Saturday, August 26, 2017

Settling In

We made it! We survived 42 hours of travel with two nine-month-olds. (Thomas slept great. Eli hardly slept. We were one for two at least.) It took the boys 4 or 5 nights for Eli to get through the jet lag. We were so glad we're here for an extended period. It felt okay to lay low and focus on settling in instead of having to rush to jump into everything.

We're staying temporarily in a two bedroom flat that is usually occupied by the Mohajer family who is home in Toronto until early September. It's very comfortable.

We've been spending lots of time catching up with dear friends.

Eunice with Thomas and Eli
Ma Flo with Thomas and Eli (We lived with Ma Flo our first two months here in 2007. She is our African mother.)

Thomas and Gogo Sarah at Alicia's house


Snuggling Alicia

Most days start early. (The boys have been getting up between 4 and 5 these days! We're working on that.) At 8 am we participate in the usual Hands morning meetings (e.g. prayer or small group). After that Jed works in the office, keeping up with his Hands U.S. duties and sitting with the accountant and bookkeepers here learning the ins and outs of their jobs. 

I'm home with Thomas and Eli. They nap twice a day. We take one or two walks a day up and down the hill. (I'm seriously building muscle on those hills. Together the boys weigh 50 pounds, and only part of the road is paved.) We "play outside," which mostly means sitting in the grass with me repeatedly telling them not to eat grass, rocks, flowers, and bugs. In the afternoons when our buddy Hayden gets home from pre-school, we often meander over to his house and drive him crazy by playing with his toys and begging him to be gentle. (So hard!) Lucky for me, his mom, Alicia, has a two-month-old baby, so she's currently on maternity leave. The boys also love to sit on the trampoline and laugh hysterically while Hayden dramatically falls over.

Eli eating dirt, Thomas thinking about eating dirt
Thomas on the patio, Mt. Legogote in the background

Thomas thinks anything or anyone on the other side of the pack n play netting is the funniest
I also stay busy keeping Eli and Thomas fed. They are eating anything and everything.

Thomas eating eggs and toast, the fork is just there for looks

Eli showing off his best new skill, pointing
Since Jed has worked full time for Hands at Work since January and I devote a lot of my energy to caring for Thomas and Eli, in many ways our life here doesn't look that different from our life in Hibbing, MN, USA. But we are so happy to reconnect with many of our friends here and to live in community with the Hands family. There is a rhythm to it that we love and that we miss when we're only here for a week. We are getting out as well...

Jed spent yesterday in a community a couple of hours from here. He visited the home of a woman and her two young children who are being served by local volunteers from Nhluvuko Home-based Care, supported by Hands at Work. Because the woman was recently widowed, volunteers are visiting them regularly to support them and ensuring the kids aren't going without food during this tough time.

I'm excited to get out to Swaziland overnight Monday to Tuesday. Please pray for me, Mel, Tyler, and Vusi as we travel, and that we can encourage the volunteers in the two villages we will be visiting. Can't wait!

Bonus videos of babies giggling for those who made it this far:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

These Golden Gophers are headed to Africa

We're SO excited to get back to Africa and for the first time as a family of four. We leave two weeks from yesterday. (So much to do to get ready!) We're not looking forward to the long flights with two 9-month-olds, but we are feeling such peace and excitement about the trip in general. We'll stay at "Hands Village" in South Africa, our home away from home, for two months. Our main goal is to reconnect with and encourage our missionary brothers and sisters there and at Kachele Farm in Zambia. Jed will be busy in the office with the bookkeepers and accountants, continuing his work to implement a new accounting system that will simplify and consolidate Hands' finances worldwide. (I know, surprising that he's not done with that yet, right?) He's also now serving on the board of Hands Africa, which oversees Hands at Work charities in all 8 countries where we work in Africa, plus the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia, and essentially consulting with the finance teams in all of those places.

