Wednesday 19 October 2016

Update: How is Miriam doing? (and an update on our visa situation)

Hi friends,

First, we want to say how overwhelming the last several days have been - you all are SO amazing and supportive and we have appreciated every comment, email, or message you sent us to encourage us and tell us that you're praying for us and for Miriam. As parents it has been comforting beyond words to know that there are loving people all over the globe, some of whom we have never even met, praying for our little Miriam and for our family. Words cannot express how thankful we are for each of you and for your prayers. We have felt supported and loved in a time when we otherwise would feel very alone and afraid.

In the last day or so Miriam has slowly shown signs of improvement. She is eating a little more, throwing up less, and her diarrhea has been much less severe. This morning she actually stole Chrissie's breakfast and ate it, along with part of her own, which is amazing. She hasn't had much of an appetite in over two weeks!

It's nothing short of a miracle that within a day or two she went from this...

To this.

(hopefully she doesn't hate us when she's a teenager for posting a greasy-hair hospital photo of her on the internet...)

The doctor actually suggested that if she continues to improve it is possible she could be discharged this week. We can hardly believe this is a possibility since for so many days we saw no improvement at all. We're praising God for how He has healed her so far and we're praying for her continued healing. Thank you for your continued prayers and for standing alongside us in this hard time. She isn't out of the woods yet, but we are hopeful and thankful for the little improvements we're seeing.

We can't wait to have our quirky and fun little girl back to her normal self!

After speaking with our insurance company and Miriam's pediatrician in Canada we have made the decision to stay where we are and continue receiving care here in Romania. The doctors here have been very attentive and concerned, and Miriam has seen several specialists and endured many tests which have ruled out things like parasites, bacterial infections, appendicitis, and other more serious conditions. She's been a champ through it all and we're so proud of her for being so brave even though she's felt so yucky.

Despite how hard the last few weeks have been, we've had several bright moments, including a hospital visit from Darcey & Reinhard Neufeld and John & Doris Storey, missionaries from Winnipeg who live in Rasa (about one and a half hours from Bucharest). "Grandpa" Reinhard and "Grandma" Darcey have been so loving toward our girls and we're excited to get to know them and the Storeys better. We're planning a trip to Rasa to visit them soon and we were so encouraged by their visit!

This experience has been especially hard on our little Eden and we would appreciate your prayers for her too. She has missed her mommy and sister and because of hospital rules she isn't allowed on the ward where Miriam is staying. Because we don't have help with childcare for Eden, we haven't really been together as a family since Miriam has been in the hospital because one of us always needs to be with each child. We've been switching places often to give Chrissie a break and to give Miriam time with her daddy, but this means we don't get to spend any time together. Making big health-related decisions for your kids is challenging when you can never really be in the same room at the same time, but we are very thankful for FaceTime! We are so looking forward to Miriam's discharge from the hospital so we can be together as a family again.

Another challenge that has come up in recent days is the matter of our visas. We were confident that we'd be able to obtain our visas within the first 90 days of being in Romania but this now looks like it may not be a possibility. The authorities have just now approved our documents to be submitted for a visa application, and the approval process can take anywhere from 10 days to 2 months. We have only 24 days before our 90 days is up and if our visa isn't approved by then we will be forced to leave Romania for another 90 days before we re-enter. This would not be an ideal situation for obvious reasons, as we would not look forward to being displaced again, either in Moldova or Austria for three whole months. We are eager to settle in here as a family and adjust to our new life in Romania, so please pray for a super speedy visa process for our family or some other loophole that would allow us to stay in the country legally.

Thank you so much for your prayers friends! Please continue praying for Miriam in the coming days.

If you're curious about what we're doing in Romania, click here to read more about our work here, and click here to see a video of our story.

If you'd like to make a donation to our ministry, click here

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Sunday 16 October 2016

Please Pray for Miriam

Hi friends,

We're asking for your prayers today for our daughter Miriam. She's our beautiful, vibrant and active 4-year-old miracle and she's been sick for 14 days with vomiting and diarrhea.

