“Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Jesus, Happy Birthday to you,” Abby’s high-pitched voice rang through the house, our mixed tones joining in with hers. We all grinned at each other, giddiness spreading through each of us. Christmas happiness hovered in the air – the joy of family, the excitement of giving, the anticipation of gifts, the thankfulness in each of our hearts, the appreciation to our Lord and Savior who came to earth so long ago to save us, all mixed in the smiles of eight individuals who call themselves a family. Happy Christmas, as British people say, to all of you!
“I’m going to miss Thanksgiving”. The words were uttered months before we even left the United States and innumerable times since then. To us, Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday, a chance to spend a day with family and friends, a day off of school, the day before we decorate for Christmas, a day of incredible food, and, most importantly, a day of Thankfulness. We all love Thanksgiving.
Unfortunately, the realization of Thanksgiving as an American holiday (obviously), was upsetting to say the least. The four other Americans on campus agreed.
Thankfully, the head chef is an amazing man.
Pam again, ready for Part 2?
David began to pray a few years ago words like “We are yours…completely…we lay our lives down before You…we pour ourselves out as an offering to You…” I stood beside him, held his hand, nodded my head, but held my tongue. What was he saying??? What would that REALLY look like? This was a whole new level of letting-go-of-self and I was just simply not there!
Guest blogger, Pam, reporting in from Ellel Pierrepont. What I’ve been assigned to write about is a glimpse into the life of a NETS trainee. I’ll try my best! :-)
The heartbeat of this place where we are living is Luke 9:11. Actually, that was originally what NETS stood for – Nine Eleven Training School. Then, 9/11 happened in the USA and the name suddenly was clearly a problem! :-) A former student coined the term Never Ever the Same and it stuck…love that! Luke 9:11 says “…He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” That’s what’s going on around here. We (the trainees) were welcomed (very beautifully, I might add and this welcomed feeling lingers still today. There are some seriously strong servant hearts around here!), we are being taught (more about that in a moment), and we are being healed. That’s just what Jesus did – welcomed, taught, healed, over and over and over again. This is why Ellel Ministries grabbed our hearts over a year ago when we first heard about it. This is what David and I want to do. We came here to be taught/equipped and in the process we are being healed.
“Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear David, Happy Birthday to you!” The song bounced around the room, over a hundred voices laughing and singing.
“Thank you everyone! Now, I know this badge says ‘Happy 42nd Birthday’ but it’s supposed to say “Happy 24th Birthday.”
The laughs followed him as he sat back down in his seat. Conversation rose again from the students and staff as everyone turned back to eating their lunch. Simple things like birthdays seem to draw everyone even closer together.
These days pass us by quickly. The process of adapting to an unfamiliar schedule has been different for each of us. Integrating into life here is exciting, yet it’s not without its tough moments. Living in a different environment comes with the attitude of “try try again”. Although adjusting brings along difficult moments, this is where we are confident God wants us, and I can already see the positive impact this journey has had on my parents, and my family.
The process of learning is not solely connected to school or my parent’s classes, it’s connected to everything – even the little things like washing shower curtains.
Highlights of our first few days here:
1. River Walk: Around the campus, in the woods, there is a beautiful stream to which trails lead and encircle.
The paths take you to the river side, through shady woods, and past old stone walls covered in ivy. Rachael took us kids down there our first full day here in Ellel. We traipsed all over the paths, familiarizing ourselves with the area. The next day, Elise, Kimry, and I went down there and picked big, juicy blackberries that grow everywhere in the woods. We look forward to the quiet beauty of that river in days to come.
2. Cedars (the dining hall): Despite the warnings we had received about British food, the meals here a highlight of our day. Breakfast is at 8:00 every morning (we sometimes have breakfast at our house since we have food in our kitchen), lunch is at 12:45, and dinner is at 5:45. Since there are a lot of Chinese, Taiwanese, and Singaporean people on campus, Asian food is often served whether in the form of a whole meal or a side dish at the salad table. The food is plentiful, delicious, and we always leave Cedars full and impressed.
“Thank you, have a great flight.” the flight attendant hung up the speaker. The engine noise of the plane hummed around us. Scenery started to move out the window as the plane taxied down the runway. Faster and faster, colors running together, and then, we were in the air. Buildings bigger than I became too small to see. Below us, the patchwork quilt of America faded away. We were finally on our way.
The night before we left, final loose ends were completed into the early hours of the morning. No one got much sleep. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 2:51 that afternoon, and we would arrive in London at 11:24 the next morning (7:00 am our time).
If you walked down to the basement of my grandmother’s house right now and peeked in, you would think seven severely unorganized individuals were attempting to open a consignment store there. We aren’t. We’re moving to England in five days.
Emotionally, we are ready to step foot on British soil. Physically, we aren’t – yet. Packing is hard. Packing for seven people who are moving overseas with a tight budget is harder. Thank goodness God can give us grace in chaos.
I remember back at the beginning of summer, imagining what the week before we leave would be like. Now, I’m living that moment. The excitement is coursing through all of us. Our England dream has become a reality. At 2:50 pm on October 1st, we take off from our home and venture across the ocean.
But along with leaving comes preparation – stressful, consuming preparation. So many variables have to be considered: the wet, windy weather, constantly growing children, limited storage space, school curriculum, carry-ons and luggage, and the list can go on and on.
The mop swept back and forth, polishing the memories that coated the house from top to bottom. I placed it back in the bucket and set it out on our front porch. The sunlight filtered through the windows, reflecting off the empty rooms, illuminating the interior that looked so different one month earlier. I paused in the doorway, looking around for the last time, soaking in the house that had been my home for eight years. Softly, I closed the door, shutting it on our ended story; a cherished home now awaited someone else’s beginning.
So many blessings – some bittersweet. Too many to count.
I remember the day our house came under contract. We were awestruck, awestruck at our God’s ability to sell our house, in need of a lot of TLC, with no sign, no realtor, no marketing. It had been listed on Zillow, looked at by three people, two had made offers, and the other wanted to come back for a second look – in one short, crazy week. Then it was over. Finished. Final.
Boy, our God is BIG.
Throughout the summer, God provided for us in so many ways. Our summer of blessings.