We attended a Hands US board meeting on Saturday, and I was so tickled to hear what a good job he's doing and what an important role he's playing during a critical time. The changes to our accounting system that Jed is spearheading will enable us to grow to serve more children in Africa and influence the church outside of Africa to love and care for the vulnerable in Africa and in their own neighborhoods. We have a unique calling to be part of this work, and Jed's role within that is unique. If he doesn't do it, it won't be done! And his work is having a direct impact on the thousands of kids who are not just getting a meal a day, but are being loved and cared for by Christian volunteers in their own communities. (It's our 14th wedding anniversary today! A perfect day to brag about my hubby.)

We are so grateful to all of you who have supported us financially. We're behind in raising funds, so we've decided to just swallow our pride and put it all out there. Our goal is to raise $28,500 this year. (That includes Jed's annual salary plus $2500 for me and the boys to go to Africa. Thankfully, through other donors Hands in Africa is covering the cost of Jed's flights to and from Africa and our accommodation while we're there.) We have raised $17,000 in funds including pledges for the year. So we're in need of an additional $11,500. If we raise more than that (ha! talk about optimistic) it will go toward Jed's salary for next year. If your are able to give, thank you! Please click here or the "Support Us" link on the right. We also appreciate your prayers and encouragement more than we can say!

God willing, our next update will be from Africa!
With love,

Monday, January 23, 2017

Back in USA

Wow, what an amazing trip.  It's hard to even know where to start.  My time was short, but my schedule was packed.  Maybe I'll just try to pick out some highlights.
  • Sunday
    • getting picked up at the City Bug by Alicia and Hayden, it was great to see some smiling faces after the long journey
    • the welcome braai, it was so nice to taste boerwors again
  • Monday
    • the watchword (I'll say more about this below)
    • getting to see Eunice
    • eating litchis on the way to Swaziland
    • community stay in Lomahasha, Swaziland
  • Tuesday
    • visiting Bhandeni in Swaziland
    • walking the maize fields (I'll say more about this below)
  • Wednesday 
    • Annual General meeting of the board
    • Board of Director's meeting (I'm the newly appointed secretary)
    • Dinner at the Snyman's house
  • Thursday
    • Finance meetings!
    • Dinner at the Snyman's house (again)
  • Friday
    • Lynn sharing at word and worship (such an uplifting and challenging message)
    • More finance meetings!
    • Dinner with the Dinhiras (Emily, Faith, and Divine)
  • Saturday
    • More quality time with the finance team
    • Dinner with the Ralphs and Lynn at Rocomamas
  • Sunday
    • Church at St. George's Anglican church
    • Spanish breakfast at the Courtyard Cafe
    • Heading home to see my family (I'll say more about this below as well)
  • Monday
    • Back in Minneapolis and driving to Hibbing
As you can see there wasn't much down time in there.  I wanted to just touch on a few items in more detail from above.  The first is the watchword.  Hands at Work begins each year with a Watchword; a guiding scripture which George, the co-founder of Hands, shares with the Hands family. This scripture is a promise, a challenge, an inspiration, an encouragement, and an opportunity to invite God to lead us throughout the year, expectant for what He will do in and through us.
The 2017 Watchword comes from Romans 12:12-13


When I told Brooke she said, "Your grandma has that same verse on the mirror in the bathroom."  I know it is small, but it felt like a little confirmation on this big journey we've started.  Quitting jobs, moving to Hibbing, spending time in Africa as a family later this year, these aren't small steps of faith, but this just felt like a gentle reminder that we are not alone.  

The second item I wanted to share about was my time in Swaziland.  I think we may have only been there for less than 24 hours, but it was great to see the joy in the care workers there.  Many of you know there has been a severe drought in Southern Africa for the past two years.  For two years families have planted and had no harvest.  This might not seem like that big of a deal, but it is for subsistence farmers.  Hands at Work has been working tirelessly in these communities.  Their response has saved literally hundreds if not thousands of lives in the communities they are working in throughout Africa.  This year as part of the drought response in Lomahasha and Bandeni (the two communities we visited) they brought in a tractor to plow the fields and got the whole community to help plant maize in the fields for the orphans and widows.  I talked with one of the volunteers from Hands who told me they were so worried that the drought would continue.  They plowed the fields and planted in dust.  The rains hadn't started yet, but they knew if they didn't plant soon even if the rains did come there might not be enough time to grow the maize.  So they planted in faith in the dust.  That very night soft rains started to fall.  Now the maize in some places is taller than 6 feet!  They will still need continued rains not just in Swaziland, but all over southern Africa for good yields, but to see how much joy and hope this brought to the community was amazing.

