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A Long Overdue Witt Family Newsletter….July 2014

Greetings from Botswana!

We have a very long overdue update that we are sure many of you have been waiting for. It’s been just over a month since we arrived back in Botswana and we have been busy settling in and finding our way around our new home, ministry, and life. In so many ways, it feels as though we’ve never even left. The familiar takes over which makes it so much easier to transition into things. God has been so so faithful through it all. We are reminded that He sees even the smallest desires of our hearts and delights on giving them.

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We arrived to a beautiful brick home that is set up on a hill. We have an amazing view! It’s big enough for our family and then some! On the backside of the house is a swimming pool with lappa (sorta like a covered open area) and braai (South African Barbeque) area ….perfect for hosting people. Inside there is plenty of room for the kids to run and play and a fireplace to keep us warm on cold nights. Lobatse winters are definitely colder than Maun…brrrr!!! We are so blessed with this home and really feel as though the Lord is setting us up to open our home and host people as much as possible. We’ve always wanted our home to be a place of comfort and peace, where people can come and just BE and be served and loved on. We’ve been blessed over our 10 years to have homes that have allowed us to do this and now with this bigger home….well the sky is the limit and we are excited about how God is going to use this house to bless others. We are in the process of purchasing things to get started and the Lord has given us some great deals on things we’ve always wanted. A large kitchen table, a big comfy couch, a big refrigerator…..all except the fridge were second hand and in great shape and price. Word To Africa has been gracious enough to let us borrow a lot of items too so we can get things piece by piece which helps so much. Our friends the Walker’s who previously occupied the house also left us many things which have proven to be so helpful! (Thanks Heather for thinking of Sarah’s love of baking needs! :)) We are currently housing two young men, Ontse and Kempo, who are serving as interns with Word to Africa. Their house is in the process of finishing and so for the next few weeks they will be staying with us. They are a joy to have around and our kids love the extra people to play with!

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Speaking of Word to Africa…..wow, they have really rolled out the welcome mat and made sure we’ve been taken care of. Everyone has been so helpful and thoughtful. We literally didn’t have to worry about meals or groceries for the first week. The house was freshly painted and cleaned with everything set up for us to settle in right away. What a wonderful feeling to just settle in and know that those things were taken care of. We have met much of the staff that are on site and learning more and more about the ministry each day. It’s been a blessing to see those African smiles again and we are seeing areas that we can be involved in as well. Right now, we’re each going through the One to One discipleship that Word to Africa uses so that we’ll be able to turn around and take others through it as well. We are living on one of the pieces of land that Word to Africa uses which has the office and will have the school, church, and coffee shop.(Buildings are in progress.) Having all this in our “front yard” is quite nice and will be nice for the kids too for school.

Being back in Botswana feels good and it’s even as though our children know that they are home. They are happy and love having other kids (missionary and staff kids) to play with! Our hearts are full and we are eager to see how the Lord will use us in this new place. Crossing into Botswana at the boarder post, Sarah looked up to find the face of her friend Helen, who she worked closely with at the Maun immigration office. The shock on BOTH their faces was pretty priceless as Helen ran around for a big hug! God is already bringing connections, as Helen lives at the post that is literally 2 miles from the house. Sarah’s eager to continue that friendship and who knows…it might even open up more relationships through the boarder post.

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Kevin has already traveled to Morelane with Len as part of an outreach team. Morelane is a small village in central Botswana that is a long term investment for Word to Africa. Ministry teams have been going there for many years but the main challenge is always finding a long term leader to live and work in the village. As Jesus said in Mathew 9:37 “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Word to Africa has a property in Morelane with a house for the pastor which doubles as the church. There is running water, but no electricity. In past years, the building has sat empty and has fallen into disrepair. For the last year or so, a new leader, Brother Robert, has taken on the village. Brother Robert is caring for the village and church members and providing some much needed discipleship and training. We have a good relationship with the chief of the village, which is important, and in my estimate, he manages the village well and with honesty. As a result of Robert’s daily effort, the church in Morelane is beginning to grow. Word To Africa is a partner with Every Nation Church in Pretoria South Africa and the church there has “adopted” the Morelane church and sends teams there every year. This was a very fun and light hearted team comprised mostly of young adults in their 20’s. The team ministered at the school, the clinic, and also did some door to door ministry. Our main goal for this team was to improve the living conditions for Brother Robert as he is hopefully getting married soon. We installed a water heater that works by lighting a fire under a large metal drum. We put in some tile in the inside bathroom and kitchen area, repaired the doors on the outside toilets, and we laid a concrete slab for the veranda. We also brought all the supplies to completely close in the veranda with shade cloth which will be a huge blessing in the summer months when the mosquitoes are bad and it’s too hot to sleep inside. The veranda also doubles as the meeting place for the church. It is unknown if Brother Robert and his soon to be wife will want to stay in Morelane long term, but we ask that you pray with us that either they will stay, or the Lord will provide a new laborer for this harvest field. Morelane is a gateway village from which you can reach hundreds of bushman villages and outposts. In addition to a full time leader for Morelane, there is also a need for a traveling minister who will take on the responsibility of reaching all those remote villages in which there are no churches.

