Monday, April 30, 2007

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Garyn!

To our precious neice out in West Texas, happy belated birthday (sorry for the delay in getting your B-card up on the blog!) Tori enjoyed drawing this...the two people on the right are Benin kids waving to American kids! "I love you" signs on all 4 corners and an angel looking down on you! Happy Birthday...your gift will be belated as well!! We'll see you this summer when we get to Texas!!!

-RK ttjl

Friday, April 27, 2007

Daily Joys

The pictures above were all taken at various times during the week. Tori is talking to Grandmother before going to bed!
Timo has been hard at work this school and as an apprentice to Laurance, learning how to do Lael's hair!
Below Timo is pictured with his drawing, "The Millipeede"

Bed time is one more last chance at we are taking a part our house and starting to rearrange things, the kids have started sleeping on pallets on the floor. They love it! I think they think of it as a slumber party.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday afternoon...

I am married to a handsome man and this picture is proof!
I have 3 things to say about the above pictures...

1) Eating an apple, when your sitting next to your brother is not as simple as you might think.
2) Timo dressed himself today!
3) Can anyone see a resemblance in these 2 boys? If so, please inform their parents!

Jonathan gives WONDERFUL hugs !

Lael LOVES to hug on Daddy and he LOVES to hug on her!

These 2 are ALWAYS fun to watch!

Tori and Timo are great friends!

This has been an interesting week. We went once again for almost the whole week without water and often without power. It is amazing how this affects everything...especially concerning our schedules...because everything takes more time to accomplish, our attitudes, our energy level, and just the overall ability to keep the house clean and in order. Laundry piles up, dishes often pile up, and everyone has the sticky sweaty can't get clean and refreshed feeling! Today we have had water and at the moment all of the laundry is done!
I am very thankful!

In the mix with the sticky sweaty feeling were several conversations that Randy had with people about our departure.
These are hard and they are just beginning.

We are continuing our daily prayer times about our transition and it is a time we anticipate and look forward to each day. Now when we sit down to pray, Tori will start the conversation with..."Okay these are things that I am thinking about," or sometimes she will say, "these are things that concern me today...." I love hearing her thoughts and I love hearing her voice the details of her concerns and desires to God!

This afternoon we sat outside with the kids for awhile as the clouds grew dark and the breezes became strong! We only received a light brief rain and yet it sure felt nice! Randy and I enjoyed watching our kids play.

Tomorrow we start again the process of obtaining papers for Lael's identity card. Hopefully this week we can mark this off the list and move to other exciting buying tickets!
We are so thankful for your prayers and encouraging words offered on behalf of our family!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Special Friends

Randy and I have a very special friendship with the staff at one of the hotels in Cotonou. Very early on in our arrival in Benin, this friendship began. Most often we would stay at the Baptist Guesthouse but there were times that it was full and we had to find another place to stay. One time some of the staff even helped to get us to the doctor when Randy was very sick with malaria. Through the years this hotel has become a very special place for our family. Our kids know and love the staff and are very loved by the staff. Many times they have given them gifts or special treats. This staff has also come to know our extended family and has assisted us multiple times in taking them to the airport at their departure. They have witnessed many of our tearful goodbyes and offered words of comfort and encouragement when we have returned to the hotel in tears.
About 5 years ago, one of the staff members, Claire, called us one night from Azove and said she, her sister in-law and her niece were at the taxi stand in town. They had come here to spend the night with us! Randy went to get them while I prepared a meal for them to eat, as well as a room for them to stay. We had a great time together and from that point on she always said she was going to return again and stay longer the next time! I said that would be great. However, I did say that if she informed me of her plans in advance, the next time I could really make sure our time was special.
Obviously many years passed and I wondered if she was serious about returning. Earlier this year I mentioned to her that we were leaving and she decided to make a plan. She called me last week and said, "How about next Tuesday?" We decided that worked for us and told her to come on! Louise, our cook who comes 2 days a week, was here on Tuesday and she cooked African meals so that our guests would be truly comfortable. Our kids were excited about that too because they really enjoy most African foods!
This time Claire brought her 2 nieces, Floral and Lorie. Tori was very excited to welcome these 2 girls. We also invited Bensha, Laurance's daughter to come and play for the day.
The girls played school for most of the day.
Tori, Timothy and I drove them back to Cotonou on Wednesday morning.
Floral, Bensha, and Tori
Everyone drinking a Coke while they watch Babar!

