I thought that you said that you had retired.

Well, we thought we had retired!

However, Ellen, at least, has been called out of retirement from August – November, 2023. How does that work? Well, John Myrick, an experienced TCK (Third Culture Kid) educator, became the TCK Education consultant in January of 2022 and has been doing an excellent job. However, the third-grade teacher at Rift Valley Academy and her family will be in the US for their Home Assignment from August – November of this year. John, along with his wife and two girls, will be heading to Kenya at the beginning of August so that John can fill this gap at the school. His wife, Becky, is also an elementary school teacher and will serve as a tutor. In a fun twist, both of their girls are rising third graders, so you guessed it – they will be in their dad’s class! This means that John is not available to fill the role of TCK Education consultant for the fall – I was asked if I could fill in and Bob and I agreed.

What does this mean? I will be part of the Children’s team for Waypoint from July 29th – August 4th in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. I will also be part of the Engage staff at Peachtree City, GA November 5th- 9th.

The Waypoint Retreat offers:

* Time alone with God in a beautiful, restful environment
* Time to share experiences serving cross-culturally and their impact within a small group and individually with a trained debriefer
* Dedicated, age-appropriate debriefing program for children and teens (through grade 12)
* Wide range of recreation options

Engage AIM is held at AIM’s Headquarters just outside of Atlanta as a final evaluation in determining if AIM is a good fit for our candidates. The week will orient missionary candidates to AIM and provide an introduction to African culture, insight into the missionary life, and training for raising financial support. These events are held in March, June, and November, with an age-appropriate children’s program running in parallel. A final decision on appointment to AIM will come about week after the event. Other responsibilities will include being in touch with each of our families who have been appointed and work with them on their Education Plan.

I will also be in touch with each family who is in the US on their Home Assignment and work with them on updating their plans for their children’s education. I am looking forward to this time of reconnecting with families that I have worked with in the past and getting to know new families at the beginning stages of their career.

Bob and I attended Waypoint at the beginning of 2022 as participants and believe that it is a very worthwhile program. He will be with me this time around as well and helping as he can.

In June we were able to visit two of our kids and their families. Much of the month was spent with Ginny, Stephen, Luke and “Little Blue” Bracht. We enjoyed camping at the Grand Canyon and Ghost Ranch as well as time with them in their home in Albuquerque.

In the middle of that trip, we were able to spend about 10 days in British Columbia with James, Daphne, and Peter (with Luke and Ginny joining us for a few days). Being together was amazing, but the big highlight was that James was ordained as a priest in the Antiochian Orthodox Church! The music sounded like a heavenly choir and now James is further able to officially use the gifts that God has given him.

Otherwise, we are becoming reengaged in our sending church, Creekside Community Church, spending time with Bob’s mom who is now in a wonderful memory care unit in Gainesville, working on projects in Bob’s mom’s 64 year old house where we are currently living, and visiting our kids, grand kids and other friends.

July 22nd marked one year since Bob’s open-heart surgery. His cardiologist recently told him his heart was beating strong and steady. We praise God for his good health

January 20-21 2019: The Super Blood Wolf Moon!

The first full moon of 2019 featured a total eclipse visible across much of North America. I have always enjoyed the night sky, starting when I hunted at night with my Dad. When my family and I lived in northern Kenya in the late 80s, we were astounded by the brilliance of a moonless starry night.

Orion in the night sky
Orion over Mom’s house

We even experienced a lunar eclipse not long after moving there.

Lunar eclipse, northern Kenya, 1985

So I was pretty excited about this event. There was a lot of hype leading up to it as a “Super Blood Wolf Moon”! “Blood Moon” because the moon is somewhat reddish from light scattered through earth’s atmosphere when it is in total eclipse. “Super Moon” because the moon is at its closest to earth. And some native cultures called the January full moon the “Wolf Moon”.

There was also good information on the photography websites about equipment and settings to use. My camera is an Olympus EM-5, a mirroless, micro 4/3 piece. I chose to use the longest lens I own, a 200mm Minolta manual lens that I bought on eBay for $25. I have an adapter to mount it on the EM-5.

