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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Glad Tidings

This season has been, like many others before it, a full-scale plunge into the heights of reunion and reconnection and celebration and the depths of brokenness and risk and sorrow. In other words, just like life is supposed to be. While we are out in the night-fields metaphorically, juggling work and weariness, praying and communicating day and night about our Ebola-exposed colleagues in the DRC, the glory of the Lord has shined round about us in wonderful announcements that this world has been invaded by grace, that the stories we are living have plot twists towards happiness, that a beautiful force called love will prevail.

For us, that has been seen most clearly in Luke's Christmas-Eve proposal of marriage to Abby.

She said yes.

There are many things to love about these two, but one of them is that Sago, West Virginia, is a meaningfully romantic place in their story.  So much so that he spent weeks not only planning the ring but also negotiating a 48-hour surprise trip for her to come with him to this little farm (heartfelt thanks to Abby's supervising doctor for allowing her to come, and parents for agreeing too).  And instructing his brothers to construct a temporary bridge to a particular bouldered island mid-river where he wanted to ask the question. A second thing to love is how much they value this braiding of their lives together as one that includes family. Part of the timing meant that the engagement preceded a week planned where Abby's parents were visiting her in Utah, so they would have lots of time to process and enjoy the anticipation of a wedding. Abby is the only one who didn't know what was coming--Luke had brought both sets of parents on board. And while we were about to pop with excitement when he invited her on a Christmas Eve mid-morning hike a few hours after arriving here . . . we were doubly delighted when he suggested the whole fam come along.  So a third thing to love is that we were witnesses to joy. We held back and watched from a little distance, then rushed in to welcome Abby to the family and share the sure sign of God's goodness. Every marriage takes faith; there is no way to lay down your life for another without it. For these two, even finding a couple of days in the next year when they are both NOT WORKING is going to be a challenge.

But they both love Jesus, each other, and their families in the right order, and we trust a celebratory ceremony will eventually be planned.  For those who don't know Abby, she grew up in Annapolis but met Luke in Charlottesville where she finished her BSN at UVA and worked as a nurse. Then she did a master's degree (Nurse Practitioner with a Critical Care focus) at Vanderbilt, and moved to Salt Lake City a few months ago for a very competitive year-long fellowship in trauma/ICU. She ran her first marathon somewhere in those first weeks in Utah, is an outdoorsy, musical, kind person who loves coffee and house plants and puts up graciously with all of us.

So Christmas Eve was a pretty great day, as was Christmas and the whole week.  Hannah, a good friend of the family's from our days together in Kenya, joined us as well.  We baked and played music and ate great meals and exchanged gifts and hiked. There were some river trips down rapids on the giant inflatable pink flamingo, some heartbreaking card games, some old movies. There were long Pittsburgh airport runs, and long bike rides. There were uncountable phone calls and texts but we are thankful to report that all the Nyankunde Ebola contacts are so far without symptoms of disease, and the non-medical non-contact evacuees are stressed by the uncertainty of their lives but doing well. Please do keep praying for peace in the DRC, for sensible responses, for grace where our responses are fearful, for an end to this epidemic, for the bigger organizations like Samaritan's Purse who are sending in the next wave of help, and for wisdom for us as we walk with our people.

And every few minutes, there is the thrill of hope . . the realization that we have a better and bigger family than ever and more to look forward to.

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