Wednesday 21 September 2016

Celebrating a year in East Africa

Last week we celebrated the first anniversary of our move to east Africa. It is always good to stop and give thanks, and perhaps particularly so when life has been busy. It can be so easy to see the next challenge, the immediate problem, the list of urgent tasks, the lengthening to-do list and focus more on the things that have not been achieved than to pause with thanksgiving for all that has taken place.

The Bible makes clear that we must give thanks in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Moreover, thanksgiving is a clear antidote to anxiety; as one reflects on who God is, and all He has done, there is little place for fear: 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus' Philippians 4:6-7.

There is so much to be thankful for. Some examples for us include:

1) That we have settled into a community, into a church, into a place where we can both worship and serve and where the children are able to join with us in this with joy. This is not something that should be taken for-granted, and is a wonderful gift. In this city where there are traffic issues, that we were led to a house and a church only 20 minutes' walk apart is an incredible blessing and makes it so much easier to nip back and forward for midweek and evening activities (a big challenge for those who live at a distance, as they are often then stuck in traffic). I remember when I first came here, feeling something close to despair regarding whether we would ever find a sensible house, whether we would ever be able to move freely around the city. It's quite amazing to reflect on just how much this place has become 'home'. I am also so very aware that even if somewhere is not what you might have chosen (for example, I much 'prefer' rural Africa, wide open spaces, plenty of dust and erratic power and water supplies), if you are where God has put you, He will provide what is needed and that brings real contentment.

2) For our daughter! Whilst we had felt confident that we should explore adopting a baby, it was amazing to discover that she had been born just a couple of days before we arrived here. She has been with us five months now, recently celebrated her birthday and is thriving in every way. I still can hardly believe how amazing this has been, and how well she has settled into the family. Adoption is an amazing blessing, and to me it speaks so clearly of how God has adopted us in Christ. Something which was not ideal has been redeemed and made beautiful.

3) That the older two boys can read fluently. The seven year old was already reading, but the six year old suddenly grasped it on the first week here. It was as though he suddenly realised that yes, he could do this, and yes, it was good fun. I think there have been many milestones reached this year, but somehow learning to read is a massive one which transforms so many other areas of life and learning. It is a very beautiful thing to come downstairs and find your children reading to one another, or helping one another on the difficult words. Learning then becomes such an explosion as they can access more and more information in their own time rather than having to wait for a parent to read aloud.

4) That we found a curriculum that was a perfect match for our family. We are on week 9 of the second year of Sonlight, and loving it. It has blended so well with our routine, priorities and philosophy of education and we can see how the boys are learning so much without even realising they are learning. We don't always stick rigidly to every task or assignment, and where possible we try to keep the assignments 'real' - for example writing diaries and letters to friends back home, but using the creative writing skills and language arts topics that we need to cover. On that note, we were also delighted to discover The Life of Fred - it has a very eccentric and problem-solving approach to maths that the boys do well with, and it's a great supplement to Singapore Maths.

5) That we've had guests who have brought blessing and encouragement. One thing I love about being part of a massive Christian family is how we can support and encourage one another, and through having friends and even people we know less well to stay, we have ourselves been refreshed. It is a blessing to have space to share.

6) For homeschool community - sports, music, friendships... I did not know if I would find other homeschoolers here in the city, since a lot of people rest very confidently in the International School structures. So it has been a great encouragement to be able to meet with others on a weekly basis for sports and for choir. Here, almost everybody who homeschools is Christian, and we are often on a very similar wavelength regarding our priorities.

7) That we have remained healthy and safe during our time here. We are so aware that these things are not to be taken for granted!

I could keep going, but seven seems like a good place to stop. I wonder, as you reflect on  the past year, what you are most thankful for? I pray that as you take time to  give thanks that any current anxieties or difficulties are put into perspective and you can be encouraged that  God works in all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8)

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