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We want to take this time to thank you for the overwhelming response to our financial needs. Before leaving for Botswana, our situation was not really where we wanted to be, but we purchased tickets, believing and trusting that He had it under control. We are happy to report that our finances have improved drastically and we are so thankful for His provision. Thanks to your generosity and the Lord’s faithfulness, we have received more upfront funds than we even asked for. Our cup is truly overflowing! We still are in search of monthly partners to come along side of us since we are still short in that area, but we know we are where we are supposed to be, doing what God wants us to be doing so we trust He will continue to provide for our needs. We are seeing that the more ministry funds we have, the more we will be able to do. We are praying and searching for just the right vehicle to suit our family and ministry needs as well. We know the Lord has just the right one out there for us. Once again…thank you SO much for your love and support. You are right along side of us and we couldn’t do it without you!

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A few additional prayer requests…..

Adjusting back into a new climate always takes it’s toll on the body. Sarah’s had some minor stomach issues which she expected because of changes of food and such. Also Piper seems to have developed some of the same itchy spots/rashes that she had when we lived here 2 years ago….right down to the same trouble spots. We know the climate is very dry and with winter here we’re sure that it’s probably an eczema flare up.
Praying that the Lord opens doors of ministry to us through building of relationships with people all around us.
We have submitted our immigration permits as Volunteer status. Please pray that the process of approval is quick and smooth. We were told our application went before the board, but were also told it could still take a few weeks before we heard anything back. We have till the end of August on our visitors permit. So far we feel like we’ve had a lot of favor as the officials have been very kind to us and willing to help make sure the application is complete and favorable. We are grateful to Kehumile,(Word to Africa office administrator/HR) who has spent a lot of time and energy making sure that things are taken care of as well.
Our dear friends the Shores’ (follow missionaries) were broken into a few weeks ago and some items were stolen while they slept. Praise the Lord they were not harmed, but naturally, it makes us all a little nervous. Please be praying for protection for all of us, but also for the recovery of those items that were taken. Our family is on the search for a good guard dog to add to our property as well. We have already committed to take in a small Maltese dog named “Rex” from a family who is returning to the UK. We hope he fits into our family well!
The Christian school that will be opening next year is in the process of inspections and paperwork with the Botswana government. So far the process has gone very smooth and we seem to have favor with the Ministry of Education. Continue to pray for this favor so that our doors can open in January. This school is so needed in this community and it opens so many doors. If you are interested in getting involved, there are supplies and such that would be very helpful….please get in touch with us for more information.

Please note our new address as well. You know that missionaries LOVE care packages. (hint hint hint)

Word To Africa
c/o Kevin and Sarah Witt
PO Box 941
Lobatse Botswana -Africa

Once again, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all of your love and support!
Blessings!
Kevin, Sarah, Andrew, Piper and Isaac

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Coming Home….

So it’s been just over a month since we returned to Botswana.  In so many ways, it feels as though we’ve never even left.  People ask me, “How are you enjoying Botswana?” and my heart and face smile and reply….”It’s home and it feels good to be home!”  When the wheels to the plane landed on the ground, I closed my eyes not only in relief that the 17+ hr flight was done, but also that we were back in Africa…..the place that captured my heart long before I ever met her face to face.  I had missed her.  

So much familiar comes rushing back…..

The sounds of the African accent and the greetings in Setswana. 

The sounds of the crazy birds waking up as the sun peaks up over the mountain. 

The smells of the fires going at night to provide warmth from the chill in the air.  

The smell of a freshly brewed pot of rooibos tea. 

The sight of the sunrise, sunset, and the stars that splash such artwork across the African sky.  

The sight of the sweet smiles that grace such beautiful faces. 

The sight of my children covered in red African dirt that stains their clothes, but shows a day full of play.  

The feel of that warm African sun, kissing my face as I walk or sit outside.  

The feel of familiar arms around me, hugging and welcoming me home.  

Oh Lord….thanks for calling me back home.  Help me to be that light in the dark places.  Help me to bring love and hope to everyone in my path.  Help me to do what you have called me to do.  

 

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Going home….

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I am not sure if all these words can be read, but my heart is so overwhelmed that I can’t even put into words right now how I feel about going back,  May 27th….we depart and return to Botswana.  I’ll post more details when I myself can wrap my head around it all! :)

 

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Running with Abe….well sort of.

I realize it’s been ages since I have used this blog……I really do hope to one day start writing weekly posts like I did back in the day! ;)  

Anyway…..enough apologies!

