Nineteen years ago today, I married my best friend, Joy.
... and well before his first birthday, we were commissioned by our church to head to the mission field. That was 17 years ago, and we've spent the vast majority of our married life since, living and serving in cross-cultural contexts.
Everywhere we've lived, whether for a few months, or many years, (and that has been many, many different places over the years) Joy has expertly and lovingly worked her magic to make our house a home--a safe, warm, and loving place for me and for our kids, of which we now have six. This was our first home, a 390 square foot, one-room log cabin, in a small Athabascan Native American village, just north of the Arctic Circle. We were there for two years, during which time God allowed us to be broken in our own strengths and skills, but where we learned to completely rely on Him and His strength.
Six months after that, we were well on our way to joining MAF, and a few months later, it became official! Our first assignment with MAF was to the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia.
But first we had to learn to speak Indonesian... which meant almost a year of language school in Java.
Then, until the summer of 2013, we served as a pilot/mechanic family, based out of Tarakan, Kalimantan.
Everything was not always easy during those years. In fact there were many challenges along the way--but always, I had my best friend, my Joy, with me, and we faced those challenges together, anchored in our faith in God, and our commitment to each other, and by His grace we really enjoyed and thrived during those years in Indonesia. To this day, our kids still view Indonesia as their true 'home' since that is where they feel they 'grew up' and in many ways the same could be said of Joy and me.
Here are a few shots of me and my Joy, during those years. Thanks to my good friend, and great photographer, Tripp Flythe, for taking the all of these next shots, except the one where I'm in the green shirt, and Joy in the pink.
After our time in Indonesia, we transitioned to a new assignment with MAF in East Africa. But first we had to do some training with the MAF International office in England... a place Joy has always loved!
The next few months, before we moved to East Africa, we had a bit of time to recharge our spiritual, emotional, and physical batteries.
As we tried to process, both individually, and as a family, the myriad emotions we felt saying goodbye to Indonesia, a special highlight for all of us was the 5-week tent-camping trip we took through the American West, visiting many National parks, and just decompressing in God's beautiful creation.
In early 2014 we arrived in Uganda, East Africa...
... where we continue to live and serve today!
This was a huge transition for our family, but as usual, Joy quickly made our house a home, and has always been the biggest cheerleader for both me and my kids. AND, she still likes to ride my motorcycle with me!
My Joy is an amazing woman! She has a huge heart to serve, and feels empathy and compassion for ALL who are suffering, on levels that I will never understand. She is especially drawn to the 'least of these' -- people whom many others might be even be a bit hesitant to approach, b/c of the disease they carry, or the dirt or smell or disability they have. But not Joy--she always jumps right in and loves them the way Christ would. And she loves me and my kids the same way, despite all of our equally daunting faults and issues! My Joy has been my best friend and cheerleader all these years--from the mountains of Northeast Tennessee, to the Boreal forests of the Arctic Circle, and from the Jungles of southeast Asia, to the Rift Valley of East Africa. During this time, I have often travelled to serve in many additional places, for a month or more at a time, and Joy has held always encouraged me to do so, happy to hold down our fort, alone in my absence--no small job in the U.S., but all the more challenging in the places where we've lived. I think there are probably not too many women who would be happy to live a life like the one she has. She is an amazing woman--my Joy! I'm so blessed to have had her by my side these past 19 years, and I look forward to what God has in store for us in the years to come!
Happy 19th anniversary to my best friend!