Monthly Archives: November 2014

Pics from our Thanksgiving.

There was no snow. No Turkey Trot. No Crooked Crack pants to pass around. No family bond fire.
But… There was turkey, pumpkin pie, stuffing, punch, candy corn, camel rides, horse rides, quads and Star Wars scenes we visited. So although we are far from home we still try to seize them moments with family and friends in the Sahara Desert.
We will post the camel, horse and quad pics tomorrow.
Check out this Star Wars scene of Anikan Skywalkers home:

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Happy Turkey Day

Although we are far far far from Crooked Creek, the Browns annual gathering grounds for all things Thanksgiving in South Carolina, we are closer than you realize. We went down to the south to have Thanksgiving with the southern team, and I’m pretty sure Crooked Creek is just around the corner. Some 200 kilometers from Tripoli, 100 kilometers from Tetaouin (George Lucas’ city he stole the name of to name a Star Wars planet), and around the corner from Centre Ville, it feels a lot like home 🙂

Our southern team spoiled us with a real Thanksgiving feast. So although it is always hard to be away for the holidays and even though Jenny is slightly sensing the holidays away from home funk, we get the next best thing!

Happy Thanksgiving family and friends!

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Ponies are for real!!

When I used to sell books house to house with college kids 80+ hrs/week we used a phrase to keep our perspective in order. We used to say “I’m digging for a pony.” It came from a story of two twins, one a severe pessimist, and the other a total optimist. We understand how bad pessimists can be, so I’ll just focus on the little optimist boy. When put in a room only containing a pile of poop, the little boy eventually started digging deep into the pile, getting poop on the walls, on the windows, ceiling and all over himself. When asked what he was doing he replied, “with a pile of poop this big, there has to be a pony in here somewhere.”
Now, I agree that is a ridiculous story, but even God’s Word affirms that in the middle of life’s hardest obstacles comes some of His greatest blessings and our greatest fruit. In other words, there is typically a pony in the middle of the crap (oops, there I said it. I used the crude word for poop. But I did on purpose for the reality to stick harder). The terds are real, and nasty, and stinky, and difficult and they can last a long time. BUT ponies are for real!

I have recently described some of the terds we have been digging through, and over the last 6 weeks they have gotten on the walls, windows, ceiling and all up in our hair, finger nails and clothes (ok, you get the point). But, now it’s time to describe the ponies.

Here’s a list of our ponies:
-as I’ve already mentioned, Max is really accustomed to an all Arabic daycare and just on Monday he had a buddy follow him to the door and hug him goodbye when I came to pick him up. His Arabic speech is only so so, but for sure his comprehension is growing by default and he no longer is afraid of Arabic situations.
-Ella, on the other hand, has taken off in her new languages. She is now rolling relatively strong in both Arabic and French! She can now share what is on her mind in Arabic, and can sing several French songs and poems in an amazing French accent. She is a total stud according to this dad.
-speaking of French, I just had my first French class of my life last week with a little old French lady. It’s a one-on-one which is best for me, I think. Although I now embrace the fact that I at least enjoy learning languages, French is not Spanish. Adding an “o” at the end of an English word only goes so far in Spanish, and eating the whole last syllable of a Spanish word doesn’t go nearly as far in French. But at least it’s fun!
-Jenny has a new found freedom when relating to a couple local true best friends. One of them only speaks Arabic, so that will tell you how good Jenny’s Arabic is since she can have a best friend who only speaks Arabic. Recently jenny had a believer friend encourage her that she can’t change peoples’ hearts, only God does that. So she can proceed in these friendships with total freedom that God changes hearts, we just send invitations.
-Jenny, our long term single teammate, Christy, and the girl who works full time in our cafe, Rania, meet in a Triad on Wednesday nights and evidently it is going great.
-I am meeting with three other guys in my own Triad/Quad and it’s quite unbelievable how God is changing and growing us. The stories are many and the details are maybe for a different time, but real, deep growth is happening right now. Humdullah. Bechir, one of the guys who I mentioned who got kicked out of his house because of threats the family was getting, is now living with his aunt and uncle who are themselves a little fanatic. His uncles’ way of dealing with Bechir’s differing faith is, instead of talking to him about it, will just scoot up next to him and yell as he reads the Qur’an. So he simply can’t find rest wherever he goes. Since he lives with a constant headache and exhaustion, Jenny and I have recently told him once a week he needs to sleep at our house just to get actual rest. He is currently going on 11 hours of sleep and hasn’t woken up yet. That might give you an example of the exhaustion believers here live with.
-this same Bechir has recently told me, “I want more spiritual responsibility.” So one course of action he has taken has been to start forming a new Triad with one of our interns and another scattered sheep in country. That’s how God can truly multiply and grow things deep and wide, fo’ sho’!
-our gym had its best month ever last month by nearly double it’s average, and this month we may beat last month. So that is awesome.
-Jenny and I were, up until last week, training at least one of us Monday- Thursdays at night (her or I). But God has brought all the right ppl for us to cut it down to only train 3 nights a week to allow for life to be more balanced. Included in this “pony” is this goodness: we have 6 local trainers who help us lead our various group fitness times, so we are able to grow leaders, be more balanced, provide more service to our customers… Life is good at MaxFIT Gym Bardo.
-the entire Family Place is running smoother and better each and every new week and month. This month the cafe and fitness are competing to see who has more cash flow, and although fitness is a little behind 😫 we always finish strong 😜!
-we just started including locals in our house church two weeks ago and this coming Sunday we will have more, Lord willing. We also have recently talked to other house groups and are looking to form a home chch network. This will be something only God can do thorough prayer (yours and ours), but it is happening.
-as I am writing this Max just told me, “dad, I’m ready to go to school.” That was unimaginable two weeks ago. Yet another pony just poked its head. It just keeps getting better.
-personally, there has never been a time in my life where I have taken more time to pray, soak in God’s Word, pray with friends/prayer meetings, individual meditation, or simply listened to God as a form of daily habit than right now. Obviously I’m not trying to prove anything by saying this or to boast😇, but the prayers of the saints back home have been answered in a real way because we are focused and in tune.
-our team is stronger now and growing stronger every week. What a huge answer to prayer! Our team leader, Pete, is truly leading by serving and instead of hoarding responsibility, he is giving away so much responsibility to people’s sweet spots so that we can thrive more and more each week!
-I almost forgot to add… On top of all this UK basketball is currently the best team in the universe. That’s another big pony which comes in 50 shades of BigBlue!👧(this is me excited about BBN like a little school girl).