Back in December I (along with my brother in law Freddie, niece Alexus, and Kevin) signed up and walked the Hot Chocolate 5k (3.1 miles) in downtown St. Louis.  It was a brisk 17 degrees when we started as it had snowed and iced the day before.  To say that we froze would be a bit of an understatement, but the hoodie and hot chocolate that we received at the end were a good attempt at keeping us a bit warmer. In the first half mile people began to whiz by me like I was standing still and that little negative voice in my head started kicking into overdrive telling me, “Gee whiz Sarah!  What were you thinking doing a race like this? You can’t do this!”  Now I knew I could complete 3.1 miles…..I had don’t it before, but the key was I had done it at my own pace, which was a lot slower than most of these people were going.  I had to get the negative self talk under control or else I knew it was going to be a long 3 miles.  And it was…….but I finished and felt that great sense of accomplishment as I crossed the finish line just under an hr after I had started.  I couldn’t feel my feet and I knew that I had not trained well at all.  I thought I could cross 5k off my list of things that I wanted to do and maybe ONE day I could run one…..some day far into the future when I was in way better shape to do so. (And it wasn’t 17 degrees outside……that’s COLD!)  

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Well fast forward to the beginning of February when I was browsing Facebook and noticed that my friend Jana had posted about a half marathon she had signed up for in April in Illinois.  I clicked the link and browsed the site thinking to myself, “Oh that would be really cool to do one day.”   This half marathon (13.1 miles………10 miles MORE than the 5K I did two months prior….the one where I about pooped out at what….half mile in…..remember?) took you through historical Springfield and many of the famous Lincoln sites.  I’ve always loved Lincoln and had many great memories of my grandparents taking us through historical Lincoln sites as a little girl.  My interest kept rising and then I saw that we would be in Illinois during the time of the half marathon.  I thought, “Well…maybe I can do this….it’s only 10 more miles.”  I joked with Kevin about how I found a half marathon we could do in Illinois while we were visiting my family and without skipping a beat he said, “Okay!  Sign us up!”  What….the what?  I laughed and then realized that he was totally serious. Before my mind hand the chance to fully comprehend what I was about to do……I signed us up.  In moments we were signed up to participate in the Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon and there was no going back……well, without loosing your registration fee.  

I then began to look at training programs….something I probably should have done BEFORE I signed up for a half marathon.  I realized we were a good 6-7 weeks behind any training program and so my desire to walk/jog became the desire to just walk the whole thing.  Since I had been working out and walking I decided to pick up in week 7, where I would have been had I actually planned ahead.  You learn a great many things when you actually start training for one of these.  I know more about pace time and long runs (walks in my case!) than I ever cared too.  I loaded runkeeper on my phone and began to track my walks.  Did I mention that we were traveling during this whole training time?  We never stayed at one place for more than a few days at a time.  I did walks as much as I could, enlisting the help of our friends for recommendations of where to walk.  There were a few times when I hardly was able to train due to nasty weather or our hectic schedule of traveling.  The more research I did about what to expect on a half marathon, the more deflated I became and wondering, “Really Sarah…what were you thinking!”  I continued to press on though….knowing that the biggest battle was the battle in my mind.  When it came down to it…..that was the real reason that I signed up in the first place.  I knew that I would never be able to make changes to my body if I didn’t first make changes to that negative self talk that has held me back for so long.  I knew I would complete that 13.1 miles if I had to drag my limping body across an already packed up finish line.  It was what was going to take place in the course of the 13.1 miles that would be the biggest battle…..the negative thoughts that would pop up on the way.  

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For me, the first 2-3 miles of any walk is the worst.  I think it’s because I know i can bow out at that point…..not really committed.  After that though, the miles seem to add on and I am committed to finish.  I’ve put in the time and now I am not stopping.  People talk about hitting a wall about half way.  Well, I guess I am lucky, because I hit that darn wall before I even put on my walking shoes!  I should add that Kevin was with me every step of the way.  He never once doubted me and took the kids many times so I could walk, many times putting his own training aside so that I could get mine in.  One week before the race on a 10 mile and very windy miserable walk, I looked at him and said, “I think I need you to walk this with me….I don’t think I can do it alone.”  Kev’s always been one that inspires me and pushes me to do better.  I knew having him there with me would be the key to my success, but my poor hubby had been training to run, not walk.  It might not sound like a big deal to switch, but walking and running are two very different things that use two very different muscle groups.  I’ve talked to seasoned runners that shared with me that walking a race was way tougher than running.  I had taken 6 weeks to work out all the blisters and muscles soreness and Kevin was just now experiencing this one week before the race!  (Are you catching a trend here…….we’re not the best at totally thinking things through, but then again if we did we wouldn’t do most of the crazy things we do! :))  

On April 5th, we woke up very early and drove to Springfield.  We had our gear worked out and only 13.1 miles lay ahead of us.  Both of us were pretty quiet on the drive, not exactly sure what to expect and more sure that we were definitely crazy for doing this.  The morning was brisk, but the sun was shining….we couldn’t have asked for a better day!  

