Monday, December 17, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

I blew it last year and you all know it.  I slipped a piece of paper in your Christmas card telling you to go here to read our Christmas letter. However, it never got written.  UGH!!  I just couldn't seem to find enough time to get to it before you received your Christmas card.

So here I am again. This time, however, the cards are sitting right next to me--stamped, addressed, and ready to seal and mail.  And here I am actually taking the time to put our thoughts on paper about the last two years.

At God's leading, we returned home in July 2011 after spending one of the most life-changing experiences for us as a couple.  God gave us a whole new world view and caused our hearts to fall in love with the Indonesians in general, but mostly with the students at UPH (Universitas Pelita Haripan)--both in the high school and on the university campus.  The payback of investing our lives into theirs was in their unconditional love--from everyone, right down to those who swept the grounds of fallen leaves every day.  They welcomed us with open arms and we left with hearts full and overflowing (and very leaky eyes).  Leaving them was so difficult and all the way home on the plane I kept asking God if we had heard Him correctly and we had.

God brought us home in time to minister love and restoration to a young missionary woman and her adopted son, just home from Uganda.  Tonya and Christopher lived with us for 3 months from July to October as God began to redeem what the canker worm tried to destroy.  Spiritual victory and healing returned and today they are whole in body, mind and spirit.  We continue to mentor Tonya and Christopher as our "heart" child and grandson.

We also encountered a young adult man, Jeff, that needed a "mom and dad" to love him unconditionally and lead him back to Jesus.  He was CeCi's Neuro muscular therapist and God just opened the door and we stepped right in.  It has been a joy to see him grow in his relationship with the Lord and desire to become all that God wants him to be.

A year ago September, we began praying that if God wanted us to return to Indonesia, He would open the door.  We were willing to go for two, three, four or however many years He wanted us there.  Unexpectedly, we received an invitation in January 2012 to return as dorm parents to UPH College.  We were very excited about another opportunity to impact the lives of these students for Christ.  We pitched the idea again to our kids and my momma and everyone gave a green light, knowing that if God gave this opportunity, then we should take it.  We began moving ahead and let UPH know that we definitely wanted to return and they began working on the visa paperwork for our return.  After exhausting all avenues for us to return legally, we got word that it was just not possible to secure the proper paperwork that would allow us to be there for the length of even one school year.  Immigration laws had not changed, they were just beginning to enforce them.  Needless to say, we were very disappointed, as well were our UPH College students.

We we did have a wonderful reunion at the end of May 2012, when we returned for a visit to attend the graduation of the students who were 11th graders when we were their dorm parents. The students as excited to see us as we were them.  And of course it was very sad to leave them again.  While in Indonesia, we flew to the island of Kalimantan to visit the Robitailles in Pontianak.  They are missionaries with New Tribes.  We enjoyed staying in their guest quarters and seeing some of the sites in Pontianak, which included standing on the equator - pretty cool!  We went to an outdoor tribal festivity where many were dressed in their native tribal dress (which by the way ewer absolutely gorgeous).  They had dance and vocal competitions.  That was definitely a highlight of being in Pontaniak.

If all goes well and the "natives" aren't restless, we plan to return to Indonesia again this summer in late May to attend the graduation of the students who were 10th graders when we were their dorm parents.  It will be a grand time of celebrating.  While in Indonesia, we hope to fly to Papua and visit one of the UPH Teacher College teachers.   Sos was a TC student and became CeCi's interpreter when we first arrived.  He has become one of our Indonesian sons and he is now teaching in Sengai, Papua.  It will give us a chance to see another part of Indonesia; one that is very different from Jakarta.

One of the best and most unexpected surprises this year has been the relocation of our daughter, Shauna, and her family from Las Vegas, NV to Peoria, AZ.  They now live about 30 minutes from us and what a joy to be close enough to bop on over to visit, have a spontaneous dinner together, enjoy a swim in their refreshing pool, or help as a chauffeur.  Having our oldest grandchildren, Nick, Devin and Shaela, right here is definitely a plus too!! They each bring so much "life" to our lives.

Noelle and her family moved from Owasso, OK  to Kansas City where our son-in-law Geoff took a surgical position at St. Luke's Hospital.  They are enjoying being close to Geoff's sister Rebecca and family.  Noelle ran her first Disneyland Half Marathon September 1 with her running buddies Lori Smith and Shannon Moore.  We were there to cheer them on to the end.  They were awesome!  Kayli now has a school buddy, Hudson, and Jackson gets to enjoy momma as by himself.  They'll all be here for a delayed Christmas in mid-January -YEAH!!

Jeff continues to be a computer geek at JWC Environmental.  He is still very active with cycling and anything outdoors. Our beautiful daughter-in-law Lori keeps very busy as a stay-at-home mom, and now that Liam is in kindergarten, she's able to help out in the classroom once or twice a week.  Liam is a charmer to be sure and we love his cute personality and very creative mind.

Harry is still running his "Smitty the Handyman" business and I'm moving into my 10th year as a Stampin' Up! demonstrator.  In these ventures outside our home, we've met some wonderful new friends and loyal customers too.  Harry's still playing trains with the big kids (seniors) here in our community and I spend most of my free time doing and teaching paper crafts.

We are thankful to be in good health; we still have a lot of spunk and energy too. I think our attitude towards life helps keep us young.  Life is too short to be sour and persnickety so we choose to be silly, fun loving and joyful!

As we close out 2012, and we think of the pain so many people are experiencing around the world, may we be reminded that there is only one who can bring peace in the midst of their storm.  He is the true peace giver ... Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.  May His peace and hope be yours this Christmas.

Until we meet again, whether it be here, there or in the air,  our hope is in Yahweh, the God of Israel.

Hugs to you all,
Harry and CeCi Smith