Sunday 12 December 2021

Fall 2021 Update - It's Been Awhile...

Hello friends!

It's been far too long since we shared an update with you - it's been a really challenging last half of 2021 and we're finally sitting down to tell you all about it.

Ministry Update:

In our last update back in the spring we shared all about the beginning of the Spring Mission Bible School. We had 10 students from Germany, the US, Canada, and Romania, and it was a wonderful season of ministry.

Because Covid cases in Romania dropped significantly over the spring season, the students were able to go to Mangalia near the Black Sea for their mission outreach week. They connected with the local youth there and a missionary family (the Andersons from the US) who support the local youth group. They did a lot of children's ministry and street evangelism in connection with a local church. It was a wonderfully stretching time for the students. 

Also because of the drop in Covid cases, PdF was able to loosen restrictions here at the centre so we and the other staff could spend time with the students more freely and safely. Most of the Bible School staff and students were able to get vaccinated about halfway through the spring semester, so that also made things easier. We are SO thankful to God that there were no Covid cases at the centre during the Spring Bible School and there were no quarantines that would have interfered with the program. 

We're so very thankful for the group of 10 students who attended Bible School in the spring and for how were were able to watch them grow during their time at PdF. We are grateful for the relationships we built with them and for how many of them have gone on to serve God in their home countries and continue their education, carrying the torch of the gospel of Jesus Christ with them wherever they go. 

Jerry spent the summer studying hard to prepare for his lecture series on the book of John, which he taught this fall during PdF's first ever Fall Bible School (more on that in a minute).

Because Covid cases were almost non-existent in the summer here in Romania, PdF was able to run children, youth, and young adult camps with minimal restrictions. We are so thankful for this!!

Jerry also worked as a leader in the Outdoor Challenge camp for Romanian young adults in the summer, and prepared for Fall Bible School, connecting with prospective students and processing applications.

Because of Covid restrictions and a variety of other factors, attracting students to the Bible School programs here at Pdf is a big challenge. At the end of September, as Covid cases began to rise again, 4 Bible School students (all female!) arrived and we began the first ever Fall Bible School here at Pdf. 

Doing ministry during a pandemic is extra challenging and after 3 weeks of Bible School we had our first brush with Covid that landed our family, the Bible School students, and two other volunteer staff members in quarantine for almost 3 weeks. 

Running the Bible School from home and organizing lectures and activities online while taking care of sick family members was really overwhelming for Jerry. Eden, Miriam and Chrissie all tested positive for Covid during this time, but Jerry never caught it (he tested negative multiple times). One student and one RA also got sick, but everyone recovered quickly and nobody had anything more than mild symptoms. We are so thankful for this.

Unfortunately this 3-week challenge caused the momentum of the program to slow, it brought up a lot of frustrations and discouragement for everyone involved, it slowed down the relationships we were building with the students, it made the lectures more arduous for the students (because isn't everyone tired of Zoom meetings by this point in the pandemic!? We sure are!), and it prevented the students from experiencing anything off the campus (they couldn't do outreaches or go to church during this time) or building relationships with the other PdF staff. 

Once again we're very thankful to God for how He has worked in the program since we all recovered from Covid and the quarantine time - the students have enjoyed in-person lectures again for the remainder of the program and we've been able to re-connect with the students, have them in our home for Family Group, and Chrissie has been able to resume in-person mentor sessions. 

Jerry taught one week of lectures on the book of John, and Chrissie also taught a 3-hour lecture series on Biblical Womanhood. Both of us enjoyed connecting with the students through these teaching and discussion times. 

The students were also able to go to Mangalia for the Mission Outreach week where they connected with the Anderson family (local missionaries there), the local church and youth group, and do some street evangelism. Jerry preached a sermon on Sunday morning and the students and staff led worship and the rest of the church service. They also stayed with Vali and Emilia, 2 former Bible School students from 2017 who run a ministry near Calarasi, Romania. The team helped Vali and Emilia with practical work projects and installed a new kitchen for them.

As this Bible School comes to a close we are exhausted. This 12-week program, with all the added Covid challenges, has felt like a marathon for us. We are both working too many hours and Jerry's workload at PdF is too high. 

The PdF General Assembly (board of directors) has approved a Registrar Position that would begin in 2022 - someone who would come alongside Jerry and take on the bulk of his administrative tasks. We are absolutely THRILLED that this position has been approved and it's possible that Christina, one of the RAs from last spring, may fill the position. We are praying for God to make a way for her to join the PdF staff team in this capacity and we are confident that she is a great person for the job - someone who would excel at the responsibilities Jerry needs to pass along to lighten his workload. Please pray along with us for whoever God has prepared to fill this job, and that whoever it is would start soon!!

During the first week of January Jerry will lead a few Snowboard Instructor Training days for PdF's snowboard instructors and he will prepare for the Snowboard Camp that begins in the second week of January. He'll also serve in 2 other Ski/Snowboard camps throughout the winter season, as well as prepare for the Spring Mission Bible School.

Family Update:

The second half of this year has been a tough one for our family. After an amazing but very busy Spring Mission Bible School semester we planned to take 2 weeks off to re-connect as a family. Because of Covid restrictions we had to stay close to home, and our kids ended up with a bad cough and cold (not Covid-19) for two thirds of our vacation. We had a few days together by the Black Sea where everyone was well enough to have fun, so we're thankful for that. But it definitely wasn't the time to re-charge like we'd hoped. 

Living and working in the same place along with the long hours full-time ministry requires means that getting away becomes even more important to the family unit. This is something all the staff here experience from time to time, and we're no exception. 