The final thing I wanted to share was about my family.  It was the longest I had been away from Brooke and the twins since they were born.  They turned 3 months old the day after I got back.  Brooke was great and sent me pictures of their daily activities.  Mostly smiling, eating and playing.  It was great to get home and be with my family again!
 Our dear friend Eunice
 Looking towards the South African border from the yard of our home stay family

The room I stayed in with Vusi and the grandfather in Swaziland
 One of the maize fields planted by the community 
 Vusi and Bernard (from Germany) eating breakfast after our community stay
 The women cutting up leaves for lunch
 Our team ready to make the long journey up the hill to Bandeni (the children walk 2.5 hours one way to get to school each day it took us 40 minutes by truck as the road is rough)
 Dinner with the Dinhiras, Marc D, Bernard and his daughter Maria
 Marc D showing me the finance system.  He filled the board countless times!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I'm currently sitting at the gate in Minneapolis.  In about 24 hours I will be landing in Johannesburg!  The world is small.  I'll be there for a quick 10 day trip for the annual Hands at Work kickoff meeting and a finance meeting. Also, as a part of this trip I'll  be doing a community stay with a family in Swaziland.  I am looking forward to connecting with families on the ground in one of the countries that was hardest hit by the drought this last year.  I'm hoping I'll see continued signs of rain and plants in the ground.  Please pray for my time in Africa that it will go well and that I'll see what God has for our family this year.  Also, please pray for Brooke, Eli, and Thomas as they stay in Hibbing during my time away.  Thanks for all of you that are helping Brooke out these next 10 days.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Welcome Thomas and Eli!

On October 17 we welcomed Thomas Walter and Eli Jeffrey into the world. Our scheduled c-section (at 38 weeks and 3 days) went off without a hitch, and the boys are happy and healthy.

Big belly (I loved being pregnant, but I was getting seriously uncomfortable!)

Meeting our boys

Eli (L) and Thomas (R)

Monday, October 3, 2016

A New Season

We are thrilled to be entering a new season in our lives with the imminent arrival of twin boys and a new job for Jed, working full-time for Hands at Work. Since returning in 2010 from three years serving with Hands in Africa, we have been dreaming of and preparing for this.

We believe that God has called us as a family to spend on our lives on behalf of the poor and vulnerable. Over the years, that calling has led us in some unexpected directions--living in Africa, moving to Minneapolis, caring for four special foster kids, advocating the poorest children in Chisamba and Mwaiseni, Zambia, Brooke quitting her statistics job to lead the Hands U.S. team, and Jed going back to school to study accounting. Jed's studies and work experience have prepared him for a new role within Hands that will be critical to strengthening Hands as an organization in order to protect the heart of who we are and what we do as we grow.

With guidance from Hands leadership, our hope for 2017 is for Jed to start work full-time in January and to spend 3-5 months in Africa as a family later in the year. This will enable us to reconnect with so many dear friends and new leaders who we haven't been able to spend an extended time with for many years. Although Jed's job won't require him to be based in Africa full-time, a 3-6 month stay will enable him to learn more about the finances at every level and to influence and be influenced by the volunteers on the ground in Africa.

Jed will officially be an employee of Hands at Work U.S., but we do need financial support in order to help pay his salary. Jed's work for Hands will have a major impact on the thousands of kids already being supported in some of the poorest communities in Africa. By supporting us (financially and in other ways), you can also play a huge role in making a difference in their lives!

For more information on how to donate, visit our Support Us page.

For more information about Hands at Work, including their unique model that promotes local community ownership, please visit

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

With love,
Brooke and Jed