Though all love originates in God and is for that reason God's own love, yet we are permitted to catch and reflect back that love in such manner that it becomes our love indeed, in much the same way that sunlight reflected from the moon becomes moonlight. - A.W. Tozer

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Amazon Adventurer Returns

The misty Andes
Aaron spent the last ten days in Ecuador, and he says it was a wonderful trip. They took the UAV's down to test them in the conditions and latitudes they would actually face once in use.

They flew into Quito, then drove down the mountains to Shell Mera. They worked there at I-TEC Ecuador, testing and filming the flights, then flew down into the jungle in a bush plane with an MAF pilot.

At the jungle villages they met many of the Waodani people and had a lot of observers as they prepared for the real test of the UAV (called an RV Jet) that will most likely be used in the future. The villagers were very excited about their presence, and about the idea of a UAV that can carry emergency supplies to other villages in their area of the jungle.

The Team in Tzapino

The flight went very well. The RV Jet flew from Tzapino to Tiwaeno and back to Tzapino, dropping its cargo, a snake-bite kit with anti-venom, and returning exactly the way that it was designed. The villagers, and the engineers, of course, were very excited, jumping up and down and praising God.

One older man especially was so excited he was unable to speak properly. His own wife and son had died from bites in the jungle that happened at night when no one can fly the bush planes. He saw the possibility of this project more intensely than many.

Photo by Brian Reed
While at the village, Aaron also got to meet Mincaye. This sweet older Waodani man was one of the original group that speared the missionaries to death in 1956. Through the faithful lives and ministry of those who stayed down in the jungle, Mincaye learned to "walk God's trail." He has since traveled the world with Steve Saint, the son of the same martyred missionary, and the founder of I-TEC. If you want to know more of that story, I highly recommend the book End of the Spear or the movie by the same name. Of course, there's also an excellent documentary, Beyond the Gates of Splendor, or Wikipedia, whatever you prefer.
Aaron with Mincaye and Ompodae

Thursday, November 19, 2015

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like...Summer, Really

Life continues well here in sunny Florida. We are enjoying the balmy temperatures and are amazed every day when we walk outside into the 85 degree November afternoons.

We still don't have internet. I won't elaborate on that particular topic, as it might lead me to say things I shouldn't.

The kids are doing their school work with a minimum amount of fuss, which isn't to say no fuss, but certainly not as much as there could be...or so I console myself. We've found a homeschool organization in nearby Ocala, so they've made a few friends and are being socialized, for all of you that might be concerned about such things.

Aaron and his co-workers are putting the finishing touches on the UAV's, and they are excited about the coming trip to Ecuador. As I've mentioned before, they'll be testing the UAV's with the kind of landscape you just can't get in central Florida. For example, they'll be flying over the Andes to see if the little planes can handle the stresses of wind and elevation. They'll also be taking videos of their flights to use in presentations and to study as well. I hope to be able to link to those videos at some point in the not too distant future.

The kids and I will head to Oklahoma, and Aaron will meet us there when he flies home from Quito. We're looking forward to the actual journey, which will be a long series of field trips if I get my way, but we're especially excited to get back "home" and visit family. 

We really do plan to get internet as soon as we can, and when that magical day comes, I will post much more often. I promise.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

From a Distance

We are still living in the wilderness of no internet. AT&T tells me a different story every time I talk to them. It's become almost funny now. I should've kept a comprehensive list from the first conversation. I believe there is some light on the horizon, but it may be a falling star and not the rising sun. We shall see.

Aaron continues to enjoy his work at I-TEC. They have done several tests of their UAV's, watching them fly in circles around a field for an hour-and-a-half. It was encouraging if not riveting. Aaron and two other men will be heading to Ecuador in December for some jungle testing, which should be quite an experience for the Oklahoma farm boy who has never had a chance to use his passport.

We've had several family members visit over the last few weeks, some of them for a few days, and some for only a few hours. It's always great to talk with people who knew you when. We took them to the Rainbow river and sympathized with them as they dealt with the Florida humidity. We'd love to have more friends and family visit...hint, hint.

