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Challenges Come...God is Faithful!
Good Morning Friends,
We just wanted to try and catch you up a little with some of the events in our lives. We’ve heard that there are seasons of your life…lately it seems as we are in more than one at the same time. The Lord continues his process of drawing us closer and deeper still in our relationship with Him. We’ve found this to be both challenging and rewarding.
This picture is of Rob standing just outside of the Port Gate...in the distance you can see the exhaust stacks (Dark blue) of the M/V Africa Mercy in the center of the picture. It's about 1/2 a mile to the port gates that are guarded by UN soldiers. We walk regularly to the gates and back several times for exercise.
We, as you also can, testify to a strong work ethic which seems to always keeps us busy and feeling like we’ve not done all that we should do… our To-do list is too long and the days to short. We feel concerned for not spending enough time nurturing our relationships. You’d believe that as we’ve grown older we are supposed to gain experience and wisdom in these areas; somehow lately it doesn’t feel that way.
This picture is of Denise and Mamadee during his Graduation from the Administrative Mentoring Program (a partnership between the Ministry of Health and Mercy Ships). Denise is a Mentor (Trainer) for the program and works one on one with an employee of the Ministry of Health, in addition to her job on the ship in Staff Development. Two days a week the trainee comes to the ship for training and then on Friday, Denise goes to their office at the Ministry of Health. Mamadee was an exceptional trainee, he works so diligently to learn about Microsoft Office programs, Typing, Customer Service, various administrative skills and Leadership Principles. It was a privilege to serve Liberia in this capacity.
Taking a look at our website, you’ll see our last update was in July…hmmm. We will soon be spending some time to update it!
Our last newsletter seemed to be in this same timeframe with a little blurb to remind you of the upcoming movie FireProof. We hope you’ve had an opportunity to see this movie or will shortly while it is at the theaters or as we will see the DVD when it comes out. Rob has read the book “FireProof” and he said it helped him to understand more about communication in our relationship! We’ve read that the movie is very well done and filmed in Albany, Georgia – we lived there for 3 years during Rob’s time in the Marine Corps!
We have been, since February 23, 2008, dealing with the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer for Rob’s younger brother Ken. This has been a harder time on us than we first imagined. Rob has gone through several different stages as we’ve interceded in prayer for Ken… expressing our most heartfelt concern and desires for Ken’s complete healing.
In the picture, you can see one of the road challenges that Rob encounters as he goes to the villages on Wednesdays to help our Water and Sanitation Team complete the water wells.
Our routine became praying and working, and then praying some more. Waking in the middle of the night and praying some more, we were just pouring our heart out to God. Praying for Ken’s wife, Kaye, and his daughters, Renee and Crystal, confident in God’s ability to miraculously heal Ken and restore his life.
Somewhere along the way in the midst of our prayers…the Holy Spirit captured our attention and convicted us that there was a second prayer that needed to be prayed…one which wasn’t as easy to pray…one which at first we didn’t really want to pray. This was more of a confession and submission type prayer…we needed to pray for the strength to accept God’s will concerning Ken’s healing and health, if God’s will wasn’t the same as ours.
During this time, we were able to speak with Ken, weekly and Kaye was so faithful and vulnerable to share this most private time with all of us, as family and friends, by her sometimes daily emails. She allowed us to be there in their joy and in their suffering.
The Africa Mercy can be seen at the top left center of this picture (big white ship) taken from the Ducor Hotel in Monrovia.
Our physical location being so far away from family in Liberia, West Africa played into our decision to send Rob back to Texas for Ken’s 53rd birthday. We definitely wanted to celebrate with Ken and family, but more so our heart was heavy with the burden to pray for Ken. We wanted to talk with him about faith issues and just look into those beautiful blue eyes and see how his soul was doing. We very much felt the need to go and pray with Ken; anoint him with oil. Only once before had Rob felt so strongly the need to pray in this manner this was when Denise’ mom was also sick with cancer. This time also he struggled with his feelings and strong desire to pray for loved ones.
We are blessed to have a Christian family, so we are not the only members of our family praying. Still Rob couldn’t get away from this burden…so he went to Texas and visited with Ken and Kaye. They read the bible together, anointed Ken and prayed, and prayed. Tears seem to come easier the older Rob and I get, so yes there were many tears shed.
My brother Ken and I shared many early morning talks in the days that followed during the week of my visit. Our time together was a mixture of laughter, tears, and just moments of silence together. We parted in June at peace with God and realizing this was probably the last time we’d see each other this side of heaven. It’s OK…my buddy has gone home. He is with Jesus, he is without pain, and we will see each other again. As my brother told me last… “not any time soon though” .
So on 29 August 2008 at home in his bed holding the hand of his loving wife Kaye…Ken went home to Jesus.
I’m not an experienced man in many ways…Denise asked me if I was a little depressed as we communicated by email. She had previously scheduled a visit home to Maryland, USA to be part of a surprise eightieth birthday party for her father. So, I’d gone to Ken’s memorial service in Texas while she remained in Liberia. We met up in Baltimore as Denise flew in from Liberia for the party.
We were blessed by Dawn and Michael (Denise’s sister and her husband) with a surprise night at a lovely Bed and Breakfast in Chesapeake City. We spent a few days with their family, Donna (Denise’s sister – who flew in from Tennessee) and our eldest son, Jason (he flew in from Florida) before the surprise birthday party for their Dad. Then, a couple days after the party I left to come back to Liberia and Denise flew to Florida with Jason.
This is part of our family at our nephew, Sean’s restaurant, Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant in Wilmington, Delaware. Sean is an Assistant Manager there and we had an incredible meal! From left front around is: Sean, Michael, Dawn, Jason, Matthew, Bethany, Donna, Denise and Rob. Sean, Matthew and Bethany are Michael and Dawn’s children. We had a GREAT time!
As Denise asked the question about depression, I wasn’t sure. Now a little ways past that, I must confess that yes, I was a little. I didn’t have any motivation to do more than was actually required of me for several days and maybe a couple weeks. I didn’t want to put forth the energy to maintain relationships now that I was back on the ship.
My wife is very observant of me and my needs… this is a blessing from God. She encouraged me to go out to dinner and engage with the lovely people which form our crew. As a desire to be agreeable and do as she asked… I did. I actually had a good time and found this to be the balm to reenergize me again and to get back to living the life God has given us.
Our family, except for our youngest son, Jeff (he couldn't be at the party due to work duties). From left to right: Denise, Jason, Dad and Rob.
Do I miss my brother…most certainly…do I long to hear his voice…you’d better believe it…would I ask the Lord to send him back…nope, no way.
So as you’ve honored us by reading these long rambling words, thank you for your friendship, prayers and words of encouragement during our trying time. Thank you for keeping our shortcomings covered in love and forgiveness and allowing us to maintain the blessing the Lord has provided in your friendship.
Dad about to give me a ride in his 2003 Corvette. It still looks and smells new! As he would say...he is still a cool cat at 80!
We love each and every one of you and consider ourselves to be some of the richest people around as we count our blessings more valuable than any silver or gold.
One last photo of Rob, Paul and Boakai (Water and Sanitation Team) during the rescue of the Strategic Health Initiatives Program Team (SHIPS). During the rainy season (June-Sept), it rains an average of 7 feet! Needless to say….it is a challenge to navigate the muddy roads during this time and many times…vehicles get stuck in the mud and need a bit of help!
May God bless you abundantly as you trust in Him through all the joys and challenges in your life!
Denise and Rob
Currently serving in Monrovia, Liberia with the M/V Africa Mercy