Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fall Fest

We had a great time at HUGSR's annual Fall Fest two weekends ago. The format was a little different from what Rusty and I remembered in days of yore. Instead of catered Corky's Barbeque, everyone entered soup in a contest to be judged. Rusty made his famous Thai curry. Also, instead of the traditional pumpkin carving contest, they let us take home the pumpkins to carve when it got closer to Halloween.

Alex enjoyed the festivities as well, and spent most of his time racing round and round the courtyard, "roaring" at everyone. He was absolutely adorable in his lion costume! He screamed and cried when I first put it on him, but he got used to it eventually and even won a prize for the cutest kid! It was good to get in a little practice before the actual trick-or-treating event.

Our little lion (side-note: Alex is wearing al paca slippers from Bolivia. They were the perfect finishing touch to his costume!)

Who can resist this face?

Alex and Mackenzie (for more adorable pictures of these two, visit Laurel's blog)

Alex and Alexander Campbell (aka friend and neighbor Jacob Parnell)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Team Meeting

Well, now that my last post is out of the way (you have no idea how long that has been hanging over my head!), I can move on to other news -- like the team meeting we had recently!

On Oct. 12-13, our entire team was physically together for the first time, and we enjoyed a wonderful weekend of fellowship and getting to know each other. The main purpose of our meeting was to go over the DISC personality profiles and discuss team dynamics and related issues. Dr. Carlus Gupton, an adjunct professor for HUGSR, was down for the week to teach a short course, and as the DISC is one of his "specialties," he graciously agreed to spend some time working with our team. We learned a lot about ourselves and about each other -- and about our potential strengths and weaknesses as a team. Definitely time well-spent.

Of course, all work and no play makes for an extremely dull weekend, so we made sure to build in some fun activities too! We shared meals, made icecream, played disc golf, and spent some time on Beale Street in downtown Memphis. Rusty and I feel so blessed by these developing relationships and look forward to the next time we'll all be together in November!

Rusty demonstrates perfect disc-throwing form.
Alex and Teague

Alex helps Danny and Jordan make icecream.

Angola Team (back row from left: Robert Meyer, Rusty Campbell, Danny Reese; front row from left: Teague Meyer, Jordan Yarborough, Laura Campbell, Katie Reese, Nathan Holland)

Saturday, October 20, 2007


When we were forced to return to Portland a little over a year ago, our lives were in limbo for several months. After the initial crisis had passed and life began to take on a semblance of normalcy again, we started praying about and discussing the question "Where do we go from here?" We considered settling in the Northwest for a time. Rusty could get a ministry job and work on his degree long-distance. Several discouraging months passed... letters of interest were sent... and letters of rejection came back. No doors opened, not even a crack. Never even an interview.

Okay then, maybe I could get a job. Rusty could keep his part-time job at Starbucks (and the awesome benefits), and finish his degree quicker since he wouldn't be working full-time. I applied for the same job at Cascade College (my alma mater) twice... and was turned down both times. The second time, I was actually invited to apply (I don't think I would have done so otherwise). I was given an interview and had high hopes... but then the rejection letter came. A door had barely cracked, then slammed shut.

Settling semi-permanently in the Northwest didn't seem to be an option. We began to wonder if maybe God had other things in mind. Maybe "settling" was not something we were meant to do just yet. Maybe we are never meant to "settle," but that's a discussion for another time.

We began to discuss our goals, and found that they boiled down to two things. Goal #1 - Rusty needed to finish the degree he started five years ago. Goal #2 - We needed to realize our dreams for doing mission work in Africa. When we began focusing on our goals, the answer to "Where do we go from here?" seemed obvious. We needed to move back to Memphis.

Almost immediately, doors started opening left and right. We made a trip to Memphis in April and found out... that Rusty could finish his degree in 1-2 years... that there was a 2-bedroom apartment available on-campus for us... that Rusty could transfer to a Starbucks in Memphis. I was even offered a job, pending that the current employee found a teaching job (she did).

So we made the move, and now here we are in Memphis. Rusty is working, being a part-time stay-at-home dad, and taking classes. I am working, being "mom," and keeping the house. Life will be busy for at least the next 18 months, but I for one am so much happier (even though I don't necessarily enjoy being a working mother) because I feel like we have a focus and a direction.