She was admitted to the hospital earlier this week for dehydration but after being released the next day her condition quickly deteriorated and we've been in the hospital again for the last 3 days (Chrissie is able to stay with her). Despite the best efforts of the doctors and nurses she is stable (receiving fluids and electrolytes by IV) but her condition has not yet improved. They are running lots of tests trying to determine whether or not this is simply a nasty viral infection that's getting the better of her, or something more complicated - we have been exposed to some unsafe water in the last while so the doctors are keeping this in mind as well.

We would like to ask for your prayers for Miriam, that God would heal her body. If she doesn't improve in the coming week, Miriam and Chrissie will be forced to fly back to Canada to receive treatment there as our current travel health insurance policy expires on October 31st. Miriam won't be eligible for travel health insurance after that date and while private health care is not incredibly expensive here, we cannot afford to pay for her care ourselves (approximately $350 Canadian dollars per day). This possibility brings with it all kinds of fear and confusion, and so we ask that you would pray with us and for us in this situation.

We appreciate your support and prayer more than you know, and we know that so many of you are already praying. Thank you so much for standing with us. We love you.

If you're curious about what we're doing in Romania, click here to read more about our work here, and click here to see a video of our story.

If you'd like to make a donation to our ministry, click here.     

Sunday 9 October 2016

Working Through the Tough Stuff

Hello Everyone,

I (Jerry) am finally getting around to doing a blog post of my own. For the most part Chrissie has been sharing the updates so I thought it was my turn. I'm going to split this update into two parts: First, an update on our immersion time, and then a ministry update.

So far our immersion time in Romania, as most of you know, has been quite challenging...probably more challenging than our Facebook posts and blog posts of late have been portraying; after all, we are still Canadian and like to portray that everything is fine or better than fine, even when it's not. But to be honest, there have been many times during our immersion time here in Bucharest where we have been far from fine. While there have definitely been good times, it is tough being here in Romania. Our food situation has been hard, the language has seemed impossible, the people cold (strangers that is...our Romanian friends have been SO kind and wonderful), and the drivers are as wild as the stray dogs that seem to be on every corner. Yes, that is harsh and a bit unreasonable, but it is often how we feel. Also, ever since we left Canada, and even before we left, I've been dealing with thoughts like, "What are you doing? You just made the biggest mistake of your life!", "You worked for 12 years and built a successful career for this? You blew it!", "Your kids lives are ruined! They have no future here!", "You'll never learn the language and will not be useful for helping anyone or doing anything for God here", "You are the wrong person for this job"... stuff like that and more. We've been getting sick almost weekly from food poisoning (the food safety standards are very different here than we're used to!) or viruses that our bodies have never experienced before. We've had bad colds and the worst stomach flu either Chrissie or I have experienced in decades.  We're dealing with bugs (of the insect variety), and now serious second degree burns on my arm and hand after an accident with some hot tea. Eden's hand was also burned, although we are so thankful that God spared her the pain I'm experiencing - her burn was only a first degree burn and she has recovered almost completely.

Aside from the physical and spiritual struggles we're experiencing, we're also struggling financially. Before we left Canada we only had 65% of our monthly support raised. We weren't worried because we believed that the rest would come in once we left to Romania...but it hasn't. Yet. And due to factors beyond our control, our financial needs have actually grown due to some unforeseen circumstances: needing to put our kids into half-time kindergarten unexpectedly because no other childcare was available while we attend language training ($500/month for 3 months), needing to rent a car until we could find one to purchase ($700), and some confusion around food and meals with our host family that meant we had to spend much more on food in September than we should have. After looking at our October budget the numbers just don't add up and so we're just trusting God to provide for our family here even when it doesn't make sense to us.

If it sounds like I am complaining, I'm not. We expected things to be difficult here and we know that God is working all these things for good, and that these times are character-building. We are not missing the lessons in these trials! I just believe it's important to paint an accurate picture of what we are going through so that you know how important your support is to us, and so that you know how to pray for us (we've shared some prayer requests at the end of this post!). And it hasn't been all bad. We've had many good times also, amidst the struggles.

(We spent a few hours at the PeleČ™ Castle in Sinaia on our way back to Bucharest from PDF this week.)