Because of this, we decided to make the most of a couple summer weekends when Jerry had 2 or 3 days off in a row and head off on some family camping adventures. We had a blast sleeping in the tent together, cooking and eating outside, and going on some fun and adventurous bike rides and hikes as a family. 

We tried to bike together as much as possible this summer and it's an activity all 4 of us enjoy doing together. We're excited to plan more extensive biking trips together in the future as the kids get older and are able to bike longer distances. 

The girls have been doing school at home since their school closed in March 2020 and this year we knew it was time for a change. We researched a few school options in the spring and applied to a private school in Brasov. The girls began attending there on September 1st and we are very happy with the quality of the education they're receiving. 

The school is accredited both Internationally through Cambridge and also in Romania (with the state) so this gives the girls lots of options for their future studies. Next year the school will extend to include the high school grades (up to grade 12) so we are thankful to have a long-term option for their education as well. 

We're so thankful God provided such a great school for our girls, and we're excited for them to be a light in the community there as the only evangelical students.

They're also the only children in their classes with two foreign parents (most kids who attend have at least one Romanian parent), so this presents a big challenge for them as the classes are all in the Romanian language, except for the English and German language classes. We've been very impressed with their teachers and the extra support that's been provided for them to help with their language learning.  Praise God for this!

This new school routine has put extra pressure on Chrissie as the drive to school is about 45-minutes one way. She drives about 3 hours a day just to take the kids to and from school, so it's a big burden to bear. But with not many suitable educational options available where we live it's an important sacrifice. This school is also a big financial commitment as the tuition payments are high, but it's the best option for our girls to get a good education here (with their unique needs as foreigners and Romanian language learners) so it's a sacrifice we have to make. 

This fall season has been a heavy one for our family, first with the start of the brand new Fall Bible School program (Jerry has used the fall season in the past for a lot of office work and Bible School preparations), and second with our family contracting Covid and the girls' school going online for 4 weeks. 

We're so thankful to God for protecting our family - our illness was mild and we were able to get better pretty quickly - and we're also thankful that the online schooling didn't extend more than just a few weeks. The girls were so glad to get back to in-person learning and Chrissie was pretty relieved too!

Miriam has also been going through a tough time that has challenged us as parents. This has made an already challenging season even heavier for us. 

Because the Bible School is small, all the students are female, and there's only one RA to assist Jerry, both of us have been carrying a big load this fall and it's taken a toll on all 4 of us and especially on our marriage. We are praying for Christina to join the PdF staff team to help carry the load of the Bible Schools and to be a person to whom Jerry can delegate some of his leadership tasks so he can take enough days off (and actually shut off his phone, knowing someone else will handle whatever arises). 

Despite the stressful time we've enjoyed a very mild fall, and so we've been able to do a few family hikes and bike rides together.

As we write this the Fall Bible School is coming to a close and we're planning a small road trip to Austria for Christmas after Bible School ends. We're looking forward to getting away as a family, having some slow days at our Airbnb, browsing some Christmas Markets, and of course doing some skiing and snowboarding together with our Austrian friends and their kids. We're praying it will be a time of rest and rejuvenation for all of us before we begin another year of ministry.

Prayer Requests:

Please join us in thanking God for:

  1. a safe and successful Fall Bible School.  
  2. 2 RAs confirmed for the Spring Mission Bible School in 2022. Ana from Romania and Lukas from Germany will be the RAs for the next SMBS.
  3. our health and safety. We're so thankful God healed us of Covid-19 and prevented serious illness.
  4. His financial provision. We have our immediate needs met each month, even during the economic instability of the pandemic, and we're so thankful to God for His provision.  
  5. the progress that's being made on the new Guest Lodge building at PdF! Construction on the second wing is moving quickly.

Please join us in praying for:

  1. God to send the right students to register for the upcoming Spring Mission Bible School 2022.
  2. God to send the right students to register for the Fall Bible School in 2022
  3. our marriage and family; that we would prioritize our marriage over our work, and make time to communicate and nurture our marriage even in the midst of a very overwhelming ministry schedule.
  4. Our children; that God would continue drawing them closer to Himself every day, that they would learn how to love God in the way He calls them as children, and that they would love each other in a way that pleases the Lord each day.
  5. Our girls' education; that they would continue to grow in their Romanian language skills and have great courage in using the Romanian words and phrases they know. That they would make good friends and have good influences at school. 
  6. Miriam. Please pray for us as parents to have wisdom to parent her through the challenges she's experiencing.
  7. Continued health and protection from Covid-19 and other sickness and injury.
  8. Safety. Please pray for safety for Jerry, the staff, participants and students for all the PdF programs.
  9. Open Borders and limited travel restrictions between Europe and North America in God's timing, so students and staff from Canada and the US can come to Torchbearer Centres throughout the world for Bible School. 
  10. Chrissie's health. Chrissie will go for a head MRI in January (with sedation) to further investigate her vertigo and related issues.
  11. Staff relationships at PdF.  Please pray for peace among the staff, for heaps and heaps of understanding and love despite the cultural differences, and for us all to learn to serve one another better, being considerate of one another. Also, for healing in places where there has been hurt, and for wisdom for us to know how to manage difficult interpersonal conflicts and challenging issues over cultural barriers, especially during this Covid season.
  12. Wisdom for the PdF leadership as they navigate delivering programs amid many restrictions and safety concerns. That they would be led by God and continue demonstrating care for the PdF staff.
  13. Christina, the possible Bible School Registrar. We are praying for Christina as she considers accepting the role of Bible School Registrar here at PdF. 

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