Friday, May 31, 2013

Random Photo Update

Here are some random photo's that we have taken since arriving in Pompton Plains!

A sign at the front of the church which I thought was VERY
 funny considering someone close to me just turned this!
Aaron Warner and Albert in their Sunday finery.
Girls and Albert waiting for me while I was
doing something on my laptop in the church
Carving, see description in photo below

Girls meeting a friendly 'stuffed' bear!
MARS graduation, that will be us one day, scary!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Our Journey

797 miles/1270 km

I don't think I have ever driven such a long way in a two day period. I wonder how far you would get from Auckland if you drove 1270 km? Dunedin perhaps? Of course driving from Auckland to Dunedin would take you quite a few days because of the hills/roads/ferry etc. Here in the USA, driving is a piece of cake as I don't think we made many turnoffs on I 80. In fact driving through Ohio was pretty boring, long & straight. Pennsylvania is very beautiful with rolling hills and very green. The closer we got to New Jersey, the busier it became, more lanes, more trucks, more housing. The plan was for Albert and I to take turns driving but I ended up only doing one rotation with Albert driving the rest. We made plenty of toilet stops and spent a lot of time driving through/waiting for roadworks! We had hoped to arrive at our hotel around 3 pm but we didn't get there until 6ish. A twelve hour drive! 

The girls were excellent. I had packed them a travel bag each with lollies, crackers, and goodies that they would normally not have.Generous people from our church had also given us some goodies for the girls for the trip.  I also went to the thrift (secondhand) store and bought some books for them. I also managed to pick up at Aldi some maths and sticker books for the girls! One thing I did on this journey which I don't normally buy is bottled water. Bottled water is pretty cheap here (24 bottles (0.5ltr) for $2.29) as our drinkbottles weren't going to last the distance. This worked out very well and we just replenished our drink bottles. I also froze some of the bottles for our cooler which again worked brilliantly to keep the cooler cool! Thanks to a generous donation we also indulged in icecreams along the way, what a treat! 

Our hotel worked out pretty well too with all of us being able to sleep in one room. The hotel had a pool and so the girls thoroughly enjoyed going for a swim. The room also came with breakfast (pretty standard) and so they had pancakes and yogurt (out of a little container) the next day. We left about 1pm and carried on our journey. It was about about a 3hr drive for which I'm grateful, it enabled us to not be stressed about arriving late or having the drive a long distance on that day. 

Once we arrived at the house (LOVE the GPS!) we were welcomed by Andrea, the lady who overseas the ministry house, who showed us around and got us settled! In the fridge and freezer were homemade meals and groceries! We are so blessed. 

The overseeing Pastor Kuiken came down with bronchitis and so we haven't been able to meet with him yet. Providentially Aaron, (our good friend and he is doing an internship in NY with Pastor Murphy) is staying at our place on Sunday so we asked him to help Pastor Kuiken with the services on Sunday. So now Albert is preaching 2 services in the morning and Aaron in the afternoon! Talk about a steep learning curve, but that is what we are here for! 

We are excited to see what this summer holds but at the same time it seems so unreal that we are here. I can't describe it, it's a funny feeling. There is so much to take in, so much to learn, so many new people to meet (and remember their names!), different cultures, different food. None of it is bad just different. 

Thanks again for all those who are praying for us, it means so much to us. We are not here to have a long three year holiday (of course we do have some 'free' time, and seeing the USA is a HUGE bonus) but we are here to study/learn/mature for God's work hopefully in the future. So thanks so much for supporting us in our journey!

Zara eating mm's!
Grace and Michaela
P&M does this look familiar?
State four out of five in our journey!
Three in the bed, Izaak can you spot "Moon Light Star"?
Sisters at the church!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Albert's update 20 May 2013

Spring Banquet
Exams are finished! Through God's grace I have made it through another semester. It's hard to believe that I am now one third of the way through Seminary.

As expected, it has been a full on semester. The workload was heavy, and I had to learn how to balance the demands of my time, which I have been more successful with the second time round.

The exam round was not as tough as last time, with five exams to be taken over five days, rather than 7 in 5 last time. One of our professors dropped the final exam due to the workload that we had over the Semester, which we were all very grateful for!