At the end of November we will be moving to the PDF centre to begin our official ministry service there. The main role that they have for me is to facilitate the start up of a 3-month discipleship Bible School that is scheduled to begin on April 3 and end on June 16. We spent a week at the centre recently to attend the yearly planning meetings (it was only supposed to be a weekend away, but the flu and the whole burn incident stretched out our time there!). The meetings were two days of reviewing the last year and planning for the coming year. Despite the whole meeting being in Romanian (Cipri, the cook, translated to English for me), the meeting went well. I got the sense that the staff are tired from last year because there are many programs running at the centre and lots of work to do.  I am glad to be there to help share some of the burden.

Aside from facilitating the Bible School (12 weeks) while it is running, I have been scheduled to assist with summer camp for teenagers, the mountain survival wilderness program, and to teach snowboarding in the winter. Once the Bible School is finished this spring we will likely be going to the Torchbearers International Bible School Staff Conference at the Torchbearers Center in England (Capernwray Hall).

In order for the Bible School to run this spring we will need a minimum of 10 students enrolled and around 5-6 lecturers committed. Currently there are no students enrolled (although there are several interested) and we have one lecturer who has verbally committed to teaching for a week. Logistically, it will be a huge challenge for the centre to facilitate the program this spring. But we know that nothing is impossible with God and if He wants the school to start this coming spring then we trust that everything will fall into place in His timing. There is a Bible School Council composed of me, Ebbe (PDF director), and Florin (PDF assistant director) and we plan to have our first official meeting in two weeks to begin the planning for the Bible School. Ebbe has been on an extended leave (to North America and Germany) and will finally be back in the country at that time. Please pray that we would have wisdom and clarity about the timing of the start of the Bible School and how it should run.

In the meantime, when I haven't been studying Romanian, spending time with Chrissie and the kids, or taking care of other business, I have been trying to create awareness of the Bible School through social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). The number of people following PDF's social media has tripled since I've started working on it, which is great! I have also been contacting other Torchbearer Schools to create awareness with their students, as some schools have fall semesters but not spring semesters like PDF is planning. There are several Torchbearer Bible Schools in Europe that are ideal for our students to come from. Please pray that God would draw students to the school.

Anyway, if you are still reading this, thank you so much for caring and supporting us while we are here in Romania. We really couldn't be here if you weren't supporting us the way you have been and please know that God is using your support in a big way in our lives. I know it may seem as though we are getting nothing done here in Bucharest (because it sometimes feels to us like we're spinning our wheels!) but this time is critical for us to learn about how Romanians live and to learn to speak the Romanian language. There is some really important and incredibly relevant Kingdom work that goes on at the PDF centre and we are beyond excited to get into it full time very soon.

Here are some needs/prayer requests for October:

1. Praise God that our relationships with the staff at PDF are growing. We enjoy spending time with all the staff and we can already see friendships forming - this is so exciting and we're so thankful for this! And during our times of great need in the last few months they have been so supportive and helpful!

2. Praise God that he provided a vehicle for us! We're so very thankful for our little Peugeot and it has really made this whole experience a lot easier on us!

3. Praise God for all of YOU in Canada (and elsewhere in the world too!) who are supporting us financially and/or through prayer and friendship. We are so grateful to God for surrounding us with such a supportive community of people who love us and pray for us and send us encouraging messages.

4. Please pray for our physical health and strength. We have endured a lot of sickness and injury these last few months and we're beginning to feel weary and weak. We're praying for strong bodies and minds to get through our initial language learning and immersion time.

5. Please pray for God to provide more monthly support for us so we're able to live a frugal, yet sustainable lifestyle here with the ability to cover the costs for our health insurance, saving a small amount for retirement, and paying for things like going to the dentist and for our kids' childcare. We are short about $800/month in support right now.

6. Please pray for the visa process - if our visas aren't processed by November 10th we will be forced to leave Romania for an undetermined length of time to "reset" the 90-day period we're allowed to be in the country without a visa. Having to leave the country would be an added stress, not to mention an added expense we cannot afford right now.

7. We are in the process of making a decision about whether or not to register for the level 2 language class running for the first 2 weeks of November (our current course ends at the end of October). The cost for this is $600 (for both of us), and we're trusting that if God wants us to take this class that he'll provide the funds to pay for it. Please pray also for clarity as we decide what to do with our time in November.