Thursday, July 28, 2016

Just a Bit of an Update

Resting and running. That seems to be the headline of our lives right now. Little did we know how much we needed to be home earlier in June than expected. That extra time gave us the chance to relax without any pressures or obligations, and we needed that. We enjoyed the time catching up with my (Dawn's) parents, kayaking and swimming in the ponds, meeting cousins for the first time and hanging out with half of my siblings, visiting the Pittsburgh zoo, exploring the woods for mushrooms, purchasing a vehicle and applying for new licenses. Okay, the new license ordeal was not so enjoyable. Since both of our licenses were expired we had to accomplish both the written and skills tests. A failure on both tests by one or the other of us made the process a bit of a hassle, but we are both legal now. The month of June also gave us an opportunity to get to know Dad and Mom's new church. What a group of amazing people they are! They blessed the kids with bikes, clothes, snacks and picnics. They were a tangible expression of the love of Christ, and we were blessed immensely by them.

The kids enjoyed the aquarium with their cousins.

Sometimes, this is the best way to view the zoo.

Our tour guide.

Even the rain can't stop the play.

Our first broken bone victim.

Grilling hot dogs with the cousins.
July brought the running. We spent a week in Pennsylvania allowing the Lord to turn our hearts over to Him again. It was painful at times looking back at what the Lord has brought us through over the years. But what a sweet relief it was to take all the pains and losses and turn them over to the one who has already "borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" (Isa. 53:4). The older kids were also given the opportunity to share their stories. They loved having a captive audience as they recounted memories, hurts, and dreams of their own. In the midst of our debrief week we were also able to rest. We checked out a local dairy farm and their homemade ice cream, explored a couple of parks, and even realized how terrible we are at bowling. Overall, it was a great week.

My youngest sister, Abby, spent a couple of weeks with us while Mom and Dad were on a trip. She fit right in with the crazy.

We then traveled to Virginia to visit a few supporting churches and friends. It was a busy few days, but they were enjoyable days. We threw in a quick day trip over by Baltimore, MD to visit more family, and loaded our stuff and our kids to make the trip to Michigan. Thankfully, we were able to cut the over ten hour trip into two days making it much more enjoyable and tolerable to the kids.
All in all, we've visited seven states over the last month and spent around 40 hours in our van.

And the end is not in sight yet. We look forward to visiting more family and friends here in Michigan over the next two months.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Crazy Life

And our feet are on the ground again! Life is still pretty surreal right now, but we are in America. The last few weeks have been a blur of activity. Around the middle of May the Lord changed some of the events that we had planned for our last month in Tanzania. This was a blessing in disguise as I (Dawn) had begun to feel a pressing ache in my heart for the spiritual health of our family. I longed to see our family refreshed; and soon. Because of these changes we were able to change the departure date on our return flight tickets. (This also turned into a blessing as the date change gave us a full refund of the previously purchased tickets and a discounted price on the new tickets.)
But along with the departure change came a whirl of events that had to be crammed into about 19 days. We celebrated the end of the school year by heading to the local water park (think amazing slides and loads of fun with very limited safety standards). The kids had a blast even though 200 school kids ranging from preschool to about 7th grade shared the park with us. And even though the little kids' area was crammed with multiple screaming bodies touching, pulling, pushing, doing the potty dance, and even slapping me in the face, we had fun.
Packing ensued in full force. The house looked like it had been turned upside down. Thankfully, a coworker took the kids for a day so that Stephen and I could focus on filling and weighing totes. We were working on weighing the second box when Mama Anna yelled for Stephen to come quick. A neighbor lady had just given birth and no one knew how to cut the umbilical cord. So my personal midwife spent the next three hours helping this new mother out while I attempted to continue packing. The rest of the day was filled with various people showing up to purchase different items that we were getting rid of in a hurry. So very little packing actually took place.
The very next day brought a road trip. In the midst of packing, the Lord provided a vehicle so that our entire family could head south to visit our host family. Even though the travel was exhausting and the roads are still very rough in places, we had an amazing visit with Baba and Mama Telelah as well as a chance to see so many friends.

We returned from the village with three days to finish packing, sorting, selling, and vacating our house. Talk about exciting, but we finished. Again coworkers were a huge blessing. We moved out on a Wednesday into yet another blessing. Some coworkers currently on their home assignment had left there house open and car available for visitors. So having everything in a box we could rest from the packing. At least for the night.

