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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Returning Home

We are Stateside now. We left Gemena two weeks ago today and after three plane rides, a couple nights in a hotel and a van ride...we arrived in Rockford. We were greeted at the airport by 3 out of 4 parents...or should I say grandparents.
Hannah was strapped into a car seat for the first time. She thought nothing of it for the first hour until she got tired and cranky. When she realized mom would not take her out and hold her, she cried. She has cried in her car seat almost every time since as well.
We spent six days seeing family, a few friends and resting. Then we drove up to Minneapolis to attend debrief meetings at the ReachGlobal office. It was nice to spend a little time with ReachGlobal staff who gave us the opportunity to share our experiences from the past two years. It allowed us to take time to reflect on what we walked through during our time in Congo. We also had the opportunity to meet with some people from one of the churches that supported us. We thoroughly enjoyed spending time with that group of people and reconnecting with some of those who were part of a team we hosted in Congo.

Hannah has meet grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and great-grandparents. We have had the opportunity to meet with a handful of friends as well. We look forward to connecting with more people over the next several weeks. Please email us at our new email addresses or if you would like to set up a time to meet with us.
Meeting Great-Grandpa Tennant

Our first four generation photo

Reunited with our good friends the Warrens

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Saying goodbyes...

We have officially begun the process of saying goodbyes. Sigh. There are always mixed feelings with saying goodbye. For us, it is sad to say goodbye to people we have grown to appreciate so much here. At the same time, we are anxious to say our goodbyes so we can get back home and be reunited with people we have not seen for two years. We are so looking forward to those reunions.

Last Saturday we attended our final English Club. We hosted it here at the Elikya Center and surprised them with a movie, Cokes and popcorn. We watched Kung Fu Panda in English and the group thought it was great.

The English Club that started last year.
Pray that they keep it going even though we will be gone.
One of the most difficult goodbyes is with Mowa's family. We spent last Saturday afternoon at their home sharing food together. We brought some special gifts for each of the kids and for Luta, Mowa's wife. Their family has been through so much in the past year and we have walked through very sad times with them before and after Mowa's death. We will see them again to officially say goodbye before we fly out on Saturday, but this was a very special, tearful time with them.
Luta, Jim, Joseph, Tresor, Sam, Hannah and Sarah.
They have four other children who are studying in Kinshasa and another son who was
out playing soccer when we took the photo.
Yesterday we attended a meal with the Elikya Center staff and were surprised that they set aside time to thank us and say goodbye after the meal. So many people said such nice things to us and we were all a bit choked up as we shared our appreciation for the friendships we have built with those who work at the Elikya Center. We also ate dinner with the President and Vice President of CECU.

This afternoon our local church is coming out here to have a going away service for us (if it doesn't rain!). Tommorow we will spend the afternoon fellowshipping and praying with the Hospitality Team. In the midst of all of these goodbyes we are finding time to pack and clean. Whew!

On a completely different note, we want you to check out these fantastic photos that were taken by Ben McMullen when he and his wife, Karen, were here in Congo last month. They are beautiful photos and we had to share them with you.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

This is what Hannah was doing to keep busy...
while we were doing this.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Packing Up

Here we are…our final days in Gemena. It does seem like such a long time ago that we were packing up our home in Rockford to come here. But, about two years ago, this is what we were doing. Now we are doing it all over again so we can go back home.
Sorting through our items and deciding what to pack and what to give away.
We are giving away much more than we are taking home
Only two years have passed, but it sometimes feels longer because so much has happened and changed over the past two years. We know that a lot will happen in these final 10 days in Gemena and we have barely made a dent in all the goodbyes we need to say.
So...pray for us as we wrap everything up, pack our bags and say many goodbyes.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

There's a new baby in town!

Simplice, one of our four Hospitality Team members is now a momma!! She got married last year and found out she was pregnant a few months later. Her pregnancy has been a difficult one and the past two months or so she has mostly stayed at home because of doctor's orders. Simplice's baby was due at the end of June and we were really hoping she would give birth before we returned to the states so we could meet her baby. Two weeks ago she had malaria which is very dangerous for a pregnant woman and baby. Simplice went into early labor and at 2 AM on Monday, May 21st she gave birth to a healthy baby boy! She was only 7 1/2 months pregnant, but the baby is in good health and weighed close to 3 kilos (a little over 6 lbs). The baby's name is Samuel (after his grandfather, not Sam).

Sam, Hannah and I went to visit the new baby this morning. It was such a joy to see Simplice holding her new baby with that motherly glow on her face. So, I had to share some photos of the newest arrival.

It has been fun to help Simplice walk through her pregnancy and learn about the different practices in each other's culture. Michelle and I have had many conversations with Simplice about being pregnant and caring for a baby. We are so excited she now gets to experience motherhood! Congratulations to the new parents!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Installation Service

Yesterday was an important day for CECU (Congolese Free Church). In March, the CECU President and Vice President were re-elected for another four-year term. Yesterday was the instalation service and it was a big deal. There was even official fabric people could buy and wear for the service. So...we joined the club, bought the fabric, hired a tailor and wore our uniforms to the service.
Dressed in our official installation clothing

Even the babies matched
The service began around 9:30 AM with special choirs and ended around 3:15 PM! Michelle and Sarah left earlier with the babies but the rest of the team Ben, Karen and Rachel) stuck it out until the end. At least they got fed afterwards! Here are a few photos from the service...
Hannah and Great Aunt Rachel watching the special dancing
President Bosokpale and Vice President Badi in the processional

The President of ECC (oversees the protestant churches in Congo) came for the event
Bebe translating for Karen during the service
Pastoral line-up

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Unexpected Reunion

On Thursday we traveled out to Karawa, another village, to visit some of the Global Fingerprints orphans with the team that is here from the States. We were all received with a huge welcome party and lots of food at almost every place we traveled.

While we were visiting one of the churches, I (Sarah) was surprised and pleased to see Elizabeth, one of the former Elikya Center students. Elizabeth was one of the sewing students in 2009 that we met when we came to Congo to study Lingala for 7 weeks. Michelle and I sat with the women while they sewed on most days and tried to use the Lingala we had learned to converse with them. Even though our Lingala was very broken at the time, we tried hard to build relationships with the women.

During that time, there were two women that we talked with the most...Elizabeth and Mama Lili. They were always willing to teach us new words and they were patient with us. When we came back to Congo in 2010, I couldn't remember which village Elizabeth and Lili lived in. I thought I would probably eventually run into them again. Just a few weeks ago I was thinking about these two women and came to the conclusion that I probably would not see them again because we were leaving Gemena in June and I didn't know where they lived. And then to my total surprise...there was Elizabeth right there at the church in Karawa! I was so excited to see her and she told me that Mama Lili would come the next day to see me. So, yesterday afternoon I sat with Mama Lili, Elizabeth and Elizabeth's 3-year-old daughter, Esther. Esther was only about a year old in 2009 when they were at the Elikya Center and I so enjoyed seeing her now as a little, chubby girl. Mama Lili and Elizabeth were excited to meet Hannah and I told them about Michelle's daughter, Soleil.

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to see both of these women again. I thought of them often and had given up hope that I would ever see them again. God knew my desire to see them again and he allowed that to happen at just the righ time.
Elizabeth and Esther in 2009

Mama Lili (left) making soap in 2009

Reunited in Karawa 2012