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Being “walkers” we started at the back of the race line wanting to follow the proper race etiquette of staying out of the way of runners.  The excitement was in the air and as I looked around me I started thinking, “Wow…I am really out of my league!”  Kev and I giggled about this but then said, “Hey, if it was easy….anyone would do it!  We get kudos for attempting!”  Abe gave a little speech, the national anthem was sung and the musket was fired…..it was time to race……well, in our case, walk!  

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Kev kept at a pretty good clip starting out and we were off.  Around me I was seeing people whiz past and I told myself…”Sarah, don’t look back, just keep moving forward.  It’s all about moving forward today!”  Kev would update me as our goal was to not get paced.  I knew if we got paced, he would take off jogging.  I didn’t mind getting paced, but I didn’t want to walk alone or have to follow the traffic signs.  I am pleased to write that we never got paced….whooh!  We were however at the back of the pack for the majority of the race.  I was determined to not let that bother me, after all, this race was about me and no one else.  We walked and walked and walked and walked. I was so focused that Kevin reminded me….”So when are you going to point out these historical sites we’re supposed to be passing?”  Oh yes!!!  Well Kev…you got a crappy tour guide.  I did point out some old churches that looked historical and we parked just feet away from Abe’s home! :)  There you go….historical sites!  Kev provided comic relief, my phone provided good music, and the volunteers and police officers provided those boosts of encouragement along the way.  I past my dread miles and by mile 3-4 I was feeling good and keeping good pace.  Kev stopped a few times to adjust his shoes/socks and would jog off an on to break the craziness his poor feet were enduring.  Two marine men carrying 50lb packs and American flags were walking just ahead of us……so inspiring to see people come out of their homes to salute or cheer.  Side walk chalk signs of “Go Mommy GO!” were wrote on the street…..not for me personally, but just the boost we needed as we knew our own kids were at home waiting for us to cross the finish line and rooting for us.  

At about mile 8, I got tired.  I never wanted to quit, but after a hill  (the course had some hills at the end….not terrible but just enough to make you really tired!) I was just pooped.  I found myself loosing pace a little, but I knew I had some time to work with.  We then crossed the street and headed into Oak Ridge Cematary, where President Lincoln’s Tomb is.  When I saw those gates, I was flooded with memories of when my grandparents took us there almost every summer.  We didn’t do vacations, but they sure did take us to historical sites.  I am sure as a kid it wasn’t that exciting, but as an adult, those memories are what I have to hold on to.  As we walked in, it was almost as if I could feel my grandparents saying, “Go on Sarah….you got this!!”  The area was beautiful and quiet and exactly how I remembered.  We could even see Abe’s shiny nose glimmering from the sun.  It was exactly the boost that I needed to press through as I knew what lay ahead of me was more inclines. :)  

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By mile 10 I hurt all over but knew I only had 3.1 miles to go.  Thankfully I had potty stopped at mile 6 as I knew if my feet stopped I might just fall over.  There’s a point where you know if you stop, it hurts worse.  I had different people’s voices in my head an I was just saying….”One foot in front of the other Sarah! You got this!”  I mean, we were so close!  I also was to the point where you get a little clumsy cause you’re tired.  I was focusing on just making sure I didn’t roll my ankle or trip so close to the finish.  I told Kev if I did he was going to have to carry me. :)  Heading back towards down town Springfield I knew we were close.  Finishers making their way back to their cars were cheering us along and saying, “Almost there…..you’re so close!”  My pace had slowed down quite a bit but I knew the finish line was close and that I had given it what I could.  Turning the corner and seeing the finish alley was such sweet relief.  I didn’t know how I would feel emotionally crossing the line.  Would I be a hot mess of tears?  Would I just feel done? Would I just be happy?  Well…..I was just really happy!  Happy it was done and most of all happy that I finished this huge goal that I had started out on 7 weeks before!  

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I was a half marathon finisher!  My wonderful husband had the volunteer give me the last 50th Anniversary medal and he took the temporary medal.  He’s just that way….always puts me first. :)  (He will get the medal mailed to him.  So we’ll have three medals from the race!)  Stopping was rough but I walked a bit around and then we both crashed on a bench!  Our finish time was 3:38 min.  When I had signed up, my goal was to finish in 4 hrs.  Then during training I had hoped for 3hrs.  Then at one point you don’t care….you just want to finish.  While my time wasn’t grand or anything to write home about…..it was good for me and I couldn’t have been happier.  I also finished with only 8 people behind me.  Back of the pack for sure! :) ha!  For me though, this race was so much more and if I had been the last across the line, that would have been fine too!  

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And this is how we felt after…..

