This past week has been filled with beautiful moments. Just to name a few...

I looked with pity on the well dressed women lying on the dental chair. Her hands shook and she cried in utter panic as she explained how traumatic her former experience with the dentist had been. We prayed and I reached for her hand. She pulled me down until I was nearly on top of her and held me with  death grip. I held her too, as Luke gave her the anesthesia. Slowly her grip relaxed as he began the extraction. We met and conquered her fears... together.

I held the darling baby in my arms. Only two days old. I looked from the concerned faces of her family back down to her little face. A cleft lip. Could we fix it? We fixed other things in the mouth. Luke explained that this was beyond our scope, while discussing options for treatment with them. I cradled her and though of all the precious children born into the world like this. So many of them unable to get the needed surgery. In my heart I began to devise a plan to help this little one, and others I can find in this corner of the globe...

In the midst of a busy day at an outreach clinic, a cellphone blared "We wish you a Merry Christmas". Its owner hastily dug it out of his pocket to silence it, and I smiled. I was suddenly transported in memory to cold winter evenings, when with red cheeks and armloads of baked goodies, we caroled to one neighbor after another. The highlight of our holiday season. We always ended with that song. I look out of the window at the banana trees rippling in the tropical breeze. The calendar says that the holidays are near, but they seem so far away from this land of heat and sun. Still my heart was gladdened by sweet memories and the knowledge that I am where God wants me to be right now. My mind returned to the present and I handed Luke a pair of lower forceps. Still smiling.

After a long day, we gathered around the guitar and sang hymns we all love. Everyone sang in his own language, and the harmonies joined to create the sweetest music. In a lull between songs, our friends asked us if we had ever seen the bugs that come out of teeth. Bugs that come out of teeth?? They assured us that is was a phenomenon quite common to sick teeth. Though Luke concurred that perhaps a maggot might take up residence in a large food-filled cavity, he explained that it could only happen if a fly laid the egg in the mouth first. I leaned back my head to look up at the stars and thought of Louis Pasteur and micro class while Luke tried to explain the impossibility of spontaneous generation. They were respectfully skeptical. :) We all had a good laugh and returned to our singing under the African stars...

Today I was lying down for a moment after a busy morning. In the midst of an equally busy train of thought I was suddenly interrupted. I felt the baby move! For the first time! What a wonder of an experience.

All of these moments are like pearls stringing the days together. Thank God for the privilege of living this life.

P.S. The lady in the first story came back today for another extraction. Not a tear or a squirm. She only smiled and squeezed my hand knowlingly when I passed though and greeted her.
If you have been following us on our blog, you may be thinking by now that we have disappeared into the African interior as did the famous explorers, David Livingstone and Samuel Baker. Our sincere apologies for the long weeks of silence.

We have been busy in the meanwhile! Teaching, gardening, fixing up the dental clinic and a few other things. But being busy is not completely to blame for our failure to give an update on our lives. A few months ago, we started a new little project that has been absorbing the spare energies of the chief blogger (yours truly, Chantee).

Some of you may have heard the news that brings us great joy already :) For those who have not, here it is! We are expecting a new baby Fisher to arrive this spring!! Our delight, awe, and excitement know no bounds. :)

Since I am crawling cautiously back into the land of normalcy, I plan to post more in the couple of months that remain. 

In brief, the Bible school is in full swing, and we have been enjoying teaching several classes. The group of students is a real joy, and we love to go to sleep to the sound of their beautiful singing. The dental clinic is up and running and we are training a couple of local CFM nurses to clean and repair teeth along with the other skills required to carry on the work in our absence. 

We started our mobile dental outreach a couple of weeks ago with good results. We look forward to  two more trips into the bush with the dental team before we pack up and head to South Sudan... For indeed, our time here in Africa will wind up with a month long trip to South Sudan. We will be visiting the newest fields of labor and will be helping to teach a two week intensive evangelism training course.

That's it, in a nutshell. [note from Luke: We have had a nice little amount of lettuce and arugula from the garden we started upon our arrival along with an abundance of basil. We are picking the collards and toscano kale and the first three tomatoes have ripened!!]

More stories and pictures will come soon. God is blessing, and we are praising.
After one year, we find ourselves happier than we ever imagined possible.
 "To God be the glory. Great things He hath done!"
I don't think I'll ever forget that cold January morning, when we made the decision we had been praying about for a number of months. To go or not to go to the Congo again? We had received an official call to return for a 2 year seasonal commitment, and had asked for the month of January to pray and consider.

It was nearing the end of January and no startling revelation had come to either of us, though our prayers, discussions and the counsel of those we sought out seemed to indicate God might be leading us in that direction.

That morning, we decided it was time to decide. After one more brief discussion and season of prayer, we looked at each other and said, "Yes, we'll go".

Sometimes questions, even large ones, have to be settled with a simple moment of decision.

But that wasn't all. That was a Saturday morning and a few hours later I found myself sitting on a church pew, looking up at the face of the visiting minister- so alive, and still full of youthful enthusiasm after years of service.

"Where is the young couple that just returned from the Congo?" He asked suddenly, before beginning his sermon. In surprise, we raised our hands. Come to find out, he had spent years of his life in that very field of service. His words of encouragement to us made a deeper impression on my heart than I think he'll ever realize.

In this seemingly coincidental circumstance, God was confirming to this little soul that we had made the right decision. It had His stamp of approval.

That's just like God.