I started my exams on Thursday, doing two on the first day: Pastoral Care, followed by Liturgics. The next exam was Doctrine of God on Monday. This exam is a big one, lots of material to cover and consolidate. Tuesday was Greek, and I finished off with Hebrew on the Wednesday. Hebrew was probably my toughest exam, but I have done well through the Semester in that subject, so I left that one to last.

At the beginning of the week I also met with my local Session to sit a licensure exam to allow me to preach in the URC churches here. Thankfully they were very gracious in their questioning, and I was passed. I enjoyed the experience, and found it very encouraging.

On Wednesday night we picked up Supervising Pastor for the Summer, Rev Kuiken. He was in Chicago for a Seminary Board Meeting, as well as for Graduation. It was lovely to meet him, and I am looking forward to working under him this Summer.

Graduation was a lot of fun. I helped out with ushering, and it was awesome to watch the Seniors go up on the stage. Two more years and that will be me up there. It's all going so fast. The one sad thing about graduation was saying goodbye to the Seniors, as many of them we will probably not see again.

So now we are setting our sights on Pompton Plains for the Summer. We are there for 11 weeks. The preparations for moving are going well, and we hope to head off early on Tuesday morning. We hope to drive 9 hours on the first day, and then two or three the next day. We are overnighting in a Hotel on the way. The girls are VERY excited, as are the grown ups!

I am beginning preaching on Sunday night (26th), and then again on Sunday morning the next week. A friend is coming to stay for the weekend on that weekend, we are looking forward to catching up, and it will be a privilege to preach for another Kiwi.

Hopefully the updates will be a bit more regular over the Summer, and I will be able to share with you all my preaching experiences. The major aim of the Summer is to work on my Preaching. I am look forward, with trepidation, to the challenge.

Thank you all for your support during exams, every bit helps. And a special thank you to those who are supporting us financially. We cannot do this without you all. We feel blessed, and overwhelmed by the support, both from here, and from home.



Friday, May 10, 2013

The end is in sight for this school year!

(Sorry about the video's having some trouble, this might have to wait until exams are finished for Albert to have a look at it)
At the Zoo -
plenty more pictures of animals to come!

Classes have finished! Just exams left to go, surely those are a piece of cake after all those written papers that were due! (And there were a LOT of them!) Proud of Albert though working hard on both the academics but also on wife/family time! (Not an easy thing!)

This time next week (Wednesday afternoon) Albert has officially finished a full academic year of study, WOW what an achievement. It is hard to believe that one 'school year' is already over.

This time of year is a busy time which would be the equivalent of December in NZ. We have gotten to know quite a few of the 3rd year students and their families and sadly most of them are moving away (so they should!!). So we've had a few social events to spent some final time with them. These families have been very helpful in particular to Albert as far as workload, how to balance study and family and the expectations of the faculty. Those families also showed us hospitality, friendship and their stories of how they came to MARS. For some of those it has been a long road about seven years as students and they are finally there! (You have to have a college degree (Bachelor) before you do your Masters. Albert has done his straight out of highschool and so this wasn't an issue for us.) I'm ecstatic for the graduates although sad that they are leaving, very happy that there are more men out there preaching the word! I'm working on convincing some of the current students to come to NZ, wouldn't that be AWESOME! (See Aaron, I'm trying!! )

A lot has to be done before we go on our summer internship. I've had the oil changed on the car. There seems to be no checks with regard to cars at all and I'm surprised/horrified on what people drive around here. Both front and back brakes need to be changed as the mechanic told me that the back brakes haven't been changed since the car drove out of the factory! (the car has done about 120 000 miles). Thankfully I budget for car expenses so no problem there. It really is a nice little car and in great condition, hopefully with some good care, we will be able to sell it again for a good price. I tried out the cruise control today, it is quite scary to just steer and the car goes especially at 120km an hour. (People still fly past even at me going that speed! The speed limit varies mostly it is 55 miles per hour but no-body goes that, you would be holding up traffic!)

Packing - lots of it. Still not sure exactly what to take as of course I'm limited as to what I can take on what fits in the car! We are looking at buying a rooftop carrier (cheap from amazon) to carry some of our stuff. Thankfully it is summer and so the clothing shouldn't take up too much space compared to all our winter gear! I think the clothing will be divided into a suitcase for Albert (suits, shirts, shirts, shirts oh and did I mention shirts?) and a suitcase for me and the kids.

