Check out our Fall Newsletter for a quick summary of what we’ve been up to since we arrived back in the US in May.
For the past three months we have had a major learning curve. Having a special needs child adds so much extra to our load. As a result our updates on here have suffered and we sincerely apologize. It is our desire to keep you as informed as possible and we will strive to do that. Up until now the doctors appointments have all melded together creating very busy weeks for us. Though things are not slowing down, we are beginning to get used to this new way of life. God has allowed us to go down this path and we are certainly running the “race of life”. We are trying our best to “fix our eyes on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.” Some days we do a great job and others, we fail, but we continue to press on knowing that only Christ can keep us steady.
So What’s Next?
I know many of you may be wondering what is next in our lives. Our intention is to go back on the mission field in about a year. First, we have to choose an assignment that will also allow us to get good medical care for Malachi. We are in the process of doing that now and we are close! We ask that you hang in there with us, we hope that we will post a blog soon about our next destination and detailed information about the work that Christ has for us. We believe that God has not called us away from the mission field, but He has rather increased our faith that He CAN provide for our needs anywhere. Our desire is to serve the Lord overseas while still being able to get the best care for Malachi and we are seeing Him work it out for us.
June 1-10: Trip to Chicago. The first Sunday we visited supporting church, Springbrook Community. We updated them on the happenings in Belize and then the pastor took us out for a delicious lunch. Then later on in the week, Melissa spoke to the youth group on the topic “Free to be a broken Vessel” at a youth event.
The next Sunday we spoke at another supporting church — “Life Community Church.” The pastor of the church, Kirk and his wife Joyce graciously opened up their home to us for a week while we were in Chicago. We were given two hours to speak and present the ministry. John preached the sermon, and after we had a “question and answer” time with the members of the church.
We were also able to connect with family members in the area as well as so friends. It was a wonderful trip and the kids were great.
June 15-July 2nd: Trip to Minnesota. The first few days on this trip we were able to connect with the Lubinski’s. They are our friends and have supported the Belize Mission and Retreat in many ways including serving with us there in Belize. It was great to reconnect. Then we spent a few days with some of our colleagues, the Nelsons. It was great to get to know them better.
Missionary Retreat: Every year our mission board hosts a missionary retreat for those of us who are on “home assignment.” We had a wonderful time at the retreat connecting with fellow missionaries and meeting the new Director of International Ministries, Ivan Veldhuizen and his wife Susan. We relaxed, talked about our missionary term, attended meetings, and most importantly: worshiped together. Our director spoke to us about the Converge Worldwide “One Mission”: Multiplying Transformational Churches. He cast a vision that John and I easily grasped and we have never been more excited about being a part of our mission board than we are now. The kids had a great time with the wonderful children’s workers at the retreat. They took such great care of them and that enabled us to be worry-free throughout the retreat.
Month of July: While at the retreat our mission board suggested that John and I take a couple of months off of fund raising and visiting churches to focus on caring for Malachi and resting from the past 3.5 stressful years. We are thankful for this break because there has been so many preliminary appointments for Malachi, and it has been incredibly overwhelming. We are thankful to be with a mission board who recognizes the needs of their missionaries. Malachi has a steady schedule of physical, occupational, and speech therapy. He will also be getting equine therapy when the approval goes through. At the end of this month he received his torso brace and leg braces. These braces allow him to isolate certain parts of the body that need to be strengthened. His improvement is there, but it is very slow. Please continue to pray for him.
This last week, we were also able to spend another day with Ivan and Susan Veldhuizen (VP, international ministries) at our home in South Carolina as they were in the area.
September 1st -9th: John will be doing a trip to Ohio to visit three supporting churches.
September 22nd-29th: We will be traveling to Orlando Florida to visit a supporting church, connect with other churches, visit our mission board, and go on vacation.
How you can pray:
Pray that Malachi will be able to sit up on his own by the time he is 2 years old.
Pray for Evangeline and Ellis as they continue to transition to the US culture and the beginning of the new school year.
Pray that we will be able to discover more churches and individuals who will partner with us financially.
Pray that God will use us here in the town of Hartsville for His glory.
Pray for strength for us.
