Sunday, December 17, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Hello dear friends,

We trust you had a restful Thanksgiving celebration and pray you are able to spend the upcoming Christmas holiday with loved ones.  We certainly are grateful that we are able once again to be with family in Washington over our break, flying in on the 18th and back out on January 3rd!
We hope to be able to connect with many of you in the Bellingham and Seattle area over this period, even though we know it is busy.  We are so blessed by your faithful partnership with us as a family and want to connect with as many of you as possible.  My mobility may be hampered a bit, as it looks I will be having to lug some crutches around after just badly spraining my ankle in our basketball fellowship this last Tuesday night, but still hoping to greet and hear from many of you.  Please do shoot us a text or reply here if you can meet up.

We are carrying on well here in East Texas, wrapping up the school quarter this week with a lot of fun activities for the students and spending a lot of time in prayer for safety and God's work in our lives, and that of our family members, over the upcoming break.  Thandi has been enjoying teaching a very inquisitive Elisha in some preschool activities at home.  Eli loves doing puzzles, though is growing in his understanding of phonograms to form words and numbers.  Thankfully, Thandi's blood results all came back as normal, though it definitely has us frustrated and seeking God as to what the cause of her consistent low energy and occasional stomach pains can be.  We are being more vigilant with diet, and that has been helping of late.  We really cherish your prayers in this, as it really affects her from day to day.  We are grateful we have a local small group we get prayer support from as well.

Thanksgiving break was a wonderful time of hosting family friends from South Korea, Puerto Rico and Kenya.  I also was asked to play in a tournament down in Houston with several of the Gambian students I try to keep in touch with, and it was a really great time of soccer as well as some spiritual conversation and exchange of understanding between our faith backgrounds.  You can see our team pic below.  Please join us in praying in particular for Shariffo, one who I have had a chance to follow up with since our car ride conversation, and whom I was able to share more with and give a book on the life of Jesus recently (hopefully will get into the Word itself next meeting).  We plan to continue to meet as our schedules allow, and discuss our different relationships with God, as he is a very earnest seeker of God from a muslim background.

Busi has been loving 2nd grade, though it is making her that much sadder that we won't be finishing out the school year into May.  We know we have not shared that far ahead in our updates, due to the fact that we were still praying for direction from God, but we are at peace now in applying for a training at the YWAM Colorado Springs base on Business as Mission this coming April.  Just as we have been blessed in our understanding of the educational process and its foundational role in discipling nations through our time here with YWAM Tyler, we are hoping to learn more of God's view on the business sphere, perhaps opening up possibilities of ourselves running a business with Kingdom principles in the future that will help grow our ministry and create on-the-job discipleship opportunities. The base has a homeschooling co-op we plan to be a part of, and we are planning to apply for staff after the course, as the entire base is focused on frontiers/least reached people groups.
We know we are called to Africa, but are still praying for God to make clear which nation. In the meantime, we are logging the time since Thandi got her green card (around this time last year) to be eligible to apply for US citizenship before we are commissioned back to Africa.  If any of you have thoughts/questions on our process, we'd love to hear from you.  We just want to be faithful to what God is telling us to do each step of the way.

PRAISE REPORTS:

- Praise God that earlier this month our entire school had a celebration around Joshua Craine, our high school student who has been battling brain cancer and all kinds of painful complications for over a year, being officially cancer-free...truly a miracle to see him come out of this and gaining strength again, and such an example of faith to us all!

- Thandi's energy levels not being quite so low, and everything clear on the medical side

- God's provision in enabling us to get affordable tickets to be with family/friends over Christmas; we don't take it for granted

PRAYER REQUESTS:

- Quick healing of my sprained ankle and that I will not need to be on crutches the entire break

- Continued process of handing over leadership of our small group to another couple, that Holy Spirit would facilitate our times together and bring the people that need to come

- God would provide the right teacher to take over my 4th grade class before March, so I can still be there for the transition and give us freedom for our preparations in moving (God's hand on the whole process of moving)

Merry Christmas and Blessed 2018 to all!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Autumn Update

Hello all,

Greetings from the Whitlock clan in sunny East Texas.  We trust you are well and carrying on daily with joy and hope from the Lord in the work He has called you to.

SCHOOL MINISTRY:

We are wrapping up the first quarter of the school year at Christian Heritage School, and Busi is really enjoying 2nd grade.  It is such a blessing she gets to have both a female and male teacher, both good friends of ours and from very different cultures.  One from the states and the other from Papua New Guinea, though both very committed to serving the Lord in all they do.

