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The Notch

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Notch

Previously, I shared about life using analogies about Niagara Falls and the Niagara River, but this time I would like to share an analogy from hiking in the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  

We love hiking in the White Mountains because we have have to work for the view.  But the perspective that we gain is worth the effort.  I remember back to times of vigorous climbing, sweating, huffing, and puffing, thinking, “Why do I call this fun and enjoyable?”  Some of the trails were long, winding, steep and treacherous.  At times I wondered if the trail would ever level out and when we would reach the top.  But then it happened!  There would come a break in the trees, and we would turn around and see how high we had climbed and how far we had come.  We would stand and take in the view.  There was a breath of encouragement at that moment.  Our perspectives just seem to change; there was an internal or emotional breath of fresh air.

There are particular parts of this mountain range that are called “notches.”  A definition of “notch” is, “a deep, narrow mountain pass.”  On Franconia Notch, the view was breath taking as the Presidential range opened up.  We could see what lay ahead.  All the hard work and sweat seemed rather insignificant in comparison to the incredible panorama that suddenly filled the horizon.  It was one of those times when the wind was blowing through my hair and mind, and I stood there exposed to the elements and the excitement of life.  It was a notch, a mountain notch, a reflection of life.

Debbie and I feel that we have just caught a glimpse of one of life’s “notches.”  But the unique perspective about this notch is that we are standing on a vantage point where not only do we see what lies ahead, but we can look back over the terrain and see where we have come.  Here we are in the notch just having sent all our children back to college.  Looking back over the range we just traveled, we think back to arriving in the States in July.  We look over the mountains of August and September and settling our children in college and traveling up north to Upstate New York, our “home base” for most of the year.  Then came the peak of October, when we helped with a missions conference at our church in Southern Tier of New York and rekindled friendships with our family in Jesus there.  We visited churches, shared through pottery talks, and spent many lunches and suppers together with dear friends, but we still weren’t able to see everyone.  It was a very good trail, but one we knew would be marked by a brisk pace.  (It was during this time that we found out that Aunt Esther would need hip replacement surgery in January 2014. We are so glad that Jesus has called us to this trail that will enable us to be near her this year through this time.)  

After arriving back in Upstate New York, we were able to regroup for a few days before tackling the next mountain range and heading back down south, from New York to Texas.  Our trip down south had a focal point of helping the Owens family as our niece recovered from major reconstructive jaw surgery.  On this particular trail we were able to visit family, friends and supporters.  It was a special time, but, again, the trail called for a brisk pace and the time went very quickly.  (Just a footnote about all these travels, what a blessing to travel with the “Bride of My Youth.”  Traveling with her, there is always something to talk about, and I so enjoy spending time with my best friend.)  We arrived in Texas about a week after our niece’s surgery.  It had gone very well, and the X-rays from before and after the surgery were amazing.  For those few weeks we were there, we were able to help with some small projects and spend time with Nana (Debbie’s mom).  Even though Nana, in her confusion, couldn’t always remember who we were, she always seemed to know we were part of her family, and she is a  special lady to spend time with.  During Thanksgiving, we were able to spend time with our children, their friends and some students from RVA.  A few days later, an ice storm hit the Dallas and Fort Worth area, the same winter storm we mentioned in a previous email.  As the residue of that storm was finishing up, we were back on trail.  We headed to college to pick up two of our children and another RVA graduate (who we were blessed to have stay with us during the Christmas break) and began our travels up north.

At an earlier time, Debbie and I had discussed the possibilities of the first real break of our “college” children, their Christmas break.  Yes, we were looking forward to spending time with our children but felt that if we had the opportunity, we would love to open our home to students from RVA who needed a home for this break.  After all, we feel that Jesus has called us to stand in the gap for the children of missionaries, and many of these young adults are here in the States now.  After taking our son to the airport to head back to college a few days ago, we counted and realized that, besides our own three children, we had seven RVA students visit our home during their Christmas breaks, from anywhere from two meals (the shortest visit) to three weeks.  What a blessing!  

Back to “life’s notch” Here we are standing on the notch of the New Year mountain peak, the notch of transition.  Looking over the past five months, the 12,000 miles we have already driven, the view is incredible!  It has been a good hike.  Yes, it has been busy, but a VERY good hike.  Jesus is SO good and His mercies are new every day.

