Yesterday morning I went out for a little exercise. As I took my first deep breath, my olfactory nerves immediately said, “Christmas.”

What they had picked up on was the heavy presence of dust in the air—dust that had blown in with the cool, northern winds that arrive this time of year, known as the harmattan. Maureen has done a lot of baking and has decorated the house beautifully, but it was the dusty smell of harmattan that told me, “Christmas is here!”

My teammate Jeff Holland forwarded me this article on Christmas in Asia. Of course, the comments on Singapore interested us. I’ve never seen a display of Christmas lights in America that can compete with the Orchard Road shopping district in Singapore. But most puzzling was the question the article brought to mind—“If Muslims in Indonesia can wish one another “Merry Christmas,” why do retailers in America have a problem with it?” On the other hand, maybe we are better off if those for whom the phrase has been emptied of it’s true meaning, do just stop saying it.

For those of you who didn’t get our mass e-mailout, here’s our family’s annual year-in-review:

Dear friends,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you! It’s once again time for our annual update. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how the years keep getting shorter and shorter?

Early in the year, we celebrated Chinese New Year with our teammates here in Tabligbo. Anthony participated in the annual Watchi men’s meeting, spending three nights in Sedome.

In March, we were blessed with a visit from Alan and Lanita Henderson with their sons Levi and Josiah. Alan was Anthony’s roommate back in their college days at Lipscomb and has been a great friend ever since.

We all worshiped on Easter Sunday with the Adangbe cluster of churches in the isolated village of Bagoukope. The road to the village took out our vehicle’s four-wheel drive, but we managed to keep the car moving for a wild, West Africa road trip through Togo, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. In Burkina, we visited the Nazinga Game Ranch, which has one of the most dense elephant populations in West Africa, and we were not disappointed with our elephant encounters. We also visited our friends on the team working among the Dagara people of Burkina. Probably the most terrifying aspect of the trip, at least for the Hendersons, was fighting night-time traffic in Kumasi, Ghana. We also visited the Elmina slave castle before the Hendersons flew out of Accra.

Togo faced a political crisis in the first half of the year following the death of the long-time president. His son was immediately appointed president, but stepped down after local and international calls for elections. He was finally declared winner of the hotly-contested election, which provoked some violent clashes between security forces and protestors. Things were eerily quiet here in Tabligbo, but in light of reports of violence coming in from surrounding towns, we decided to go to Ghana to wait out the situation. With the Hollands and Crowsons already out of the country on furlough, our family and the Koonces evacuated with our two short-term couples, the Bontragers and Newlins, who returned to the States.

Security in Togo returned to safe levels very quickly and we only had to stay out of the country for a short time. While we were in Ghana, we were blessed by the hospitality of the Village of Hope, an orphanage that became, for us, a place of refuge. We also enjoyed the previously scheduled West African Missionary Retreat while we were there.

The month of July found our family divided—but only geographically. Anthony traveled to the States to take a course toward an advanced degree, while Maureen and the boys went to Singapore to be with family and friends there. Anthony was able to get to know his new niece Emma Grace. In September, we welcomed a new Singaporean nephew/cousin, Justin Lee, whom we have yet to

meet, into the world.

Anthony made two trips this year to visit churches and Christians in Benin. The Watchi churches held their annual all-church conference in August and a three-day women’s meeting in November. Our final trip this year was a Thanksgiving holiday trip to northern Togo for our kids’ sports camp, where the boys worked on their soccer, baseball, football, and basketball skills.

In our ministry, Anthony has continued to put a lot of energy this year into the translation of the Train & Multiply leadership training curriculum. The process is almost complete and we look forward to having the final edition into the hands of Watchi leaders soon. The concept, which focuses on leaders mentoring leaders, is beginning to take root and several Watchi leaders are mentoring younger ones. Anthony has also been involved in mentoring the elders of the Tabligbo church and teaching in different villages.

A new area of ministry for Anthony this year has been writing scripts for World Christian Broadcasting. WCB, based in Franklin, Tennessee, operates a short-wave radio station in Anchor Point, Alaska and is constructing a second station in Madagascar. All programming is oriented toward non-believers and is broadcast in English, Chinese, Russian and, soon, Arabic.

Maureen has been more active in women’s ministry this year, building relationships through village visits, teaching some on health issues, and using her nursing skills as opportunities have arisen. Her primary ministry continues to be in the home where her three boys keep her very busy, and where she enjoys extending hospitality to those who come our way.

Jeremy and Jonathan continue to grow and mature. Jeremy is now in second grade and Jonathan is attending pre-school at our local Tabligbo “MK” school. They both enjoy their teachers, Miss Stacey and Miss Jenna, as do all of us on the team. They’ve also been learning a little Tae Kwan Do as their extra-curricular activity. Jeremy has developed a talent in origami, and Jonathan is a big Spiderman and Star Wars fan.

Many of our thoughts this year have been on our upcoming transition to life in the States. We plan to leave Togo in early May 2006 and, after about a month’s visit in Singapore, arrive in the States in June. This is part of our team’s overall phase-out strategy and this decision has not come about because of any unhappiness with our life and work in Togo.

We know that it is time for a change, but we are not yet sure which direction God is leading us. It is a time for building faith and trust in God. We covet your prayers as we seek His direction, as we pray God’s blessings on you and those dear to you.

With love,

Anthony, Maureen, Jeremy, and Jonathan Parker