New Beginnings

New beginnings are always welcome! Whether it’s the beginning of a new day, a new week, or a new year. For RVA, this is the beginning of our second school term! While there are still many unknowns for all of us as we step into this New Year, here are some PRAISES and ways you can PRAY for our family, staff, and students.

PRAISES

Protocols. Projects. People. We’re thanking God for teams of staff who have logged many hours over the last few months thinking through and writing residential, academic, cafeteria, and community-living Covid protocol documents that align with government regulations in order for RVA to open in-person this next week. Another team of staff have worked tirelessly completing projects around campus: building and installing window screens on dorms, adding outside hand washing stations, deep cleaning dorms and classrooms, and finishing the renovations of our student health facility. RVA’s campus is literally “coming to life” as many staff families have returned over the last two weeks in anticipation of students arriving soon!

Family. Friends. Facetime. For us personally, December had hard moments as we anticipated the Christmas season without any of our kids nearby – the first time in 25 years. Another painful reminder of the transition, grief, and loss of the last few months. We’re thankful for our RVA friends who are family – living life together, loving and coming alongside each other in exciting and difficult things. We’re incredibly grateful to family and friends in the States who stood in the gap by feeding, housing, welcoming, and loving our kids during this season. A huge blessing for all of us. Though spread across 13 time zones on Christmas Day, we’re thankful for technology and being able to be together over Facetime.

WAYS TO PRAY

For us. December was much different than we anticipated. It was certainly busier than a typical December at RVA as so much time was spent planning and preparing for a new normal. We are excited to have the students returning. We are also a little more tired than we would normally be at this point. PRAY for strength, patience, graciousness, and energy for us. PRAY for us as we welcome four 5th and 6th grade boys into the dorm, that they would feel loved and cared for and that they would see Jesus in us. Three of the boys are brand new to RVA. PRAY for Missy as returns to teaching in the classroom for the first time in a long time. PRAY for Brian as he teaches his classes both in-person and online (a quarter of his students will continue learning online).

For our kids. Rachel continues to enjoy her work with families of patients at the hospital. Hannah moves to Rhode Island this month and begins a four-month internship. She and Jamie continue to plan their late May wedding while he finishes school at Brown Univ. Micah returns to Messiah Univ. this month to continue his studies in civil engineering and job as an RA. PRAY that their relationships with each other and the Lord would continue to grow and deepen.

For RVA. Classes began last week online. Officially, students are now traveling to campus from all over the world with in-person classes beginning on Monday. In reality, some families started a week-long journey to get campus. The travel challenges are many. Some countries have closed borders and then reopened within a two-week span. Parents are seizing an open window today and tomorrow to travel. One nearby country is in the middle of elections and has shut down all Internet access. Covid testing requirements seem to change almost daily. We have received three different updates this week!

You are appreciated as you stand with us…praying for us, praying for the ministry of RVA and praying for the students whose parents are sharing the Gospel all across Africa.

Brian & Missy

Even though a lot of plans have been made, challenges and decisions still lie ahead. Travel plans seem to be constantly in flux. PRAY that our students will be able to get safely to RVA. PRAY that our students and staff would remain healthy. PRAY for grace, a sense of humor, humility, patience, a willingness to forgive, and a commitment to growing together in community.

In the Waiting

Yet I am confident that I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD. ~Psalm 27:13-14

Our updates are usually filled with news and events revolving around the 500 students who bring energy and excitement to RVA’s campus. Even though this term has been incredibly different (not to mention unusually quiet!), exciting things ARE happening and God IS working while we wait patiently for our campus to re-open.

Building Community

During the 24-7 busyness of regular school terms, there is rarely time to invest in building relationships with each other and socially ‘hanging-out’ together as staff. This is what we normally look forward to during school breaks! This term, however, we’ve had the unique opportunity to focus more on building community among our staff through extended chai and prayer times (not governed by the school bell!), family BBQs, outdoor movie nights, games on the field, Sunday small groups, and more.