So here we are, on our way to the Congo with the full and happy season of gardening behind us for another year. Keep us in your prayers as we spend the next five months doing dental/medical work and teaching Bible classes. We will keep you updated!
PictureWe love our mommy, from near and far.
The wind slammed into our house as the rotating cloud howled overhead. The sky was bright with lightening as it dumped 4 1/2 inches of much needed rain.

I don't know exactly what it is about our cozy little house, but it amplifies sounds in an incredible way. Maybe it's the metal roof, or the fact that it is built on a hilltop. Whatever the case, storms of less magnitude sound loud in the middle of the night. This 11:30 awakening was particularly startling for me. By the time we were able to load the radar on Luke's phone, the funnel cloud had already passed over us. We scrambled to mop up the water that was blowing in through the balcony door while praying that our high tunnel was safe and checking on our guests downstairs (ask us sometime about the reactions of our various guests ;).

The rain was still coming down in sheets and Luke was discussing the storm with some of the others when I crawled over to the air mattress where my precious Momma was calmly sitting. 

What a comfort it was- just to be near her. I used to crawl into her bed during night time storms as a child. If I was snuggled down between her and Daddy, the loudest storm couldn't disturb my little heart. 

Later there were storms of another nature that she helped me to weather... so many of them over the years. 

My racing heart slowed back down with her arm around me. 

Maybe someday I'll be the momma that calms little ones with her very presence, but for now, I'm just thankful when I get to sit by mine and feel her hand clasp. I'm thankful that even when she's far away I can feel her heart clasp. I love you, Mommy!

Here are some pictures from the last month. There are quite a number but I post them for our family that is far afield. :) (And anyone else who might be interested)
"Doing" cows. They're looking unsure as to the proceedings.
The vaccination crew.
Helpful feet.
We love onion planting. :)
Cousin Sophie with William Wilberforce and Benjamin Franklin. (a.k.a. Willie and Benjie).
Planting onions with Benjie keeping track of "mama".
Willie: Energetic and helpful. Always in on the action.
South Padre Island (quick trip to see grandparents and the beach before busy season).
I love camping with this man!
Picking grapefruit with Grandpa Lynn.
Loaded up with South Texas gold.
Back at home.
He walked back into my life through a simple text message. He asked if I'd be willing to talk, to clarify the confusions of the past year. Not to jumpstart a relationship, but to clear the air and allow us to relate without being awkward in the future.  That was the beginning of a new and unexpected chapter.

How little did I know where I would be one blessed year later! Married to him. Living on this farm. Surrounded by love and family and plants and blue sky and hard work and bottle babies. 

Five months of married life and counting... How thankful I am!

Our menagerie of babies.
We're home. It's wonderful to be here.

Life is so sweet on this farm. 

We spent an evening taking inventory of our seed supply. Ordering seeds is a big job, I've discovered. The highlight of January. :) The little sisters were very helpful and added their seed order to ours. We can hardly wait to start growing!
The farm at dusk. Our new home on the hill in the background.
Martha Washington is the bottle-fed baby this year. Pretty as she can be.
Steady progress on our little home. How I love the big sky!
I often hear the words of the beautiful hymn, "Let your heart be broken for a world in need" in my head these days. The needs we have encountered in the past months have been many and varied. How best to help them all?

"Be the hands of Jesus serving in His stead".

How many mornings we've prayed in the cool african dawn, "Let us be your hands and feet today Lord. Use us to bless others".

When we walked into the church a few weeks ago, I didn't even notice her. My hands were full of baby Cao and Tammy's with Shiloh as both of our husbands preached. (Luke in english with Keith translating). The moment I looked away from my charge to take a picture, he seized the opportunity to taste the dirt and chicken feathers under our pew. No, I was not noticing the great need just an arm's length from me.

But Luke saw her as he preached. Hunched over in her chair with swollen foot and leg covered by dirty dressings. After church he investigated and found a dear lady who has been suffering with large open sores on her feet for months. This story could be long, but I will make it short for today. We took pictures (you who are medically minded or curious might want to see them) and promised to come again.

Two days later, we bumped along the road on the motor bike the 50 kilometers to the village. She was there, shivering in a dark hut. We stayed overnight and started her on a regimen of antibiotics, vitamins, hydrotherapy, charcoal poultices, and various natural supplements (such as papaya leaf tea). Providentially, a very capable nurse was visiting his father (the church planter) in the same village and was able to continue the treatments in our absence.

One week later upon our return, we found her in much improved spirits. The pain was nearly gone, allowing her to sleep and hobble around with the help of a cane. The secondary infections were under control and her foot was neatly wrapped in a good dressing. The fungal infection that remains is extremely difficult to treat, but we arranged for her to go to the hospital for further evaluation.

When we squeezed her hand goodbye, she broke down and cried out her gratitude. Said that God had sent us. What she did not realize is that we were the privileged ones.

"Blest to be a blessing. Privileged to care..."
I have heard that phrase often since coming to French Africa. Sometimes I'm being asked for money. Other times for food. Or attention. But today's request was unique.

I was in a fabric shop purchasing some cloth. The clerk approached me and appealed in good english:

"Please Madam, please. Give me your sister to marry. I want to marry her!"

I had not expected to receive Natasha's first proposal of marriage, but strange things happen at times.

He was very polite about it (apparently he remembered that I was married from my last visit to the shop with Luke and proposed to an unknown person instead). In spite of that I graciously declined on behalf of my sister.

Sorry for not checking with you first, Tashy. ;)