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Fall Update (by Becca)

Dear family and friends,

It has been a long time since our August update, and the end of our time here in France is now in sight! We have 31 days left here.

I'll say it again, because I can't believe it myself! We only have 31 days left before we leave for Togo.

We will miss Albertville, France, very much. It has been such a beautiful place to live, and explore, and learn French. We feel incredibly blessed to have been able to spend a whole year here.



This is literally the view right outside our apartment!
Since our last update we have been very busy. Our three older kids went back to French school, and Gwyn started going to preschool for the first time. Seth and I went back to language school for our last semester of learning this year.

In October, we had a short break, during which my parents came to visit. We took advantage of their time here to visit some of the local attractions: a few castles and other medieval buildings, a 19th-century fort (which happened to have a kid's play area with bouncy houses where our kids had a blast), a waterfall, and a city filled with beautiful canals.














All in all, it was a wonderful visit. Now, however, we are in our countdown phase to Togo!
Here are some prayer requests we would like to make as we enter our last month here in France:

  • Good health! We've been struggling a lot this fall with the local respiratory viruses. Please pray for healing and that we would not catch any more colds in these next couple of weeks so that we will have the energy we need to prepare for our move.


  • Exams! We have our final exams coming up. Please pray that we will study well and do well. Our exams will be taking place from December 8 through December 13.
  • Paperwork! Moving to another country involves all kinds of hoops to jump through. We are so blessed to have the great team at Samaritan's Purse and in Togo who really help make the process go more smoothly, but it is still a process. Please pray that we will do everything we need to well and on time.
  • Packing! Of course, we need to pack everything up, something which we will only have about one week to complete after our exams are done.
  • The trip! We are flying out on December 23. Please pray for a safe and smooth trip and that all our luggage will make it with us, as well.

  • Finally, while all of you in the U.S. will be starting to prepare your Thanksgiving dinners, I will be taking our kids to the international vaccine clinic to get their yellow fever shots (Happy Thanksgiving, guys!). So please pray that that will go well, too. Obviously, Thanksgiving is not a holiday here in France, and we will really miss being with family on that day, but like you, we will take that time to remember that we truly have much to be thankful for!

    In Christ,

    Becca

    Summer Update (by Becca)

    Hello Family and Friends!

    We hope you have all been having a good summer.
    We know we have, although we have definitely missed Lake Michigan and its beaches!
    Here are the things we've been up to this summer:

    We sat on some steps at the Colosseum! But now I'm getting ahead of myself...

    In the beginning of July, there was a graduation celebration for many of our friends here at the language school who were finishing their language learning and moving on to Africa or elsewhere in France. Some of the students here finish their school year in June. Others (like us) finish in December. All throughout the month of July, our friends here were moving out. It was hard to say good-bye to the new friends we had spent the last 6 months with, and the campus has been very quiet without them. We are thankful for the time we had with them, though.

    Our children finished up with their French school year at the beginning of July as well (French school goes from September to July, with longer breaks in the middle of the school year than in the U.S.). However, we were still in classes until the end of July, so our language school provided a summer program for them and some of the other missionary kids who were here, which they seem to have enjoyed quite a lot!

    They made a "mummy" while learning about Egypt.
    The second week of July, I presented my first all-in-French devotional to the students (some of whom were new students here for the July summer course, so it was actually a bigger group than I expected!). I spoke on how, as missionaries, it's often hard to know where home is, and how we have to remember that our true home is in heaven. I encouraged my fellow students to remember that, as we mourn all the things we've had to leave behind, Jesus is calling us to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). As we wonder where we will be a year from now, Jesus reminds us that even He did not have a place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20), and the servant is not greater than his Master (John 13:16). As we worry that we will never get back home again, Jesus promises us that He has a home for us, ready and waiting (John 14:2-3). Studying for this devotional (even in French!) was a great encouragement to me and I hope it was an encouragement to the other students as well. (Assuming they understood my French!)