My special friend Claire

Jonathan REALLY enjoying his "pot and okra sauce"

"Umm ...this looks good!"

Monday, April 16, 2007

Daddy's Home!

Just before Randy got home, Timothy came up to me and said, "Mommy I can't hold it in any longer!" I said, "What are you talking about?" He said, "I m just missing Daddy SO much!" Thankfully he did not have to wait long. Randy pulled in the driveway just minutes later!

I could not decide which picture to post so I decided to post them both!

Randy was gone for 6 days last week on a mission and research trip with several church leaders. We missed him terribly! He had a great trip and I am sure he will write about it soon. He returned home Saturday evening and I wish I had a video of the greeting that he received from these 4 kids. It was SWEET!

Thank you so much for the many encouraging comments and commitments to join us in prayer as we enter into this time of major transition.

As mentioned in the previous post, this is an important week in obtaining several papers that will lead to receiving Lael's identity card. Today we received the first of 3 papers. Tomorrow we will go for the second one! We are making progress!
2 different looks from the same beautiful little girl

This is one of the paths from the road to our house.
I asked them to turn around and smile for a picture...
these kids like personality in a picture!
In the above photos Tori, Timothy and Jonathan are preparing to serve their neighborhood friends some chocolate cookies and cold water. Timothy took the cookies out African style and Jonathan got the water ready!

Here Tori and Timo are tag-teaming making breakfast! Timo cracked the eggs and stirred them and then Tori took over to make the omelets for us all! Jonathan and Lael wait somewhat patiently. It was worth the wait.
They were delicious!
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Friday, April 13, 2007

Unfamiliar territory

Difficult to put words to the thoughts and emotions that our family is walking through right now...good, sad, anxious, excitement and wonder...

Because we have read books, heard from others who have had similar experiences and received wise counsel, we know the depth of emotion we are presently navigating is normal. This does not diminish what we are feeling but provides insight and understanding into what each one of us can express. I am speaking specifically of Kelly, Randy and Tori right now.

When we arrived in Benin absolutely nothing was familiar. Nothing felt like home. We did not even have a home, nor had one brick been made for the house in which we moved into 9 months after our arrival. There was what seemed to be constant struggle, anxiety and challenge as we learned how to live in Benin, how to function as a family and how to minister and dwell among the Aja people.

By God's grace and to his glory, one day at a time he showed our family how to do it. What was unfamiliar became familiar and even commonplace, a place in which we have lived without fear and with JOY and where we have many friends. Challenges remain and yet we have developed a routine of life here that adapts to meet those challenges instead of being overwhelmed by the tidal waves that seemed to sweep over us in the first years of living here.

The strange thing is that now we face similar anxious thoughts as we enter the unfamiliar life of America. Oh we know the loves and joys of America! We know it is great to be with family and friends, we know it is a great place to buy food and toys....our kids think of Chuck E Cheese, waterparks and rodeos.....But living life...daily....setting up house, buying a car (or 2), sending Tori to school, buying groceries and clothes, dealing with American money, driving around town with 4 small children, saying goodbye to my husband in the morning at 7A and not seeing him again for 10 or 12 hours? These things threaten to overwhelm me when I am thinking of them...and these are just some of my thoughts...Randy has his own thoughts...Tori has her own.

Randy, Tori, and myself have committed to 40 days of prayer concerning our transition.
We have made a list of the things that are most important to the 3 of us and we have been praying together daily about these things. This has been such a precious time with Tori. I thought I was fully in tune with all the things that were on her heart...and yet this week she has trusted me with more...what a gift! We began our 40 days of prayer about these things this past Monday...even since then, we feel a transformation taking from anxiety to a building anticipation of the Lord going before us and working out the details as He sees best for our family. The Lord is Faithful and his ways with us are gentle.

