself busy on many projects.  (For details on this, look for our prayer letter out soon!)

• The kids and I have resumed our school year and hope to finish this school year by the end of this calendar year.

• We are taking a pause from work at HQ to visit friends and financial partners in Alaska.  We found an amazing deal allowing all six of us to fly (it would normally be cost prohibitive).  We are glad to visit our former home and show the kids around.  We haven’t been since May 2013.

• Today we drove from Nampa, ID to Tacoma, WA, where we are sleeping and heading to the airport first thing in the morning (the airfare deal was only from Seattle).

• We arrive in Fairbanks tomorrow and will also make a stop in Wasilla/Anchorage/Kenai peninsula before heading back to Idaho in less than two weeks!

• Please be praying for safe travels, for health (all four kids have a slight cough as of today!), for rest, for good visits, and for God’s leading a few new people to join our team on this trip.  (Though let it be said that we want to see people we miss whether they feel led or not!)

• Someday, I hope to return to normal, regular updates!  Thanks for praying for us as we get our feet planted in the meantime!

Week 3 Stateside

August 12, 2017

Greetings from the US!  We have been back for two and a half weeks.  These days have been completely full.  Not necessarily full of activities and running around, but full of emotions, processing our new life and culture, and figuring out how to make things work.  America is the land of choice, so nothing is coming as easy at one might expect.  This is a very normal part of “reentry” – the process of returning to one’s “home” culture. “Home” is still a strange word to us, too.

Overall, we are doing really well.  We are enjoying being back, melting in the Idaho heat (it was over 100F/37C our first week, and in the 90’s/mid-30’s since), though being a dry heat makes it far more tolerable than Congo’s dense humidity.  We are really excited to back at our church and with our HQ MAF family and have really felt welcomed.  Of course, our family enjoys us being on the same continent, or in the case of my parents, in the same house.

We are still staying with my parents, as we process the busy-ness of life and refinish some of our floors.  Three sets of renters on old wood floors demanded a new finish.  But a new finish is easier placed without furniture and twelve feet running over it.

Not that we’ve had much time to think about setting up a house anyway.  Our first few days were in the fog of jet lag, though we didn’t experience a single midnight party session.  Then we went with our church to a campout in the woods of the middle of Idaho for a few days.  The day after we got back, we launched into many appointments as part of the reentry process for MAF.  It has been good to go over what we’ve done and where we are going, as well as check out with medical and psychology professionals to make sure we are healthy.  So far, so good!  In between those appointments, we have been meeting for craigslist furniture for our house (just starting with basics – beds and living room seating), meeting with insurance people, and having some fun with friends.

It’s been a whirlwind and every single evening this past week I’ve sat down and told Matthew, “I HAVE to blog tonight – I’ve been thinking all day about what I want to convey about our reentry” and every single night I’ve stared at the blank WordPress page barely getting my thoughts together.

The choices are exhausting.  And helping four children process the new life we have here is exhausting.  And balancing every single experience being sort of new is exhausting.  While we are having fun and feel good about being back, our brains are tired by the end of the day when the kids have gone to bed and I have the mental space to write, so I don’t.  I hope to be back at it soon!  I really do have things to say as I compare life here and there, or even just tell the story about how I went to put gas in the car for the first time in over three years and totally forgot what to do and had to leave without it.  Yep.  It was amusing, but when I tried to write about it, it just came out sad.  Ha!

We aren’t sad about the silliness and exhaustion of reentry and adjusting to this different culture.  We find it fascinating and hilarious.  Seeing the contrast, experiencing the quiet of the neighborhood and the fast driving on the highway – these are things that deserve to be written…but written about well.

I’ll leave you with an anecdotal example from today.  We drove by the highway exit closest to our house and we passed what will soon be a Dutch Bros coffee drive through.  I squealed with excitement at the thought of this treat and the kids all asked what I was excited about.  I pointed to the building that was going up and said, “See that building?  That will be a coffee stand.”

Amelia muttered from the back seat, “You told me stands were illegal here!”

