We have recently arrived back in Ulan-Ude after a very full and seemingly short month in the United States for Christmas. We won’t include all the details but want to note a few of the events that shaped time with family and friends.
We started the time with our highest earthly priority, our family. Since we had not been home for Christmas with our now adult children for the past five years, we set aside time for just family. Our three daughters, Lisa and I travel to Dauphin Island, Alabama, for what we hoped to be a warm time. The weather was nice for the first two days then cold rain settled in for the following days. It was a great time to listen to them, talk some, play games together, walk on the beach, eat fresh tangerines straight from the tree, and simply be a family. One funny note: Art had his first “senior moment,” not mentally, when he was able to get a discounted price at the estuarium on the island, since they allow visitors over 50 two dollars off admission. Good times.
Then back to Indiana for Christmas with Lisa’s family. Normal presents and food and celebrations were in order. However, for Olivia, the day after Christmas brought a few extra special presents. Olivia’s special friend, Daniel, arrived in Indianapolis. That evening at an Italian restaurant, with Art and Lisa’s blessing, he presented her with an engagement ring. Of course she enthusiastically accepted. Although they will still need to wait until they finish college next year, we look forward to adding Daniel Underwood to our family.
After a time with both sides of our extended families, we took Daniel back to his home in New York State, so that we could meet his family and get to know him better. It was a good time topped off by a visit to Niagara Falls.
We then planned to travel across Ontario back to Michigan stopping to visit the parents of our teammates along the way. Those plans took a detour along the QEW, Canadian Highway, as we were part of a 60 car pileup due to wintry conditions. We were hit from behind, rendering our friend’s minivan undriveable. Miraculously in the entire event, no one was seriously injured, even though a large truck carrying around 400 gallons of chlorine slid to a stop only 50 feet from our vehicle. Our friend Marv Brubacher graciously arranged to get us off the road. Along with Pep, a man from their church, they weathered the storm, drove an hour and a half, loaded our things, took us home and helped us make arrangements for the care of the minivan. Kay, Marv’s wife, had Christmas dinner ready and waiting when we pulled into the driveway. We enjoyed the time not only with the Brubachers but also with the Davises, who are our teammate Martina Brubacher’s parents. We delivered presents from our teammates. Strangely the hand written letters from their grandsons outweighed the Russian chocolates, which came through the wintry collision no worse for wear.
Next day, Marv drove us seven hours across the border and all the way to Indiana, where we met up with our beloved Mexican missionary friends the Sandovals. Marv return home immediately to avoid a major winter storm. The storm came in full force, cancelling plane flights and shutting down road travel. This was a blessing in disguise because it gave us several additional days with our daughters before Anna’s rescheduled flight to Colorado.
Then teary goodbyes, plane rides in different directions, and without further drama we arrived back in Ulan-Ude. We did however lose Saturday as we crossed the International Date Line, right now I would like it back. Our teammates graciously had prepared our apartment with basic necessities for us. The following day they helped us move all of our things from several storage locations, back into one place. Whew! As we caught our breath from our vacation we are back at work this week teaching the missionary children and sharing our lives with the Russian around us. We hope your holidays were blessed and your coming year is filled with God’s rich grace.