New Water Supply

Several months ago, the well for the school went dry. Over the last few weeks, two new boreholes have been successfully drilled! One of the wells looks like it will produce an ample supply while the other should provide a good, stable backup. The water still needs to be sent for mineral analysis before bringing the new wells online in the coming weeks.

Financial Stability

As a school, RVA employs 100+ dedicated national staff who work extremely hard to keep this place running smoothly. Since mid-March, though they have not been able to report to work, God has provided the funds necessary to continue paying their full salaries. This is a huge PRAISE! It has been encouraging to see many of our friends gradually return to work over the last few weeks and hear how God has continued to provide for their needs through this difficult season.

Campus Upgrades

Lots of improvement projects are happening around campus! Our Student Health facility is being completely renovated, our grounds team is working hard to keep our campus looking beautiful, and our custodial team is expanding their hours to thoroughly clean all areas of campus. Our laundry tailoring team is making great progress sewing 1000 masks for distribution to students when they arrive in January. A huge project to get screens on dorm windows is now underway so that there can be good ventilation without the constant threat of invasion by monkeys!

Words of Encouragement

We are blessed when encouraging emails are received from the families we serve. Even in the midst of hard and difficult circumstances (like unreliable internet, separation from family, juggling work and ministry while supervising remote learning in multiple time zones), ministry is still able to continue, the Gospel is still going forward, and many living in darkness are coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus! We are privileged to be part of a staff who are committed to supporting these families well during this challenging season.

Ways to PRAY:

  • For KENYA — Like many countries, Kenya is experiencing an increase in virus cases. People are desperate for schools to reopen and jobs to restart. Pray for wisdom for Kenya’s leaders as they seek to chart a safe path forward that will meet the needs of the people of Kenya.
  • For RVA — Plans and protocols are being developed as we look toward meeting Kenya’s guidelines for re-opening school with students on campus in January. Faith, wisdom, and discernment are needed. There are also several teaching positions to be filled for Term 2 (January – March 2021), including the need for an Algebra 2 teacher (our current Algebra 2 teacher just returned to the States for cancer treatment…you can also PRAY for Dan). Please contact Brian if you would be interested in learning more about this specific need within the math department.
  • For US — Our days are filled with lesson planning, marking submitted work, recording videos, communicating with students, and meeting with staff (both in-person and via Zoom). Some days are long and tiring, even without students on campus. PRAY that we would lean into the Lord for HIS strength when we grow weary and need rest. PRAY that we would have eyes to see His goodness and hearts to trust that He is working in these days of waiting.
  • For OUR KIDS — Their days are filled with unique challenges on their university campus and in their jobs. We are grateful that all have remained healthy and that Hannah & Micah have been able to attend classes in-person with only four more weeks until the end of the semester. PRAY that in times of doubt and weariness their minds would be filled with reminders of God’s faithfulness in the past, certainty that His Presence is with them today, and confidence that His Word is trustworthy as they step into tomorrow.

Always thankful for your prayers,

Brian & Missy

HOME

Chilly greetings from the edge of the Great Rift Valley!

We are hopefully nearing the end of our cold season here below the equator, though we have been enjoying the warmth of a fire at night and crawling into a cozy bed with flannel sheets. Since we have returned the temps have been in the 60s and only hit 70 on a really warm day (for those who speak Celsius, the temp is around 20).

It has been just over two weeks since we arrived back to our home in Kenya after an uneventful 24-hour trip (except for the fact that our luggage didn’t arrive with us). Turns out that traveling internationally during this season of Covid does have some perks! Aside from having to wear a face mask for 24 straight hours, we were delighted to experience very short airport security lines, relatively empty waiting areas in lounges, and whole rows of seats to ourselves on airplanes! It was simply glorious to stretch out and get some much-needed sleep! Backing-up just a bit, it was nothing short of a miracle that we were actually able to leave as scheduled. Making sure we were in compliance with regulations for two different countries regarding Covid testing was quite a challenge that involved multiple phone calls in the midst of packing and goodbyes, and the gracious help of a long-time friend! When arriving in Kenya, we had to show negative test results from within 96 hours of boarding our first flight. We knew this was a long shot since several medical professionals told us that it was taking anywhere from 3-7 days to get results after being tested, especially since we were not showing any symptoms or having a medical procedure. Stepping out in faith…yet again…we booked appointments at our local hospital for Sunday afternoon (95 hours prior to our scheduled arrival in Kenya) knowing that if the Lord still wanted us to leave at this time, He would make a way! It wasn’t a surprise when notification of our negative test results came into our email on Tuesday night, less than 24 hours before we headed to the airport. No doubt about it. HE wanted us to go home.

