What a sweet and exciting time the last few months have been! Thank you everyone, near and far, who helped us celebrate the beginning of our marriage. Having so many of our loved ones in the same room during that day was something we will always cherish.
With so many new beginnings, transition has been a common word we find ourselves using lately. Many of the transitions are exciting things that we’ve been anticipating for what seems like forever. However, like with any change (good or bad), we have also experienced some growing pains. It can be challenging to let go of something good…even if it’s for something great. Please pray that we continue to experience God’s peace, and for continued freedom from anxiety, as we navigate these changes.
As many of you know, Dustin returned home after serving for two years in Cape Town last August. Living on the same continent was certainly a plus for us! We considered deleting facetime for good at that point. Don’t worry, we didn’t. Once he adjusted to the time change, and felt a little more oriented, he began getting more plugged in with what our church is doing in Nashville. It quickly became clear that God wanted to use us in the refugee and immigrant community of Nashville. We got connected with an organization in Woodbine called Begin Anew. Dustin has been helping Begin Anew’s ESL ministry serving immigrants from all over the world. We have also been able to do children classes and childcare for the parents needing a hand as they take ESL.
During the past few months we have had the opportunity to learn fun and engaging ways to share God’s word. One tool we are learning is how to be good storytellers! Through a group of people we work with weekly, generous mentors, and our friends and family being willing to listen to us practice, we are slowly learning the art of crafting bible stories that are engaging and true to scripture. We are looking forward to seeing how this impacts our ministry here and overseas.
In March we had the chance to go to a Trauma Healing Institute conference in Philadelphia. We were just blown away by the great work these people are doing! The institute focuses on ministering to people around the globe by first helping them work through traumatic experiences they have had. They have come up with various different paths and curriculums to help walk with people as they work towards healing and freedom. We had the privilege of hearing a counselor who grew up in Rwanda speak about the healing that this program has offered her people after the genocide. It was also an honor to hear an American missionary who survived Ebola talk about her experience. There were several tools we gained from this conference that we know will be beneficial as we encounter children and adults dealing with traumatic situations.
For the last few years Carolyn has worked as a pediatric emergency nurse at Vanderbilt. She has loved her time there, and learned so much about herself and nursing during that time. So, it was bittersweet working her last full-time shift there a couple weeks ago. She will be continuing to work shifts here and there until we depart in the fall. As many of you know, Carolyn will soon be starting her schooling to become a Nurse Midwife. She will be going to school part-time as we serve on the field. We are excited to see how God uses all of this in the years to come.
On our four month wedding anniversary (about two weeks ago) we began our 9 week training with the International Mission Board (IMB). The training is formally called Field Personnel Orientation (FPO). The training takes place on a farm in Richmond, Virginia. The time here is used to pour into us before we depart for South Africa. We have already learned so much and have met some incredible people and it’s barely been two weeks. We spent the first week of training in New York City. The purpose of it was to learn how to learn about a new city and culture. During our time there we were asked to immerse ourselves in the culture. So, we stayed in a neighborhood in Queens called Jackson Heights. It is the most culturally diverse neighborhood in NYC, and their claim to fame is that there are about 260 different languages spoken in the area. We LOVED it. We went to several ethnic restaurants (Indian, Peruvian, and even Afghanistan). The majority of the time we knew what we were eating. We got on the wrong subways and buses often. Dustin played pick-up basketball in the park. We also made a point to go to a laundromat and chat with locals as we all did our laundry. We had the opportunity to interview a church planting couple from Knoxville who are fostering with hopes of adopting. Carolyn loved taking care of baby while mom got to eat!
A few experiences stuck out to us from NYC. As many of you know, NYC is a city that is extremely fast paced and everyone also seems to have somewhere to go…fast. So, in an environment like that it’s pretty easy for manners to fly out of the window.
One day while riding the subway, which was extremely crowded, Carolyn was standing next to an older man when someone quickly got up, opening up a free seat. The man pointed at the seat and said to Carolyn: “Sit.” She responded by saying: “No, No. You sit.” He responded, more firmly the second time: “Sit.” So, Carolyn sat in the free seat. He then said: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” We both took that as a great lesson for all areas of life, especially when it comes to the mixing of several cultures. A second highlight to New York was Easter Sunday. During the week, we had the honor of seeing quite a bit of ministry being done with refugees and immigrants in the Jackson Heights area. One man that has been monumental in this is an Indian church planter. He is well respected in the community by people of all different walks of life. He recently began hosting church on Sunday mornings at a Muslim owned restaurant. We worshipped the Lord in several different languages that morning with brothers and sisters from all over the globe.
So, what next?! Once we finish training we will be applying for our South African Visas. We are hopeful that we will obtain a three year volunteer visa. Please join us in praying for this to be a quick and smooth process. Carolyn will be attending orientation for midwifery school in August, and then we plan to depart for South Africa in September. We hope to spend our summer pouring into our church community at Woodbine and seeing YOU. So, please please connect with us to set up a time to get together! Our e-mails are: email@example.com and Carolyn.firstname.lastname@example.org .
We cannot tell you how thankful we are for each of you. Thank you for partnering with us through prayer, fundraising, and encouraging words. This summer we will be planning an event to share more with you, and fundraise. We will be sure to keep everyone in the loop on the details. If you’d like to contribute prior to the event, you can do this by clicking on the ‘Partner With Us’ tab at the top of this page.
Thanks for reading our long update J, we hope to see you this summer!
Dustin and Carolyn