An update on the adoption process: Next week we hope to accomplish the task of obtaining an identity card for Lael. This is required in order for her to obtain a Benin passport. The steps have been clearly defined for us and we will start those steps on Monday with the hope and prayer that we will have this card by Friday! We are also waiting to hear any day now that we have been approved to apply for her immigrant visa. We have been told that we have been given approval PENDING our fingerprint clearance! As soon as we have this we will purchase our tickets for departure. We are making plans now and we are proceeding in faith. As soon as we know something for certain we will post this information.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Many people gathered on Sunday to celebrate our risen Lord!
These pictures reflect the happy faces of Tori and Timothy and some of their Aja friends on Easter Sunday. There is also a picture of Randy with some of the leaders counting the money from the Easter offering.

Tori and I had fun wearing our matching skirts that I brought back for us from Kenya!

Murphy and Christine
Matthew and Stephen
They are our dear friends. They have worked in Togo for the last 6 years. They are planning to begin a new work in Rwanda in 2009. It was great to hear what the Lord is doing there and how he is leading the Crowsons to join him . It is our desire to be a great support to their ministry in Rwanda.
The Crowsons have purchased many of our household items, including some of our furniture. After the egg hunt, Murphy did an amazing job of loading their car just before the clouds broke with a downpour of rain! Tori even was able to help with the packing. Jonathan also took one last rest on his mattress before it was handed to Murphy on top of the car.

After VGAP last week, the Crowson family returned to Aplahoue with us for 2 nights! The plan had initially been for them to stay one night. However, due to car trouble, we were blessed to have them for 2! We had such a great time. We continued great conversations late into the night, poured our hearts out in prayer and spent some great time laughing!
Our kids really enjoyed good times with Stephen and Matthew. In the above collage, you will see that we had an Easter egg hunt on Saturday. We did not have enough baskets so we used gift sacks! In the picture of the kids by the car, Timo has all of his easter eggs gathered up in his shirt!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Vaughn Going Away Party

Brian Ries, Marty Koonce, Randy, Murphy Crowson, Dave Reeves

Christine Crowson, Kelly, Louise Koonce

Tracey Ries, Kelly, Becky Reeves and Caleb

We gathered in Ouidah, Benin at Casa del Papa this past Monday. We went there to spend some special times of fun, prayer and fellowship with some of our favorite missionary colleagues in West Africa. Upon our arrival they told us they had titled our week VGAP and that this time would be spent as our going away party (click here for another VGAP account). They made the time very special. They were intentional about blessing our family and we came away very BLESSED!
Thanks to all of you from Togo who made the very long trip...we were so encouraged by your prayers and words of blessing.
Our kids loved every minute with all of their missionary kid friends. They will be talking about these memories for a long time!

We love these kids so much! These pictures just capture special moments that I observed in the week and memories that we made that I know I will hold in my heart forever.

Fun pictures of our kids.........and Wednesday morning we could not help but notice that the older kids had gathered and were holding a meeting...they mentioned this was a special kids club.....that is certainly the truth!

Tuesday was such a special day! That afternoon all of the women met together on the lagoon side of Casa ...this is beautiful tranquil place. I was unaware at the time, yet it turned out this was a time for the women to talk with me, hear the thoughts on my heart and then they blessed me and prayed for me....sweet sweet time....THEN that evening the missionary kids in attendance blessed our children...the above pictures show myself and our children in the middle of the circle...all the kids went around and shared one thing they hoped that our children would enjoy in America and then they went around the circle praying for T, T, J, and very special....AND THEN, the last picture shows after all of the kids were in bed, the adults gathered once more...we shared in worship time, a time where they shared blessings for us, a time for us to share our thoughts and to encourage them and then they circled around us and prayed....our hearts are so full and so honored by this group of friends....

The waves in Benin are HUGE and the water is rough. Tori and Timothy were down with the other kids running from the waves...most of the parents were supervising this activity very closely...myself included! I love watching Tori and Timothy stick together and take care of each other!
Being at the beach for mini-vacations and birthday parties is something that I know our family will dearly miss about Benin.

We really had a LOT of fun in the pool!

Tori was so thrilled that Hannah Reeves was here to spend time with...they loved laughing and being silly together...

Timo was also enjoying playing with friends in the many little boys to play with....this was truly an amazing week for our kids to be with other missionary kids!

