Monday, July 4, 2016

HUGE family news!!!

HUGE news for our family!!!  After much prayer and seeking God's face, we feel undeniably called to return to Togo, West Africa to serve long term as medical missionaries.  While it is not an easy decision, we are confident of the Lord's direction.   We are in the application process with ABWE and are excited about what the Lord has ahead in the near future.  Please cover us in prayer as we seek to be obedient to Him no matter the cost.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thoughts on Leaving Togo: What is God doing?

I have been a terrible blogger lately.  Partly because of poor internet service (that makes it difficult to access my blog), partly because of life just being busy.....but mostly because I didn't want to face the fact that our time here was quickly ending.

Monday we will load up into a van-- 6 people, 12 suitcases, 6 carry-ons, 6 passports, 6 visas, 1 stroller, 1 car seat-- and drive 6 hours over to Ghana and then on Tuesday we fly out of Africa and head back to the U.S. for the next chapter of our lives.  While part of me is excited to see our friends and family,  the other part of me just wants to stay here where we have made our home.  Part of me wants to return to America with all its luxuries and convienences, but part of me wants to stay here in Togo where life, while much more difficult, is much purer and less inhibited by materialism and modern distractions.  If it was our choice, we would stay.  These last 2 years have been too short.  I can so envision myself and my family living in Africa for years to come.
We love this place.
Togo Sunrise
Photo by fellow missionary Judy Bowen

We love the work here.

We love the ministry here.

We love the people here.

But yet, it seems like the Lord is taking us down another path, for now.  It is a little strange.  Our hearts are here.  Our desire is to be here.  We are happy and at peace here.  But the Lord is taking us somewhere else.  I don't quite understand His working or direction at this point.  But that is okay.  There have been a few other times in my life where I would have chosen one path, but the Lord clearly was taking me down another. What is God doing?  I don't know!!   I am a little confused at what the Lord is doing in our family, but I will trust what the Lord is doing in our family.

I feel a little like Abraham may have felt when the Lord told him to leave his home and go to a place he didn't know, a strange country.  But by faith (Heb 11:8-9) he obeyed the Lord and that simply is what we are striving to do.

To rest in His promises. (Ps 37 :7)

To obey His leading.  (Deut 13:4)

To trust His plans.  (Pro 3:5-6)

To submit our desires.  (Ps. 37:4)

To commit our ways. (Ps 37:5)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts."  Is. 55:8-9

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Togo: Ebola Update

It is the one conversation that every foreign missionary dreads.  It strikes fear, dread and heart break all at the same time. It can cause division among a team.  It brings anxiety and tears.


No missionary ever wants to have to face this issue and yet we (in our total of 4 years serving here in Africa) have had to face this twice.  The last time was when we had to evacuate in 2005 due to political unrest and violence.  Now, 8 years later we had to sit down with our missionary team and face it again.

Let me be clear.  Ebola has NOT shown up in Togo.  We also have a border to our north, east and west from the countries of Burkina Faso, Benin and Ghana.  However, there was a recent scare in Ghana where a man was suspected of having died from Ebola(EVD).  If positive, that would have brought Ebola fearfully close to our hospital.  Praise the Lord, his blood work came back negative for EVD so the Lord maintained our borders of protection.  But each day as the cases spread and the numbers climb, Togo faces a very real threat of EVD spreading to our little country.  Some have even said it is imminent.

Currently, there are reported cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia & Nigeria.

With the  CDC and WHO's predictions that EVD will continue to spread in West Africa we had to sit down and have an open honest discussion about what we as a missionary team will do.  We have had many "sideline" talks regarding the issue-- the medical staff has made some plans and preparations, we receive multiple daily emails from our chief of staff with the latest confirmed data on the disease.  But this was the first time our entire team (medical people, pilot, maintainence, print shop) had sat down together to formulate a plan together on when and how we would evacuate.

Source Unknown

It is a very personal subject for each missionary when deciding when to leave.  It can cause tension and even arguments.  Some people feel you should leave at the first sign of a threat.  Others feel that if we are called to serve here then we should stay to the very end.  There also could come the time when our mission, ABWE, would order a mandatory evacuation of all missionaries.  But we as a team were able to have a incredibly unified, supportive approach to our facing evacuation.