It was 1 AM on May 2nd. After missing our flight in Atlanta we were finally home. The drive from the airport to home took about 2 hours and John and I were exhausted. We made the turn into our neighborhood and going to sleep never sounded so good. As we approached the driveway both girls woke up and realized they were still traveling, still strapped in their seats and in unfamiliar surroundings. They simultaneously broke down crying. John and I did our best to lead them to the house, take them to the bathroom and put them to bed… all while they were screaming. I will never forget that night. I knew that the official transition had begun and it was not going to be easy. They both cried themselves to sleep that night, but they slept. We now look back on the day and chuckle but I still feel the sting of their disorientation.
The next day it was my turn. I was still exhausted and there were so many emotions at play. I snapped at someone and after I realized what I did I found myself in the car sobbing in the parking lot of “Cookout”. John was in the drivers seat and really there was nothing he could say that would comfort me. I was just processing all the exhaustion and the emotion, and in his own way, he was processing as well. I dried my eyes and went into the restaurant and allowed a burger to nurse my wounds.
At first Ellis’ transition was the most difficult to handle. She was so confused in the house we were in. She had no idea were anything was and everything was unfamiliar. Even if we moved her from one room to he next she would burst into to tears; and forget about the nursery, total meltdowns (we are still working on that one). She is doing much better now and her vocabulary is increasing! Today someone told me she was playing with the other kids and THAT is a huge step forward for her.
The evening after my parents left from visiting, Evangeline had her break down moment. She was being tucked in by John and she told him that she did not like her new pillow pet. She took it and threw it on the floor. She said “I don’t like it, I don’t want it, I want my old pillow pet in Belize.” Guess who decided that we could not fit her old pillow pet in the suitcase and consequently gave it away? Yup. ME. “Mom of the Year” right here. She cried and that is when I came in the room and we began to talk about all the things that we missed about Belize. I cried too. My heart was breaking for her. Missionary Kids go through countless highs and lows and we are trying to instill in our children a trust that God has it all under control.
In Belize when it is cool or even warm they cover up their babies. I never knew how much the Belizean thinking was in me until I got here. After seeing a couple of babies in onesies without socks on I caught myself almost about to say something to the moms about covering up their babies because it was “cool”. Thankfully I caught myself, ‘This is America” I would tell myself “Not Belize”. A similar thing happened on a rainy day. Belizeans do not go out in the rain. In Belize rain = snow. They bundle up and stay in doors. There is no splashing in puddles, it’s actually an excellent time to take a nap. I was at the park with a friend and I could tell rain was coming. I immediately packed up my things and loaded the kids in the car with a “See ya” to my friend and she did not realize I left so quickly. She said “I have never seen someone move so fast to get out of the rain!” We laughed about it. I guess I’m more Belizean than I thought!
I could go on an on with stories. It’s not bad here in the USA, it’s just different. I was just talking to my friend today on the phone and I said, “Do I even know how to be American anymore? How am I conducting myself now?” I was laughing. She said I was doing just fine. All we can do is be ourselves and laugh at our mistakes and cry when the time is appropriate. The beauty of being a missionary is the refining process; the change, learning to balance, the complete trust in the Lord that it takes, the heartache, the moments where we say “Bahhhh!”. With each new step those rough edges are polished a little more and with great friends and family and a church as a support the rough edges may not even be noticed.
I remember my first “merging” lesson with my driving instructor. I was on I-495 (the beltway) and it was rather busy. The instructor told me to merge. I think I literally held my breath and when I proceeded, I did it all wrong! She told me to get off the beltway! I was happy to do so, I think my heart was thumping so quickly it would beat out of my chest. Well, you can’t get away with living in the DC area and not learn how to merge well. Eventually merging became easy and second nature. Well, after barely driving in Belize and having no merging lanes for three and a half years, when I faced my first “merge” just two weeks ago it was an epic fail. Someone was merging on to the highway and I literally stopped my car as if there was a stop sign in the middle of a 70 mph highway. My mom was stunned and I was confused. What just happened? I had forgotten how to merge.