Later in the day I had bathed Jonathan and Lael and had them ready for dinner...I began visiting with someone and in less than 20 seconds they had decided to cool off in this little foot washing pool....oh well....what can you do but laugh and head back to the room and change?

Timothy, Jonathan and Lael all were making the most of this simple slide! We spent a long time here and then Lael wanted some time to play in the sand.

Jonathan's birthday was a fun celebration! Randy and I had decided only the night before that we were going to make a cake and have a party! Because we rarely have opportunities to be with larger groups of people, especially with large groups of kids...we knew this would be a great time to make a fun cake and take pictures of our 2 year and 3 month old son! We already had some "Cars" themed plates so we decided to make a Tire cake! Of course it was Randy who made the cake and he did a great job! The pictures above show the cake and at least our 2 boys really enjoying it. All the others enjoyed it as well.
The first picture shows Timo... up on top of the car helping Randy unload our things when we arrived at the beach. He loved being included in this big task of helping his Dad! In the picture of Randy, Jonathan, and Kelly at the bottom, be sure to notice sweet Timo in the background!

These pictures were taken last Sunday afternoon. I presented all 4 kids with special souvenirs from Kenya.....safari hats and t-shirts that said Hakuna Matata...."it means no worries" and they knew this already from watching the Lion King! They were very excited! It is so fun to do fun special things for your kids! I LOVE to make them happy!....And most of the time they are VERY easy to please!

Monday, April 02, 2007

RETREAT TIME (and party for J!)

Today we head to our retreat with several other West Africa missionaries. We are thrilled to share these few days with such good friends and colleagues. We'll be there 3 nights. We'll be out of Blog-touch for a few days!
Since Jonathan's BD is January 3rd, we're going to celebrate his party TODAY with our friends. Didn't seem right to us to do it so close to the holidays. We're still trying to figure out what to do in the future. Perhaps we'll combine it with Lael's in the summer, or Timo's in May, or his cousins' in July. Or will continue to do it in late March, corresponding with Kelly's BD. Anyway, today, it's a CARS's the cake topper that sits upon a cake shaped like Lightning McQueen's tires! Pictures to come later.....
Yesterday was a great day in the Kingdom. First of all, for the first time in over 6+ years, there was an assembly of people praising the name of Christ in the village of Djoumahou. Some of the old faces as well as several new. I heard it was an encouraging weekend for them! A group of leaders from around the area all came together at Djoumahou (joo-mah-hoo), assisting the efforts of those faithful believers at Ainahoue (yee-nah-way) who have been so instrumental in seeing Djoumahoue return to worshipping God. Continue to pray for this new beginning!
Also, there were 6 young adults (probably all in their early 20's) baptized into Christ yesterday from the village of Aflantan (ah-flah-tahn). I do ask you to pray for the Spirit of God to do a mighty work in Fidele (fee-dell). When she was in the water ready to be immersed, as the name of Jesus was pronounced, suddenly she began to violently shake and speak incoherently. A battle was at hand! I was impressed with the onlooking body of Christ who immediately cried out to God for this young girl's soul. As she rose from the water, she was visibly wrestling with the opposing forces of evil. After 10 minutes of intense prayer (some crying out, some in silence), a peaceful calm came over her. I believe the Spirit of God now inhabits her heart and will be present to combat the flesh that wants to cling to ungodly forces. Pray that Fidele will experience a mighty work of God this week as a testimony of His Great Glory! This church is a stale church in many ways - I have been praying for years that God would show them His power. I pray that they rally to her side and cover her in prayer as she begins her journey with Christ Jesus. May the Glory of God be evident in that village!
On a personal note, it was 12 years ago yesterday that I proposed to my wife. Yes, it was on April Fool's Day! But I was no fool and it was certainly no joke! I still remember fondly the special day and the many surprises that awaited Kelly throughout that day back in 1995. I'll always remember the day we got engaged (from being pulled over by the police for "stalking"....that's a story for another time...from the long journey alongside Donny and George as we tailed Kelly in a clandestined rental car.....and the long journey all the way from Fort Worth to Jefferson in East Texas where I proposed in the gazebo in the middle of town). I love my wife and I thank God for all the wonderfully fun years we've shared together!