 The team was able to assure the medical people with children that even though they are essential to the hospital that they are mommies and daddies first and that if they feel they need to take their family to safety then the team would support that decision. We were also able to verbalize to the couples and singles that if they want to stay to the end, then the team would support that decision too.  But that if they felt the need to leave early, then no one would pass judgment. These were not vain words that we shared as a team.  They were laced with tears and nothing but love and trust for each other.  As John and I left the meeting we were encouraged by the sweet sense of unity that the Lord had granted.

So far, the Lord has protected Togo from this ravaging disease.  For that, we raise our hands and gratefully say "Thank you, Father!"  But we also humbly fall on our knees and beg, "Please have mercy on us!".

Please pray this with us. 

Pray the Lord would stop the spread throughout the countries currently suffering.

Pray that we would not have to face the decision of leaving the very place we have come to serve and call home.

Pray we will not have to look into the faces of our Togolese brothers and sisters, who are terrified of the disease, and tell them we are leaving them behind.

Pray the Lord give wisdom if we are faced with the decision to leave.

Please, please pray that the Lord will continue to have mercy on us.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

This is just weird....

The things we do for our children!

I have had to do some strange things since becoming a mom and some even stranger things since becoming a missionary, but this might be the weirdest.....

...boiling cloth diapers!!

Poor little Ansley was getting burned by the ammonia in her diapers.  Since I don't have any fancy detergents to use and don't have a way to get any right way, I Googled it and found out you can boil them!

I know, you didn't really want to know this, but hey....this is missions! :)  You 've got to work with what you have, and I had bad diapers, a pot, and some boiling water.  It seems to have worked and Ansley is a much happier baby.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Hardest Part of Missions

I often am asked, "What is the hardest part about missions?.  And there can be many answers to that. But I would have to answer that the hardest thing about missions is seeing your children hurt or suffer because you have made the choice to be here.  And that really is true for any parent.  It is incredibly hard to watch your child hurt no matter who you are, where you live, or what you do in life.

Aiden is my tough child.  He is resilient and goes through life happy.  He is not whiny or one to be sensitive.  But today, his little heart is breaking.

For the last month, we have been so blessed to have an incredibly sweet family, Micah & Katherine Schmidt, visiting.  Most of the time when people come they leave their kids behind- partly due to the cost of bringing a family and partly because people are afraid to bring their children to Africa!   So we are always happy when families visit, but this family has been extra special.  Maybe because they are a big family like us (they have 5 kids!)....maybe because their kids are so close in age to ours...maybe because they homeschool....maybe because we are so similar in our philosophy of family and child raising.  But I think more than any of that, the Lord has just so uniquely knit our hearts together.  We are sad to see them go for so many reasons, but for me the hardest reason is because Aiden will have to say good bye to his new best little buddy Daniel who is 4 like Aiden.

Last night at church, we were praying for the Schmidt family.  John was sitting beside Aiden and noticed Aiden start to cry.  When he asked why, Aiden replied that he was crying because his friend was leaving him.  This is the little boy who didn't even cry when both sets of grandparents left.  He is tough....but today he is definitely broken hearten

I know you are thinking, "Really? Best buddies in only a month?".  But I wish you could see them together.  They are kindred spirits.  I really feel like the Lord sent Daniel just for Aiden.  For almost 2 years, Aiden hasn't been able to play with a 4 year or even 5 year old boy with out having to struggle through a language barrier.  Or play cars with a little boys who looks like him.  Or climb trees with a little boy he could giggle together with. And now that he has made such a sweet little friend, it will end as they leave for the States tomorrow. I didn't realize the sacrifice Aiden has made until now. 

So today, unequivocally, I can say that the hardest part of missions is the hurt that your kids have to go through.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A HUGE Praise and Prayer Request

They did it!!  They are finished!!!  Praise the Lord.  It is hard to believe that the 3 year program is coming to an end.  God has been so faithful in working in these 20 students' lives both academically and spiritually.  All praise belongs to Him for what He has accomplished!
 And while I remember when the students were being chosen and when the program began, I have been so thankful to have even a very small part of the program for the last year and a half.
A few weeks back the Nursing Class Chorale went to one of our churches to sing.  We went to the Baptist church in Kpodzi.  Since their are 20 students, 3 instructors and one administrative assistant we had to take 2 vans.  We left the hospital compound early and picked up students along the main road.
Once we picked everyone up, we needed to practice.  We had planned to stop at the Adeta Church, but due to the road work we couldn't get there.  So, we just stopped on the side of the road and had a quick practice time!
 Pastor Happy teaching Sunday school.  He has been a faithful pastor for many years!