I, Bryan, have been carrying on as the main teacher for 4th grade this year, as Thandi stepped down to focus on homeschooling Elisha (which he has been loving once he accepted the more strict routine:).  The two boys in my class have been quite draining and challenging, as they are both borderline ADHD, but it has been a great learning experience and rewarding in so many ways already.  Always a blessing that we are able, and encouraged, to bring our faith into every subject we teach, helping the student see how the Lord is involved in all of life while giving them the tools to discover this on their own.  There are some pics from the beginning of the school year, including viewing the solar eclipse on the first day and hearing from some Albanian missionaries who have set up a similar school where hundreds of Muslim children attend after attending TFN (the school Thandi did) together years ago.  It was awesome to see Busi volunteer with enthusiasm to pray for the children in Albania to know the Lord!
Busi got her picture in the local paper after we attended a 9/11 Remembrance and Prayer for America event early in the morning:
She was actually disappointed she had forgotten her stars and red/white ribbons for her hair:)  It was quite neat to be a part of, as it apparently was the first event of its kind in Tyler area in which both public and private schools participated.

While I have taken a step back from coaching at CHS, I still help organize soccer training for the Junior High and High Schoolers after school one day a week, teach P.E. to all the elementary kids, and organize a basketball fellowship with older guys from the community every Tuesday night.  The latter has been very encouraging, as we may make sure to pray before playing and have seen a lot of anger and ego issues getting addressed with guidance from the Lord.  I also continue to build relationships with the Gambian student community every Friday I can make pick-up soccer games, and have been enjoying playing the Mexican League every weekend.  The last few photos are from a great time we had fishing, 4-wheeling and shooting rifles (not the kids:) with a guy I play striker with on the team.  He is real open with me, though it is very evident he is against organized religion and not sure about Jesus, but I continue to trust eternal fruit will come from this friendship.

CHURCH MINISTRY:

While Thandi volunteers with the younger kids on a rotation, I help teach the youth on Sundays when I am not signed up to help with video manager or soundboard during the service.  It has definitely been a challenge to engage a grade range of 6th-12th, but I have enjoyed teaching on topics such as Service and Identity as well as seeing them more readily participating and getting comfortable being themselves around each other.  We have been going through a pastoral change at Lifepoint (http://www.lifepointfc.com/), and it has been good to step in and help out while seeing others doing the same.
On Wednesday nights, I am continuing in leading the small group that is held at the church while the kids attend their classes, which they really enjoy.  We are continuing through the second half of Matthew and getting some great discussion and application points on how we can live out the Kingdom in all that we do.  I am also in the process of training up a co-leader who is intimidated by it all, but we are working through that it is ok to lead in a different way than I do.  As he says, "I could listen to you all night, but I'm not sure the others would feel the same about me."  Quite flattering I suppose, though I make sure to keep my talking to a minimum and get all to participate, and don't want him thinking you got to come up with teaching points for the whole hour to lead the discussion well.  It has been good discussing together what it looks like to ask Holy Spirit to lead.

NEIGHBORHOOD MINISTRY:

Lastly, God has begun answering our prayers for our neighborhood, as He has opened up many more seemingly random conversations for Thandi with all the Moms in our cul-de-sac and even up the street.  Two of them that are single moms have begun opening up with her about their struggles and clear search for fulfillment in their lives, one of them it seems even selling marijuana to other neighbors up the road.  I play basketball with one of my neighbors and have had a few conversations in broken Arabic with another from Jordan.  And, of course, the kids are the best missionaries on the block:) We believe God is up to something and will use us as a family to draw many to Himself and His fulfilling love.

Thank you all for your faithful prayers and support to us in many ways.  We always enjoy hearing what you are up to as well, and for those of you in Bham area, we are looking forward to being up there for Christmas again.

PLEASE PRAY FOR....
  • Thandi's health: she has been VERY low in energy the past few months and several friends think it may be her thyroid; waiting for some blood tests and see Doctor again on Wednesday
  • Being in tune with Holy Spirit even when tired at home, to be a blessing to our neighbors and a stepping stone for them to draw closer to Christ in understanding and action
  • Our Wednesday small group and training up future leaders in the church
  • Relationships with soccer friends, conversations that point to our need for our Creator who longs for relationship with us
  • Guidance for our remaining time stateside