The last hours of 2019 found us in Half Moon Bay, California, where Scott's 87-year old mom lives, a block from the cliffs that drop to the Pacific. His sister Sonja, with husband Kevin and 2 of 3 kids were in town, enabling us to tie up a year with many family events. Looking back on a very unexpected year, one of the bright spots was the opportunity to see our moms and sisters and nieces and nephews more this past year than probably the five prior combined. Having a two-part wedding and two graduations helps, not to mention a life-threatening event. We have typically arrived a few days before annual Serge meetings in Philadelphia to visit California (not exactly on the way unless you consider the relative ease of getting to the West Coast when flying to the USA compared to when sitting in East Africa) . . . but rarely to watch the final sunset of the year with such a great quorum.
And the first hours of 2020 found us walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, a tradition of Sonja's friends, with stunning views followed by interesting conversations and a LOT of food.
From California we stopped in Salt Lake City as we made our way East to those Philadelphia meetings, enough time for one ski day with Luke and Abby and Caleb, walks with Botu, and conversations and dinners. It's our first time to visit MARRIED children, which actually didn't feel at all revelatory because Abby seems like part of the family from forever.
(And now a small blog commercial break for better photography once again, this time from Luke
Twice a year our Serge Leadership meets; about 2/3 of the day we talk about big picture strategies and goals, review policies, catch up on trends, and the other 1/3 we pray. For each leader and each area. So it is a particularly Serge-y time where we can be discussing what we need to do to reach out to a more diverse segment of America, or where the Spirit is moving overseas . . . and then sharing our own stories of weariness or failure and finding prayerful support. And there are dozens of sidebars, a quick meeting with someone about a financial reporting issue or someone else about a recruitment idea.
Dinner AT the Massos . . .
And the cake and dinner for Michael at the meetings
This time the highlight was a dinner to honor Michael Masso who wrapped up his 25 years with Serge as he returned to the USA to spend more time with family and work in renewable energy. Karen will continue to work in our home office, but it is the end of a family era. Acacia and Liana were able to attend this dinner with Serge leaders, and hear dozens of quintessentially Michael stories . . . adventures, puns, courage, simplicity, spiritual insight, pranks. We often say that no one ever has or probably ever will save more lives in Bundibugyo than Michael, who put in a gravity-flow piped water system just in time for war to displace tens of thousands of people into camps. We remembered the early days in South Sudan, the many family trips, the shared suffering and learning and joys. I sobbed but most of it was pretty funny and celebratory.
The re-connections with Serge friends like this dinner with Batstones, Hyltons, and Alyssa . . huge treats
Serge publications table--note that both of the featured books came from authors in our Area, Eric McLaughlin and Bethany Ferguson. Both highly recommended.
Last but not least, our USA trip stretched from a planned ten days to a full two weeks when a broken tooth required two emergency dental visits. Not a happy reason to stay a few extra days, but nevertheless a boon to have a few walks in the woods, a time to re-pack, and the opportunity to worship with our church in Sago and drop in on my dad's two remaining living siblings, Aunt Ann (with Uncle Dave below) and Uncle Harold.
Today we are back in Uganda--got to our hotel in Kampala about midnight last night, slept some needed hours, and spent all day doing errands and getting groceries and visiting some friends. Tomorrow on to Bundi.
2020 has already been full of connection and beauty. But the vast shifts in place and person do take a toll. I got on the plane to return feeling disoriented, regretting not seeing MY mom or sister, having misplaced/lost a couple of important things along the way, feeling poured out already. Grace at the fray, I know this will be better soon, but prayers appreciated.