There are indeed more goodness, but I got to stop at some point. We will keep you updated on further goodness. With so much crap in the previous post, these ponies only make sense, you know? In other words, when we are weak, we become truly strong in The Lord. Or when a seed dies, it multiplies! Amen and amen.

He is Good all the time.
He gives and He takes away.
Either way let’s all in one voice say, “blessed be Your Name,”

This picture summarizes many ponies in one. Bechir and his best friend Max just chillin’ watchin’ a show!

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Ella and Max: everyday faces!

Here are some updated face and action shots of our two wonderful kids. We just want to update you guys on how they are changing and growing. It’s hard to believe how amazingly they keep adapting and growing in this often difficult environment. As you can see from these pics they just keep on smiling and enjoying life!

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Sahara getting used to the yard.

Here is a great video of how beautiful, fast, free-spirited (can a fox be free spirited?) an fun Sahara was to watch. She loved the yard and she would run everywhere, but her favorite ace was inside with the fam.
Check out her video HERE!

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Ode to Sahara.

Sahara, our gorgeous desert fox, has recently flown the proverbial coop and at this point we imagine she is not coming back. Our 5 months raising a wild animal in our home had its ups and downs. But for the most part we totally loved having her.

The downs were just a few:
-her not becoming completely potty trained and so about twice everyday sneaking poop and a puddle of pee in the kitchen. Jenny only got real annoyed at this when the pee was undetectable enough that she would step in it. But that’s not all that bad.
-she still nibbled and bit after Max but usually just from play, except if he would get lazy with his food and leave it open, then it became a free for all and so he sometimes nearly got a finger bit off. But no fingers were ever lost. So we didn’t mind too much.
-her teeth were crazy sharp
-she was so jumpy and fast that it made it real hard to catch and hold her

Other than those few minor non-domesticated attributes, Sahara had become the first real pet our family has ever had (including the states). As you might have remembered, Jenny really doesn’t like animals inside. We joke about her being an animal hater, but really that’s pretty spot on. She doesn’t want an indoor dog and I am allergic to cats. So a fox straight from the desert became the obvious compromise.

Here are the reasons why Sahara became dearly loved:
-she preferred being inside and in the living room when we were home.
-Max and Sahara would chase each other all over the house. We have a video of this. Truly awesome.
-she kept herself really clean.
-eventually we let her experience outside, but instead of running away, she would go out and play, but then scratch the door to get back in. She preferred inside. How adorable, right.
-she loved me above everyone else, and the weeks before leaving she would jump on my lap, sleep on my lap, wrestle with me (no joke), drink from my coffee, and come and sit with me when I would pray. She was this man’s best friend (as a figure of speech).
-she was actually quite gentle with the kid and even though her teeth were sharp, she only ever would play bite (except if food was introduced). She would play bite my hand, the kids, Max’s feet. She was awesome.

