*For those in a hurry, read the underlined text!
August and September were very full months for us! As planned, we were able to visit the US (specifically West Michigan) for three and a half weeks. This visit definitely looked differently than we imagined it would back when we moved in January due to the global pandemic, but it was sweet time nonetheless. We were able to have our dog, Rosie, stay with one of the residents here at the village. She was in great hands, and was over the moon when we got back!
Lots of photos and details ahead!
→ Many people have asked about what travel was like, so we have included a bonus section at the end of this email all about our travel experience for those who are interested!
T I M E I N M I C H I G A N
Our time while in Michigan was absolutely stuffed with family time, seeing friends, sharing Silas, appointments, and time in Lake Michigan, as well as celebrations: Pat's ordination, Silas' first birthday, and Silas' baptism (which the esteemed Reverend Patrick Bloemendaal was able to do!)
As RCA Partner Personel, we have access to the RCA's mission houses in Holland while we are in town. This is a huge blessing - it gives us the ability to have our own space with Silas, spread out, and to host others.
Pat's ordination at Community Reformed Church on August 30
With Michigan (specifically Holland) being our prior home, it was interesting to step back in as visitors. There was definitely a part of us that was nervous we would have difficulty leaving Michigan again, but we felt God really bless us in this process. In a way, we were getting a peek into what our life may have looked like if we hadn't moved abroad: What being geographically close to our loved ones would look like, where we would go to church, where we would go on walks, what air conditioning would feel like, so many things! Although it was so wonderful to be in Michigan, and it felt comfortable and familiar, once our trip was coming to a close we felt ready to come back to Jamaica and our home. We missed the people here, the food, and the culture. Of course it was difficult to leave those we love, and we desperately miss our family and friends. We witnessed some of the things we are "missing out on", and certainly have difficulty with others not seeing Silas grow on a close-up scale. But even so, both of us felt that the US is just not where we are called in this season - it's not our home right now. This was so encouraging to us! Missing Jamaica was such a gift, and the three of us were absolutely giddy upon getting home!
Silas' baptism at Community Reformed Church on September 6
S I L A S I S O N E !
We can hardly believe it!! On September 5, Silas turned one year old. He has been our greatest blessing and biggest adventure. Silas is silly, busy, often deemed "determined", very social, and very affectionate. He loves to be held (sometimes to a fault), to pet dogs, and you can usually find him talking away. While in Michigan, he fell absolutely in love with blueberries, apples, and his four grandparents. He continues to nurse a few times during the day (and eats everything else in sight - edible or not), takes two naps, and sleeps 12 hours straight at night. He's an expert crawler and cruiser along the furniture, and we think he is getting very close to taking his first steps! We love him to pieces and can't imagine being on the mission field without him. Blessed is an understatement!
Silas' first time in Lake Michigan! He loved it, like a true Michigander.
W H A T ' S N E X T
Now that we're back home, we are in quarantine for 14 days (more on that below) until September 29. We've been using this time to get settled, regain a sense of rhythm to our day, and complete some work remotely. School in Jamaica has not started yet due to the pandemic - as of right now, schools are set to open on October 5 (including CCCD). Pat and the Deaf pastor here at JDV have been working hard on a ministry plan, and Kara is refining the transition plan for the residents of the village to go into effect in January. We are hopeful to have a couple of teams come down towards the end of the year, but in the mean time we are working on fostering community through village events. We'll share a bit more about that and how you can get involved in our next newsletter!
- Praise for a safe, smooth trip to the US and back!
- Praise for the continued health of all three of us!
- Praise for sweet, memorable time with loved ones, as well as significant peace with leaving again
- Praise for zero cases of COVID-19 within CCCD
- Prayer for the upcoming school year - for students and teachers adjusting to being back, and for health and safety concerns
- Prayer for the financial well-being of CCCD in the midst of the pandemic, and praise for our fantastic leadership.
T R A V E L
Our trip began with a drive from the village to CCCD's Montego Bay campus, where we were parking our car while we were gone. This leg was about 3 hours long (including a stop for someone to get their wiggles out). Montego Bay's campus manager then drove us to the Montego Bay airport (about 15 minutes from the campus). On the way back, we flew out of Midway in Chicago - Kara's mom was able to drive us down, as she works out of Chicago. Upon arrival in Jamaica, the Montego Bay campus manager picked us up and brought us to our car on campus.
- Airports -
The Montego Bay airport required face masks (not for Silas), hand sanitizing, and a temperature check before entering the building. Midway required face masks upon arrival. We were required to sanitize our hands at various checkpoints (before security, before boarding, etc.) and to maintain social distance from other traveling parties at both airports, particularly while waiting in lines. Upon arrival in Jamaica, our temperatures were checked before customs and meeting with the Ministry of Health (more on that below).
- Flights -
We flew American Airlines on the way to the US, and Southwest on the way to Jamaica, and were pleased with the guidelines they had in place. Only one of our American flights was nearly full, but it was an airplane with two seats per column, so it ended up working okay for us. Masks were required by passengers and crew members while on the flights at all times, unless eating or drinking.
- Testing -
We opted to have COVID-19 tests done upon our arrival to the US, and per Jamaica's requirements, before we left for Jamaica. All three of us tested negative both times!
- Travel Authorization -
As of June, Jamaica's government is requiring authorization in order to travel into the country (for both residents and non-residents alike). This required us to have negative COVID test results within 7 days of travel, and involved all three of us submitting online travel requests 5 days prior to leaving the US, and needing approval before we could even print our boarding passes. Missionaries who traveled a few weeks before us witnessed passengers being turned away at the airport for not having their travel authorization! We were grateful to have our documents in order before getting to the airport. Once in Jamaica, we had our temperatures checked and then had to meet with someone from the Ministry of Health before even getting to customs. They asked us questions about our travel application, confirmed where we will be quarantining for 14 days, and who will be purchasing groceries for us. We were nervous about what this would look like, as missionaries before us had to wait in line for upwards of three hours to speak with the ministry, and were then required to submit multiple videos per day during quarantine to the ministry on their well-being! However, we got right in to speak with a ministry worker, and were just given a form to fill out during our quarantine to record our temperatures and any symptoms, and will need to submit this to the ministry at the end of our 14 days.