Thursday, July 13, 2017

Friends along the way

Between our time in Michigan and Minnesota, we stopped to visit two families with connections to South Africa. Our first stop was just outside of Iowa City, Iowa, a midpoint we had chosen as a meeting place with our friends, the Van Gilders. We met Tim and Athena soon after we moved to South Africa in 2011. Their family had arrived the week before ours, and with children of similar ages, a son 1 day younger than Tyson, a daughter 6 months younger than Jori and baby Zeke, we quickly became friends. It was a blessing to experience life in South Africa with another family from the states. We often had sleepover swaps with the kids, date nights with the adults and lots of Sunday afternoons spent together. The Van Gilders were also a huge blessing to our family when we moved to Tshepo ya Bana, often bringing special treats for the whole gang there, including Thanksgiving dinner!

We only had a few days with our friends, but it was great to catch up. As soon as they arrived, the kids were running around and catching up on lost time. We spent most of Monday at a local lake and everyone enjoyed swimming and hiking. Ok, the hiking was not such a hit and we barely made it back with all the whining and carrying on, but we survived! Our kids and theirs love the water, so Athena and I even managed to sit and talk for a little bit while everyone else cooled off in the lake. It was really cool how our kids just hit it off again. They watched movies and made movies; shot hoops and shot nerf guns at each other. The adults spent a lot of time talking and keeping the 4 year old addition, J, entertained.

On the 4th we went to the Amana Colonies. The Amana are like the Amish, but totally not. We ate cheese, sampled wine, ate meat and chocolate and missed out on taking our picture in a giant rocking chair, but still, it was fun. We went to the local 4th of July gathering that night, watched a horrible magic show, ran to DQ for ice cream, then came back and watched the fire works.

Wednesday morning the kids were all up early to finish their movie while the adults packed the cars. We are SO SO SO glad that Tim, Athena, Caden, Haley, Zeke and J were all willing to make the trip out to spend time with us. It was wonderful catching up with our American friends from South Africa!!

We left Iowa City and headed north towards Duluth, Minnesota to meet up with a special little lady who used to live with us. Many of you are sure to remember Oarabile and will remember that she was adopted by a family from Minnesota last year. There was no way we were going to be within driving distance of Pete, Lexi, Miss O and M and not stop to see them! It was amazing to see how far Oara has come. She has a power wheelchair and watching her drive it completely by herself was mind blowing. I could not stop watching her. She was also busy reading all of the letters on Darin's shirt and she can spell her name. Again we were just overwhelmed with the assurance of how God had a plan for this little girl and we are so privileged to be a small part of it.

The kids loved seeing their Oara again, especially Jori. It almost took me by surprise at first, but then I was remembering how often Jori and Oara would do things together when she was with us, so I shouldn't have been surprised at all. It was also so good to hear from Pete and Lexi how things have been since being back in the states and just spending time getting to know them more. We only had one evening and the morning with them, but we packed a lot in. Now we can picture things in their house and imagine Oara playing with her sissy there. Thank you for hosting us!!!

We are in Minnesota now visiting Darin's family and I will be writing about our time here soon. We are leaving here on Sunday and the time has gone by too fast. Again, we have packed in tons and will be leaving with so many wonderful memories to look back on.

If you could just pray for my family though. My nephew, Sawyer, was in an accident and has sustained serious injuries, including a broken neck. You can visit his caring bridge site here to find out more: Darin and his parents will be driving to Washington state on Sunday to head to a family reunion and I am going to also be heading west, but will be flying to Oregon to be with my sister and the rest of my family. It isn't what we had planned on, but I am SO thankful that we are in the US right now and not overseas. Thanks for praying.

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