And here we are. HOME. Living life between two continents has never been easy. Always missing things from one and then longing for things from the other. We generally return to one home or the other surprised by all the things that have changed in a matter of months or a year. It takes some time to figure things out. Because change takes so much longer to accomplish in Kenya, it usually doesn’t take as long for us to re-adjust to life when returning after a year-long home assignment. Until now. A lot has changed. Wearing masks while driving/riding in vehicles, temperature checks (along with the normal security checks) when entering shopping centers and our school gate, texting our daily temperature (for 14-days) to the Ministry of Health, not visiting inside the homes of friends, limited sharing of meals together, no in-person staff meetings to prepare for a new school year, no big staff lunch served by our dedicated cafeteria staff, no students flooding to campus today (Arrival Day) as we write this update, no 5th/6th grade boys moving in to our dorm. Did we mention the change of being here just the two of us? Or the change of figuring out how to teach online to students spread around the globe in more than ten different time zones?

Though the amount of change we have experienced over the last 16 days has been simply overwhelming at times, we have felt the prayers of many. Our Father continues to strengthen and encourage our hearts DAILY as we rest in Him and trust that He has us here – for such a time as this. We STAND FIRM on the truth that our God NEVER changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). AIM’s mission has also NOT changed: Christ centered Churches established among all African peoples. And, RVA’s mission has NOT changed: Educating and discipling students toward their potential in Christ thus enabling families to serve. PRAY earnestly that, though our strategies may change, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus would continue to be proclaimed on the continent of Africa and around the world!

A few more ways to pray:

  • Hannah & Micah have just completed their first week of classes back at Messiah and they, too, are experiencing many changes. PRAY that they would get into a new routine quickly. This is Hannah’s final semester and Micah’s first as an RA.
  • Rachel celebrates her 25th birthday this week! She is settled into her new home with friends and continues to enjoy her job at the hospital. PRAY for positive relationships with co-workers, patients, and their families.
  • RVA online school starts on Monday. Brian will be teaching two AP Calculus classes and Missy will be teaching 2nd grade math and science. PRAY for wisdom in knowing how to best teach and encourage our students remotely at the start of this new year.
  • PRAY that we would remain healthy: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Rejoicing in a God who never changes,

Brian & Missy

Wheels-up in 8 Days!

Kenya News

On August 1st, Kenya’s borders opened to international travel as was previously announced by President Kenyatta. Friends and co-workers flew in that night with no problems at all and are quarantining in their home at RVA. Though COVID cases continue to rise, it appears that Kenya is moving forward as they begin to adjust to their “new normal”. All schools in Kenya will continue to remain closed until January 2021 and the Ministry of Education just released a 47-page document outlining the health and safety protocols that must be implemented by educational institutions if they want to re-open. A lot of wisdom and creativity is needed, along with a great deal of patience and unity of purpose.

Our first flight to London has been changed twice due to cancelled flights by the airline. We are now re-booked and scheduled to leave Philadelphia on Wed, Aug 12 with an hour lay-over in Boston before heading across the Atlantic to London. Once there, we have only a little over an hour to make our connection down to Nairobi. Any delay along the way will mean a missed flight.

PRAY specifically that these flights would not change and there would be no delays along the way. Once on the ground in Kenya the night of Aug 13th, we will travel directly to RVA and quarantine in our home for 14 days. Friends are currently getting our house set-up with our furnishings and stocked with food. PRAY for the remaining RVA staff as they prepare to welcome 4 families returning from Home Assignment and 4 NEW families this month!

