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I think we are Crazy…but Unbelievably Blessed

Long time, no reporting. Oh, how crazy these past few months have been. Sorry, for the delayed post. The end of December through the middle of March has been a super busy time, but even through all the craziness we have seen God’s leading and blessings over and over. So, lets start at the beginning…

I (Jess) finished my job at Mid Dakota Clinic on December 18th, 2020. This was of course a bittersweet event. I was ready to get home and start tackling the mountain of things to do, before we would be leaving for Peru, but also was sad to say goodbye to good coworkers. However, on my arrival home that evening, I realized that I should have maybe finished work a little sooner then I had, as the list of things was more epic than I had remembered. But, first things first. Before tackling the Peru pile/list, we needed to pack for our trip to Berrien Springs for Christmas (which was only two or three days away). The rest would have to wait until we were back home.

With a car packed full of things to store at Brad’s parent’s house, we headed to Berrien, stopping to pick up a friend from the Chicago airport and delivered him home on our arrival in the Berrien area. The car was packed, but we enjoyed each other’s company. While in Berrien, we had a wonderful time with family, friends, and relaxing. We headed home on December 29th, knowing that we needed to stop and spend the night in Minneapolis on the ways home, due to my having an appointment with the Fargo, ND travel clinic to receive several shots that were needed before traveling to Peru. As we departed for Minneapolis Brad and I began to feel a little under the weather. Assuming that this was owed to the late nights and larger amounts of sugar that had been consumed during the holidays, we debated if we should cancel my shots but decided we likely just needed a good night’s sleep. Arriving to the hotel early and being able to get the sleep needed, we awoke in the morning feeling great, so we proceeded with the shots. After receiving the shots that were needed from the clinic, we headed home. On our final stretch home, we received a phone call that we had come in contact with a positive COVID-19 case while in Michigan, so upon our arrival at home we stayed to ourselves, just to be on the safe side. Well, Friday night rolled around and I began to get a bit of a scratchy throat, so I got some good sleep and took some natural remedy things to kick the “cold” I had. In the back of our minds, we didn’t want to think about if this was more. We prayed for God’s will to be done, not seeing how coming down with COVID was going to be a blessing. However, on Saturday morning I awoke with my loss of taste and smell gone. This was a sure sign that I had COVID. So, Sunday as soon as the clinic opened, I was in getting tested. Brad and Nathan also got tested. At this point, we realized that If I tested positive, then my 90 windows of grace that they give you would put us in to the beginning of April, which would help us with entry into Peru. My test came back positive and Brad and Nathan’s came back negative. We found it odd that Brad’s didn’t come back positive, but oh well. He informed his work once the state contacted him about his quarantine time frame, and sure enough he was to stay at home for two weeks. This was when we realized how amazing this blessing was. I had a very mild cold feeling, with some moments of fatigue, but was able to keep moving enough to start the packing process. Thanks to God’s blessing, Brad was able to stay home and help pack. As we began this process in earnest, we began to see that this was not a task I would have been able to do on my own! We barely got stuff done quickly enough as it was. Brad went back and tested after being on quarantine for seven days past my release from quarantine date, in the hopes of being released back to work early. This test came back positive for Covid. I know it sounds bad, but this is what we had been praying for. We had hoped the original test would come back positive, but all in God’s timing. We understand that COVID is a very real thing, be we also knew that he had been mostly asymptomatic. If he was going to test positive, we wanted it to be within the same time frame, or he was going to miss his entire last month of work. This also allowed him to receive a letter from the state, as I did, which might help us with entry into Peru. The state didn’t add any time to his quarantine, due to the fact that he had already been in quarantine for two weeks, and had experienced mild symptoms at and earlier stage in the quarantine process. So, it didn’t change his work restriction time and allowed him to receive and positive test result needed to gather the letter needed for Peru.

My mother came the following week to help us finish packing. The original plans had been for her to come right after Christmas, but clearly that wasn’t going to work. We also realized that if she had come, we wouldn’t have been sorted through our stuff enough to where she would have really been able to help. I remember her standing in the middle of a room and saying, “Jess, you are about three months behind on sorting and packing”. This was something that we laughed about and it helped to light a fire. We hit the packing hard, and were able to get a lot done. Sometime during this process, I had to call the airlines to clarify the baggage limits and make sure Brad’s guitar could come on our flight. We had originally been told that we could take a few extra bags (at a price), so we planed accordingly. Upon calling I was informed that Brad’s guitar would be classified as a carry on and that bringing it would be fine. I also asked to clarify what the luggage restrictions were. At this point I was notified that we were only allowed two checked bags at 50 lbs each, one carry on, and one personal item. We were told that we were not allowed to pay for extra bags due to a luggage embargo in Peru. I was shocked, and processing how we were to pack our entire lives into four 50 lb suitcases, two carry-ons, and two personal items, when I realized that the lady on the phone had asked a question. She said, “When would you like us to book your flights?”. I stuttered and asked her what she meant since our flights had been booked since November. She then proceeded to inform me that our flights had been canceled two weeks prior and wanted to know if we wanted to book flights or refund the old ones. I told her that I needed to talk with Peru Projects (who had paid for the flights), and that I would get back with them.