It is the same I think for some of us missionaries that return from the field. After FINALLY learning how to merge in a foreign country we are taken out of that country and put back into our “homeland”, only we have forgotten how to merge there, and it does not feel “homey”, it feels….weird. Here we are not really Belizean but not fully American anymore. Something has changed and now we must relearn how to merge, and we must learn how to do it, merging is important-it’s how traffic on a busy highway keeps flowing.
For almost four years of our lives we have been under a tremendous amount of stress, and within that stress, God has taught us some amazing things. We are not walking away unchanged. We are CHANGED from the inside out. Every heartache, tear, laughter, birth, disaster, triumph, disagreement, and understanding has been used by God to conform us more into His image. We will never be the same and we don’t want to. Imagine leaving the states one way but returning a different person. The way we navigated the USA before may not be the way we want to navigate it now, so we have to relearn some things.
We left as a couple with one 12 month old and we are returning as parents of three young children. We never really had an opportunity to be parents in the United States; MOPS, library reading time, taking the kids to the park, are ALL NEW. I find myself thinking, “What do I do? How do I act?” Then those thoughts sound so silly. I am an American in the USA! This is my culture. Even so, we have spent the last 3.5 years learning a new culture, learning how to say things in a different way, learning how to approach people differently than what we would in the USA, so we come home and you can see why we may feel disoriented at times. In some ways I feel we left as young adults and we have come back and graduated to just “Adults”. We survived a foreign country and lived to tell about it! Not to mention the fact that we kept three kids alive there as well! Ha!
On top of the old merging lanes that we have to relearn there is a new merging lane. Malachi. The only way I can adequately describe what is happening in my heart is this way: I see two people when I look at myself in regards to Malachi’s diagnosis. I see a confident woman who has to explain what is going on with him to almost everyone I meet. I see her calmly explaining his disability. I see her going from appointment to appointment, doing what she has to to get things done. But the other “me” is standing next to that confident woman and she is not strong or confident at all. She is doing what that confident woman really wants to do: sitting down, head buried in her hands, crying. Every time I speak of Malachi calmly, every time I see a “normal” baby, that is what I want to do and how I see myself… crying. Mostly because it is so overwhelming. I don’t mind talking about Malachi, and I do love seeing the other kids, but, this is where I am at right now. I am NOT hopeless, but I am still mourning and I don’t know when it will end. So I find myself not only “reentering” the USA, but also learning a new language and a new culture of having a disabled child.
What I know for sure is that my hope is in the Lord and that hope will not disappoint. We have witnessed so many miracles in Belize that know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord will take care of us. I know He will guard my heart in all these things I am feeling right now. I know He will continue to be with Evangeline and Ellis as they continue to adjust. I know things will get easier because His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
We are so grateful to all those who are making our reentry and merging process much smoother. We ask for your continued prayers.
Today was my second to last bible study with the ladies. Next week I will be speaking to them for the last time. To say this time is emotional is a great understatement. I feel as if a piece of me will be missing for a time. This ministry has been my heartbeat for the past 3.5 years. I would like to share with you what I shared with them today.
10 Things I Hope You Will Do
1) Love each other
I John 4:7- Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
2) Stop Gossiping
James 4:11- Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.
Ephesians 4:29- Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
3) Continue on in faith
Hebrews 11:1- Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
- Note: the greek word for the word “sure” in this verse means “exact imprint”. So we could read: Faith is the [exact imprint] of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
4) Be proud of the gospel of Jesus
Romans 1:16-17- For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
5) Go and make disciples
Matthew 28:18-20- Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
6) Run the race with perseverance
Hebrews 12:1- Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
7) Do not be conformed to this world
Romans 12:2- Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
8) Continue to help each other
Hebrews 13:16- And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
9) Be humble
James 4:10-Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
2 Chronicles 7:14- If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
10) Love God
Matthew 22:37- Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
- Loving God is not just saying it with your lips but proving it with your life. Loving God means making him Lord of our lives, obeying and following his commandments no matter the cost, with all our hearts, souls, and minds.