Now picture with us what it is like to turn around and look at the mountain range ahead…

Could you imagine with me the feelings you would have if you were standing in this notch looking at this beautiful view, with the stark realization that you are lost?  You realize you are not sure what direction to go, but you know you have to traverse the mountains ahead?  Where do you begin?  How do you go about doing this?  It would be a feeling of fear, overwhelming fear…

BUT, this is NOT the scenario!  Yes, we are standing on this notch looking at the beautiful panorama of the mountains ahead.  But what peace to follow the eternal Shepherd who has traveled this path many times before.  He leads us, and He travels with us.  If we look at Psalm 23 in the light of trail ahead, what peace!  He is a Shepherd; He goes before us.  Then what comfort to see that He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8)!  But what about the trail?  Ephesians 2:10 talks about the “good works He has prepared in advance for us to do.”  Here we are on the notch, and we have just looked at the range we just traveled.  Our Shepherd was so good and faithful, He was with us throughout this part of the journey, leading us, going before us.  In fact, we have come to realize He IS a faithful Shepherd; it is just in His nature to be faithful throughout the whole journey of life.

Looking at the trail ahead, Debbie and I are excited.  We are able to be a part of the church that I (Ed) was a member of growing up.  We are looking forward to being involved in various ministries.  We are teaching a homeschooling art class and loving it.  We will be helping out here at the campgrounds where we are staying.  There will be church visits in which we will share about RVA and the mission field, and pottery talks coming up.  The nice thing is that the long distance travels are over for a while, and we will be able to live in the same house for a longer period of time for the next several months.  Looking further on down the mountain range on the not-so-distant horizon, we see August and returning, Lord willing, for two more years to Rift Valley Academy.

We would appreciate your prayers for our children as they adjust back to college and that we would all have a passion for our King.  Please also pray for Debbie and me to be wise with our time, for balance with what the Lord has called us to, and to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:15-16). 

Thank you again for all you do for us!  We are grateful for your support and the important part of the team you are in Jesus.  I know we say this again and again, but we DO appreciate you.  We love you!

Love in Jesus,

Ed and Debbie

P.S. The picture at the top of this letter was not taken in the White Mountains, but was actually taken in the Smokey Mountains while visiting our friends at the Master’s Mission

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Rotfus Family Scrapbook, April 2013

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April Letter 2013

Here is our scrapbook from this past term to now (January through April).  We apologize in advance for some of the pictures being a bit over crowded, but we thought it would be good to give an idea of the events instead of being able to identify every person.

1.  Roofing the church at the IDP Camp.  The fundis (carpenters) are putting on the last few sheets of mabati (corrugated metal).  Just in time, too!  If you look in the background, you will see a torrential rainstorm going through the valley.

2.  Circuit rider and his wife?  How many of you have had the speaker arrive for the Sunday morning service on a piki (motorcycle)?  Debbie and I went to the Tree Church at the IDP Camp where I spoke three out of the four Sundays this past break.  We found some creative ways to travel down to the church.

3.   Easter Sunday church service. The church family gathered for a picture in front of the new church building.  Two weeks later, we met inside for our first indoor service.  The long rains have come, so the timing was perfect!

4. & 5.  Varsity Girls Soccer Team.  Here they are having fun at their post-season supper.  Their team won the league championship, and Jennie enjoyed her position as goalie.

6.  Titchie Tennis Baseball Team.  Jon coached a team of elementary students in this fun and unique RVA game (kind of like baseball but played with a tennis ball and tennis racquet instead of a baseball and bat).  He and his team had a lot of fun no matter what the score was.

7.  Uganda Interim.  Every year, juniors and seniors, accompanied by RVA staff members, participate in week-long educational experiences to various locations around East Africa.  Jennie chose the Uganda interim this year, which included, helping at an orphanage, painting at a school on an island on Lake Victoria, bungee jumping and rafting the Nile.

8.  Rafting the Nile.  One of the activities on the Uganda interim was rafting the Nile.  Here Jennie and her group are heading down into a set of rapids.  She is the one in the turquoise shirt, next to the young lady who is in the process of doing a face plant.  Everyone had a great time.