After informing Brad of what had happened, and getting a gentle reminder that God had a plan, I went home. While my mother, Nathan, and I ate lunch, I began to open to computer and see what I could find. We had originally booked through Expedia, which had not yet received any information about flight changes from United (who we had booked flights on), so I logged on just to see what other options I could find. I had decided that we would not be purchasing flights through Expedia again, as I wanted to deal directly with the airlines and not a third party, in hopes that if something else went wrong it would be easier to handle. In the process of doing this, I saw a Delta flight come across for $213.00 apiece, half the price of our original flights. Curious if this was a legitimate thing, I pulled up the Delta web site, entered in the information, and was surprised to see that the ticket prices were $210.00 dollars! I was about to call Delta to verify their luggage policies and make sure all the questions were answered, so that we wouldn’t have problems like we did with United, but just before I did my mom was looking over my shoulder and realized that we could buy and upgraded seats for an additional fee. This upgrade would allow for us to bring more bags, and provide seats that could reline into a bed for sleeping. She then persisted in the fact that she wanted to pay the difference, so that we could sleep through the night (which is the duration of our flight). The flight also was straight from Atlanta to Lima, and then from Lima to Pucallpa. Whereas our original flights had us flying from Atlanta to Huston, Huston to Lima, and Lima to Pucallpa. This schedule also meant that we would not have to leave the airport, where as the original one we would have had to leave the airport overnight and then go back in just before our flight (which wasn’t ideal as there has been some political unrest in the area). So with that in mind, we called the airlines and were informed that with our tickets we would be able to take two 70 lbs bags apiece and up to six additional bags at 50 lbs. apiece, as well as a carry-on and personal item. They didn’t know anything about a luggage embargo and were very nice to deal with! The Lord allowed us to get much better seats and more luggage, not to mention a whole new flight schedule that allowed for less stops and a smooth transition once in Peru. This was a God moment that we never saw coming, and it allowed for moments of praise and relief.

With this good news, we were able to get to packing all we had hoped to take. My mom headed home after about a week, and Brad went to work for his final week. I continued to pack, and Nathan was able to get moved into his apartment on a different floor of the same building. This was the big move moment. Nathan inherited/paid for most of what was in our house, and was able to get a fully furnished apartment. A few of the belongings were headed to Brad’s parents’ house for storage. We hit a point where we realized that we would never be able to get the whole appointment packed and cleaned in time for the carpet cleaning company to come, so we called a help line and asked if there were any of the church members who would be willing to come and help clean. We had a crew of six come and in a matter of 3-4 hours the whole apartment was clean from top to bottom. How amazing are God’s people?! This blessing allowed us to feel relaxed and be ready to leave Bismarck at mostly a proper time. We had intended to spend a night with friends on our way to Michigan, but we quickly realized that we wouldn’t be ready to leave Bismarck until the morning. We spent our last evening in Bismarck, packing the vehicles and hanging out with Nathan.

We headed out bright and early the following morning and started our trip to Berrien Springs, MI. We had two vehicles loaded down. I drove the Subaru Forester and Brad drove a Suburban we had bought and fixed up (enough to drive) from Brad’s work. Once we arrived in Berrien Springs, we unpacked the cars, slept for the evening and then headed to the Grand Rapids airport. From here we flew down to Orlando, FL for a fun extended weekend with friends where we were able to relax a little bit. From Orlando we flew back to Grand Rapids, MI. We got the car from parking and headed up north to see my grandparents. It was so enjoyable to spend time with loved ones that you don’t typically get to see. With a week split between the two sets the time flew by so fast. We enjoyed talking about Peru Projects at their churches and showing them pictures of where we would be. After saying our good byes we headed back to Berrien Springs for a week.