Only 9 more days to go before our Home Assignment in the states. We are packing up and saying goodbye. We had a yard sale and Evangeline had a difficult time parting with some of her toys. Another difficult day was when we said “goodbye” to our puppy that we have had since Christmas “Tinsey” (named by Evangeline). Evangeline loved Tinsey. She is learning how to say her goodbye’s. It is a good lesson to learn as she will be doing it more often than she realizes in the next few years. Please note our new address below.
441 S. Timberlake Ln.
Hartsville, SC 29550
If you are a church please begin send mail items here. Also, Several of you have expressed interest in sending gift cards, this is where you can send them. Thank you!
I wish I could explain to you the turmoil many missionaries have when leaving a country they have served in. It is very strange. On one hand we are very happy to be coming home to reunite with our families and our supporters. We are also relieved at the prospect of getting the care Malachi needs. On the other hand there is a strong desire to stay because this is where we have made a home for our family and have created a new family filled with our Belizean brothers and sisters in Christ. The emotions that tug on our heart and the ups and downs can be overwhelming. Pray for us during this time of transition.
Just this weekend, I (Mel) had the opportunity to speak at the Brethren Assemblies Ladies Retreat. The theme was “Living by Faith”. I spoke five times covering the “Three Ingredients of Faith”, “Noah- Unwavering Faith”, “Abraham- Faith, Getting it Right”, “Rahab”, and “Encouraging you in your Faith Walk”. It was a wonderful time of fellowship. It was my first time speaking at a retreat and I experienced God in a new way, I would love to do it again!
A few things John has done in the past few months is be one of the leaders a a young men’s retreat held at the mission base; here, several of the young men made the decision to follow in believers baptism. He also attended a smaller version of a “Passion” conference with Pastor Kenny and the young boys. In addition to this, watched all three kids for three days while I was gone to the retreat. What a great husband I have!
We are remaining busy and are loving this last month being here, relishing our friends.
How is Malachi?
We get this question all the time and it is a difficult one to answer. His improvement is very slow if anything. We have seen improvement in his neck control and the other day he did hold a bottle with open hands for about 30 seconds. He is not crawling or sitting up on his own, and is having a difficult time with balance. Even though his neck control has improved he still is “floppy”. We are praying that physical therapy will make him more mobile. Thank you for your prayers and concern.
Many of you have been waiting patiently and giving us a lot of space to process the new information we have received on Malachi. Thank you for praying for us and encouraging us. We may not understand everything, but we are trying our best to navigate through this, trusting that the Lord will reveal himself in due time.
Below are some FAQ’s that we can now answer for you:
When are you going on Home Assignment?
Originally we were going to leave in August, but some wise colleagues told us it would be better to not attempt to transition right as school starts. So we moved it to June. After we found out Malachi has CP we have decided we would like to get him started on his therapy as soon as we can. So we are leaving around the first of May. That was unexpected and quite sudden. Please keep us in prayer as we pack up and say goodbye (only six weeks!).
Where will you live in the United States?
For at least 6 months we will be in Hartsville, SC. Malachi will receive excellent care there and we have lived there before so we have family and friends as a great support. Beyond the first six months we can not say how God will lead us.
Are you still going to be missionaries?
The answer to this is “Yes”. This is NOT a simple answer though. We are asking for your faith in us. We are seeking the Lord and godly counsel on what to do next. God has called us to be missionaries and He has not released us from that calling yet. We have done a lot of talking and praying about this one. We believe God wants us to move forward in our missionary journey in faith and trust in Him. We know now what Malachi needs and where we go we will be sure his needs will be met properly. There may be some big changes up ahead for us but we are hoping and praying to still be missionaries, please pray to that end with us and please continue your support. We will let you know further details about this but we ask you to be patient with us.
What will you do on your Home Assignment?
Home Assignment is when missionaries come home and report back to all the churches and individuals that support them and raise any shortfall in their financial support. John will be doing most of the traveling and on the days he is not traveling we are devoting ourselves to support raising. Please, if you or someone you know, or a church you know is looking to support a missionary family let us know! We are going to be working hard and would like to complete our fund raising within the year. We believe He is able to do all things!
What do you need?
1) Prayer. We need your prayers as we say goodbye to a village we love and people that have become our family. Pray for the adjustment that the kids will have to make (and us) to culture in the USA. It really is overwhelming. Pray for Malachi. Pray for our support. Pray that God will grant us wisdom beyond our years.
