Praise God for His great goodness! We got in the day before yesterday, and are now in the apartment above the family's ice cream shop in Griswold, IA. Our living room and dining room windows look out over the main street where we can see the local grocery store across from us, and the bank just next to that. The town is really small, only maybe 700 people. About a block away from us we have a nice little playground where the girls enjoy going, with a good variety of slides, swings, and other fun climbing things for them to do.
While we have a small grocery store across from us, it is more the size of a convenient store and tends to be rather expensive, so we will do most of our shopping either in Atlantic or Omaha. Atlantic is a small town of about 7,000 people and is about 20 to 30 minutes away. We went to the Wal-Mart there today for groceries and other things we needed to get set up. Omaha is the big city about an hour west of us where the Turacks go to church. It is kind of neat to be out in the country like this (though we are in a small town). It seems in a way like moving back in time compared to some of the big cities in the States.
You all might like to hear a summary story of our trip around the States, so I will try my hand at recounting the details:
Well, things did not start out so great for our trip over here. Our flights were booked close together so we did not have much time for rest between flights. Hannah threw up on the way to Dakar, Senegal. Then while we were there they told us that the ground power unit was dysfunctional so they had to work on it with the doors open on the plane and the air conditioner and most lights off! That was interesting.
Well, we finally made it to Orlando many hours later, and found that our bags had not arrived! We were almost too tired to care, but after eating lunch at Burger King, Jesse Saint, who picked us up, encouraged us to go back to check if they were on the next flight. Praise God they were! We were so relieved.
We spent nine nights with my brother Benjamin and his wife Kimber-Leigh. They were very kind and hospitable. We spent most of the nights eating at other people's houses in the church, and enjoyed visiting with as many as we could. We got to visit with the Lytles, the Saints, the Joe Canovas, the Anders, Pastor and Mrs. Hardings', and Aunt Sue and Uncle Scott and my cousin Trisha, and Jared Blanton. The weather in Florida was a shock for us since we were used to cool in Malawi. It was very hot and humid, in the upper 90's. The church there was a great blessing to us and we had good services with them. I shared with the church on Wednesday night. They also had a baby shower for Beth. We were humbled by the kindness of the church there.
Saturday, the 20th we drove two hours up to Jacksonville. A brother in the church in Williston has lent us a very nice Honda minivan which he bought to share with others. It has been a real blessing to us. We got to Beth's aunt's house in Jacksonville and spent a couple hours with them. We had a good time with them. Then we went to Tom and Emily Smith's house, where we stayed the next two nights. While we were there we went to Collins Road Baptist Church and I shared in their evening service, after which they had a meal. They were also very kind to us and did a sort of paper/money shower for our new baby as well.
We left on Monday for Pensacola, where we stayed at the guest house there for three nights. We were able to visit the ministry there and the church prayer meeting on Wednesday. It was really nice to see the Pollards, Frakes, Randy Trayer, Miss Lynn and Clarence Simmons. Tuesday we went to the beach and the naval air museum. Wednesday I went to the ministry prayer meeting and spent some time in prayer. Thursday we left for Houston, and were able to visit with the Kempf family on our way where we had a delicious lunch and Hannah got to have a little "tea party". Once in Houston, we surveyed the area in terms of housing and jobs, and visited the church there on Sunday. Grace Family Baptist Church is a pretty big church with about 350 people or so. They recently started a new church plant to the north of them, and 100 of their people went to be a part of that. Many of their people had come from the north. We were very encouraged by the service and there was a pot luck meal following. The people were very welcoming and encouraging.
Sunday afternoon we left for San Antonio, where we stayed at Steve and Ruth Helms house. The girls liked running in their yard. Beth's brother John and his daughter Lola came over for a couple hours on Monday, and chatted, which was nice. Then we went out to eat with John and his wife Lisa at a Chinese restaurant in the evening. It was good to see John again and Lisa for the first time.
Wednesday we packed up the car, and headed up to Vision Forum to see some of my old work-mates. We found some people there but others were at home as they are now going to a 4 day work week because the economy is so slow. Michael Gobart took us out to eat at a Mexican restaurant and we had a good time talking with him. I called my old friend Chance Winberry, and he said he would love to get together but he had just wrecked his car the day before and was working on it. Well, we went to see him and tried to encourage him a little, but he ended up encouraging us. He is a very cheerful and joyful, and godly man. It was a blessing to see him again.
We drove a couple hours north on Wednesday till we reached Coleman, TX, where the Shamburgers stay. They are family friends, and we enjoyed our time with them. From there we traveled to Amarillo in the panhandle of TX where we spent the night at a motel and the next morning first noticed a significant change for the cooler. That was really nice! It was really western there with a lot of people wearing cowboy hats and boots, and jeans! We then traveled up through New Mexico past Capulin Volcano through Trinidad and Pueblo to Canon City. Grandma and Grandpa Roper were glad to see us and we had a great visit with them. We stayed in their camper where they had beds set up for all of us. We got to see Uncle Mark too and cousin Gary and his wife Janie. We went over to my grandparents' cabin in Beulah and had lunch there one day before we went to the ranch. I even saw a black bear in Beulah! We then went back to the cabin from the ranch so the girls could rest but they weren't very tired so we picked up pine cones in the back yard till Grandma and Grandpa got back. Sarah was determined to grab the flowers and got two bee stings as a result. We were thankful that she was not allergic to bees! We went to their church on Sunday with them. It was a really special blessing to be with my grandparents, though it was only a short time.
We left on Monday morning after breakfast. It wasn't easy to say goodbye. We tried to find a Honda dealership that changed oil, but they were all closed for the holiday (Labor Day), so we went to Colorado Springs Wal-Mart where we had to wait about 1 1/2 to 2 hours for the oil change! The car is pretty complicated and has something in it that tells you when you need to change the oil, but they weren't able to turn it off. So it still tells me that I need to change the oil about 1000 miles ago! We drove and drove and then stopped for a delicious salad bar in North Platte, Nebraska. About 11 PM we finally stopped in Grand Island, Nebraska, where we spent the night at the Days Inn there. We were exhausted. The next day we only had 3 hours of driving, and made it in to Beth's parents house at 2 PM, with several stops. We chatted with them some and then came out here to unload and then went to her Grandpa's house to pick apples and pears and tomatoes.
It is nice to be resting up a bit, though I cannot say we are totally settled. We probably won't be for a while. But we feel much better than when we were on the road!
We praise God for His great mercies on our trip and thank all who had a part in making it special! God bless you all! Thank you for your continued prayers for us as we seek God's will for our lives.