Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Visa news

Less than 24 hours after we submitted our final papers for our visa applications, we were notified that they've been granted! Yay!

We've also found another house that we feel better about than the first, and are ready to make final deposit on it. We still need a place to stay when we first arrive, as the flat won't be ready for the first 10 days. But things are looking up....

Monday, September 29, 2008

Travel Fun

We've made our last long car journey and are now settled in Naperville, IL, with good friends Kevin and Jen Sandahl. The past 12 days have seen us on the road for a total of 36 hours, driving through West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota! It's been fun in so many ways, despite the hours cooped up in the car and despite adjusting to six different sets of beds!

Highlights of the kids have been:
*enjoying the sand of Lake Erie at Luna Pier
*playing with many friends' dogs (Ginger, Lily)
*petting many cats
*meeting new & old friends and playing together (Jhoey, Rowan, Ian, Anna, Alex, Sophia, Charlotte, Keiryn, Bethany, Anna)
*roasting marshmallows over a campfire in Kirschners' backyard
*playing hide and seek with cousin Rowan
*frosting pumpkin-shaped cookies and eating them!
*listening to books on tape like "Soup" and "Ramona"

Highlights of us adults have been:
*Catching up with old friends
*Playing games like Caylus and Rage with Blyths and Murrays
*Eating Ethiopian food in Chicago
*Having an early Thanksgiving dinner with Blyths
*Laughing with our kids during silly family moments
*Finally submitting our visa applications and being told they'll be done in a few days!
*Being prayed for by so many friends

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Our Next Hurdle

A lot can happen in one week. We've been on a major road trip, seeing friends and family across several Midwestern states. After overnighting in Ohio, we spent a few nights in Michigan and Illinois with friends I knew in Jos (Murrays and Kirschners). And we're about to finish a visit with my brother and his family in Wisconsin. It has been a special time for our kids to get to know each other and have fun being cousins together.

A lot has been happening with our plans as well. On Monday, Steve got his loans approved by Oxford, as well as the final acceptance letter that we needed to apply for visas. Steve also met that day with a key professor from Wheaton who encouraged him to go to Oxford, in spite of the financial risks. So we've decided to go, and are praying that God will provide the money that we don't yet have to pay for this program.

But now we're facing the hurdle of getting visas in time. It turns out that we have to get fingerprinted as part of the visa process, so we're doing that in St. Paul, Minn. this Saturday (while we're visiting our friends, the Evans' and Snodgrasses). Then we're back to Chicagoland on Sunday, and into the city on Monday to submit our application. Please pray that the British consulate will turn those visas around quickly. We leave the following Sunday for England!

We still don't have our flat/home finalized. We discovered that the house we wanted doesn't have any beds or chairs, as well as lacking heat in two of the bedrooms. The more we thought about it, the more we realized that the costs of buying furniture made it less attractive. So we got back online and started looking again, and came across a house that's cheaper and fully furnished. A friend is scheduled to view the house on Tuesday; please pray that if God wants us there that the viewing will go well and we can move quickly on the house.

Some of you have asked if we're scared about this move, and all the last-minute preparations. The short answer is yes! But we believe that God has opened this door and we are walking through it. We covet your prayers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More Questions, Fewer Answers

Our Oxford plans are not moving ahead smoothly. Almost every decision is still up in the air, and financial prospects look worse. If anything, I feel much less comfortable now about making this move, so Steve and I are praying earnestly, seeking counsel and trying to get as much information about this route and other possible ones before we make a final decision (i.e. sign a lease and start paying tuition!) As of now, our only financial commitment has been the plane tickets.

We still do not have final approval for a loan, therefore we do not have an unconditional final offer from Pembroke College. Therefore we can not get our visas and also feel it would be foolish to sign a lease. Our friend has not seen the house yet, but even when he does (if he does), we'll have to ask for more time to make a decision.

If everyone would join us in prayer for wisdom and guidance, we would so appreciate it! We leave Virginia tomorrow for our road trip regardless. But we still have until our flight on October 5 to change our minds about Oxford.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Animal Pics

1) "Our" new puppy Frank (showed up on our doorstep); 2) Our other homeless puppy Susan.
3 & 4) Germy, our toad who eventually died.
5, 6, 7) "Our" pet tortoise who we released after just a few days.

Missing Pictures from June '08

1) Josiah and Steve at Natural Bridge; 2) Ethan riding his trike; 3) Naomi having fun posing; 4) Naomi displaying butterflies that we drew and painted; 5) Josiah on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just above our town of Buena Vista, VA.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Housing Hopes

We think we may have found a place to live. It took hours of searching online and calling Oxford realtors. We did not originally realize that landlords would be so picky about allowing children in their properties! As we were told "no" by realtor after realtor, we decided we probably needed to just take the first one that said "yes."

Our friend is viewing it for us tomorrow, and unless something is hugely wrong, we'll put a deposit down right away. It's a 3-bedroom (no one allowed us to rent a 2-bedroom) furnished place, in walking distance of Steve's school and the church we plan to attend (Magdalen Road Church). We really really hope it all goes through okay, as it will be a load off our minds to know we have a new home (though it won't actually be available until 10 days after we arrive!)

Naomi received her new glasses today. They are pink and stylish -- much cuter than my first ones! She looks very grown up with them on.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Why We're Going to Oxford

We have only 9 days left in Lexington, Virginia, and 26 left in America. Time is flying by. God has answered many prayers: we have Ethan's passport, we've been given patience and peace, and we've been blessed with many friends who are serving us meals or watching our children. We still need housing and funding -- keep praying!

The reason we're moving to Oxford is for Steve to continue his schooling in Islamic studies. He hopes to eventually teach about Islam at a Christian college/seminary, enabling Christians to interact in a more effective way with Muslims whether here or abroad. He does already have a Master's in this area, but will begin a second Master's program that now focuses on learning Arabic and classical Islam. This will be critical for future studies, and extra-helpful if we stay on at Oxford for a PhD.

Many American friends assume this is paid for, as it is not unusual to have one's graduate studies in the U.S. paid for or greatly subsidized by the school, particularly when one teaches while studying. This is not an option in England, however. Not only are we not being helped in any way, but we have to pay much higher fees because of being foreign students. This first year is completely self-funded, as subsequent years will be unless we receive help. We have applications out for scholarships and are hoping for contacts with private donors.

Nonetheless, we feel strongly that this direction is where God has gifted Steve and where he is leading both of us. We feel good about stepping out in faith, and acknowledge that we will succeed only by God's grace and provision.

Some have asked about me and the kids. I very much hope to continue homeschooling even in England, but am open to other options. In just one more day, I am being interviewed by phone for a half-time job with Viva Network, an organization that connects and educates world-wide ministries to children-at-risk. If I get the job, it would be a huge help toward our living expenses, but Steve and I would need to share the kids, and they might even go to "big school." We will see...

Please keep praying!