2) Encouragement. Drop a note, call, comment on this blog. We need encouragement!
3) Gift cards. Some have asked how they can help us with our physical needs. We will need appropriate clothing and groceries upon our re-entry to the states. Gift cards from places such as Target, Wal-mart, Old Navy or Belk will help us out a lot. Please contact us if you are interested in helping us this way.
Malachi was able to get his MRI today and received a positive diagnosis.
Malachi has Cerebral Palsy. The basics are:
The term cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination but don’t worsen over time. Even though cerebral palsy affects muscle movement, it isn’t caused by problems in the muscles or nerves. It is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements. The majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with it. [ref]
While in certain cases there is no identifiable cause, typical causes include problems in intrauterine development, asphyxia (lack of oxygen due to breathing difficulty) before birth, hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) of the brain, and birth trauma during labor and delivery, and complications in the perinatal period or during childhood [ref]
With all the difficulty surrounding his birth and the ensuing stay in the NICU, it’s not surprising that he sustained some permanent neurological damage.
He shows both increased resistance in some muscles (hypertonia), especially on his right side, and low muscle tone in others (hypotonia) like his neck and trunk.
The good news is that he will not get any worse than he is now, and that with physical and occupational therapy, we are likely to see improvement, but we don’t know how much. The bad news is that there is no known cure for any type of cerebral palsy and he will likely have physical limitations throughout his life. We don’t know if or when he will be able to sit up or walk or any other developmental milestone. All we can do is give him therapy and see how he responds and develops.
Thankfully, although this is news to us, it’s nothing that our heavenly Father has not already seen and planned and we are confident that he will provide our every need, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We know that this will be used to conform both us and Malachi more to the image of his Son, and will open up avenues for ministry that we’ve never had before. Your continued prayers are much appreciated at this time.
You will have to pardon me being so brief. I am so exhausted and I don’t really want to think, but I know you all love Malachi and are praying for him. Today the neurologist confirmed what I already knew: Malachi is a 10 month old that acts like a four month old. He will get an MRI sometime in the next several days. The neurologist will read the MRI for me that day . He could tell me nothing new and said we would have to wait and see what his brain looks like. He does believe that Malachi will improve, but it will be a slow process including physical and occupational therapy. He said we will not know his estimated limits until we see the results of the MRI. Of course we know that God has no limits.
Please pray that I can get the MRI scheduled for Thursday or Friday. The doctors office is very busy and it needs to pass through insurance. They understand my need to get it done quickly but seemed to be in no hurry which is frustrating for me. Malachi is doing very well. Please continue to pray for me. That I get sleep and that the Lord will continue to strengthen me. Pray for John as well. Thank you for your prayers. We love you all.
Malachi is now 9.5months old. As the months have gone by I have been concerned about him reaching his milestones. For a while we were in a “wait and see” mode. We decided that the waiting is over and recieved the thumbs up from the Lord to move forward. To put it simply Malachi is very behind in some of his motor skills, especially his neck control. Sometimes it is as if I am handling a 4-6 months old instead of an almost 10 month old. We decided to act and write a pediatrician and seek advice and everyone said that now is the time to act.
Malachi was not able to get the MRI’s or CAT SCAN he needed or the neurological tests he needed after his traumatic birth. It is possible that he has some trauma to the brain due to lack of oxygen, however we do not know anything conclusive.
The baby and I will be traveling to Hartsville, SC on Saturday to see the pediatrician that we have been speaking to. Miraculously they got us into a specialist on Tuesday. Also our wonderful mission board is helping us with airfare. We will return to Belize the following Sunday.
I am asking you to pray that God will continue to open the doors for this trip. Pray for little Malachi that they will be able to pinpoint the problem and come up with a solution. Pray for me that I will be able to sleep and have a clear head in the coming days. Pray for the girls, especially Ellis, because they will be away from me and are not used to that. Pray for John as he holds down the fort in Belize.
If you live in Hartsville and are interested in conecting, let me know. Thank you for your prayer support during this time.