9.  Northern Kenya Interim.  Jonathan chose the Northern Kenya interim, which included exposure to the surrounding people groups and cultures, camel riding, rafting, kayaking, zip lining and rock climbing.

10.  Mudslide!  On Friday evening, April 26th, we received 5 ½ inches of rain in four hours–a torrential downpour!  At 3:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, there was a huge mudslide right next to Rift Valley Academy.  Pictured here are the guard trail and the destroyed security fence on one edge of the campus (the AIC Church side). Unfortunately, many of the Kenyan families in the surrounding community have suffered the loss of homes, possessions and crops, and sadly, one family lost three little girls.  If the Lord puts this community on your heart, we would so appreciate prayer for them and for the healing that only He can bring.

11.   Train tracks above RVA.   The train tracks that run just above the RVA campus were blocked and partially torn out by the mudslide.  The tunnel that can be seen here was completely filled in, and some of the train rails were found quite a distance down the hill.  This was just one of many mudslides of this past weekend.  Of the four access roads leading into Kijabe, only one was still open on Saturday; the other three had been washed out or blocked by the mudslides.  Today (Monday) a second road is again open.

Thank you again for all your involvement in our lives and our ministry here at RVA.  We appreciate your words of encouragement and support.  Soon we will see many of you as we are preparing to return to the States for a year as Jonathan and Jennie begin their first year of college.  We love you.

Much love in Jesus,

Ed, Debbie, Jon and Jennie

Rothfus Family Scrapbook, May 2012

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1) Family Picture.  Here is a recent picture of our family, including Winston our cat.  It’s still strange to not have Daniel here in the picture with us!

2) Grade School Library Class.  Debbie is shown here teaching the first grade library class.

3) Rainy Season.  From the end of April to the beginning of May we were getting very heavy rains, but the rains have evened out a bit more recently.  This picture was taken during one of the heaviest storms, during which we received 4.3 inches of rain in a span of about six hours. Needless to say, I (Ed) got rather soaked taking this picture.

4) Crevasses in the Valley.  A friend of ours let us use this picture for our letter.  Recently, there was an earthquake with some shifting and settling in the valley, though our family didn’t feel it.  With the recent heavy rains, these crevasses have begun to appear in various places in the valley as the ground is washed into these cracks (some rather large, as you can see).

5) Interims.  Jonnie and Jennie were each able to go on week-long educational trips at the end of last term, called Interims.  The junior and senior students sign up to participate in one of fourteen different trips around Kenya and some surrounding countries.  The students have the opportunity for a fun mix of ministry and experiences while they interact with various people and cultures.  Jennie went to Malindi on the coast of Kenya, while Jonnie went to Uganda.  Here he is bungee jumping over the Nile River.

6) Tennis Baseball.  Last term Jon and a good friend of his had the opportunity to coach a team of kindergarten through six-grade students in an RVA sport called tennis baseball.  It’s a game kind of like baseball, but students hit tennis balls with a tennis racquet rather than a bat, and everyone gets a chance to bat every inning.  Fun to play, and fun to watch, too!

7-9) Advanced Art Students.  These three pictures show several of Ed’s Advanced Art I and II students (including Jon and Jennie) working on their projects.  Jennie is sculpting a hand; and Jonnie is working on a Victorian Style house, a project that took over fifty hours of working time to complete.

10) Gigantic bubble.  Jonnie and a young friend from next door had a lot of fun one day creating huge bubbles, some over ten feet long.

11) Soccer Goalies.  Jennie made the varsity soccer team this past term and played goalie.  Here she is with two friends and fellow goalies.  The girl on the right is a good friend of Jennie’s who was the JV goalie, and the girl on the left is a short-term missionary who played goalie on her college soccer team.  She spent many hours coaching and encouraging Jennie and her friend in their goalie positions.

12) League Champs!  The girls’ varsity soccer team won the league championship this year.  The team was a strong team with such excellent defense that Jennie didn’t see as much action in the goal as she would have liked during league games (which is not necessarily a bad thing!)  She worked hard defending the goal during practice, though, and often came home from practice covered with mud and bruises!