The church choir marched in and sang us a welcome song.
Some of the men in our nursing class.  For the past year or so, I have been praying that the Lord would raise up some leaders from among these young men.  They are going to be the heart of the work in the new hospital in Mango.  More than the doctors, more than the missionaries.  These nurses will be at the bedside of Fulani patients, of Muslims patients, of so many unsaved patients.  They have the ability to reach into the patients lives like no one else will. My prayer is that they will be godly leaders whom the Lord will use to change that city for Him!
Dr. Sharon Rahilly, the program director, thanking the church for inviting the choral to come sing.
The nursing student choir.  It was such a blessing listening to them sing!

Outside the church building

Ok, this little girl kept following me around as I took pictures so I just had to take a picture of her.
Beni (on the right) is one of our students who is originally from Northern Togo and was raised a Muslim.  He has an incredible testimony of how he came to know Christ and he is excited to share it!  I can hardly wait to see how God uses him to reach other Muslims.
Some of the ladies in the class

Although this was a few weeks ago, I waited to post it so that I could also ask you to pray for this upcoming week.  We have several big events for the week that will end on Saturday with the graduation ceremony.  Please pray for the little things that need to be done in preparation for graduation, but more than that please pray that the ceremony will be God honoring and that it will be evident to all who attend that truly the Lord has done great things

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Tearful Day

This afternoon I received a call from John's mom.  John was out in a village today with a mobile clinic.  She never calls our cell phone, so when I saw her number my heart started racing....I knew it was bad news. 

She was tearful when she said hello, and then came the words we knew were coming but were still so hard to hear, "Opa passed away".  It was one of those times when it is so hard to be so far away.


Four Generations of Groeneveld Men
And Aiden is named after Opa too, John Aiden.

He was Leslie John Henrickis Groeneveld (John was named after him) on his birth certificate.  Those who knew him called him Bud.  Those who were family.....we called him Opa.

My first introduction to Opa was when John and I just met in college.  He adored his grandpa and always shared fond memories of times growing up with him.  Before I ever met Opa, John told me that Opa had been praying for me for years.  His Opa sent him letters in college telling him that he was praying for John's future wife.  I never imagined that someone who had never met me was faithfully praying for me.  That was just Opa...a prayer warrior for ALL his family.

I never had a grandpa growing up.  So I guess I was a little partial to the 2 sweet grandpas the Lord gave me through marriage.  And I was blessed to have been adopted into Opa's family!

John told stories of his Opa driving them around on the back of a lawn mower and riding around town in the front seat of his Opa's work truck.  John and his siblings spent weeks at a time in the summer with Opa and Oma and everyday, Opa would take them swimming at the pool and sit by to watch them all afternoon.  Opa adored his grandkids--- 8 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren.  And they all adored him.

He made wonderful dill pickles (with his own home grown dill) and he made some awesome spaghetti!

He was a WWII vet, but didn't talk about it much.  If you got him alone and it was quiet he might share a story or two from the war, but those moments were rare.  He had fought for his country, but was never one to go on about it.

And at other quiet times, you just might get him to sing you a song in German.

He loved Cream of Wheat (and could make it without any lumps!!) and Maid-Rites.  John and I were car shopping with him and Oma and after we were done looking at cars Opa insisted that we stop and get a sandwich....but it had to be a Maid-Rite!  He wouldn't settle for anything else.

He loved his family.  Often times at family get togethers you would see Opa sitting off to the side and watching.  Watching the little ones, some his grandchildren....some his great grandchildren.  And as he watched he smiled.   His love for his family was great!

He loved his wife.....oh, how he loved her!  They married right before the war and have been married over 70 years.  They would cook together in the kitchen and always had a feast for us when we went to visit them.  They lived in the same little  house for their entire marriage.  They really had a special kind of love.

And He loved God.  He was a faithful Christian who loved the Lord and served Him as long as he was able.  And that is what makes today a little easier for those who loved Opa.  We know that today he is walking those streets of gold that he was so longing for in his last days.  No more pain, no more struggles, no more tears.  He has met His Savior face to face!!  And like Aiden said tonight, "I bet God is takin' really good care of Opa!"

My family

My family