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After our medals and Gatorade we hobbled our way over to the steps of the old capital building and got our pictures taken with Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd!  The bonus of finishing last is that you don’t have to wait in a line and they were just finishing up with things as well.  I had figured we probably would miss all photo ops with Mr. Abe so I was thrilled.  (Yes, I am a nerd! :)  I couldn’t talk Kevin in the famous Horseshoe Sandwich, but we were both too tired to think about food at that point anyway.  That right of passage I guess would need to wait till next time Kevin. :)  

Our ride home was full of reflecting over our miles and rubbing of sore feet, but we felt accomplished.  Overall, I was thrilled with how the day went. The course was great, the volunteer’s were great and the whole race went off very smoothly (with a bit of chaos at the corrals).  I would do this race again for sure and would recommend it highly.  Especially if you love all things Lincoln, which I do!  The day was beautiful and for sure will be one I will always remember.  

As I reflect now though, I can’t help but smile.  A year ago this time I was miserable, sick, and couldn’t find the energy to do anything.  A year later I completed a half marathon!  My inner talk changed from “You can’t do this!” to “Sarah Witt….you can do far more than you ever give yourself credit for!”  That’s the whole reason I signed up….was to prove that I could and that my negative thoughts belong in the garbage can.  I was asked if I would do another and I would for sure!  Knowing what I know now I would do a lot of things differently and train different. I want to continue with my walk training in hopes to get my pace time down more and inevitably use it to loose more weight.  Eventually I’ll add some jog intervals in and go from there.  My hope is to one day be able to run a half……or at least jog most of it! :) Who knows….maybe a full marathon! :) ha!  (Uh…..not sure about that one.)  I’ll get there….one step at a time with one foot in front of the other.  Maybe Abe Run 2016? :)  

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Witt Family Update…..moving!

*This is the update that was sent out via our email newsletter list. 

Changes changes…..

Hello everyone!  We have some big news and we wanted to take the time to share it with you all.  After much prayer and considering our options, we have decided to return to the US at the end of October.  This decision wasn’t an easy one for us, as we had really hoped that the Philippines would be just as long of an assignment as Botswana was.  We’ve enjoyed our time here but we realized that this really was a short term assignment for us.  Several things changed since we arrived, but the truth is the Lord still had a plan and we were changed as well.

During the first few months life was so hectic that we didn’t really have time to reflect on much of anything as we were settling into a totally different life.  Around the 3rd month we began to notice that something was missing.  We noticed that the Philippines didn’t feel like home and that the peace of God was not with us the way it was in Africa.  Still, we knew He had called us here so we continued to settle ourselves, develop relationships, learn the language, and search for the ever elusive sense of peace.

Our friend and ministry partner, Sarah Brickman, also had to return to the states unexpectedly for a family emergency and it is unclear at this point as to what her plans are from this point forward.  With all of this changing, the landscape of ministry changed as well.  We began to just do a lot of one on one ministry with people we had met and getting involved in Victory Centro, our church here in the Philippines.  We’ve never been about numbers so ministry to a few is something that we are fine with, especially as it enables us to really build those deep relationships that we always appreciate.  Our ministry has looked nothing like what we anticipated when we arrived, but the truth is, it’s easy to see it was exactly what the Lord had in mind for us both.  Much ministry and support was also given to Sarah during her time of need as well.  We are grateful that we could be there for her as she is such a special person in our lives.

At some point in August, we both still didn’t feel that total peace.  Some trusted missionary friends of ours had shared with us that maybe our time here was a short term assignment.  Since we had just gotten here we didn’t really want to think about that as a possibility, but after much prayer, it turned out to be really quite accurate.  The only two questions that remained where when to leave and where would we go from here?  (Hmm….this feels oddly familiar right? J)

We had originally decided to stay to the end of our lease in March of 2014, but for financial reasons, we have decided to leave at the end of next month (October).  When we sent our letter to you earlier this year requesting additional funds, we received a great windfall of financial blessing. (Thanks again for that!)  But the high cost of immigration and higher than expected monthly expenses has been slowly eating away at that amount. We have found that immigration costs in the Philippines are the most expensive of any other country in the world.  Since we were unable to secure a missionary visa, we were paying around $400 every two months for our family to remain in the country. (To secure a missionary visa would have required us to jump through a lot of paperwork hoops. The main one being because our children were born overseas, it presents a challenge in getting certain documents verified. Documents that we are only ever issued once in our lives would have to be sent to the paperwork black hole….and we all know that they never come out. J  It was a risk that both of us never felt the peace in proceeding with.)  Now that we’ve been here for 6 months, the cost jumps again and our tourist visa will expire in May causing us to have to not only leave the country but go back through the process of securing another tourist visa.  To those that donated specifically for our immigration expenses, please know that your money has gone directly to this cause.  We were for sure caught unaware on the financial aspect of permits and have learned to really research this more wherever the Lord puts us next.