I thought a moment about it before remembering our first day back, as we drove around town, Amelia pointed out that the sidewalks and streets weren’t dotted with stands – small wooden tables, with colorful umbrellas, and vendors selling everything from tissues, to phone credits, to shoes.  I explained that pop-up stands are generally illegal and she wouldn’t find those here.  Obviously, her memories from Congo, her sense of normal expectations, and my explanation were taken to heart.  Oh my, what a work we have ahead of us and these kids see their world and culture so differently from how Matthew and I see it.

Many of you have welcomed us back – and we are so grateful for that welcome – but to my kids, this isn’t much of “back” as much as it is just a “welcome.”  I am amazed at how well they are doing and how much they seem to like life here so far.  Please continue to pray for them, and for us, that we will keep their context right in front of us as we experience these changes together.

Oh, and I did figure out gas.  It wasn’t that hard.  But me parallel parking that van today…well, let’s just say, I don’t need to write about everything!

A Change in Ministry

June 30, 2017

Excerpted from our most recent prayer letter, arriving in inboxes and mailboxes soon:

In our last prayer letter, we wrote that there is a time for everything, emphasizing that the only constant in missionary life is change. We have been so pleased to serve in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo for nearly three years, and call this place home, in our hearts, if not in body, since January 2011. While the work here in Kinshasa is more than enough to keep anyone busy, there is a need at MAF headquarters in Idaho that Matthew was asked fill due to his strengths and skills that he has demonstrated in his role in Kinshasa and in his interactions with MAF colleagues around the globe. We have accepted that call to live in Idaho and work from there starting later this summer. This position as a Project Manager for the Tech Resources department will have Matthew operating between the different departments at MAF and with field programs in order to organize information and streamline workflow for the various projects happening across the world.

While it is hard thinking of the goodbyes in our near future, as well as goodbye to a lifestyle we have focused on for the past six years, we are anticipating seeing new ways that God will use our family as we work from HQ and can serve in a totally new capacity. Lisa hopes to continue to use her gift of hospitality, focusing perhaps on the team Matthew works with and with new MAF missionaries coming through Idaho for training. The kids are excited to live near Grandma and Grandpa (Lisa’s parents) and experience parks and libraries on a full time basis.

This move will not be without challenges as our family goes through reentry (the process of adjusting back to one’s original culture) and figures out how to balance life in the United States with still being global-minded missionaries. We haven’t lived with the intention of putting down roots in the contiguous 48 states for our entire 11 year marriage!

We could really use prayers as we pack and move, say farewell, and leave our relationships and work here on good terms. Please be praying especially for our children as they adjust to a new lifestyle. We plan to continue to homeschool and jump right into our church that they know from our time in Idaho, so hopefully this will provide some sense of stability.

We understand you may have questions or want to discuss this decision further – please visit our blog for current updates and more details, or let us know!

The above is from our latest prayer letter that should be hitting inboxes and mailboxes alike in the coming weeks. I understand it may seem like it is coming out of nowhere. I’m sorry for the shock, if there was any. We always hesitate to put anything on the internet before it is as certain as can be, so we were waiting until we had something concrete before announcing it (in this case, plane tickets). But getting details of departure, jobs here worked out and coordinated, and everyone on the same page took up most of the time since we were offered the job, and suddenly here we are. But we have tickets [reserved, subject to change, because Murphy’s Law says…].

So, to help you process this gigantic change of ours, I’ve given you a little FAQ before there was even a chance to ask anything with any level of frequency. I hope this is helpful. I was recently told that less is more, but then I am also my mother’s daughter and tend to give out all the details right away. So, take it or leave it. #sorrynotsorry

Q: Wait, what? You’re leaving Congo? But….?

A: Sadly, yes. The job offered was such a perfect fit for Matthew and it really came to light starting at the leadership conference he went to at HQ in April. He had lots of conversations with various leadership people at MAF from all over the world. This and many other factors led to this job offer. We will miss Congo, our team, and many aspects of life here. A lot. It has been hard to pack up. Hard to say goodbye. Hard to pass along most of our material goods, seeing with them the life we prepared to live here for many years. Hard to realize how valuable we were to various parts of missionary life here and how cutting each string has hurt on both sides. I don’t say that to toot our own horns, but it is an honest reflection of the difficulty of leaving. Congo will always be part of our family and Matthew will still be involved occasionally with his new position, so we haven’t cut it out completely, thankfully!

