Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Storming the Magic Kingdom

No trip to California would be complete without a trip to Disneyland. It doesn't hold any importance to us like it used to, however it's still nice to visit now and then. We spent the day with John's brother Jeremy who works at Disneyland as a computer programmer. We had a great time with Jeremy and it was nice to share the entire day with him.

We took the opportunity to see the new things that have been added since we've been gone including the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and the Toy Story Mania! attractions. Other than that, not much has changed. It's nice to have lost the obsessive-compulsive attraction we once had that kept us scouring Disneyland looking for the smallest changes. It's a lot more fun just to be a tourist again.

Monday, June 23, 2008

This is Your Pilot Speaking

We attended Calvary Church of Santa Ana again this past Sunday. This time we had a chance to sit in with and share with the Berean Sunday school class. We've met with them a few times in the past and have developed a lot of friendships. After church, they treated us to lunch to help us regain our Stateside weight. Believe it or not, Julie's lost around 25 lbs and John has lost 4o lbs in Africa the last year. It's not for lack of food...it's just the purity of the food and lack of processing and additives.

A couple of days ago we had a chance to reconnect with one of our YWAM friends who went through our DTS (Discipleship Training School) with us in Chico and Guatemala a couple of years ago. He is a former U.S. Navy jet fighter pilot. John (his name too) and John really connected during DTS and became close friends. John McKanna has affectionately referred to John as his "wingman". He now lives in La Jolla and it was wonderful to see him again. We have really been able to encourage each other the past couple of years. Even after our MAF days, we're still hanging out with pilots.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

First Wave

This past Sunday we attended our home church - Calvary Church of Santa Ana. We visited our Sunday school class and had a chance to do a lot of catching up. It was also nice to attend a church service in English again!

After church we visited John's grandparents. It's good to be back together with family. Cole shared a special time with great-grandpa in his woodworking shop. Together they built an airplane for John. Cole really enjoyed working with all the tools.

This week we made our first trip to the beach...oh how we miss the beach! There's plenty of sand in Mali, but we're hundreds of miles from the ocean. Cole especially enjoyed building sand castles and playing in the waves. Although we were only there for a couple of hours, we soon discovered that our California tan base has long disappeared and we are very susceptible to burning. John got the worst of it. But it's a small price to pay for being back in such a beautiful place.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hi Honey...I'm Home!

We're here! We have arrived safe and sound in Southern California. Again, our trip went very well. We arrived late Wednesday at LAX, so we spent our first night in a motel next to the airport. John's mom then picked us up from the airport and brought us to Orange County to pick up a car. We are very grateful that our friends the Sipps have donated the use of their car during our visit while they are out of town on vacation. It's humbling to be the recipient of such generosity.

We had a wonderful time reconnecting with John's family the first couple of days. We're now off to Oceanside where we'll be staying for the next few weeks. John's aunt has graciously given us use of her home while she attends to John's grandparents in Buena Park. Again, we're overwhelmed by our supporters' kindness and thoughtfulness. It's a lovely home in a very nice area. We are looking forward to spending a lot of our time here. We are close to Camp Pendleton military base and the troops there are busy on maneuvers and target practice. We hear distant canon fire most of the day. It reminds us how fortunate we are as many people in Africa live with threat of military attacks every day. We are grateful that Mali is currently quiet and politically stable.

With the rise in gas prices, we will be limiting our trips to the OC to a couple of times a week. We'd like to maximize each trip and see as many people as possible. You are also more than welcome to visit us here in Oceanside. We're just an hour away and a short trip off the 5 freeway. Please give us a call or email us if you'd like to come see us or to schedule a get together on one of our trips up north. We are REALLY looking forward to seeing you!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Setting Sail for the New World

For our last couple of days, we had a chance to see Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Both are official residences of the Queen. There was a lot of activity as the country prepares for the Queen's birthday on Saturday. Unfortunately we won't be here to help her celebrate...but we'll send her a Hallmark e-card instead.

We did have a chance to tour part of Windsor Castle and see "how the other half lives". It was beautiful and awe inspiring. We left wondering what our mansions in Heaven are going to be like.

It's hard to believe that our trip to London is drawing to a close. We did feel like we had extra time each day to see everything as it doesn't get dark in London until 10 pm each night...that's been really cool. Overall, our trip to England was a wonderful time of refreshment and reconnection for our family. But that's just the beginning! Now we're off to California for the main event. We're looking forward to seeing you and reconnecting with you soon.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Seeing Eye to Eye

On Sunday, we visited East Sheen Baptist Church, London. This church took our family under its wing in 2003 while we were in London for John's hospitalization. It's hard to believe it's been 5 years since the accident. It has been wonderful to return and see some really good friends again. We gave a short update and testimony in the church service along with sharing a song with Julie singing and John playing the piano. After church, we had lunch with several people at one of the church member's home and spent the afternoon sharing tea and conversation in their English garden. John especially enjoyed time with Paul, the church pastor. They spent most of the afternoon talking and sharing together while Julie and Cole got reacquainted with several old friends.