Leaving the end of October means we wouldn’t have to pay for another extension, but also means we would be saving quite a bit of money.  We also have gained favor with our landlord, who is allowing us out of our contract and is agreeing to give us our security deposit back in return.  (This is pretty much unheard of.  We were prepared to lose this money.)  Kevin’s brother Jason is also getting married in November and Kevin was going to return to the US for two weeks to be a part of that.  We would save the money on his ticket plus exit fees (yes more immigration fees!) and only pay these once if the whole family leaves.  This would mean all of us would be able to attend the wedding and also spend the holiday with our families.  We want to be good stewards of the finances that we have been given and not get ourselves into a position where we need financial assistance again to get all of us home the end of February.  Looking at our budget for the remainder of the year, it was clear that it might be the case.

When Kevin came to scout in February of 2012, the Lord shared with him that He would be doing some personal growth in each of us and for sure we have experienced that. The Lord has made heart changes in us that are bearing fruit in the areas of self discipline, daily exercise, diet, devotions, and more.  The Philippines has given us the opportunity to really see what our weaknesses are and make those changes.  In addition, we also have learned what we need and desire as career missionaries.  To say this time has been a learning experience would feel understated as it’s been so good….painful at times, but good.  We both have no regrets or feelings of failure.

As for what the Lord has in store for us next…..well we’re praying about all of that as well.  Our hearts we know were left in Africa, and we really do miss it.  We knew when we left in April of 2012 that we would be back again someday.  Looking back now, we see that the Lord really had to get us out of Africa to appreciate it even more.  We had to redevelop that love that we had for it when we first set foot on it in 2000.  We have been talking with some friends of ours who run a small ministry in Southern Botswana.  There is a very good possibility that we will be joining up with them and those plans are unfolding bit by bit.  We will be sharing more of this with everyone as we know more, but for now we just appreciate your prayers and support during this time.  Our plan is to connect with as many of you as possible and share what the Lord has been doing in our lives.  Our trip home last year was hectic due to Sarah’s pregnancy and not being able to travel as much so we hope to make the most of our time home to do more connecting and fundraising.

We pray that you continue to support and pray for us during this transition again.  Sometimes it’s easy to wonder if you “missed it” or heard God wrong, but we both know too much has happened that points us to the direction that we didn’t hear wrong.  We will be taking some precious memories of this place with us and will miss many of the people that we have had the pleasure of encouraging and ministering to.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon and hopefully seeing as many of you as possible while we are home.  We will be sharing our schedule soon, but for now we’re still very much in the planning stages.  Please feel free to ask us any questions!

Blessings and Love,

Kevin and Sarah (and the little Witt’s J)

PS….We will be sending our Monthly Newsletter in a separate email.  This newsletter was completed before we had made our decision final, but still give a good update on what we’ve been up to in August and September.

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Fall……

Fall

So if you know me well at all, you know that I have a slight obsession for the season of “Fall”.  It’s not even the start of the season, and people are already filling my Facebook wall up with posts of Fall and Pumpkin recipes.  Like my grandma could feel it in her bones when a rain storm was comin…..I can begin to feel it in my heart when the Fall season is nearing and it’s nearing!

While to many it may seem like a silly thing or just the fact that I love all things pumpkin flavored…..it’s really so much more than that.  For me the Fall season brings with it treasured memories and moments filled with family and love.

Growing up there was a very large tree in our front yard that served as really the main focal point in our property. Each year that tree seemed to get bigger and bigger.  In the spring, it bloomed big, in the summer in brought every bird and cicada, and in the fall…..oh the fall, that big tree turned the most amazing shades of orange and yellow.  It was beautiful.

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Now I am sure my dad probably cursed the fall with all those leaves that he had to rake up each season!  Remember those pumpkin face sacks that you could fill up with leaves….well we could have probably filled up two!  I remember several occasions where dad would rake big piles and we (mostly me!) would jump in and have a ball. Dad would smile, shake his head and rake em right back up again for the next round.  Meanwhile my grandma and mom would say, “Sarah Yvonne…you’re gonna get itchy with all those leaves!”  I didn’t care…..I love that smell of those crunchy leaves mixed with the dampness of the cool nights that were coming.

Fall also meant picking out Halloween Costumes and pulling out the warmer clothes.  While many shame the “Halloween Holiday” these days, I have great memories of my mom decorating our house with pumpkins and filling 200+ goody bags for all the trick or treater’s we would get.  It was always cold, but we never missed going out in our neighborhood and filling our bags with treats, while my mom stayed back and filled up bags for other kids.  Those were such good memories. It was never dark or scary, but always a fun time of dressing up and having fun with our neighbors.  I believe my folks modeled a very positive side of Halloween….one that I have to be creative with overseas, but want to do for my kids too.

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Fall season also brought in one my favorite holidays….Thanksgiving. Maybe as a child it was more about the food, but as I grew older and left home it became more about the gathering as a family. My extended family gathered for a day of eating, napping, playing games, and watching the Macy’s parade.  While over the years the gathering has changed, I still look back with such a full heart on what that day was and that I was a part of something so special, and a rarity in our society today.  Being a missionary overseas, I’ve had to get real creative when it comes to Thanksgiving dinners.  Cooking turkey’s that often look like small chickens, and paying crazy amounts of money on those oniony things that go on greenbean casserole.  But I’ve always been determined to try to make those same soul giving memories for my children….no matter where in the world we are.