We also spent several days with the N's, a couple from Columbia who had been here for a month visiting with their new granddaughter. (The child of a couple who are doing flight training here at I-TEC) This couple do mission work with some tribes in the Amazon. They only spoke Spanish, so I had a real work-out, translating and trying to think in both languages without making a fool of myself in either one.

In short, I have much to be thankful for, so if you hear me griping about the lack of internet, put me in my place.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

If There's a Wireless Grid, We're Still off It

We're still here, despite the enforced radio silence, (aargh! internet companies!) and Florida life is busy, but very rewarding. We've made lots of friends with the other workers and volunteers at I-TEC, in fact we've all started having weekly worship evenings together and hope to start a ladies Bible study and lads' night soon.

The kids and I are enjoying school and meeting other homeschoolers when possible. I say that the kids and I are enjoying school, but really I mean that I'm enjoying school, and the kids are tolerating it. I think that's about as much as you can expect for any child. I'm telling myself that anyway, so don't burst my bubble.

We've moved into a house that belongs to the I-TEC organization itself. They use this house for volunteer families so that their time here can feel like a real home. It's absolutely wonderful, and although I love our little RV, I have to say that moving back into an actual "sticks and bricks" home has been fantastic. I forgot how much I loved baths, and household appliances of my very own. We have our own washer and dryer for the first time in a year, and there's even a dishwasher!

Mim was so excited when she saw the dishwasher. You'd think she had done more than two loads of dishes in her life the way she squealed and jumped up and down. My reaction was much the same, but of course I have more dignity. (Don't ask Mim about her memory of that event. Ten-year-olds are notoriously untrustworthy.)

Aaron is working hard with the other fellows at I-TEC, testing, improving, and building the UAV's. They're looking forward to launching them in actual jungle conditions in Ecuador by the end of this year. This is the kind of job he was made for. He loves thinking of creative solutions for technical issues and procedures. I know, that's not my cup of tea either, but isn't it great that God designed us all differently? He's certainly going to have contributed more to the cause of justice with his mechanics than I will have with my current study of linguistics in the Third Reich.

A kind friend is allowing me to use her internet today, so this post has no pictures, I just wanted you all to know that I haven't forgotten the friends and family out there who keep up with our craziness, and as soon as AT&T decide they have an "open port" we'll jump back into the 21st century and the world of the world wide web.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Settling and Travelling and Generally Living

Our First (and only) Alligator!
Life in Marion County continues, and we are feeling more at home in the bi-polar Florida summer. July saw rain almost every day, but we've finally had a few days in a row where the state had a chance to live up to its nickname. Even the rainy days, though, were punctuated by brilliant sunshine, and occasionally the rain itself fell through beams of light. Very unusual to our midwestern weather sensibilites.

 We've been trying to get outside and exercise as much as possible, because you can only spend so long in an RV and still be a loving family. On Saturday we went with some fellow I-TEC volunteers to kayak the Rainbow River here in Dunnellon. It is a beautiful spring fed river, ending its brief journey in the Withlacoochee (What a name!) river, which heads on down to the gulf.

Aaron is keeping himself very busy between repairs to the RV (The new air conditioner was very welcome!) and his work at I-TEC. He sometimes carpools with the interns here at the house were we have parked the RV. There are three grown men in that tiny truck! Phil is driving, Aaron is sandwiched in the middle, and Chris, an Ecuadoran, gets the other window. Phil and Chris are working in the flight training program, or hoping to very soon when paperwork and such are arranged.

Our other neighbors here at "the intern house" are a young couple who recently had their first baby. Young Issy is the official I-TEC baby, and we are enjoying the opportunity to hold her. Jon and Tasha and great parents who plan to go to Columbia (Jon's home country) as missionaries when all his training is finished and they have raised support.

