“Home” is a very fluid and hard-to-define thing for a missionary. While back in the States, the question we got asked more than any other was, “Is Togo home to you?” That’s actually difficult to answer. In one sense, yes, it absolutely is; we have our house here with most of our belongings, we have decided to make this home for now (in spite of it being such a harsh and difficult place), and this is primarily where we have raised our kids. However, the Pacific Northwest will always be home in  another sense. We know that we won’t live in Togo forever, but for now this is home.

You’re really never sure what kind of response you’ll have coming home after being gone for a whole year, but I think our reaction this time could be described as relief. In spite of people in the States graciously providing a wonderful place to stay and vehicles to drive while we were there, and in spite of enjoying so much extra time with family and friends, we are just relieved to finally be back home. We are really looking forward to getting settled and moving on with the next stage of our lives and ministry.

The ministry has evolved and grown quite a lot over the past year, which I had a taste of when I came back in January for five weeks, and with Andrew and Julia gone to Australia until November I feel a bit like I’m jumping into something completely new. Andrew and I have always been very intentional about putting as much leadership responsibilities as possible into the hands of local, Togolese leaders, but there are still a lot of things that I will need to manage, oversee, and initiate. So please pray for this transition that it will be a smooth one.

Just like everything else in Togo, it takes a bit longer here to get settled into a house, which has definitely been the case over these past couple weeks. With an extra mini-Shanks now, we are having to switch some rooms around, consolidate space, and get more organized than ever before (we’re not always very good at that!). There are also lots of things around the house that the severe climate has taken its toll on which are now needing repair or replacement. All that to say that we have seen the need to take our time and make sure that our house is in order before jumping right back into ministry. I’ll be taking a trip down to Lomé (the capitol, 7 hours south) next Wednesday, so beginning in August I will begin making visits out to lots of villages to catch up with all the students in our Oikos School for Church Planting. I’m excited to see and hear about how Jesus is building His church in each of these places!

This past week we were so blessed to be able to host Brian Reis and his son, Graham, for five days during their visit to the Kara area. The Reis’s were missionaries here for eight years and left just before we arrived in 2009. We had a great time getting to know them, sharing stories, sharing laughs, and best of all sharing Jesus with one another.

And  in case you’re wondering about how the kids are doing…

Joshua is glad to be back in his comfort zone where he can play “street soccer” all day, eat with his hands, and feed elephants. Yes, I said feed elephants!

Since we’ve been back, I don’t think he has stopped playing with his best buddy, David, except to maybe to eat and sleep.

Owen remembers next to nothing about Togo and even our house, so he’s having a blast rediscovering all his old toys when he’s not tagging along on one of Joshua’s and David’s adventures. He isn’t quite accustomed yet to this strange place called Togo where everybody speaks a strange language and always expects him to greet them with a smile and talk with them. Sorry buddy, this isn’t a great place for introverts to live! He’s slowly coming out of his shell, though.

Ian is doing great and doesn’t seem to be bothered much at all by the heat. Thankfully it hasn’t been too terribly hot over the past few weeks. He is the star attraction around here, with all the Togolese astounded by how huge he is at only three months old! He loves giving everybody big smiles and he’s starting to “coo” when we talk to him.

That’s all for now. We hope to write another update soon after I start visiting some villages.