It is nice to be able to share a few pictures and thoughts so that you can get a little of the flavor of life here at Rift Valley Academy.  We enjoy the opportunities the Lord has opened up to work with these young people.  We so appreciate the team the Lord has called together to make it possible for us to be here for Him.  We love you and thank you for all you do for us!

Much love in Jesus,

Ed, Debbie, Jonnie & Jennie

Thoughts on the Driver’s Seat

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This past weekend, RVA had a mini spiritual life conference.  It was student initiated, and the students who organized it asked three faculty members to speak.  I was honored to be asked to speak on Sunday morning (and scared stiff at the same time).  But, the peace comes when we realize that it is not we who are speaking, but the Holy Spirit through us.  I would like to share a few thoughts from Sunday morning.

The theme for the weekend was “Limitless.”  I shared a thought from a Wayne Watson concert that Debbie and I went to in the mid 90’s.  Wayne, right in the middle of the concert, stopped and said, “There are two things I want you to remember tonight.  God is God, and I am not!”  I have remembered that so many times since that concert.  I shared that story and added, “God is limitless, I am limited, yet He wants to do limitless things through His people.”  Ephesians 3:20-21 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

I would to share with you an illustration from the end of the talk.  Can you imagine what it would look like if our lives were similar to a car.  In a car there are four seats, one being the driver’s seat.  (There were four chairs and an actual car steering wheel set up on the stage.)  I would like to look at The Driver’s Seat.  It is the control point of the car, it feels comfortable for the most part, and when we are sitting in it, we are in control of where we go and what we do.

When we become Christians, we give our lives to Jesus Christ.  He comes into our lives and we give him the “Driver’s Seat” of our lives.  (I moved over from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s seat, the rider’s seat.)

As time goes on, there are conscious choices to be made.  Are we going to give Him freedom to lead and go where He sees best?  What happens when we start to feel like we can help Jesus steer a little bit?  “Oh look over here, Jesus. This friend is more popular and I know we need to turn this way. Jesus, You’re turning toward someone I don’t feel very comfortable being seen with…”  “Wait Lord, You’re turning down a lonely road with potholes and bumps!  There are not a lot of houses, and it looks like there are mountains and valleys.  This looks like it will take me out of the way…”

“Look over here, Jesus.  This road gets wider.  In fact, it looks like a new four lane leading to those bright lights.”  We reach over and put a hand on the wheel and help Jesus turn toward the city, but we don’t let go.  In fact, we slide partially into driver’s seat, somewhat crowding our Lord.  By now, both hands are on the left hand side of the wheel.  (I was illustrating in a Kenyan car.)  “Wow, Jesus, look how fast everyone is going!  This is exciting!”  But, before we realize it, we slide a bit more into the driver’s seat.  Now we move one hand onto the right side of the wheel and without realizing it have slid our Lord out of the driver’s seat.  We are now in control of our lives, all the gauges, shift, clutch (most cars are standards in Kenya), brake, and gas pedal.  We are doing all we can to keep up with those around us.

What we didn’t realize was that we couldn’t see the rear view mirror from the passenger’s seat.  But now it’s right in our view.  We happen to glance into the rearview mirror, and we are distracted by our past, what’s behind us.  What was exciting just a little while ago has now become very stressful and tense.  We try to hear the Lord’s voice, but the sound of the cars around us, the city noises and distractions, are drowning out His voice… Wait a minute, where is He?  He is not in the front anymore, how did He get to the back seat and why is it so hard to hear him?

At this point, I said, “Stop! Question: Who is limitless and who is limited? Who is God and who is not? Who would actually make a better driver in the vehicle of our lives?”

Truth: “God is God and I am not.  He is limitless, and I am limited.”  The driver’s seat of our lives is for Jesus Christ; it is God’s position, not ours.  We need to ask His forgiveness, humbly slide back to the passenger’s seat, and give our Lord His position.  We need to take our hands off the wheel and trust Him fully for the road ahead if we want to arrive safely and intact in Jesus Christ.

