One Year

September 20 marks our first anniversary – a day we celebrate with great joy and thanks.

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This year has been full of so many rich adventures. We couldn’t be more thankful.

Happy Anniversary, to a man who makes my life sweeter each day.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21

Step by Step,

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Haiti

The air is heavy and thick, beating down and leaving trails of sweat along the back of your legs. Dust swirls from the cacophony of blazing motorbikes, vendors shouting and women swaying to the offbeat haze of roosters, children and honking horns.

Haiti Streets

Life for just about everyone on this island is hard. And it’s not hard to imagine that the most vulnerable are the children. Orphaned toddlers run the streets naked, subject to abuse, barely able to survive, let alone thrive. They simply get lost in the chaos.

Until someone stops and says they deserve more.

Over the last couple of weeks, Nick and I got to see what it looks like when God’s people collectively turn their focus to the most vulnerable. We had the privilege of working alongside Haitian believers with Loving Shepherd Ministries and be reminded that change is possible.

Beauty can come from ashes. 223 kids (so far) have been brought out of this life and given great hope. The love of a family. A future. The change is dramatic.

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There is new hope. It rings from the shouts of laughter as these children gather. It shows as you step into a Home of Hope, listening to the sounds of daily life – that is normal, real and tangibly…. hopeful.

 

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We are so blessed to be a small part of this incredible work – and the powerful work that God is doing through believers all across the globe.

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Unsalted: A Week In Ludington

We just returned from a wonderful week with family enjoying the unsalted beaches of upper Michigan. And although it was a working vacation, we loved being able to share this time with family in such a beautiful area.

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Beautiful unsalted beaches and lighthouses

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Don’t we coordinate well?

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This little one stole the show everywhere she went😉

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Nick had his first vacation with my family🙂

 

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They know how to put on a good family vacation, complete with ice cream every night!

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All the girls

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Beautiful sunsets from the lighthouse

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I adore this picture!

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Comparing sizes of our burgers. Yikes.

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They went out EARLY for a fishing trip – and came back with some great catches!

So thankful for this crew, and for the great memories we created this week.

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Weirdest Foods of Asia

“Lord where you lead, I will follow. What you feed me, I will swallow. But this one… you’re going to have to help me keep down.” – Tim Sprunger

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Much as it might look a bit messy, this is actually the proper way to eat ramen in Japan. 

We saw some seriously weird food over the last month in Asia, and thought they were well worth sharing🙂 Some were fabulous! Others… maybe a little more challenging.

The Fruits

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The Fish – Served in so many different ways… 

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Street Food

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Our Favorite Foods

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Just Plain Bad Food

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I’ve been told when traveling to say “yes” to everything in the first two-three weeks. Otherwise you’ll never try everything and miss some pretty incredible new things. Well… I held pretty well to that – but I’m convinced that some kinds of lines are ok. I mean…

What about you? What looks the best? Worst? 

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Deeper into Asia We Go!

From Thailand, we traveled to yet another country for a very different addition to our trip. Here, our goal was to encourage a great family living and working in Asia and learn more about their work to help local communities. We adored our time here – and are so thankful for the memories we made!

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On the Mekong River, Southeast Asia

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Our time here was full of many new adventures too. A dugout canoe took us across the Mekong River to an island called Dong Dang (no, I’m not making that up). What. A. Ride.

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Our second exciting mode of transportation was a tractor (Nick would tell you that’s a generous term for this contraption) pulling a pretty primitive wagon. Through the muddy path. In the rain. For about 20 minutes.

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The island roads.

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This “tractor” is called a dok dok.

When we finally arrived at the temple (a village’s common gathering place), we kind of attracted some extra attention (what are foreigners doing here???)… But it was so neat to see all of this happen…

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Unfiltered Mekong River Water vs. Filtered Mekong River Water

Salesmen were hosting this seminar to explain why clean water is vital to a family’s life and health. Many of these people are very poor and have never had access to clean water. For some, this was the first time they were able to link their ongoing medical problems and their dirty water together. And this is just the beginning of what we hope they can share as they build relationships with new villagers.

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Later, we got a full tour of the place where these filters are made and met their staff. I think the chemist in Nick really enjoyed this. I on the other hand, relegated myself to photographer for the tour.🙂

 

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Very used filters… look at all that gunk.

The next day, we met some local families and Nick even was able to make a new friend who also spoke German. (Proof that you just never know where your language experiences will turn out to be helpful!) They were all very kind!

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Precious 85-year-old grandmother.

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Nick and his new German-speaking Asian friend🙂

There are so gorgeous places in this country – and we were so thankful to see some of them. We visited a coffee planation with grounds full of beautiful areas to explore.

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This country is a butterfly’s haven. They are everywhere – and very beautiful and unique!

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I was excited to get some fabulous coffee on the planation!

Nick also made some fast friends with the boys through the week – and memories that we will all cherish for years to come!

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Best buddies.

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Ninja lessons were a major hit!

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Eating passion fruit from a friend’s home farm.

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A pretty good description of these boys😉

Incredibly thankful for this journey and the wonderful memories we bring home.

