We hope that whether your see snow when you look out your window or you are sitting outside in your flip-flops that you are feeling encouraged and uplifted by the new life that the Resurrection and this time of year symbolizes.
We were really thankful to be able to celebrate Resurrection Sunday with our church here in Philadelphia after many missed weeks due to sick kiddos. In our last update I shared how we had begun to settle into a routine that was giving us a great sense of accomplishment. A few days later, enter the stomach bug, respiratory infections, another bout with croup and some lingering yucky coughs that apparently Varaso children can't manage without vomiting ... and everything got turned on it's head for several weeks. In one week we required the skills of our regular pediatrician, our mechanic, a locksmith, Emergency Room doctors, and even the vet! We went through a lot of laundry soap and slept very few hours, but I'm happy to say that we emerged on the other side of things feeling really grateful for every healthy day and for the friends and family who prayed, encouraged and helped us through it.
In the past 6 weeks some really wonderful things have started to shape us as far as the necessary repairs for our home. For years, the telltale sign that something needed to be done was the daily deposit of brick dust that fell into our kitchen and bathroom from the back wall of the house. Frank spent all of last summer fixing the brick joints from the outside, and we finally have gotten to a place where there has been significant repair from the inside as well. Several weeks ago a mission team partnering with a local church spent the afternoon gutting our bathroom, finally exposing the bricks that were the worst offenders as far as dropping dust below. Then last week, the kids and I were able to spend several days in Virginia with my family in order to give Frank some extended time to repair and seal the two worst walls of the bathroom.
Some folks from my home church in Ohio came out to scope out the situation, and are working on a potential plan to bring a team of workers out to complete an important portion of the work that is beyond Frank's expertise and far too much for one person alone. We are hopeful and encouraged that this could be the answer to the prayers we have been praying for years. I've just sensed God telling me all along to keep being faithful and do the best with what I've been given, and that one day it will be taken care of and the situation improved. It feels encouraging to see like we are moving toward that. And it feels GREAT to not sweep up brick dust every day!
I'll include some pictures to show you the progress!
Plans are firming up for hosting Family Mission Trips with AIM this summer. So far the first two dates that were offered ended up being pulled because of a lack of interest. We were a little discouraged, but also somewhat relieved because it didn't seem like any of the options for where to have the teams stay were working out. We now have a definite trip coming together for July and another one for August. The one in July (7/7 - 7/12) only has 9 people, so if you or your family would be interested in joining in there is room! You can click on this link to find out more about it -- Click here
(Also, if anyone is ever interested in a more casual visit where you can see the sights with your family and also come catch a glimpse of where we live and what we do, I recently discovered a lovely little rental house that sleeps 9 people for only about $140 per night. We would love to share our city and our lives with any of you would like to come visit!)
Please continue to pray for our neighbor Priscilla and her two daughters, who actually are our "former neighbors" now. Frank and a couple of guys from a local church helped her to move into her own apartment on the other side of town a couple weeks ago. It's hard to say whether her situation has improved or not. It's certainly not ideal. Frank's Dad's church has an outreach ministry that collected all sorts of thing to help them out - clothes, housewares, a bed, dining set. I know she was really humbled and blessed to get all of those things and we were so thankful to see her loved and cared for by them. Yet, in her current situation, she has so many challenges and disadvantages that it will truly be a miracle for her to get by and more forward. She is pregnant again. Her apartment is a L-O-N-G multi-bus ride from our neighborhood where her older daughter is enrolled in school and her younger daughter stays with her aunt during the day. Then it's another two-train ride to get to Job Corps each day. To make this work she is going to have to fight an uphill battle of self-sacrifice and discipline every single day. In the past she has struggled to be able to even feed her kids and herself under much, much less demanding circumstances. Please pray that she is given continual and abundant grace to be able to rise to these challenges. Pray for this little family to be protected and provided for in their new home. Pray that we would be able to help them in the ways that God would have us help, and to be able to accept and let go of not being able to do more for them than we can.
Since our last update we celebrated Selah's 4th birthday and Callum's 2nd birthday. We had a fun time celebrating both -- a whole open-house day full of company (16 guests at one point!) for our extroverted 4 year old's birthday with Minnie Mouse cupcakes for all. For the shy 2 year old we enjoyed a family outing to indoor kids' gym and then had dinner & "HUPP-ball" (what Callum calls any kind of sport!) cakes with the Westfall side of the family in Virginia.
It's wonderful to celebrate our kids and to get to do life and ministry together as a family. Even among all of the craziness, all of the puking that went on last month, we still feel like our family is the best gift God has given us, and the best thing we have going for us. Included the pictures below, I want to share with you a map that shows the great concentration of families in Philadelphia where there is only one parent, especially as compared to suburban neighborhoods where there are mostly two. While some of the single-parent homes are single fathers, I think it's a safe guess that most of them are homes that are lacking fathers in them. Keep this picture in mind as you pray for our city and for our family. We desire for each one of the children here in this city to know that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them unconditionally and wants to show that love them for all of eternity. Please pray that our family, through our strengths and our vulnerabilities, would help them to know and receive that love.
All in all we are spending each day trying to see and glorify Jesus in the mundane aspects of life and ministry, and be ready and expectant for Him to break through and work magnificently at any moment. Life following Jesus is never disappointing!
Thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement!
blessings and love,
Frank, Elizabeth, Selah, Callum & Clementine