Cleaning. I have to confess that I haven't done much spring cleaning since we came into the house and so certain areas (like the basement stairs which is carpet and I'm sure has a liberal dusting of dust on it) needs a good clean. I haven't had much time with all the homeschooling etc but Albert has promised me some time after exams to help me with some of that stuff. Nice man he is! Also we might have someone in our house over summer and so I will need to make sure all is 'spick and span'!

Food - Love that subject but at the moment it is in scaledown mode. I told the kids, once something runs out, it is tough luck. We've eaten most of the content of my big freezer and working on my little freezer. There is no point in paying for power while we are away to 'freeze' some of these things. We will still keep the aircon on high (29C) as otherwise it will become an oven in here. This as been the recommendation from most people so I suppose they know what they are doing. I know over thanksgiving weekend we turned the heater off (wanting to be frugal) and that turned out to be a HUGE mistake, it took most of the day to come to temperature again. Lesson learned! 

That's about all from me as far as updates for a couple of weeks as we pack up and settle into a new place. I will try and post the photo's that I'm behind on, got some very nice ones of the Zoo trip we went to, a woodworking workshop the girls went to, the spring banquet, homeschooling evening, the arrival of next years homeschool curriculum, the teachers pet (surely everyone has got one?) and some random ones.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Old Man!

As promised here is the video explaining the 'Old Man Stick'! Albert is the oldest student next year and so got the honor of receiving the stick. The person handing him the stick is Dr Beach. I'm sorry for the sideways video, haven't figured out how to rotate this. I've got some more photo's of the Spring Banquet dinner that was held for the students to come. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


(a cup of earl grey tea might be in order, or I suppose a cup of coffee!)

It's been a while since I gave you all an update now how we are doing and I would also like to give some of my reflections on our time here so as there are only about 3 weeks left in the academic year! It's a scary thought. Albert is pretty busy at the moment (SO HE SHOULD BE!!). This week is his last week of classes before exams start. This semester is well known for it's pretty intensive workload. In a nutshell he is doing a four year Masters degree in 3 years. 

I'm VERY grateful for all our sponsors out there, without you this would not be possible. Thank you, thank you!! A special mention should be made for Steffen (and his helpmeet too!), he is our deacon, contact and close friend! Albert has not got time to work. He does some recording of his classes which earns him a little pocket money (anything is better than nothing!). I know for a fact that some students don't find it easy financially, some of the spouses work fulltime to support their husbands (which can't be easy!) and some work part-time while looking after their little 'darlings'! We don't have those worries, thankful to our NZ sponsors and some generous USA people who spoil our girls! None of our situations are easy on any of our family's both financially, spiritually and physically but we are all here for the same purpose, one we all believe it and are willing to sacrifice for. What a privilege! (For those of you who know me in real life, I mean that, it is not some sort of pat answer!)

Our Summer!! 
We are going to Pompton Plains in New Jersey (very close to NY). This is a URC church where Albert will be doing his internship. We are not sure yet what exactly this will involve apart from lots of preaching! One of the areas Albert needs some more work on is his preaching, so we are blessed to be able to have a whole summer of practice! Pompton Plains has two morning services back-to-back and so even that would be a good (steep/hard) learning curve, having to preach the same sermon twice! This church comes highly recommended by a lot of people and so it is a privilege and blessing to be able to go there. (Interesting note - the Stoltes went there as well!). Another bonus is that our good friends the Warners are doing their internship close by in NY. Should be lots of fun (I mean work!)  

The girls and I are excited, we haven't left home apart from a lovely thanksgiving weekend and so we are looking forward to doing some travel. A nice bonus of all this is the travel to and from there is covered as part of the internship. It is about a 12-13 hrs drive (according to Google  and so we are breaking up the trip by driving about 9 hrs the first day, staying the night in a hotel and then driving the rest of the way the next day. The internship is about 11 weeks long. After this we hope to visit Jeremy and Lilian Eshelman in Philadelphia to which we are looking forward too, another kiwi!