Verses that will help us focus on putting our Heavenly Father in the driver’s seat of our lives:

Psalm 139:16                         He is my Author

Proverbs 3:5-6             God is God, and I am not

Jeremiah 29:11             He has a dream for me

Isaiah 64:8                         He is my Designer

Ephesians 2:10             He has prepared a road for me

Ephesians 3:20-21             He is limitless and wants that for me

Hebrews 12:1-2             Fix my eyes on my Driver

Daily we need to give the Lord our driver’s seat.  But, if you’re anything like me, we still find ourselves wanting to help just a little bit, to just reach for the wheel just a little… No, we need to remember to pull our hands back. “God is God, and I am not.  He is limitless, and I am limited.”  It is when we trust Him fully, that we find a limitless God, working with His limited people, and doing limitless things through them for His honor and glory.

A Love for His Ministry

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Last term, toward the end of the term, Debbie and I had a 90% date.  We had to go to Nairobi to shop, but I had the opportunity to take my bride out and do some fun things together.  One of the things we did was to go to Java House (a fun Nairobi restaurant) and sit, think, chat, and dream together.  As we were talking and reminiscing about teaching at RVA, Debbie burst out laughing.  I suppose if you saw my face, you would have been able to tell that it had caught me off guard. I was beginning to look around to see what it was that made her laugh.  She looked down and tried to bring herself under control so she could tell me.  A few moments later, she said, “You said that you really enjoy working with the students and feel that they are ‘round welded’.”  Of course, being the humble, understanding man that I am, I said, “No I didn’t. I said “well rounded’.”  If it wasn’t the next sentence that we were talking about RVA students, and I said, “round welded.”  I heard it this time, and we both sat there chuckling.  Needless to say, it has become one of our favorite phrases.

The students recently returned from April break, and during the first week of school, Debbie asked one of her sixth grade library classes what countries they had spent time in during their break.  She received an answer she didn’t quite expect.  The sixteen students had visited a total of sixteen different countries!  Several of the students had been in the same country, some had been in several countries, and one girl had spent time in five different countries! However, none of them had been to the United States or Canada.  Here are some the countries they covered in their travels:  Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, England, Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Angola, South Korea and Sao Tome e Principe.  Just when we think we are becoming familiar with teaching here, the Lord catches us off guard and reminds us that only He is the author and designer of a school such as RVA.

Debbie and I have talked during this past year about being here in Kenya. We enjoy all the various aspects of serving Jesus here, including helping down at the IDP camp and Tree Church (we’ll be letting you know more about that sometime soon), and the various ministries in which we participate.  But we find that the Lord continues to reinforce to us the calling that drew us to Kenya in 2000–to stand in the gap for the children of missionaries.  Whether teaching, mentoring, listening, sponsoring, training, or serving, we love these young people and really enjoy working with them.  I find in my walk with Jesus, many times, it is not “bigger and better.”  Rather, Jesus calls us to “simplify and organize” what He has called us to and simply serve our King.

We should be sending the “Rothfus May Scrapbook” soon.  By the way, I had a very special day with Debbie in Nairobi.

Much love in Jesus,

Ed, Debbie, Jonnie & Jennie

Struck by a Bright… Idea?

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This past term something interesting happened here at Rift Valley Academy.  It was Monday, February 27, and I had gone to Nairobi with nine other faculty members from RVA for a one-day educational seminar.  In the afternoon, there was a heavy downpour in Nairobi for about twenty minutes.  It was a bit unusual since it was not rainy season, and we had to wait for it to pass since it was rather deafening in the auditorium we were in.

 

I arrived back at RVA about 5:30, and Debbie, Jon, and Jennie told me about a storm that had gone through that afternoon.  I said, “Yeah, there was a major downpour in Nairobi too.”  They went on to say that a lightning bolt had hit the CB building (a main classroom building) shortly after 1:00.  Here is part of an email that our superintendent, Tim Hall, sent out:

 

This is an email to update you on our recent series of unfortunate events. During a recent intense unseasonal downpour, Rift Valley Academy was struck by lightning. The deafening explosion rattled windows and sent staff and students alike scurrying to find out where the lightning had touched down. A visiting team of technology experts working in the main computer server room testified that the entire room lit up. Fortunately, no one was hurt and there was no structural damage to our building that was hit. Our electrical protection system setup to protect our computer network prevented the surge from entering our network from the power side. Unfortunately, the surge did somehow enter through the data side impacting many critical pieces of our distribution equipment.

