Today we put little Christine on an airplane for Australia. Actually, the parish sends six missionaries to NET this week, (including our friends Santa and the Cowardly Lion from "How Not To Fool A Teenager"). They'll have six weeks of training before they embark upon their ministry and I hope to write a few updates on their experiences in the months ahead. The farewells were sad - the beginning of the many goodbyes ahead for Richard and I. And I do need to assure the six NETers that the goodbyes were in fact sad. I'm not so great at communicating that in person. One valuable thing about this practice run was that it helped me realize how "not good" I am at saying goodbye. The more solemn the farewells, the sillier I started to feel. Faced with tear-stained faces and emotional outbursts of affirming words, I couldn't wipe the asinine smile off my face. Sorry guys. (Christine, I assure you there was no trace of idiot grin left on my dopey face when I realized I had to do the dishes myself tonight.)
Otherwise, summer is chugging along. Or trying to. It's been raining since December 10th with nary a glimpse of sunshine or warmth until today. We keep trying to fight back and reclaim the season - but we're losing. On Tuesday we boldly attended a BBQ - but it was forced to morph into an indoor BBQ due to the cold drizzle that took over the afternoon. The next day we ventured off to a lakeside picnic during a break in the storms - and were forced to retreat to our car after only thirty minutes, soaked the very bone. The ducks were thrilled with the loaf of bread we surrendered - and the kids were thrilled by the joy of the ducks - so it wasn't a total defeat. But Rich had slathered so much sunscreen on the kids prior to departure that it was like trying to race to the car with greased watermelons in our arms. Good for laughs.
We're very informally batting around ideas for next term, but that feels so far away that mostly we're just trying to focus on doing a few fun family outings if this egregious rain would ever ever ever stop. Thus, before I could even start to panic about what's going to happen to girls group next term? the Lord showed up in a big way. My two regular helpers are both gone now - and I know that I can't and shouldn't try to tackle girls group on my own. So here's what Jesus has done for His girls: last term I asked two extremely faithful young women in our parish to give a talk at one of the meetings. They couldn't. Instead, the following week, they surprised me and began attending the remaining meetings of the school year - and asked if I would mind if they stayed involved next term! Then another amazing woman from church contacted me recently to say that she's been feeling called to get involved with the youth groups and was there any way she could be of help in the ministry next term? This woman is like my dream girls group leader! Shelley is a radiantly beautiful woman of unshakeable faith and hope. She's lively and warm and in awe of Jesus. She also carries the cross like a professional - and she's intimately acquainted with the cross. The Lord seems to love to entrust her with cross after cross after cross. Some of her crosses are so exquisitely beautiful, so special and precious, that you could almost forget how heavy they might feel sometimes. But you've never seen a more beautiful smile or more utterly feminine strength. People truly have conversions just from being around her- without any conscious effort on her part to evangelize them at all. The girls will be so blessed to get to know her and the Lord has amazed me once more with His unfathomable providence. Praise the Lord! It looks like girls group will be well cared for next term. That will be the last full school term that Rich and I are here. My hope - and prayer - is that one of these women will be able to fully take up the reins the following term and carry the group through the rest of the 2012 school year.
Tahu, Lighthouse and boys group are already all set. Glen heads off to seminary in Auckland next month and will not be assisting with the ministries anymore, but James will be picking up right where Glen left off. James has just completed two years in Australia with NET and is a fantastic sequel to Glen! We'll introduce James via blog once the school year starts up. After my Richie gets around to writing his South Island post. Don't anyone hold your breath.