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Living in Virginia for a few years also spoiled me for all things fall as the mountains were always filled with beautiful colors of trees and Kev’s folks wood stove crankin to keep us warm.  While I swore I filled up my “fall cup” last year while we were home in the US….I find that I still wish I could go back just for a week to enjoy the season. I sometimes wonder why the Lord always seems to call us to hot places….I mean, I love wearing sweaters! :) ha!

So for me….the fall season brings the warmth of those memories…..fullness of family and love.  Maybe that will explain the fall obsession.  I am grateful that I have those memories to carry me through those times when I am missing family and friends and holiday seasons that come and go.

Oh and let’s not forget one of my favorites…..

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Isaac’s birth story…..

So I realized that I never did do a blog post about Isaac’s birth story.  Gee wiz, it’s been eight and a half months.  I guess a big event and moving over half way across the world will delay you a bit right?  Well….I’ll take that as my excuse. :)

I didn’t anticipate ever having a 3rd child.  Well, at least birthing a 3rd child.  Kev and I had always talked about adoption, but as far as having babies, I proudly declared to anyone asking….”We’re done!”  Oh how I can see the Lord rolling over in fits of laughter.  While I didn’t understand His plans at the time, I am oh so grateful that He sees the big picture!  Moving from Botswana, I found out about 4 weeks later that I was pregnant.  The room spun and I had to sit down on the toilet as I thought I was going to pass out when I saw the positive sign on the pregnancy test.  Worry and fear filled my heart…..”Now what are we going to do?”  “We’re supposed to be moving the Philippines in August.”  “We don’t have any health insurance or money.”  While all those questions filled my heart, I also felt the Lord was so near to me saying, “Sarah….I got this one…trust me.”

Just like my previous pregnancies……the Lord showed me new levels of trust and provisions.  Being pregnant in the US was much different than being pregnant in Botswana.  Medical tests were run that I never had done in Botswana, food cravings were fulfilled, and worry tended to settle in my heart about everything.  The uncertainty was something that I battled with almost every day.  My pregnancy went very smooth, but I was physically pretty miserable the whole time.  Elevated blood pressure kept my dr keeping a close eye on me and many weekly trips into the OB office to be monitored while I played countless games on my kindle.  Thankfully, I was able to qualify for Medicaid in the state of Illinois, and my medical bills were 100% paid for.  In addition, I qualified for the WIC program, which gave me some foods during my pregnancy, and formula after Isaac was born.  While I didn’t want to go on “the system”, I was very grateful for it and it did take the financial burden off of us.

I was grateful to share my 9 months of pregnancy with my sister Valerie, as she was about a week ahead of me in her pregnancy.  The best thing was going out places together and people would just look at us in a double take.  Not only do we favor each other, but then on top of that to have pregnant bellies…..so funny!  We were also so blessed to stay with them during the end of my pregnancy.  It was a crazy time, but also sweet memories were made.  I spent 7 weeks apart from Kevin and the kids while they were in Virginia and I stayed behind in Illinois.  While I missed them dearly, it was such a sweet time of just being a daughter and sister again.  I had lots of good time with my mom during the week, and weekends with my niece and sister.  Those moments were really what my soul needed after 8 years of being on the mission field full time.

My sister had given birth to my nephew Austin on December 4th.  We all sat in the waiting room and waited.  My niece Alexus was getting anxious and we assured her the process could take awhile.  My feet looked like clubs and I could tell that my time was coming, but was also glad my sister was going first.  Austin arrived and the tears that filled my nieces eyes were priceless.  I was so glad that I could be there to see that moment.  Unfortunately,  Austin had some medical issues that sent them to St. Louis Children’s Hospital for a few days.  Things were crazy and emotions were high in our family.  I prayed that my little one would stay put for a bit longer to allow everyone to get through it.  On December 6th, my mom came to help with dinner and she said she just felt like she needed to stay the night.  I assured her that we would be fine, but the kids were excited about the idea of Grandma sleeping over.  I told her maybe it wouldn’t hurt as I had been having some contractions off an on in the evening.  At 4am, I realized they were getting closer, so I woke Kevin and my mom up and said I thought it would be time to go in.  I debated the whole time, not wanting to go into the hospital only to be sent back home.  My mom shot out of bed like a cannon out of a deep sleep……so funny! :)

So December 7th….at 4:30am, Kev and I drove to the hospital while all was dark.  I made comments about the Christmas lights on the way.  It was rainy and cold.  I also kept telling him that I didn’t think it was really labor as I was still feeling pretty good and that I feared they would just send us back home.  The lady in the ER rushed quickly to get me up to the OB floor as she didn’t want me “havin in a baby in the ER cause that was horrible paperwork for her”.  I assured her I was not about to drop a baby in the ER.