Here are some quick updates on some of the areas of life that you might be interested in:
  • Homeschooling - We're on week 28 (out of 36) and so on the 'home stretch'. Unfortunately for the girls, we will have to continue to home school through most of the summer. I have also already bought next school years curriculum and so I will take some of that too on our internship. 
  • Weather - An important subject :). I can't believe that not that long ago, the street was white and today it is 20c plus degrees! LOVING the seasons!
  • Couponing - Getting lots of free/very cheap things! I wonder how NZ customs will react to all the shampoo/conditioners/shavers/toothpaste in my shipping container? (I haven't asked them, I probably should)
  • Master Swimming - Still going very well, enjoying some time out and getting fit along the way, sadly (Trish if you are reading this) the running has been neglected, it was too cold honest! (and soon it will be too hot!)
  • Girls - They are doing well, they are spoiled here, by the church, GEMS, individuals, neighbors. They do miss their cousins and it is hard to have new cousins born and not being able to see them in person. They also miss their grandparents (which I'm sure is mutual) but realise that we are meant to be here. 
I thought I would share with you some of my reflections on my time here so far: (some these are written with 'tongue in cheek', we do love the American experience!)
  • Punctual - Americans are VERY punctual which is no problem if you are aware of this!
  • Disposables - Americans like disposable everything it seems, plates, cups (I bought some too as I don't have enough cups for visitors but I do wash them and re-use, shsh don't tell my American friends this ;) ), cutlery, water bottles (what is it with bottled water? it's cheap enough but really?) napkins (lots of napkins), table cloths. 
  • Dessert - A topic close to my heart! (and Peter M's too). I have lost count of the amount of Pav's I've made. (It forced me also to come up with genius ways to use egg yolk!). For Americans biscuits, cakes, slices etc count as dessert but for us NZ folk, no you have a dessert first and then for supper we have biscuits, cakes, slices! My kind of thing!
  • Homemade - This one is hilarious! Oh you opened the packet, added a egg or two, a tablespoon of oil, mixed it and threw it into a 9*9 pan (oh no can't be a 10*10 pan or a 10*13 pan, no only a 9*9 pan!). No further comment needed apart from that anything baked with REAL butter tastes so much BETTER!!
  • Food - Generally it is is fine. A lot of food is VERY processed. On a serious note, being America I assumed wrongly that there would a HUGE variety of foods available but I was wrong. I hadn't realized on how diverse the population of NZ is. You can buy some of these things, but I don't go to regular supermarkets very much, too expensive. 
  • Coupons/Freebies - This continues to amaze me. Honestly is all this stuff is given for FREE? YES!! We regularly have frozen pizza (that I got very cheap), chocolate (cheap or free), cereal (I managed to score some organic granola/muesli for $.50c a box!), very cheap milk, $1.89 a gallon (about 3.78ltrs). We use all brand names for our toiletries (no generic in this house, too expensive) apart from toilet paper. I know I'm going to be hit hard once I'm back in NZ and having to pay full price for everything. 
  • COFFEE - This is a problem if you don't like coffee, like me! I take my Twining Earl Grey teabags (from Amazon) with me where ever I go!
  • Fences - What is this? Enough said (thankfully we have a fully fenced property, a real blessing!)
  • Merino/the All Blacks - The American's have NO idea what those are! 
  • LOTR/Hobbit - The American's know all about this. 
  • Traffic - A fact of life, live with it!
  • Last but not the least of all - Generosity! WOW we Kiwi's can certainly learn from the Americans. It 'blows' us away, speechless would be a word that came to mind with regard to their generosity! 
Important news!!
The seminary Kiwi population is about to be doubled!! Really looking forward to adding Josh and Hannah to our Kiwi population! A real shame though that they are arriving when we are gone for the summer. We'll make it up to them! (I hope they are good at card games/board games and like loosing!! hahaha ok maybe I don't like loosing)

Prayer Requests
  • Praise - There is lots of it, here is just a quick summary. Our sponsors, summer internship, our health (until I came to America and saw how difficult and expensive health care is, I have failed to appreciated the NZ healthcare system), Albert's VERY good grades, Girls well being, both physically but also emotionally - this can only come from God himself!, our continual growth in our marriage despite the very stressful workload (again the devil is hard at work at destroying marriages every where), our church community and the faithful preaching of Pastor Roets, our seminary community, for God providing for ALL of our needs and giving us some of our desires as well, we are so undeserving! Phew a long list!
  • Requests - Albert's preaching, that he may learn to preach from notes only (as supposed to a manuscript which is hindering him at the moment), clarity of mind for Albert during these last weeks, our continued health, our travel plans and also my mum's travel plans who is planning to visit in August, continued prayers for my homeschooling.
Thank you all so much for praying for us, supporting us financially but also by correspondence, we really appreciate it.