Big Ben Street The past couple of days we've been able to see more London sites including Piccadilly Circus, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. It was really cool to hear the Westminster chimes of the tower clock and hear Big Ben chime on the hour. Big Ben is actually the name of the master bell that chimes each hour...not the clock itself. The tour of Westminster Abbey was very interesting and included a special section called Poet's Corner which is the burial and memorial place for several famous poets, writers, and composers. The Abbey is also the official church for the British monarchy and has served as the place for coronations, weddings, and the final resting place for English royalty for the past few centuries.

London Eye We also had a chance to experience the London Eye. This is one of the largest Ferris wheels in the world. Passengers ride in glass capsules that hold 20 people. It takes 30 minutes to make a complete rotation and offers stunning views of London. When John was in the hospital, he had a clear view of the London Eye from his room and would look out at it every day. When he got out of the hospital, it was the one site in London he wanted to see before we left. Unfortunately, it was closed for maintenance and we didn't get a chance to experience it. So this was at the top of his sightseeing list. Riding the London Eye seemed to bring our trips to London full circle...no pun intended!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Merry Ol' England

Clarks at London Tower BridgeWe arrived safely in London on Thursday afternoon. Our travel was smooth and uneventful. We did have one piece of luggage (a djembe African drum) lose its way in transit, but it eventually found us the day after we arrived in London. We were very tired upon our arrival considering our flight from Bamako left at 3:30 am. Our layover in Casablanca went smoothly as well. We were surprised by the Casablanca airport. It was one of the nicer airports we've traveled through. It was very large and modern. We we able to do some shopping for Morocco souvenirs in the many shops in the airport. We were also impressed by the service of Royal Air Moroc Airlines.

Our hotel in London is very conveniently located in the city. The room is small and cramped, but we won't be spending much time in the room anyway. We are just 2 blocks from the underground station which serves 2 different subway lines making travel throughout London quite easy. As natives to Southern California, we haven't really been exposed to mass transportation. But with our experiences with the Paris Metro and London Underground, we've become big fans of pubic transportation.

We've been taking in a lot of sights in London. Julie and Cole had seen some of the city a few years ago when John was in the hospital here, but it's like a first time visit for John. So far we've seen the Tower of London (including the crown jewels), Tower Bridge, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (a real treat for Julie!) and the magnificent Saint Paul's Cathedral. It's possible to climb to the top of the dome of St. Paul's (one of the largest cathedral domes in the world) for a stunning view over London. Julie and Cole were reluctant to make the climb, but John took the opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

It's been several years since our family has had a vacation. We are in dire need of some family R&R. So far, this trip is doing wonders. We're looking forward to the many adventures and sights waiting in the days ahead.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Signing Off From Africa

Tonight we're leaving Mali to begin our family vacation and furlough. Believe it or not, this trip marks our first furlough from Mali. Every trip to the States in the past has been after finishing a short-term assignment thinking we wouldn't be back. This is the first time we're going to California knowing for sure we're returning to Mali soon.

Our flight schedule is a bit grueling...we're leaving tonight at 3:30 am. We then have a 5 hour layover in Casablanca before our next flight to London. We made the mistake of watching the movie Casablanca last week. It's an excellent movie, but the subject of the story is people who are trapped in Casablanca due to political reasons.

We are really looking forward to spending a week in London. We have a pretty full itinerary planned. Next Wednesday, we leave for California. With the time change, it's only a 3 hour flight from London to L.A...let's hope if feels like it too. ;-)

We're looking forward to seeing as many people as possible during our visit. We'll be staying down in Oceanside, California. We've added our furlough schedule to the blog on the right hand side just below our family picture. We'd love to have you j0in us at any of our speaking engagements. Please check back regularly as we'll be updating the schedule as new opportunities come up. Of course, we'd also like to get together with as many people individually as possible too. (Yes...we have a list of restaurants we've been craving.) Please give us a call to plan a get together - 714-618-1184.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Anticipation

We were planning on winding down and limiting our activities this week as we prepare for our trip. But instead, we've been overwhelmed with ministry projects. John preached at a church in Badalabougou (our old neighborhood) this morning. The pastor called him on Friday night asking John to fill in while he went out of town. John was reluctant to take it on at the last minute, but ended up being blessed by the opportunity.

Tonight, we attended a picnic and summer farewell service for the Bamako English speaking fellowship at the Ambassador of Ghana's house. A lot of missionaries are leaving on vacation, furlough or other assignments and this gave us a wonderful chance to pray for each other and bid our farewells.