Now for some discussion about Goal #2. Some may be wondering... Africa? Why Africa? Why not go back to Japan? Let me first say (so there is no doubt) that WE LOVE JAPAN! We spent four years there and will always look back on them as some of the best years of our lives. We forged deep friendships with special people, both Japanese and gaijin. We had some unique experiences and made many wonderful memories. We will always have a special place in our hearts for Japan and pray for the kingdom work that is being done there. (And there is not a day that goes by that we don't miss onsens!)

Well, Africa is something that has also always been on both our hearts. There is such a wrenching and tugging that goes on inside us when we think of choosing between Africa and Japan. Because, try as we might, we simply cannot be in two places at once. Several years ago, we thought we had made Africa our final choice. We made some promises. We didn't keep them. We went back to Japan instead. We have some regrets -- not about going back to Japan, because God used that year for good in so many ways -- but about not keeping our word and letting people down.

Now, nearly three years later, the doors in certain parts of Africa that once stood wide open appear to be closed, at least to us. We are disappointed... but not surprised. Life moves on. The doors God opens to us will not always remain open indefinitely. So we have spent this last year praying that He will open another door and direct our hearts to another people, another work. And He has answered in a surprising way, a way that has definitely required a major paradigm shift for both of us.

For the last several months, Rusty and I have been in prayerful discussion with a group of people who are forming a team for mission work in Angola. If you don't know much about Angola, don't worry -- we didn't either! Not many people do. That's because, for the last 40+ years (longer than we have been alive!), Angola has been embroiled in civil war. However, peace has finally come to this African nation that is twice the size of Texas, and as history has shown us, often the years of highest receptivity to the gospel are the initial years of peace following a long conflict. For more information about Angola and the team that is forming, I hope you'll visit the Angola Team website (a permanent link will be posted in the sidebar under "Mission Teams Around the World").

Rusty and I have not made a 100% firm commitment to the team as of yet. We are trying to take it slow, be prayerful, and learn from our past mistakes! However, at this point, all the signs look promising, and the door seems to be cracking ever wider. At this point, we are committed to going on the survey trip with the team next summer (2008), which in itself feels like a pretty major commitment seeing as we will have to raise over $10,000 in order to go! (Oh, me of little faith... I know God will provide as he always does. Still, it is a daunting figure.)

Please lift us before the Father as we consider this door, this amazing opportunity!

(Photo courtesy of David Schauer on stock.xchng)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"The Mom Song"

Just had to share this little video that is all the rage on YouTube right now. Turn up your speakers and get ready to laugh -- you will be in stitches by the end!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Let's All Go to the Fair!

This past Saturday, we decided to take a break from our usual activities -- which lately have involved mostly unpacking, organizing, cleaning, assembling furniture, hitting yard sales, and decorating -- and went to the Mid-South Fair. As someone who has lived 22 of my 30 years in foreign countries, I can tell you that there is nothing more quintessentially American than going to the county fair (unless it is attending a high school football game -- the two rank pretty equally in my mind).

It was a perfectly gorgeous day, as the days in Memphis this time of year tend to be (we're still enjoying summer for all you folks up north). We put Alex in his stroller and walked around for a bit, taking in the sights. Alex was especially fascinated by all the animals, especially the cows. He kept saying "Moooo. Moooo," as we walked past them. There was a special activity center for kids where they could do things like gather eggs, pick apples, dig up potatoes, and milk cows. Of course, none of it was "for real," but Alex had a good time anyway. There was also an awesome petting zoo with some really exotic animals like llamas, yaks, and camels, in addition to all the ordinary farm animals.

Of course, no trip to the fair would be complete without some of that oh-so-yummy fair food. We finished off our day with a lunch of corndogs and fresh squeezed lemonade, and an elephant ear dusted with cinnamon sugar for dessert. You can't get much more American than that!

Here are some pictures of our day:

Picking apples

Look what I found!

You want me to put my hand where?!


It's hard to tell who is having more fun here!

I love the look Alex is giving the yak in this pic!

Petting the camel

So this is a duck?

Feeding the sheep -- he wanted to try, but he would start giggling and pull his hand away when they started nibbling.

"Hey... Is your mama a llama?" (This is one of his favorite books right now.)