A few nights before I set the camera up on the tripod to take some shots and see what settings worked best for me. For a bright moon, what looked best to me was to set the ISO to 200, manually set the aperture on the lens to f/11 and shoot at 1/350.

Camera settings test

Sunday the 20th turned out to be very cloudy and blustery, almost gale force winds! But the weather report called for it to clear up later that night. I was up in the St. Pete/Clearwater area for the weekend and headed for home about 7 pm.

As I approached Ft. Myers the clouds thinned and the moon was bright. It was actually very interesting to watch the fast moving clouds pass in front of the moon. At home I got set up and the eclipse started about 10:30 pm. The sky was totally clear by then. At first the bright settings looked good – f/11, ISO 200, 1/250 with the Minolta 200mm.

Beginning of the eclipse
Beginning of the eclipse

As the eclipse progressed, I needed to adjust settings. The second shot about halfway into the event, I lowered the speed to 1/180.

halfway ecllipsed
About halfway eclipsed

The third, nearing totality, at f/8, ISO 640, 1/90.

Almost to total eclipse
Almost total

And then right about midnight the eclipse was total and the moon turned somewhat red. The last shot settings were f/8, ISO 1000, 1 second exposure.

Blood moon
The blood moon

And then it was time to get some sleep!

What is ECHO?

Earlier this month Ellen and I were at headquarters to connect with people preparing to serve with Africa Inland Mission. We made new friends and were encouraged to hear their stories and their plans.

I’m not really part of the schedule but I enjoy being there to renew friendships with the staff and to consult with the candidates about any agricultural questions they have. By far the most common question is “Now what is this ECHO place and what do you do there?” Because I have been in the ECHO network since 1985 and on staff with ECHO for 15 years I find it difficult to concisely answer those questions!

What is ECHO?

Well, here’s the official wording from the organization:
Honoring God by empowering the undernourished with sustainable hunger solutions”

from the strategic plan: “From its very beginnings, ECHO has retained a clear focus on equipping small-scale farmers with training, information, and seeds that reduce hunger.”

So the key words are agriculture, information, training, seeds, hunger. Each day as I enter the building I see a sign by the door that states “ECHO: Fighting World Hunger”.

So What Do I Do?

I fight world hunger. A key duty outlined in my job description reads “1. Serve as a senior member of the team that responds to requests from our overseas network for agricultural and networking information.”

The key word there is “team”. That team includes staff that have worked in many locations and climates globally which means that we can provide information and perspective on a wide range of agricultural questions. And we also have regional center staff with specific knowledge about their areas.

For the 18 plus years we served in Kenya I was on the receiving end of ECHO’s ministry. My kids say that when the quarterly edition of ECHO Development Notes arrived in the mail I was not to be bothered until I had read the whole edition cover to cover! ECHO was one of my main sources of information and encouragement.

So when the time came to hand off the work in Kenya to the completely capable national church, I was thrilled to be invited to work at ECHO for a couple of years. Well, that has stretched to 15 years for family reasons but I am blessed to be here and help provide information, training, and advice on seeds and community development in general.

It is a privilege to serve the countless numbers of people around the world as they work to improve the food security of their communities.

More info about ECHO

March notes

Here we are well into 2018. We started the year in Columbus, Ohio, where we had been with Ellen’s Dad and our kids and their families for Christmas.

In January I had surgery to repair an abdominal hernia; no problems, recovery was rapid. Also that month here at ECHO, we hosted a one-week Tropical Agriculture Development class. (read more about ECHO classes at www.echocommunity.org/en/pages/tadi)

People like to visit Florida in the winter!

In February Ellen’s 97 year-old Dad came down to Florida for a 10 day visit. We always enjoy the time we can be with him.

In March Ellen was in Peachtree City, Georgia connecting with new missionary candidates with AIM. And then our son James and his family were down from Boston for a visit. They managed to get their travels done in between the winter storms that battered the northeast.

Next week our daughter Ginny and her family will be here for a short visit. We look forward to celebrating Easter with them and with my mother and sister up in Gainesville, Fl.

There have been other visitors and events to enjoy but that pretty much brings us up to date.

Until the next post…