Aaron will head to Smoketown, Pennsylvania soon for a special air show that has a missions theme. I-TEC will be there along with MAF, JAARS, and other air/mission organizations. The UAV's should be a big hit, and I'm looking forward to hearing all about it when he returns. The previous picture is one of the UAV's as it prepares to receive a coat of paint. We thought it looked like it was smiling and wearing a pretty stylish headdress.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Back on the Grid

We have arrived in Florida. Actually, we arrived three and half weeks ago, but as per usual, setting up the computer is not a priority for the man who gets to go to work every day and use a computer. Well, that's just my theory. We now have it, though, so I have no more excuses for any and all lack of communication.

Our trip down went very well, with only one minor incident. Here's a tip for all you would-be RVers: don't try to make a sharp turn on an incline. It isn't good for the back end of your fifth wheel.
Minus One Jack. Oops.

We stayed at an RV park in Little Rock, right on the Arkansas River and a bridge walk away from the Clinton Presidential Library. I can't say that the CPL was my top, A-1 location to visit, but it was actually a very nice area, and had some pretty awesome animatronic dinosaurs out front. Little Rock was especially nice because we got to have dinner with my cousin, her husband, and their very sweet little fellow.

Little T Meets Bubbles
We waited until this big guy stopped moving.
The next two nights were at State Parks, one in Alabama and one in Northern Florida. They were both gorgeous, but we were especially impressed with the Suwanee River State Park. There were beautiful walks leading past the river, a sunken limestone bed, and fresh springs. The kids insisted they needed to drink the spring water, so we let them...with Aaron's Lifestraw. OK, I know; I'm overprotective.

Aaron had to run into the picture, hence the goof.
Mim Tastes Spring Water
We arrived to a very hot and humid Florida, but the wonderful people have more than made up for the climate. We already have new friends, and a couple of them even have swimming pools, which is wonderful for a couple of kids who might as well be fish.

Biking the Blue Run - Hot, but Beautiful
Aaron is enjoying his work very much, and I'll write what I can about that in the future. He's doing some engineering-on-demand and also working on some exciting UAV projects. The idea is that these UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) will be able to get emergency supplies and other necessary items in to areas where an airplane is too slow a source of help, or unable to land in proximity. He's having a lot of fun, and isn't sure that it's fair to have a job where you are excited to go to work in the morning, and enjoy what you do.

God is blessing us with the patience to put up with the little things, which can become big things, as we all know. (i.e. Ants. There are a lot of ants) It's wonderful to know that we can serve him while doing what we love.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Holding On for One More Week

At the OKC zoo with "Blaze"
We have one more week here in western OK, then we're headed south (and east, I guess). We're enjoying the time here with family. The kids are keeping busy with farm life and kid life, spending time with their grandparents and their cousins. They've made tents, visited the zoo, played at the park and generally been kids in summer-time - carefree and crazy. If you care and want to see pictures of some of these events, they're on the other blog- you know, the one that mostly has pictures of my children and tales of their exploits, and is not updated nearly as often as it used to be.

Lunch with the Barn Crew
Aaron has been very busy as well. Now that the truck is finished (see previous post) he has more time to help his father. The Thiessen building crew (Aaron, his dad, and a sister) have been putting up a barn. We take them lunches and watch the miraculous progress on the barn day by day.

Aaron Proves He Can Handle Heights

Aaron has also been practicing his handy man skills on the RV, fixing the A/C leak, (it still doesn't actually cool anything, but it doesn't spray water anymore) and building a bookshelf and a new bed. Yea! More storage!!

A New Bed! Yea!

Now we've just got to finish packing and make sure the RV is ready for the cross-country trek. We have a window unit to rig to our trailer, then dismantle for the traveling. The kids and I have sorted through all the toys, books, and clothes, so that shouldn't take too much more work. We all have about one foot of hanging space and three drawers each for all our clothes. Let's just say it's a challenge.

