Both May and June have been jam packed full of travel, adventure, stress, and blessings. I’ll apologize in advance for this lengthy post, but I just have to give God glory for His handiwork in our lives the past two months!
May 10, Mother’s Day, was a great way to begin the month. May 10 is also my father’s birthday, so this day was doubly blessed this year. We ate breakfast with Aunt Barbara and a few visitors to Tenwek. Noah, Jacob, and Levi each shared something that I had taught them. Noah won the non-contest for saying that I taught him math! We celebrated that my dad is still alive as a cancer survivor. But, of course, we also mourned that I can no longer be with all my children on Mother’s Day. We took this picture in front of our Tenwek apartment. Levi is holding a pink rose in remembrance of Hannah.
A few days later, we packed up a few suitcases and headed to Nairobi for one last shopping trip. Then, we trekked to Naivasha for the Samaritan’s Purse Post Resident Retreat at Enashipai. It was a fun, relaxing, and rejuvenating time. While the teaching was nourishing to our souls and the pool was refreshing for our bodies, our favorite moment of the week was hiking at Hell’s Gate. The Mitchell six plus the Kelley 6 loaded the Chupp van and journeyed to the national park. Along the way, we saw giraffe, zebra, warthogs, etc. Then, we eluded monkeys while eating our lunches. And finally, we began the ‘lovely’ hike down the gorge and back up.
The day after we returned to Tenwek, we participated and attended the Tenwek MK Fine Arts Festival. It’s an annual event for the missionary kids to display their best schoolwork and perform their best talents. Levi and his preschool class sung some songs. (It was adorable!) Jacob and his first grade class recited some Scripture. Noah, much to his liking, didn’t perform. However, he did display many of his favorite pieces of art.
The Kelley Corner at the Fine Arts Festival
As if that wasn’t enough adventure for the month, Aaron traveled to Tanzania a week later to climb Africa’s highest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro! He, along with several other guys, drove to Nairobi, took a bus to Tanzania, and then hiked up the mountain. It took 4 days up and 2 days down. If you add in the travel to and from Nairobi, that meant I was acting as a single mom for 9 days.
Aaron at one of his many farewell parties
Well, that brings us to the beginning of June and the end of our time at Tenwek. While Aaron was gone, I was in full pack down mode. I even hired a man to help me carry the heavy boxes I was packing! Once Aaron was back, we both started packing up everything in the house. It all needed to be out! A lot was given away. Even more was stored at Tenwek. The rest was packed into suitcases to come home with us.
In all this craziness, our Tenwek family supported us so well. Someone was always available to hold Joshua and/or entertain the big 3. Many of the families hosted us for a meal or brought us a meal. Everyone prayed us through this stressful, busy time of packing. We so appreciate our Tenwek community!
Finally, after all the hard work, we smushed ourselves and our bags into a van and headed to Nairobi. After one sleep at a guest house, we were on a plane to London! For the most part, this leg of the journey was uneventful. We all slept through the majority of the first 11 1/2 hour flight from Nairobi to Switzerland. Joshua wasn’t so happy during the short hop from Zurich to London, and Jacob almost lost his lunch/breakfast/whatever-meal several times. It’s a good things that flight was so short!
Next stop: Legoland!
In an effort to transition from one culture to another in a smooth and healthy way, we opted to spend 3 nights in England. Many veteran missionaries had suggested taking an extended layover somewhere in Europe, and we thought that sounded like excellent (and fun) idea. I found a great deal at the Legoland Resort in Windsor, England. Although the expensive food was a shock to our minds (and wallets), Legoland proved to be as fun and decompressing as we had hoped.
Me (and Joshua) with Stephanie
The food was pretty good. The brick-shaped French fries were a hit. One night we ate a buffet dinner in the resort. All-you-can-eat ice cream and a kid-level counter of food were the highlights that night.
Noah and a giant, talking pharaoh
The accommodations were excellent. We chose to stay on the Adventure floor. (Think Indiana Jones.) As soon as we entered our room, the boys began to solve a puzzle that would give them a code to open a treasure chest. Inside the chest was Legos (of course)! The TV had a Lego station. Everything was covered in Legos. From the Lego parrot in the one corner to the Lego soap in the bathroom, every detail was fun for the boys to discover.
Jacob and Yoda
At Legoland, the rides were all tailored to younger kids. Noah could ride all the rides by himself. Jacob and Levi, however, had to have an adult with them for many of them. With Joshua strapped to my chest the entire time, I was not allowed to participate on the rides, which meant Aaron had to ride a lot of rides. Often, he and Levi would ride the same time with Noah, and then he would ride again with Jacob while Noah and Levi stood with me and Joshua.
Levi in driving school
Once we experienced as much fun Legoland had to offer for 2 full days, we packed up to board the plane from London to Newark. This flight went really well. We arrived to our temporary residence around 5:30pm on June 13. After dinner, we crashed for the night.
My parents, Aaron’s mom and stepdad, my sister and her son came to the Ellis’ to see us the next day. Later that evening, we attended our welcome home party at our church. It was so, so nice to see so many of our friends and family members. At the party, we were presented an large envelope full of gift cards, which have come in handy the last few weeks!
Since then, we had so many play dates and dinner dates with different people. It has been fun to reconnect with so many people. The boys are doing great despite their lack of memory of these people. We also had a family welcome home picnic near our hometown. Again, it was nice to see our aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. that we haven’t seen in 2 1/2 years.
one of the perks at staying at Peaceful Dale!
Aaron spoke during church on Father’s Day to give the congregation a short update on our first term as missionaries. Then, so that Aaron, Joshua, and I could go to Lynchburg for his interview, the big 3 boys went to my parents’ house for 2 sleeps and Aaron’s mom’s house for 2 sleeps. Our travels started terribly as our car overheated within the first hour of driving. My dad was able to leave work to bring us my mom’s car. We arrived to Lynchburg safely and got to see our little rental house. The interview went well. Then, we traveled back to PA to get the boys. We ended up buying a minivan and a car the next day. God is good at providing what we need at just the right time!
Noah found a new creature to catch!
With Aaron’s start date pushed back until August 1, we moved from the Ellis’ house to our townhouse in Allentown. Since then, we have been unpacking, purging, repacking, and still visiting with as many friends and family members as possible. It’s overwhelming to be managing our townhouse in PA, our rental in VA, and our future home at Tenwek. The logistics are crazy difficult to figure out, but God is faithful. Repeat it with me. God is faithful!
We took our first family visit to Hannah’s grave.
Praises and Prayer Requests:
- Praise God for His constant provision for us. It’s amazing to see how He keeps giving us what we need at just the right time.
- Praise God for His peace that surpasses understanding! While I should be so stressed that I can’t sleep, I have a peace that all these details will be fine. Our Father God is a good, faithful God. He is trustworthy. He will see us through this crazy time of transition.
- Please pray for wisdom in selling or renting our townhouse.
- Please pray for us as we travel this coming week to do our official debriefing from July 5-10. Another time zone change. Another strange place to sleep. More packing. More logistics. More flights.
- Please pray for us July 10-12 during our candidate review with World Gospel Mission. Another time change. Another full day of interviews. More flights. More logistics. Then more unpacking.
- Please pray blessings upon all those people who are helping us with all these details! We so appreciate them!!
I was reading the Bible in 1 Timothy today, so I’ll close with the words of Paul: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.” (1:12) I’ll continue to follow Him wherever He leads. “Here is a trustworthy says that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1:15-17) Amen!