For those who may have gotten overlooked in the bulk email-out, we also wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas season.

This year has been yet another in which God has demonstrated his abiding faithfulness to our family. Though there have been many moments of stress and uncertainty, we can look back at year’s end to see how God’s hand has worked in our lives over this past year.

We started out the year in Togo, already preparing for our fast-approaching departure. Anthony was able to complete work on translating the Train & Multiply leadership training series which continues to be used among the Watchi leaders, and is also being translated into the Kabiye (Togo) and Dagara (Burkina Faso) languages. Our final months in Togo were filled with goodbyes as we visited each of the church clusters, as well as packing, selling, shipping, praying, and planning for Maureen’s immigration to the U.S. Shortly before leaving Africa we were able to participate in one last West Africa Missionary Retreat in Ghana. The following week, Anthony flew to the States to interview for a ministry position. While we thought that might be the direction that God was leading our family, it turned out that He had other plans.

We left Togo on Jeremy’s birthday, May 4, following a memorable day in Lomé with our teammates relaxing at a newly-found hotel. At the hotel that day, we were able to meet a Togolese artist whose work we had long admired, and purchased one of his paintings as a last souvenir. Our wonderful teammates sent us off that evening with prayers and tears.

From Lomé, we flew to Paris, where we spent three days sightseeing and preparing ourselves for life out of Africa. We then flew to Singapore where we spent the rest of the month of May visiting family and friends there. Jeremy and Jonathan always love going to the Singapore Science Center. This year we visited the Night Safari for the first time, and we were also able to see some rare, undeveloped wetlands in the middle of this bustling city. As usual, we were spoiled by the hospitality of our Singaporean friends.

On May 31 we arrived in Chicago where Maureen’s immigration procedures went smoothly. The next day we met our family in Alabama, where the real process of missionary re-entry started. There seemed a million details to deal with – buying a car, purchasing insurance, getting cell phones, planning travel, and communicating with churches about prospective employment. These first several weeks in the States were hard, since we did not have our own place and had no idea how long we would be in transition. Our transition was made easier by the hospitality of family, as well as the Steve & Amy Castleman and Bill & Twila Jones families in Birmingham.

Maureen and I made a trip to Dallas to help with a Discovery Lab for Mission Alive, as we considered working with that incredible church-planting ministry. When we arrived in Dallas, Gailyn Van Rheenen greeted us with the sad and shocking news that our dear friend and colleague, Cyndi Chowning, had been killed in an accident in Benin. Anthony was able to return to Texas the following week for Cyndi’s funeral in Denison. Our hearts continue to go out to Richard and all of Cyndi’s family.

In the midst of the tragedy of Cyndi’s death, I (Anthony) was blessed to be able to see many missionary colleagues at her funeral. Two of these, Andy & Rhonda Wilson, our former co-workers in Benin, told me that the church in the small West Texas town of Albany where they had just moved was looking for a preacher. Though I did not pursue the opportunity immediately, it came up a second time at the encouragement of Dan McVey, so I thought that I should give it some attention. In the end, it turned out that this was just what God had planned for us all along.

In the meantime, we were blessed to be able to spend the last part of the summer and the autumn months in Birmingham. The Homewood church warmly received us and aided our reentry in so many ways, including helping out with rent and a very generous house warming, which was also supported by Christians from Disciples’ Fellowship. In Birmingham, Jeremy was able to attend Vestavia Hills Elementary East School, where he loved his teacher Mrs. Palmer. Jonathan stayed at home with Mom while Dad occupied an office at church where he prepared lessons, searched for a ministry, made travel plans, and worked on a survey of returned missionaries for a course project. We were able to do quite a bit of traveling in search for a ministry position. When we traveled to Albany to meet the church here, Anthony attended the ACU Lectures and renewed many relationships.

Through many prayers, God opened up the door to the ministry in Albany, and opened our hearts to the church, the town, and the people here. We were able to purchase a 1920s-era home just one block off Main Street and the courthouse square. Albany, though a small town, is rich in its civic pride. It boasts that it is “The Coolest Small Town in Texas,” and has the world-class art museum, publishing company, renowned steak house, exemplary schools, vast ranches, historic architecture, live theaters, and friendly people to prove it.

We spent our first two weeks here in the home of Ken and Marilyn Thompson. Ken is an elder in the church and he and Marilyn are truly “given to hospitality.” We are still in the middle of setting up house with bare walls and lots of unopened boxes. Jeremy is finishing up his third week at Nancy Smith Elementary School. Jonathan has spent many days at the Wilsons’ as Rhonda has graciously watched him while we painted several rooms in the house and moved in. Now we are preparing for a quick trip to Alabama to spend Christmas with Anthony’s family.

If you’ve made it this far, you are truly a faithful friend and we are grateful for your presence in our lives. May the coming of Christmas time herald an even fuller coming of the blessings of God into your life.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We managed to finally get a Christmas tree up this year!

Jeremy and Jonathan received new bikes for Christmas with money given by their “Ah Mah” (Grandmother) in Singapore. Seen in front of our home in Albany.

The boys got to see Santa at a Christmas event at the Old Jail Art Center.