Next time I post, we'll probably be in Florida. Internet access might be spotty, but I will do my best. We're excited to begin the work there, and I look forward to sharing more details after we've arrived.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Vimes and Nobby Restored and Explained

Vimes, the pickup, is almost ready to be back out on the road again. He can make the trips now, but without his right side mirror it probably wouldn't be legal, so we're waiting for the final detail before we call him healed. (My brother-in-law took all the but the last of these pictures. Ask a man if you want pictures of automobile work. Thanks C!)

Aaron has worked and worked on this truck, and since almost everything he did was a "first time" it has taken a while. He said, "It's a good thing you aren't relying on my being a body mechanic for our household income." I'm sure it would be a lot faster the second time, though.

The bottom body panel was pretty smashed up on the right side, so Aaron found a salvage yard with a good donor truck for the two passenger-side doors and the bottom half of the ridiculously named bottom body panel. He, with some help from his father and brother, got the new parts installed and pulled dents and deformities out of the remaining bits.

He decided to paint it black instead of matching the existing blue. The top and hood still looked nice, though, so those will remain the original color. Which means, of course, that our little pickup is now literally "black and blue". I think it's fitting. After all, the pickup is named after Commander Sir Samuel Vimes from the Discworld universe of the recently deceased Terry Pratchett.

Vimes is a man has been through some rough times, but is essentially a good, honest, hard-working cop, just trying to bring justice to the city and serve the law. He gets a little beat up sometimes, but he always comes back because there's a job to do, and he knows he's the man to do it.

The RV, on the other hand, is named Nobby. I won't go into the details of that character, but if you're familiar with the world of Vimes, you'll know that Nobby isn't as...well the minds of all and sundry. I'll just leave that there. Suffice is to say that he is still a good guy, still a member of the team, and always faithful, more or less, to the cause.

Monday, June 1, 2015

One More Month as Okies

For everyone who has been worried, yes, we're all fine out here in the weather-wilds of western Oklahoma. The rain has been incredible these last two months, with "flood" being the word of the season. We've watched the sky for severe threats more evenings than not, but so far it's just been lots of rain and some thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure.
Look! Water on the Farm!

After years and years of drought, this is actually a blessing, but it brings its own difficulties. Every town around here is dealing with sinkholes and flooding, but nothing too drastic. (Not like those poor folks in Texas.) Meanwhile, the kids are enjoying any moments of sunshine they can find. We all walk out on Grandparents' T's farm, and in town with Grandparents C when we can.

Working in the "Potion Shop"
Our RV is parked with Aaron's folks, so we're settling into farm life for the time being. Grandpa's pond is finally full, (He built it in the first year of the drought - an act of faith.) and Grandma's garden is growing well, although we haven't been able to weed it as we planned because it's just mud, mud, mud.

We visit my folks in Cordell each week as well, enjoying the luxuries of town life, like being able to walk to the grocery store and the library. (...when it isn't raining.) The kids raid Grandpa C's art supplies and paint maps and still lifes (still lives?) They build forts in the parlor and have tea parties when Aunt C is home for a visit at the same time. It's the simple pleasures in life that are the most profound.

We have one more month here before we point ourselves towards Florida. We're having a great time visiting with family, and also looking forward to the new adventures that lie ahead. Living in the moment is our current concern, but it's that kind of "in the moment" where you still spend a significant amount of time preparing for the future, as we all must I suppose.

Monday, May 18, 2015

From Red Dirt Country, With Love

School, pick-up repairs, and just generally spending time with family have filled the last month. There may also have been some fishing, as indicated by the picture at right. Zaya caught that gar. Mim later caught a catfish that they brought home to eat and dissect. Just in case you wondered, fish intestines are disgusting.

In the midst of all that busy-ness, we've found where we will be working next, and we're looking forward to starting a new adventure in about a month and a half.

In July we will haul our long-suffering RV down to Dunnellon, Florida, to begin work with I-TEC. I mentioned this organization in a previous post, but if you aren't sure what they are and what they do, please follow the link and check them out. It's a fascinating place, and Aaron is very excited to be working with them soon. He went down for one week already, and is eager to get started on some of the projects that are in the works. There will be more details on that as I receive clearance to release them.