Q: When do you leave?

A: We fly out July 26-ish. The newest MAF family moves into our house July 8. We will be spanning that gap at a friend’s house down the street, who will be on furlough.

Q: What about the people who help in your home – will they be able to find work?

A: We have three wonderful guys who rotate through being our household helpers and security guards. They will all continue on at this house doing a trial period with the new family that lives here. Then, after some time, the new family will decide if they are a good fit for their lifestyle and needs. The other people who were sometimes in our home or helped us also have other ongoing jobs with other families, plus now new potential opportunities with a couple of newly arrived families. I am praising God that our departure doesn’t leave anyone without work!

Q: What about your stuff?

A: We were able to sell almost everything. There were several new families who had recently come to Kinshasa, or who are on their way, and between all of them, most everything went. We were able to sell things at a fraction of the local value so that other missionaries can be blessed (hopefully) with needed items. We also wanted to honor the many things you all purchased off of our Amazon wishlists by passing them along to continue to be in service here in Kinshasa.

Q: And your chickens? And goat? And quail? And guinea fowl? And cat?

A: Our animals have all found new homes with other missionaries. Our birds have all found comfort together at a large parcel outside of town with friends who have retired here. Our goat went to live with a sweet family who serves here with Wycliff Associates. And our cat went to another MAF family who arrived in March and instantly loved her.

Q: Where will you live?

A: MAF headquarters is right outside Boise, Idaho. We lived there previously for eleven months during training in 2013 before moving to France. If you have a really good memory, you’ll remember we own a house there. While renting it has been fantastic (mostly thanks to an outstanding property manager), our latest renters were already in the process of moving out, so the house will be ready for us. We will be able to “land” at my parents’ house, who live about ten minutes away from both MAF HQ and our house, while we recover from jet lag and purchase furniture basics (we didn’t keep anything from our time there in 2013 because we expected to be gone a lot longer).

Q: If we were supporting you financially, do we stop now?

A: Short answer: no, we are still missionaries with MAF – our work may change scope and location, but we are still missionaries, supported by a financial team, doing the global work to further the Kingdom. Our living in the USA does make it a bit less appealing, I admit. You won’t get fun pictures that tickle your senses that you’re making a difference in a poor country. But I hope that you can prayerfully consider how giving toward our ministry still impacts the entire mission of MAF on a broader scale, and Matthew’s new work will impact the field and the resources that MAF has across departments and programs. In turn, this still leads to the wonderful result of reaching isolated people with Good News through aviation and technology. So, we ask that you stay on our team (or join it, because we do need new people!) to see the work continue. We can see how God has orchestrated our journey so far, and our moving to HQ is part of the story in its entirety.

Q: So, when do we get to see you?

A: Perhaps you do support our ministry and are wondering when we will take our furlough to give you face-to-face updates? Perhaps you just want to see us since suddenly we’ll live in the same hemisphere? Maybe you’re wondering how to avoid us altogether? Well, furloughs and deputation (the process of gathering and encouraging a team of financial supporters) work a little differently for the MAF missionaries who live in the US. We are still working on learning the finer details of the new process, but as we know, we will share those with you!

Q: Are you excited to live back in the US?

A:  Of course!  All of the sadness and challenge of departure is completely mingled with happiness at living in our home culture.  We are excited about Matthew’s new role, about being near people we love, about autumn and leaves, winter and snow, and some heat sometimes.  We are excited about FOOD that we greatly miss right now.  It is a strange line because we are feeling sad and happy at the same time.  And sometimes the happiness feels like we are betraying the things we love about Congo.  It’s not rational, but it is a difficult reality.  It is something we are actively processing, but overall YES!  We are most definitely excited!

If you have any further questions, please do let us know – we are an open book! We are excited and sad at the same time – so many changes with so many emotions. And, most of all, please continue to pray for us as we make this transition. It is no small task for us, but we hold onto the hope that this monumental task for us makes even the slightest difference in growing the Kingdom of Heaven.