Family News

There has been quite a bit of excitement in our family over the last few weeks! We celebrated Hannah’s 21st birthday on July 15th and two days later, she got engaged to her RVA high school sweetheart! What a gift to be here during this special time. Hannah and Jamie are planning to be married sometime next summer after they both finish college. PRAY that they will grow closer to the Lord and to each other as they look toward the future together. Jamie will return to Brown Univ. in Rhode Island later this month when Hannah returns to Messiah for her final semester.

Our growing family at Hannah’s engagement party

Rachel moved out of our house over the weekend and into Lancaster City with three other friends. We loved having her with us for the year and especially enjoyed learning about her work at the hospital with heart patients and their families. PRAY that she will feel settled quickly and get into a good routine at the house with her friends. PRAY also for wisdom in her work and opportunities to share HOPE with her patients and co-workers.

Now that Micah’s summer job at Lowe’s has ended, he is busy preparing to return to Messiah in a few days (Aug 10) for RA training. Strangely enough, he has been assigned to the same dorm and floor where Missy lived her first year of college! 😊 PRAY for Micah as he prepares to lead the 35 guys on his floor into a very different environment than they left back in March. PRAY for good health and safety as our college kids navigate many changes as they begin this new semester.

These days are just plain hard. They are both physically and emotionally draining as we make endless decisions, pack-up things and return them to storage, purchase the few remaining things on our list, visit extended family one last time, move Hannah and Micah out of the house, and pack our six 50-pound pieces of luggage all in the next few days before we say those final and most difficult good-byes to our big kids and head to the airport…just the two of us. It’s a new season. And this new season will take some getting used to. PRAY that the God of hope will fill us with all JOY and PEACE as we trust in him, so that we will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13). He IS faithful and will carry us through.

Thank you for committing these things to prayer. We appreciate you so much.

Brian & Missy

Opening Doors

Less than 4 weeks away! It is hard to believe that our anticipated return to Kenya is so close…August 12! Provided that God opens the doors, we are heading towards RVA.

More Updates from Kenya

Several of our key questions were answered by President Kenyatta’s speech on July 6. We were really impressed with the speech and the leadership being provided as everyone continues to figure out how to navigate unprecedented times. One other big piece of information from the speech was that schools would remain closed until January 2021. This confirms RVA’s decision to function online for the new school term beginning at the end of August. Please PRAY for us as we figure out how to adjust to teaching online for the next term, especially for Missy as she will be back “in” the classroom for the first time in many years and it will be very different from any experience she has previously had.

Opening Doors

Before we could return to Kenya, there were three key thresholds to cross. First, international travel would need to reopen. In the speech, it was announced that international travel would resume on August 1st. Second, the quarantining process would need to change from being in government facilities to being in our own home. We are still waiting to see how this shakes out. It is clear tourists cannot be expected to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. We think it is likely that there will be a screening process on arrival with possible testing if there are concerns during the screening. Third, we need the international flights to restart. Our scheduled flight has already had one leg cancelled and we have been rebooked on two different legs to replace our direct flight out of Philly to London. Please PRAY for very clear information about testing and quarantine expectations on arrival in Kenya. Also PRAY that flights will resume and get us there in the most direct way possible.

Into Crunch Time!

With the great advice of some local friends, we were able to have a really successful yard sale that cleaned out an entire garage full of items left from the paring down and cleaning out process. Some others are using things we weren’t quite ready to part with. In the next two weeks, Rachel will be moving out and into a rental house with several friends. Then Micah heads back to college (now university) just 2 days before we are scheduled to leave. Hannah will move back to school just prior to the start of classes on Aug 25.

As each one moves out, we have a little less clutter and extra space. We can more easily see what remains. But there is still much to be done…storing items we are leaving behind, making sure each of our kids has what they need, shopping for things we need before leaving (normally we would have done this over the course of the last several months), and packing our bags (fitting everything into just 6 pieces of luggage)!

PRAY that we will have clarity of mind to figure out everything that remains to be done and be able to prioritize things and people well. We’d love to be able to complete these tasks with calm hearts and in good time.

Thank you for committing these things before the Father on our behalf,

Brian & Missy

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