We'll be living in our RV, at least for a while, so there are a few things that need a little attention before making another cross-country (cross-half-country?) trek. The pick-up, Vimes, is looking much better, or will be when the Bondo party is finished and the painting can begin. I'm amazed at the work that's been done on it, almost exclusively by Aaron, with the help of his brother and Dad when they can spare the time. I've got pictures for all the car-geeks out there and will post them soon. Maybe I'll make Aaron write that blog!

Meanwhile, the kids and I are finishing school. We hope to be done by the end of this week so they can enjoy a little summertime fun before we head down to Florida. By "done" I'm thinking something different than they're thinking, but formal, sit-down, nose-in-the-books study will be greatly reduced, which is their main concern.

Friday, May 1, 2015

One, Big, Unexpected Thump

After surviving the wilds of Mississippi, we were glad to finally arrive in southern Arkansas. As always, it had been too long since we had spent any time with my dad's side of the family. My Uncle C and Aunt B welcomed us into their home with open arms and even kicked their own fifth wheel out into the weather to let us park under their big carport. (RVport?)  

We colored eggs with the cousins and had a good time talking and enjoying the comforts of a real, honest-to-goodness house. We still slept in the trailer, as we always do, but were able to do school work at the big dining room table, cook in a real oven, and take actual baths. All the comforts of home, with none of the inconvenience of home ownership. I love visiting family.

On Easter Sunday we went to the sunrise service with my aunt and uncle, then the morning service as well. It was rainy, so there was no Easter egg hunt for the kids as planned. They instead chose prizes in children's church. This resulted in my children being the proud owners of an unwieldy sidewalk chalk toy, and an even more unwieldy set of blow-up boxing gloves the size of small electric cars. Just the kind of toys that fit best in an RV. My children were unrepentant when I pointed this out to them.

After service, we had a wreck.

It was just that sudden. We had been enjoying a peaceful weekend, making plans for our next day of travel and congratulating ourselves on having survived the tire blow-out of the previous week, when we made a left-hand turn in front of an oncoming pick-up truck. The rain-slick roads didn't help our traction as we tried to accelerate, and the truck hit directly into the front passenger door, bounced past the back passenger door, and hit the bed.

Needless to say we were all fairly shaken up. However, God was there for every step of the way. There was a succession of small miracles (are there such things?). I wasn't sitting by the door that received the most damage, because I always sit in the middle next to Aaron. (Roll eyes here, if you aren't a romantic.) The truck had bounced past Zaya's door, so he was completely unharmed as well as Mim, Aaron and the other driver.

There were tears, but they were all from adrenaline and relief once we had a chance to talk to each other. The car driving right behind us belonged to a couple from my aunt and uncle's church. They weren't just any couple, either. He was/is the fire chief for that town, and she was the kids' Sunday school teacher from that morning's class. He was able to call in the wreck immediately to the authorities and clear the road, while she was the first to give the little ones hugs and calm them.

My uncle, who is an EMT, just happened to be on his way home for lunch as well, so he was on the scene within seconds of the crash. We didn't need the ambulance, but there it was, providing comfort by its very presence. The kids and I rode back to C and B's house with the fire chief, while Aaron drove poor, wounded Vimes. Yes, it was still drive-able , but only just. (Vimes is the name of our truck. I'll explain later.)

My Aunt B was waiting at the house to give us all hugs, and calm down our frayed nerves. She's an RN, and an excellent one, so just that knowledge was soothing even though we were all fine. (Mim had a little seatbelt bruise on her neck, and I had a good headache for a couple days, but other than that, not a scratch!) She helped us to matter-of-factly get on with our day, serving a delicious meal and letting us visit with our cousins who had come for dinner. She even called my parents for me, since I wasn't sure I was feeling calm enough for the conversation.

