Friday, July 8, 2016

Summer Update

Homer Family Newsletter for May/June/July
When I began working on this newsletter, I would like to note that it was still June and I had all the intentions of getting our updates out to you before the end of the month. Obviously, that didn’t happen!

Let me start with the end of April and move forward.  First of all, the closing on our house in VA was April 27th!!!!   We are so thankful that this particular detail of our move out here is finalized and although there were a number of hiccups at the end, God worked each one out and we are happy to give Him all the glory for taking care of it!  
Also at the end of April and during the first week of May, we were blessed by a visit from Amber and Elise Dean, Jess’s college roommate and her daughter. Shannan, Amberlyn, and Elizabeth were delighted to spend time with their Auntie and cousin.

That first week in May, during her visit, we spent a lot of time in prayer, first for a family who lost their young daughter to suicide, and then, just after Mother’s Day, several young men from the community went missing. One of the young men was a grandson/nephew to some ladies in our church. More than a week later, that search ended with the unhappy discovery of their car accident.  Josh and I have spent so much time talking about how precious life is, and cried for the families who had to unexpectedly say goodbye.  How often has that happened lately in our lives?  As I type this, the news headlines are covering the deaths of the officers in Dallas.  Life is not a guarantee and each moment is a gift.  In the book of James, our lives are referred to as a mist that appears for a time and then vanishes.   Life is beautiful and precious, and I know lately I’ve been thinking about making the most of the time that I am given.

Also in May, we were blessed with the news that our new little bundle is expected to be a boy! We are all so very excited to meet him in September.  The girls are all thrilled, but I think Shannan is especially. She has been praying for a baby brother for years (and yes, I have video to back it up) and her prayers have finally been answered.

During the last week of May, Josh took and passed his Praxis test that he needed in order for his teaching license to transfer officially to South Dakota. We greatly rejoiced at that, especially since his teaching contract for the fall was offered at the same time! Also, camp began that last week of May!  We knew that life would be busy, but it was hard to know what to expect ahead of time or how the days would be scheduled. That first week of camp (the last week in May) was a bit more awkward for me as Josh was still working at the school. Teachers were required to stay until June 3rd.
On June 5th, we were privileged to rejoice with a sweet friend at church as she and three of her sons were baptized!  Her youngest son and Shannan get along well and Shannan was super excited to witness this.  God is moving here, and witnessing the baptisms taking place at our church this Spring and Summer has brought great joy to our hearts.
June 5th/6th also began the second week of camp, and this time Josh joined us.  We also celebrated Elizabeth’s 2nd birthday on the 6th
Our routine began to fall into place and here is how a typical camp day now begins for us.  On Monday and Tuesday, Josh arrives around 7:30 to drive one of the camp vans and show the visiting church team where to pick up the kids. The other days of the week, the visiting church team usually supplies a driver. Each day, the girls and I arrive around 8:45 in anticipation of the kids’ arrival around 9am.  We help oversee the check-in and file any new registration forms while the day’s program begins around 9:30.  Shannan and Amberlyn participate in the camp program.  I leave with Elizabeth around 11am to take her home for a nap (and usually sneak in a load or two of laundry and dishes) and then return to camp between 1:30 and 2pm.  At 3pm we oversee the kids boarding the buses and vans for their ride home. Some evenings are spent at the camp with the visiting church teams, although Wednesday nights we still have service at the church.

Now to answer some questions you may have about camp.  Each week we have a different visiting church team (these can be anywhere from 12-60 people, depending on the church) and they supply the program content for the age groups.  Kids are usually divided by age:  6 and under, 7-10, 11-14, and 15+. That division can change slightly by week and we usually adjust it for numbers as they change from week to week.  Every day the kids are picked up and returned home.  The first week of camp, we averaged over 100 kids each day.  Since then, our numbers have stayed consistently in the 60s or 70s, which is still an increase from previous years.  Matt and Amanda, and Josh and I function like administrative staff, for lack of a better term. Our job is to make sure the day runs smoothly, filling in if there is a need, contacting parents as needed, assisting with injuries (unless a church team happens to bring a doctor or nurse), etc.  Josh and Matt take care of physical labor that needs to be done as well, like mowing or in the case of last week, dealing with the septic system.  Each day is packed from beginning to end.  Our kids (and we) go to bed exhausted at the end of the day.

In working with the food pantry ministry, some changes have been made over the past couple months. We changed a form that is filled out and now deliveries and pick-ups are being done the last Saturday of each month. There is the allowance, of course, for emergencies, but in general, for those who receive regular support from the church, we have agreed on a once-a-month delivery.  We first implemented this in May and it wound up being a really neat Saturday.  Some members from our church joined us to help fill the requested bags. We spent time praying for each recipient and the church members helped us deliver them.  It felt so good to work alongside others in our church as we worked to take care of one another.

Now we are into July.  As you can imagine, camp pretty much takes up most of the week. I am still squeezing in some schoolwork with Shannan each day in anticipation of needing a break after the baby arrives.
At the beginning of the year, we received a surprise phone call from Pastor Mike, letting us know that a supporter of the YES ministry would like to offer our family the use of their condo in Jackson Hole, WY,
for a week during the summer. He gave me the number to call and make arrangements with this couple for the use of their place. I’m happy to say that the arrangements worked out and I am typing up this newsletter from the condo!  We arrived here on the 2nd and will be leaving on Sunday, the 10th.  (There is no camp this week for the Independence Day holiday.)  Shannan has already begun her 4th grade year, and we were able to make use of the Every Child in a Park program to gain free entrance to Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Parks.  We watched fireworks from the back of the pickup truck, took the girls on a stagecoach ride through downtown Jackson Hole, played for hours in the river, and took at gondola ride to the top of the mountains in Teton Village.
  Today, the 8th, we celebrated Amberlyn’s fourth birthday.  After a little more exploring tomorrow, we will head back home on Sunday and prepare to jump back into camp on Monday morning.  Camp ends after the first week of August. We will have a clean-up week, and then a week or so to breathe before Josh jumps back into teaching and I begin tutoring again for the Classical Conversations homeschool group that we are a part of.  This will be Shannan’s third year in the program, Amberlyn’s first year, and my second year tutoring.

As I close, please be praying for the kids that we work with at the camp. We have had several make decisions to follow Christ, and a couple express interest in baptism.  And in between, a whole lot of questions being asked by kids of all ages, asking how Jesus fits into their culture. 
We thank you for your prayers, and thank you for hanging in with my long update!

Much love, Jess and Family