But then, we imagine, one night she roamed too far away off the roof unintentionally, then once she came across the unending amount of food from the trash, her premortal instincts came over her and she was gone. All the roofs here connect together like in the Jason Borne movies, so my biggest fear of her hopping the roof was realized…

The kids still pray that God would bring her back. Max told us the other day that she left to go back to the desert in order to bring sand back on her feet. I don’t think he totally understands yet. Ella regularly prays for God to protect her. It’s beyond precious.

So we will leave you with these pics for now, and as we miss her we will post more memories, more for our healing than anything else.

We love and miss you Sahara. You were too good to us!

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A more complete picture of what has been up.

Evidently Africa is changing us. Jenny is accusing me of being the overdramatic one, and I’m becoming the detail oriented one. I’m not sure if this is good change or not. Let me give a more complete picture of what has been going on over the last 6 weeks or so, and we will let our readers decide who is overdramatic and who is simply concerned about keeping our friends and family informed.

In somewhat order of events:
-as soon as our good friends from Spain left our computer began operating extremely slow because of full memory, so we have essentially not been able to use it. That has set us back a bit.
-then one of my local friends who is in my Triad got kicked out of his house. He has been a believer for about 6 years, so being kicked out now doesn’t make much sense other than it seems the enemy is on his tail.
-the other local guy in our Triad finally got a job at a cafe then 3 days later control shut in down and he was once again jobless.
-our fox, Sahara, ran away and has not been back. Since Jenny is an animal hater I can see why this is not hard for her (mostly kidding). But for me and the kids it has been really tough. Ella made “missing Fox” posters and passed them out all over the neighborhood stores. Sahara most likely climbed on the roof and jumped down. We will give a special blog post later just for her, but for now she gets a line in my ranting post.
-Jenny substitute taught at the beginning of all of this for two and a half weeks. So I had Max all to myself each morning and after his daycare. That nearly put me over th edge 😉
-speaking of Max at daycare, just last week he finally started to walk into daycare without crying. Jenny hasn’t taken him to daycare nearly ever since he cries and so she leaves it up to me. So for 6 weeks I take him to an all Arabic daycare and he says goodbye crying. Maybe Jenny isn’t feeling drammatic because she is suppressing her feelings (that’s another joke). For update sake, now Max talks about going to daycare as a good thing and no longer cries. The boy is a total champion. So that has improved. But the past 6 weeks of tears has been hard on dad.
-one week all 5 of the treadmills in our gym stopped working and it took over 2 weeks to get the last one up and running. Customer service in this country is about as up to date as my wardrobe (hint: most of my clothes were cool three cycles of cool in the past). In case you’re not getting the sarcasm, me and the mechanic nearly got in several fights. I’m only mostly kidding.
-then, to put insult to injury, I once again lost a family electronic. The iPod that Jenny had ever since she did Jazzercise in the states fell out of my pocket at a cafe never to be found again. I put out a “missing iPod” poster at the cafe as well but no takers (evidently posters are not the way to retreive missing belongings in Africa). You might remember last June I left my old iPhone in a taxi with two years worth of Arabic recordings on it. And now I lost Jenny’s iPod. I’m a moron, that everyone already knows. And yes it’s hard being married to a moron… But it is also hard being the moron as well.
-what else?? Should I go on? Probably not. Most of you stopped reading at “… somewhat order of events” at the top. So mom, since you are the only one still paying attention, I will just say this. I was a moron in the States, so just because I moved continents doesn’t change that. And yes, all of you also have hard things that come at you daily and weekly, so I’m not looking for sympathy, just a little empathy. You hear that Jenny, just a little empathy please!! It’s been a hard 6 weeks and then when you think of writing a post on a slooooooooow computer or finger pecking on your iPad like I am doing now, neither of those sound exciting at night when day after day has felt really long.

For this reason I have felt like a couple of these hard things have been a punch to the face.
But (and that is a huge BUT. Why, thank you for noticing. No, not butt, BUT. Oh, my bad) the amount of not-just-good but great things that God is doing requires it’s own post. Our house chch is growing, Triads are beginning to multiply, chch networks are on the horizon, things are happening… I guess that’s what comes from punches to the face 🙂

PS- I’m not going to proof read this crazy long post because that is irritating to do on an iPad. But since mom, you are the only one who has made it to the bottom, I already know you don’t mind.

Love you friends and family, our faithful blog followers, so much. Thanks for your prayers. Truly.

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What’s up?!

So … Stevie’s last post was a bit dramatic so I thought I would make things clear 🙂
Here’s our last month in pics!
We look forward to traveling south next week and join the old part of our team as we all celebrate thanksgiving together. Anna already told me the live turkeys are roaming around in their yard just waiting to be eaten! So we know they will be fresh!

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We’re not dead yet (said in British accent)!

It’s been awhile. We are ok. Life has thrown us some crazy stuff. We dodged some. Got punched by some. But here we stand. Give us just a little to post some details with pics. Thanks for your patience and prayers.

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