I settled into a beautiful room on the maternity floor and was shocked to find out that I was already dialated to 5cm’s, but wasn’t really having hard contractions.  My dr had said that if I hadn’t got into labor by December 7th, that he would look into inducing me….something that I didn’t really want to do as I wanted Isaac to come in his own time.  With my blood pressure issues though, he was concerned.  I just remember thinking, “Oh good….now I don’t have to worry about being induced.”  The nurses were so sweet and helpful.  I was immediately put on an IV of fluids to keep me hydrated as I was terribly dehydrated.  It took 4 attempts to get the IV port inserted.  Meanwhile I was calm and still not thinking I was actually in labor….I felt too good!  I requested that I walk the halls and so Kev wheeled my IV pole and we walked.  I just didn’t want to be connected to the bed or worse, have labor stop altogether.

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At 8:30am, my dr came in and decided to break my water to see if that would get things going a bit more.  It was uncomfortable, but didn’t hurt.  Again, I was amazed that things were going smooth and pretty painless.  I was watching HGTV and Kev was snoozing in the chair.  Again, I was able to walk around a bit and was feeling pretty good.  By about 11:30am, things started to change a bit though and I was feeling more and more pain.  I refused any meds, but just breathed through the contractions and was doing fine.  An hr later I was in a lot of pain and really ready to be done.  I remember the nurses saying that they needed to get the dr there quick as I was really ready.  My nurse and Kevin were talking me through each contraction and I was managing it pretty well.  I told the nurse that she was not allowed to go anywhere…..with her and Kev, they made a perfect delivery team.

As with my other two, the urge to push hit before I was really ready.  I remember them breaking down the bed and getting things ready and still my dr had not arrived.  At one point I remember some shouting about “get him here….she is ready!!!”  True to his nature, he strolled in just at the right time.  Everything went pretty quickly and after 2 previous births….I had mastered the art of pushing and how to so I really remember that part of Isaac’s birth being pretty quickly.  There was a point at which I didn’t think I could do anything else and about two pushes later….he was here. :)  Relief!  Isaac was born at 1:34pm….8lbs 2oz and 21 in long.  It was a cold and very foggy day in December.  Image

Seeing him for the first time is just like the others…..nothing like it.  I was so relieved it was over and blessed that I was able to do another natural birth.  My experience in an American hospital was a positive one, just as it was in Botswana.  The nursing staff was very helpful and I was able to do things just like I wanted.  I spent some time in the labor suite and was finally able to eat something while Kevin insured that Isaac was doing well in the nursery.  I was then moved to my own room on the postpartum side of the maternity floor.

All the while I should say that my mom was watching Andrew and Piper (and Alexus….as my sister was still in St. Louis with Austin) and she was doing all of this on very little sleep…..remember, I woke her up really early!  Thanks to coffee and the grace of God, she was able to get through it and that evening brought the whole crew to come and see me.  What a joy to have my mom there with me, but also for Andrew and Piper to meet their new brother!

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I spent two days in the hospital which was much different than I was used to.  I was lucky to have such wonderful nurses who encouraged me to put Isaac in the nursery and allow me to rest.  Like my others, I was able to get up and move around pretty much right away.  Once I was free from the IV I was really able to move around.  On December 9th, we were discharged and we drove back to my sisters.  On the same day too, they were able to come home with my nephew Austin and all of us were reunited under one crazy chaotic roof!  The next few days were a blur of sleepless nights and dozing in rocking chairs.  Our little boys were good, but each had their own quirks with poop issues and eating issues.  Once again, I was blessed that I was able to have my big sis by my side as we swapped stories and encouraged each other.  Not to mention….lots of late night passing in the hallways as we made up bottles.  It was almost like we could high five each other!

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The kids were also very good and loved Isaac from the moment he exited the womb. Still now, they can’t contain their love for him as they hug the life out of him.  Those weeks were often hard trying to manage three, but then moments like this….ah man, those are the sweet spots!  (Plus….having a December baby rocks…..Christmas baby!!)

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Recovery seemed slow and I battled with a lot of the “I think I am super mom and can do it all”…..only to be slammed back down to the reality that I had to slow down and allow my body to heal.  In those moments I rocked…….(in the rocking chair that is. :))

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Overall…..9 months of pregnancy was hard, but oh so blessed.  Having our families around really was such a blessing.  While my heart was worried so much of the time, I realized yet again how much the Lord took care of us in each moment.  His provision and protection were more than I could have asked for or imagined.  He was always near.

And here we are…..almost 9 months later, half way across the world in a new place and the Lord is still proving Himself just as faithful.  More and more I can see why Isaac was added to our family.  His name….”Laughter” is really true.  He makes our family laugh everyday and is a reminder to slow down and enjoy our lives and not take things too seriously all the time.  He’s easy going and the most chill baby ever.  Now I do think we’re done adding to our family by way of birthing…..but you never know…..my plans are never my own, but I can sure put in a few good words right? :)

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