 

What I found out later was that the wiring to ground such strikes as this had been disconnected because the building was under construction.  The lightning followed part of the computer wiring system to pass through the building and affected our entire computer network system across the campus.  We are so thankful that even though so many people in and around that building saw bright flashes and effects, no one was hurt.  Praise the Lord!

 

But, our communication with the outside world has been severely damaged, and we are still in the process of recovering (two months later).  We apologize for our lack of communication this past term, but there were some unusual challenges.  We are going to try to catch you up on this past term, so hopefully in the next few weeks you will hear more from us.

 

Much love in Jesus,

Ed, Debbie, Jonnie & Jennie

End of Term One…

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1) The Rains have come… I have to tell you that for being the “short” rains, we have had A LOT of rain here in Kenya.  The rains began in mid October and have continued since then.  This picture was taken yesterday so that you cAN see how green the Great Rift Valley is.

2) Rain Drops, Debbie loves taking pictures of reflections in rain drops, and she has really had fun running outside with the camera between (and sometimes during!) rain storms.  This is one of our favorite shots.

3) Jennie with Sho Sho (Elaine Barnett).  There is a bit of a story behind this picture.  Elaine and her husband, John, were the first ones to tell me (Ed) about RVA back in the summer of 1985.  Elaine said, “The Lord needs art teachers on the mission field too, Ed.”  Two years later, I was a short-term missionary at RVA for a year, and one of my responsibilities that year was helping sponsor the senior class with John & Elaine.  This is where the pizza comes into the story.  As a fund raiser, we decided to introduce pizza at a basketball game.  We made about 40 huge pan pizzas (147 batches of pizza dough!) and had a hard time keeping up with the demand because they sold so quickly.  When all was settled, we had made a profit of . . . (drum roll). . . $20!

4) Big Brother Little Brother.  Jonnie and Jennie are really glad to be able to have a “little brother” and “little sister” from the grade school (Titchie).  Here Jonnie and his little brother are dressed up as Phillies fans for the Carnival Night.

(Pictures 5 through 9, Outreach)

5) John & Helen Karanja, and their family.  John is the man that I shared so much about last year as the one who is so committed to the Tree Church down at the IDP Camp.  He goes down almost every weekend to make sure that the people are able to meet as a church family at the Tree Church;  he has a real pastor’s heart.  He and Helen have been wanting us to come to their house for Chai (tea).  We arrived for tea and had a full-fledged Kenyan meal (African hospitality), and then we had tea afterwards.

6) Outhouse?  Normally in a prayer letter, people don’t put pictures of outhouses (Kenyan Longdrops).  But this is exciting, believe it not, because it is the first structure to go up on the Tree Church property at the IDP camp.  If you look in the background, you can the church tree.

7-9)  Young men  from our Sunday School class.  We were able to take my Outreach Sunday School young men down to the IDP camp twice to help with the Sunday morning services.  It didn’t take long for them to make friends and build bridges in Jesus.

(Pictures 10 through 12, Activities at Rift Valley Academy)

10) Pinewood Derby.  Here is a picture of the car Jon created and entered in this year’s Pinewood Derby, an annual race for all the students and staff.  Jon engineered his car for speed this year.  Because the Juniors and Seniors were the last group of the day to race, it was rather suspenseful since we had already seen some very fast cars in the previous races.  When Jon finally raced his car, his first race set the new fastest time record for the day.  In fact, his car won the award for the overall speed record for the day, and we were very proud of him.

11) Varsity Basketball B Team.  Jennie made the Varsity B basketball team this year, and we were very excited for her.  She is a very enthusiastic player, and it was fun to watch her play.

12) Multicultural Day.   Every October, we have a day during which we celebrate the various cultures and nationalities here at RVA.  There are 28 different countries represented in the student body at RVA, with students from 77 different missions organizations, for a total of 485 students.  Here are Jennie and Jonnie with two of their friends who are also brother/sister twins; their parents serve in Ethiopia.

We think of you often and miss you.
Much love in Jesus,
Ed, Debbie, Jonnie & Jennie

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