After months of planning, preparation, and prayer, we are finally Stateside and settled in to (temporary) life in Arizona! The first few weeks were spent catching up with family and adjusting to the nine-hour time difference (which proved particularly difficult for our boys, since they had to battle several bouts of colds on top of the jetlag). Skype and Face Time are a wonderful technology that have enabled us to see loved ones from afar, but nothing beats being in the same room as family! We are so grateful to be here…
It’s still surreal to think it’s been nearly two years since we moved across the Atlantic to South Africa, and yet, it feels so natural being here again. The past 20 months have been the longest Hunter has ever been overseas in a single stretch, so it’s particularly refreshing for him to be reunited with American friends and family, surrounded by familiar cultural norms.
Noticing the South African nuances and accent that Jeremy has adopted is also pretty humorous to observe (such as calling the “trash” rubbish, instead). I remember visiting my Grandparents in Arizona, time and time again as a child. I love that our children get to experience the excitement of international travel and various cultures from a young age themselves. I remember the playhouse my Granddad made and the times I would play in oversized cardboard boxes with my siblings. Now, our boys are enjoying similar activities, and it fills my heart with joy! I only wish my Grandparents were here to experience their antics.
Air Travel and Exhaustion
We were blessed with a fairly uneventful journey to Phoenix – if you can call travelling overseas with two little boys “uneventful!” (Ha!) Jeremy and Josh exceeded our expectations and did very well on all three flights. The first one from Cape Town to Amsterdam only took off around midnight so they slept for half of the 11-hour flight.
A few tears were shed from our exhausted four-year-old in the Amsterdam airport as we wandered around the massive terminal in search of a place for the boys to play. We eventually discovered a playground designed to look like a KLM airplane. It was absolutely the highlight of the trip in Jeremy’s eyes! When we landed in Detroit, MI, over 10 hours later, Jeremy asked us if he could go back to play on the “blue airplane.” Poor child could not comprehend just how far we had travelled from his new favorite place.
The middle flight involved several kid’s movies for Jeremy and a lot of walking up and down the aisle for Josh. We were also blessed with kind neighbors on that particular flight who encouraged us when our youngest passenger would wake up crying from the sudden pressure changes in his little ears.
Our boys made quick friends with everyone they met and left smiles on the faces of even the weariest travellers. Jeremy even earned the Captain’s special attention and was given wings (a pin) before boarding our final flight to Phoenix.
From Phoenix to San Diego to Los Angeles and Back
Less than two weeks after our arrival, Hunter, Jeremy, and I made the trek out to Los Angeles again to renew their visas. We made sure to stop by some very close friends in San Diego first, and our fellowship with them was so precious. Jeremy got along with our friends’ children beautifully. It was meaningful to me to see our many years of friendship with this family spanning yet another generation!
Josh stayed home with Hunter’s parents, since we knew the full days of driving would be a challenge for him. He relished all the attention he had from his Grammie and Papa, and Jeremy loved having his parents all to himself again for the three days we were out of town. We also took Jeremy to the San Diego Birch Aquarium, and he loved every minute of it! It was fun to compare their aquarium with the one we have in Cape Town. Jeremy’s favorite attractions were the sea horses, sea dragons, and jellyfish! He was also thrilled to find Dory, Nemo, and Marlin (from the Finding Nemo movie) without any prompting from his parents!
Since it was only a month or so before our departure that we discovered we had to start the entire application process from scratch, we didn’t have much time to gather the necessary paperwork, doctors’ reports and x-ray, background checks and police reports. Hunter impressively pulled it all together somehow, and by God’s grace, we had another great experience at the South African Consulate!
Much like last time, we were in and out of the office within 45 minutes. The man who processed the paperwork was very knowledgeable as well. He helped us come up with a game plan regarding Jeremy’s SA citizenship and Hunter’s residency, which we will (finally) apply for in the New Year.
Josh Turns One
The day after our return from California, our sweet Joshie Bear celebrated his FIRST BIRTHDAY! Reflecting on the 365 days that led up to this special celebration, we are so grateful God chose to bless us with this particularly joyful little boy! We had his lumberjack themed birthday party in a nearby park and celebrated with close family and friends. It was very meaningful for us to share this memorable event with people we love very dearly.
Ministry and Meaningful Meetings
Since being in the States, we have been able to meet together with friends, family, pastors, and supporters. Hunter has also had the opportunity to share with classes at Phoenix Seminary and Arizona Christian University (which I also had the privilege of being a part of). It was a highlight for Hunter to be able to share impromptu in a Greek class at Phoenix Seminary after being introduced to the professor by a close friend. He is also preparing to preach this Sunday (the 24th of November) on a Life of Thankfulness from Ephesians 1:15-16 at First Baptist Church of Tempe at 6pm! Hunter will also have the honor to teach a class on Islam at Arizona Christian University on Monday night, the 25th of November.
With love in Christ,
Hunter, Andrea, Jeremy, and Joshua
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