Wow! What a big year 2013 was in our lives. This was the year of change, that much is certain. The rest of it is marked by decided uncertainty, and also by God’s faithfulness. Here’s a little about what happened in 2013.
After receiving multiple offers on our home on Dec. 31, we welcomed 2013 with a day of negotiation and realtor-finding. We signed a contract with the buyers of our home on Jan 2. Thankfully, they wanted to rent the house to us for 2 additional months, so we had 90 days to vacate. Let the packing, selling, and temporary-house hunting begin! At the time, we still had no idea where we were going to end up, but selling the house (for almost asking price!) was a huge confirmation from God that we were indeed supposed to be heading somewhere.
In February, we began selling our belongings in earnest. Craigslist sales became an everyday affair. We were offered a temporary place to live by friends, which was a huge blessing and took much of the stress off of us. We also reached a decision to head to Bulgaria! We set a departure date for July 9, and started fundraising. We also had our family photos taken by a friend who did an excellent job, and ordered our prayer cards.
March was a blur of more selling, fundraising, and moving! We left the only home the kids had ever known and moved into a temporary place at the end of the month (the Sunday before Easter!). Our month looked like this:
April was a relatively quiet month. This was the time when we started to settle into the idea of moving overseas and away from everyone and everything. Living in temporary housing 30 miles from our beloved little town gave us a chance to slowly adjust to the idea of being much more the 30 miles away. We began looking at every moment with loved ones in a new way and cherishing every moment.
In May, we celebrated Elijah’s 6th birthday. This was a very fun occasion for him as it marked the first year he was allowed to choose his own birthday activities. He chose Jump-it, dinner at Texas Roadhouse and a sleepover. We also did quite a bit of fundraising travel and speaking, including the amazing day we spent speaking and sharing at our beloved home church in Hillsboro, IN.
There was also one 3-week-long near panic regarding the FBI clearances and fingerprints… but we would prefer to leave that in the past. :)
Elijah and friends on his 6th birthday.
The month of June was a month of lasts. It was full of tears, and bittersweet moments. It is also overflowing with lots and lots of precious memories, many of which are making my teary-eyed as I write. There were visits with family, park trips, and outings that we will never forget.
There was also the first round of goodbyes, these to family members that did not live close by, as we knew we would not have a chance to see them again before departure.
This was also the month of watching God provide for our financial needs and lots of prayers for documents to arrive in time (they did!).
One of the most precious memories in June was of Milena’s baptism. Many friends and family came to celebrate with her, and it was a wonderful evening.
July was… indescribable in a short paragraph. Or even a full blog post, really. We packed We said goodbye. We left. We vacationed briefly in Chicago. We flew. We arrived. We made our first trip to Greece. We rented an apartment and moved in. So much emotion. So many new experiences.
In August we celebrated our first milestone in Bulgaria. Milena turned 8! Along with her birthday, we also received our first package from the USA. We began working and settling into life in Sofia. We bought a car, had our first dinner guests, and attended church Sundays and Wednesdays.
Also in August, we got involved in an Embassy playgroup with people from all over the world, and started to make new friends. We also met the Mann Family, who were later to become both great friends and ministry team members.
We also started school early, in preparation for our 2014 trip to the US. Already we were looking forward to seeing friends and family again.
Milena’s 8th Birthday Breakfast- Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
In September we got into something of a routine, but frustrations were rising with our current ministry situation and we sensed a change coming. God was working, though, and by the end of the month we are starting to see Him bringing things together for us to join the Church of the Nazarene (our denomination) as Tentmakers in Bulgaria. It was a perfect fit for us, and we began to transition.
In October, we officially submitted our resignation to the first ministry and joined the Church of the Nazarene. This change brought much peace and “settling” for our entire family, and things began to settle into a new, happier routine. Some of the homesickness began to fade and we started seeing the purpose in our calling here.
Don began working with a ministry to the refugees here in Sofia as well. It’s been amazing to be involved in a front-lines ministry to people from around the world.
We also took a walking photo tour of our new city, which resulted in many great shots for this Mama to scrapbook!
November began with a fun trip to the Nazarene National Assembly, where we spent time getting to know our new teammates and met many of the pastors and leaders from across the nation. For the kids, the highlight was definitely the visit to the castle in Veliko Turnovo,
We decorated for Christmas mid-November, after making most of our own decorations. We also celebrated Thanksgiving with a lovely Turkey dinner with Bulgarians and Americans alike. It was a great holiday!
A group shot at Veliko Turnovo (minus Sarah, the photographer)
December, while filled with Christmas celebrations, had a few other highlights. The Nazarene Sofia Church found a new rental location, and Don spent much of the month preparing it for our first service.
Our team also made great progress in planning the soon-to-be-built new church building. We ended the year with a rough drawing of our plans, a business plan being written, and a timeline sketched out for 2014.
Christmas was nice, but quiet. Most of our friends were travelling over the holidays, so we spent a few quiet days at home with way to much food and some fun Skype chats. We were blessed with several packages from US family and friends, and this made Christmas far more special.
We ended the year staying at the Mann’s house for a few days, enjoying the big yard, trampoline, and unusually warm weather. The New Year’s Eve fireworks here are amazing!
Listening to Don read the Christmas story on Christmas Morning
Thank you for supporting and praying for our family through this year of ups and downs. We are so blessed and encouraged to have an amazing support team.
We are also blessed with an abundance of great friends and family, both in Sofia and in the USA. We are beyond grateful for God’s faithfulness in 2013, and we are excited to see what miracles and amazing things God will do in 2014.
Much Love, Don, Alyssa, Milena, and Elijah