Anyway, because of that little bump, it took us a few extra days to get back 'home' to western OK. My father-in-law and brother-in-law came out to Arkansas with their trailer to haul Vimes home, and my Uncle C pulled our camper with his own pick-up, since he had a hitch etc. I don't know what we would've done without these three men. We were so grateful for the way they came to our rescue without a second thought, each of them giving up two full days of their work week for the sake of our family.

If that's not a story about love and provision, what is?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Highs and Lows of Travel

After our week in Ocala we officially began the road trip home. We didn't know at the time that it would still be a week and a half before we got there, but we planned to not have a plan, so everything worked according to plan. So to speak.

We spent a day and a half in Pensacola, touring the Naval Air Museum and the Pensacola lighthouse. We also swam at Perdido Key beach. Again, when I say "we" I mean "they". I sat on the beach in my jacket and read a book or took brisk jogs to warm up while my half polar bear children played in the water for several hours.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Next we went down to Louisiana, staying in a beautiful state park in Mandeville. The park was clean, and it backed onto a big, slow Louisiana river, where one could fish, should that be something one enjoys. One could also sit and read a book, which I, in fact, did. It was also a great place for buying and consuming crawfish.

We drove over the 26 mile bridge on Lake Pontchartrain the next day to go into New Orleans. I have been begging to see the National WWII Museum for years, and Aaron agreed that this was my chance to do it since it wasn't too far out of our way. He's a nice boy. I wandered around the museum for three blissful hours while Aaron and the kids went to the Audubon Aquarium down the road. (They were the same exorbitant price, and, let's be honest, kids would rather see an aquarium than a war museum.)

                                    After surviving the wilds of New Orleans, we felt prepared to handle anything, and were certainly tested on that in the next few days. I won't go into all the details of flats, spares and blow-outs, but I will say that Mississippi is our least favorite state now. The interstates were awful, and by awful I mean driving on them while dragging
a fifth-wheel feels like sailing over high waves in a small fishing vessel.

We stayed the night in Vicksburg, MS, for which I take full responsibility. Not only was the campground in terrible condition, but someone had decided to burn several huge piles of wet leaves just downwind of the trailer sites. At least we didn't have a mosquito problem. We pulled out of Vicksburg the next morning, thankful to still be the owners of a trailer and a pick-up truck, and thankful that none of our home defense devices were necessary. (Yes, I actually slept with a small bottle of mace close at hand.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

One Whole Week at the Same Location!

When we got to central Florida, it felt like spring had finally arrived. The grass was green, the trees were green, and there were saw palmettos and southern live oaks in abundance. It was time to stop and take a breath. Spanish moss covered everything, and I do mean everything. We looked like tourists, staring up at the trees with our mouths open. (a dangerous pastime in any situation)

They don't kid around with their Spanish moss in Florida.
We spent an entire week at a little RV park in Silver Springs, which is essentially a suburb of Ocala, FL. They even had a swimming pool that was well-maintained and perfect for kids. Granted, ours were the only kids there, but they didn't really mind. We went to parks, climbed trees, swam with the local retirees and played shuffleboard and Bocce ball. I even went to the community Trivial Pursuit game one slow afternoon.

Southern live oaks are the best climbing trees!
While there, we also went to nearby Dunnellon, FL, to vist I-TEC or The Indigenous Peoples Technology and Education Center. It is an organization that uses technology and innovation to prepare the indigenous church to reach their own neighbors and others with the message of the gospel. It's a fascinating place, with a unique ministry, and I would encourage anyone who wants to know more to check out their webpage and watch some of their videos.  Steve Saint, (son of Nate Saint), started the organization, and he and his family continue to do great work there.

Rachel Saint's Chair
The Main Spring and Swimming Hole
After our tour of I-TEC we went to Rainbow Springs State Park. It was a lovely place to visit, and I would highly recommend it to other travelers through central Florida. The springs are impressive and beautiful, and there is year round swimming if you can handle water that is perpetually 72 degrees and crystal clear.

Goggles are Fun When the Water is Clear!