Thursday morning we woke up bright and early to drive west to Mikumi National Park for our first safari. We arrived at camp at 1:30, ate a quick lunch, then jumped in the safari car for a sunset tour starting at 4:30pm. Three hours later, in the dark, and freezing because we had forgotten to bring sweatshirts and blankets, our driver graciously drove incredibly slow back to the camp where we sat huddled around a fire to thaw, ate dinner, and crashed into bed for a few hours. Up again at 5:30 and armed with all the Maasai blankets from our rooms, we rode back to the park for a sunrise tour. After seeing three lions, loads of impala and giraffe, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, warthogs, and a monitor lizard we returned to the camp to load the car and eat brunch. By the way, drinking your morning coffee while watching hippos and crocs at the hippo pool is a once in a lifetime experience that every one should have. Unless you don't like coffee or hippos or crocs. On the road again, we made it "home" at seven o'clock that Friday evening.

The weekend was full of visiting with friends, shopping for souvenirs, and saying good bye. Monday took us to a quick good bye party with our teammates and then a taxi ride to the airport. We arrived with plenty of time to wait. And roughly 48 hours later we crashed into bed exhausted but happy to be on this side of the ocean. The flights went pretty good. Josie hated just about every minute of the long flight and made herself a nuisance to the passengers around us, but most were gracious. Now we're recovering from the sleeplessness, waiting for Josie to figure out the difference between night and day again, and trying to cope with the cold weather.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Rumor Has It

Perhaps a little birdie has already told you. Perhaps your heard it through the grapevine. Maybe You have no idea what I am talking about.

The VanKampen tribe is heading home this summer for our first home assignment, and we won't be coming back to Tanzania at the end. The Lord has taught us much over the past three years here in Tanzania, and one thing that we keep coming back to is the high importance we need to place on our family's spiritual and emotional health. This is something we have really struggled with during our time here. And so with mixed emotions, yet with confidence, we will be leaving Tanzania unsure of when or if we will come back. Pray for us as the Lord leads our family back into our "home" culture that we know has changed so much. Pray for wisdom and direction.

And there you have it. The rumors are true.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Time for an Address Change- but don't use it.

Our organization is known as Integrated Vision Tanzania here. And with that, here is our new mailing address:

Stephen VanKampen
P.O. Box 60749 
Kawe, Tanzania

But wait, there's more. With less than 60 days before home assignment, I would issue caution against sending much of value. (Not that we regularly receive such.) Particularly, I want to save you the cost of postage- it's just south of outrageous to send something here. 
If you just gotta get rid of those used tea bags, old socks, and last years' day planners, I might recommend finding someone local to "bless."

Seriously, to everyone who has sent care packages, letters, and birthday gifts... few things have encouraged us more than the time and effort you have put into them. Thank you!

So thanks, but now- stop it. We'll see y'all soon on y'alls' side very soon.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Was Somebody Praying?

Since the last two posts, several things have taken place that have obviously been an answer to prayer. First, the rains have finally arrived. Yes, this does limit many activities, and people will stay indoors for potentially days. But the rains bring cooler temperatures. This in turn, means that our heat rash has begun to fade, albeit, not entirely. The hot days between the rains remind us that the rash is not far away. But the relief is very welcome.
Secondly, we have a birth certificate. After three more trips downtown, we finally have Josie's birth certificate. We were then able to get her pictures taken for the passport application. But, as is almost customary here in Tanzania, the first time didn't work. The pictures were cut too small. Another trip to a different photo store was successful. Passport, birth abroad, and social security applications are now in the hands of the US government. Walk in, hand over papers, pay one flat price, boom, that's it! It's almost like magic! We have even been assured that if the passport has not arrived by the time we fly in June, the embassy will do what it can to get that baby on the airplane legally. And we don't even have to bribe them! Amazing!
Sadly, the water and electric outages have not improved. This week has been like a long, drawn out and ugly tease. If the power is on, the water is out. When the water comes back on, and the laundry is 20 minutes into its work, the power turns off. Ack! Do they not realize how much laundry a family of ten goes through? Yesterday, we actually had both water and electricity all day. Today, not so much.
We truly appreciate your prayers. To be honest, some days are a real struggle, and we are vividly reminded of our desperate need of our sovereign Creator. His sovereignty gives hope. Thank you for praying!