Once in Berrien Springs we took a few days to finish packing for Peru, as we hadn’t been able to completely finish before leaving Bismarck. We had anticipated this would take two days at the most…we were wrong. It took four days about and we still didn’t have it all sorted out. This of course cut into our time with Brad’s parents and family and had us all feeling a little cheated on time. We then flew from South Bend, IN to Cody, WY where we spent a week or so with my family. It was nice to play with our niece and enjoy the time with them. On our last weekend with them we went up into the mountains south of Jackson Hole, WY. It was like traveling into a winter wonderland. The cabin rented allowed for time together, without home responsibilities. We got to sled, play games, go for walks, and sing around the fireplace. It was a wonderful way to spend our last bit of time with my family. Upon arriving back at the house, we began the process of packing up our belongings and enjoying one more day of productivity, before we were to fly back to MI. When it was time we went online to check in for our flight. They informed us that the flights were going to be extremely full and that if we wanted, we could change flights for no cost. So, we changed our flights. This allowed for a more relaxed morning and a little more time with family (or so we thought). Upon trying to check in for the new flights, we were informed that something was wrong and that we were to just go to the airport to figure out what had happened. Instead of driving two hours one way, we just called. Apparently when they offered to move our flights, it only applied to specific airports, which they had not informed us of, and we would need to pay over $200.00 a ticket to board the plane. This was more then the whole tickets had cost originally for round trip, so we spend hours working out the correct flight information with United. In the long run, we ended up getting an evening and half day more with family and then my parents drove us to Billings, MT to catch our flights early the next day. This began some of the hardest good byes we would have to do. Let’s just say that it was hard to eat or do much without tears coming back to our eyes through out the whole flight process back to MI. Part of what made this so hard, was knowing that we would not be seeing, in person, our niece or brother and sister-in-law for possibly several years, since Jordyn is too young to be making the trip to Peru for a while yet. Mom and Dad have their passports in process and hope to come down eventually.

While at my parents Eben (our friend in Peru), called and wanted to know if we could possibly push our flights back a few days. This was something we had been thinking about doing, as we hadn’t really gotten to spend a good amount of time with Brad’s parents and family, and a few more days would be nice. So, we pushed our flights back a few days with a new arrival date of March 8th in Peru. This allowed us to spend more time with the Berrien Springs group of family and friends, as well as do a final pack on all items going to Peru. However, plans changed once again when Eben called and asked Brad if there was a way, he could meet up with him in Bartow, FL. There is a repair shop that specializes with Lake Amphibian aircraft, which is one of the airplanes that the mission uses for hard-to-reach locations of the jungle. So, they agreed that Eben would move his original tickets up and we would move ours back (with a new date of March, 16th for departure), allowing the two of them to spend about a week at the shop together. This allowed for Brad to meet the guys that handle parts and such for the plane, and for him to ask questions and get to know the aircraft better. On our final weekend with Brad’s parents, we went down to Kentucky and rented an Airbnb. Friday, we went to the Ark Encounter. What a cool place to see! It put a size and ideas of what Noah’s ark could have possibly been like. We enjoyed a walk and spending time in nature on Sabbath together before saying emotion filled good-byes on Sunday.

We then headed to Bartow, FL where we would meet up with Eben. On the way down we stopped and spent the night with a couple that had been missionaries in Guyana when Brad had been there. It was great to catch up and to glean advice from their experiences. That next day we drove down to Bartow, FL to meet up with Eben. Brad and Eben enjoyed spending time together working/learning at the aircraft maintenance shop and I spent time working on paper work, a few last-minute sewing projects, and cooking meals for the boys. It was so enjoyable to sit and work at the table with windows open and a breeze swaying the palm trees outside…. hehehe. We left five of our suitcases to go back with Eben, due to his getting a much cheaper rate for luggage and then headed on our way up to Macon, GA.

So, here I sit finishing up a blog that is months past due. It is hard to believe that this is actually happening. It seems like time has both crawled by and yet flown at the same time. We are going to miss our friends and family so much. Words will never begin to express how much emotion we have experienced in the last few weeks. At times we are so excited to go, and at other times we are just wanting one more hug from those we love and have already said good-bye to. Things have not gone according to our plans, but God has shown all along the way that He is in control of this mission and that this is His path for us. We have so often looked at each other and said, “we are absolutely crazy!”. Yet, we have seen over and over that we are blessed beyond measure.

Prayer Requests:

1. We are hoping to build a house once we arrive. The one we originally were going to be living in is in a flood zone and though it didn’t flood badly this year, we hope to build, funds permitting, in order to have a house up on higher ground. We, ask that God guide us in this process. We want to be good stewards of His money (the donations given for our mission), and do what He wants us to.

2. Praise the Lord that our Covid-19 tests came back negative, so as of this evening, we should be boarding our flight for Lima.

3. That our luggage arrives undamaged and we don’t have difficulties with travel or customs.

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Mar 16, 2021

Wow! What a journey! You are in our prayers, and we can hardly wait to see the adventures Jesus has instore for you! All our love, and hugs and kisses to you both! Remember how much Christ loves you too!

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