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Thailand – Food, Culture & Friends

We are so thankful that Mark was stable enough for us to continue on our journey through Asia.

Here’s where our trip starts going in fast motion. We traveled from Japan to Malaysia to Thailand for a quick weekend in Chiang Mai to see some wonderful ministries and connect with friends. 

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We visited an area where local artisans sold and hand-painted lots of neat things, including this wall🙂

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This artisan painted some elephants on my iPhone cover.

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We met some incredible people who have been serving abroad for the majority of their lives. We were grateful for their hospitality and their love for Jesus.

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Look who we found in Chiang Mai!🙂

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So glad we could meet up with old friends from Girls Camp and Family Camp in the States.

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We explored the Night Market in Chiang Mai…

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And ate some fabulous Thai food!

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We even tried durian… which I’ll talk more about later🙂

Then we were off again for Laos. Although we didn’t get to spend much time there, we loved experiencing a bit of the culture and sharing some memories with both new and old friends!

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So very thankful for this guy! We’ve had some great adventures so far – and there were still more to come before we headed home…

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Japan – Not the trip we expected

We left for Japan last Tuesday with adventure on the horizon, having no idea what really lay ahead. 

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(Wednesday) An overnight layover in Shanghai gave us the chance to try some unique cuisine (and laugh over some of the crazy options none of us really wanted to try.)

(Thursday) We arrived in Japan and began navigating the crazy train and subway system through Tokyo (this is impressive, believe me.) Our hostel was a fun mix of Japanese hipster, and we really enjoyed the people, view of the Tokyo river and the easy access we had to get places.

Little Ginza, Traditional Area of Tokyo

Day 1 (Thursday): Jetlag heavy though we were, we trekked down through little Ginza (around since 1274) where these OLD shops have seen customers for centuries. We dined in a local little place.

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Tsukigi Outer Fish Market and Biking Tour Through Tokyo

Day 2 (Friday): The outer Tsukiji Fish Market was so fun to explore! We spent the morning walking through crowded side markets seeing all sorts of fun areas.

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In the afternoon, we took a biking tour around Tokyo and had a fabulous time seeing far more of city than we would have! We hit everything from the very center of the city to the Imperial Palace. Although we were all tired, we had a great afternoon!

That night we had a 4-course dinner at a place with a grill in the middle of the table. They would bring out different foods to add to the grill and we had so much fun laughing over each new item. Monja is a traditional dish made with noodles, scallops, octopus, cabbage and many other unique things.

Guided Tour Through Tsukigi Fish Market and Sushi Lessons

Day 3 (Saturday): we met our tour guide in the morning to get a tour through the largest fish market in the world. There are sure some unique fish out there🙂

 

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Large Tuna getting cut with a really intimidating knife!

 

 

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Squid – with creep eyeballs…

 

 

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Octopus (which we would later eat!) 

 

 

 

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We learned that fish is prized when it is REALLY fresh. So in the market, they cut the spinal cord (to prevent rigor mortis) – so it can’t move, but technically is still alive. Then when it’s cut into filets it dies. So the meat is… really fresh. 

 

They then took us back to learn how to make sushi ourselves. What a fun experience!

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In the afternoon we went back to the hostel to rest. Mark took a nap and then Nick, Javon and I headed out for the evening. We went on a Tokyo Cruise (a little like a river boat cruise only in a futuristic boat with a deck on top.)  we stopped at — at an onsen where we had a fun dinner, and went to a foot bath where little fish ate the dead skin off our feet. We had some great laughs. Onsens are a very common activity for Japanese (of all ages.)

We got back very late. Becuase of a lack of internet connection, communications were sketchy and certainly not consistent. Lori had tried calling us but we didn’t get anything until we were back at the hostel. She thought Mark might have had a stroke, but symptoms were pretty light. Through much prayer, it was decided to wait until morning to see how he was doing.

Mark Has Stroke, Head to St. Luke’s International Hospital

Day 4 (Sunday): There are so many things I could say about this day, but in the end, we got Mark to an International Hosptial here in Tokyo. Things have been very difficult and he deteriorated quickly on the way to the hospital. Lots of scary moments and unknowns. It turns out that he had a pretty significant stroke, we just had no idea how bad because he remained stable that night.

Finally, that afternoon, Mark  was admitted into acute care, unable to speak, paralyzed (not completely) on the right side, and quickly developing pnemonia. Prayer chains were notified early, and we are SO continually thankful for the prayers and support that have flooded in. They are well felt.

Hospital Days and the Stroke’s Aftermath

Day 5 – Day 7 (Monday – Wednesday): Things have been up and down, but the majority of ourtime has been spent at the hospital. We have rotated spending the night with Mark, but this last night was probably the calmest he’s been. We are thankful for the little victories – and praying for many more.

 

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We are still trying to get away a little each day to have some fun. Very thankful that we were here to help through the first days after the stroke. 

 

There is much more ahead, and we still aren’t sure what the future will hold. But we are trusting that we serve a big God who knows all that is happening. Updates might be sporatic, but please continue praying!

Step by Step,

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