    See that weird face I'm making? That's the only way you
    can pronounce French correctly... or so our teacher tells us!
    At the end of July we had our second set of exams. In the French language system, there are levels called A1, A2, B1, and B2. We had finished A1 and taken those exams in the spring, and now we were finishing A2 and taking those exams. We were a little concerned, because we had had less time to study the A2 material (we had more vacation time during our A1 trimester, during which we were able to do extra studying), but praise God, we passed our exams and actually did pretty well! We are so thankful that we have been able to progress in our language learning and we thank you all for your prayers and encouragement in that. Our plan is to be half-way through the B1 level (the B1 level is split into 2 trimesters) before we leave for Togo in December. This should put us at a level in which we can communicate fairly well with the French-speaking people of Togo.

    After our exams we were finally given some much-needed vacation time! We have the whole month of August "off" from classes (although we plan to spend the next week and a half studying in preparation for the beginning of our next and final trimester).

    As soon as our vacation time started in the last week of July, we took off on the train to visit Paris for a few days as a family. It seemed strange that we had been in France almost 7 months and had still never been there! We are glad we finally got to go. It was a very fun trip.

    We had  all just had ice-cream cones in front of the Eiffel Tower...
    hence the chocolate all over the two younger girls!
    After our Paris trip, we celebrated Arwen's 9th birthday on August 1st. I can't believe our oldest is already 9 years old and so grown up!



    Finally, on August 7th my sister Cynthia and her husband Michael arrived for a 10-day visit. We rented a van and traveled Italy and the south of France with them for about a week. It was a blast! (Though we realized in Italy how much we had come to rely on knowing the local language in France! It was frustrating to not be able to communicate all over again.) We got to see the Colosseum, the Vatican, several amazing monuments and galleries in Florence, and we spent a lovely day swimming in the Mediterranean Sea near Nice. We finished our trip by driving through the "Grand Canyon of Europe," the Verdon Gorge. That was a breathtaking view! Earlier this week, Michael and Cynthia left to spend some time in Paris before heading back to the U.S. We were very sad to see them go, but we are so glad we got to have that fun trip with them.

    Enjoying some amazing pizza and pasta with Michael and Cynthia in Rome.
    Now that Cynthia and Michael are gone, and we have less than 2 weeks of vacation left, we are planning to buckle down and get in some much needed French study time. We will also be trying to deep clean and reorganize our things, as we are mindful that in December we will have to be ready to make our next overseas move to Togo, right after our level B1 French exams! Finally, there are many new missionary families moving into our language school this month in order to start their classes in September, and we are going to do our best to welcome them as others welcomed us when we arrived: making them meals, showing them around town, and helping them understand life in Albertville as they adjust to a new culture and a new language.

    So, to sum up our summer:
    Praises:
    ~ We passed our exams!
    ~ Everyone is relatively healthy (we had lots of nasty viruses in the winter, but we are all doing a lot better now, praise the Lord!).
    ~ We have been able to relax and spend time with family.

    Prayer requests:
    ~ That we would be able to get some good review time during the next couple of weeks.
    ~ That we would be a blessing to the new missionary families that come this month.
    ~ That my parents, who are planning to come visit us in October, would have a safe trip.

    Finally, we want to thank those of you who have consistently written to us, prayed for us, encouraged us, and financially supported us. Right now our monthly financial support is at about 30-40% of our monthly goal. Thanks to some very generous one-time donations, we have been able to pay for language school, living expenses, and day-care for our youngest child, but as we get to the end of the year and look to our move to Togo, we will need to rely more and more on monthly donations. We would like to ask you to pray that God will provide, and if you or anyone you know would be interested in supporting us on a monthly basis, please contact us. We can tell you how to sign up to make a tax-deductible monthly donation through Samaritan's Purse online, or you can download this donation form, fill it out, and mail it to Samaritan's Purse: Donation Form 
    Thank you again to those of you who have been faithfully supporting and praying for us! We thank God daily for you, and are are so honored to have you on our team as we prepare to serve the Lord in Togo.

    On Suffering

    A rough translation of the devotional and prayer Seth gave at our language school last Monday (in French):

    Today I would like to talk about suffering.

    Jesus said in John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

    In the world, we are going to have tribulation. Isn’t that wonderful? Let me tell you a story. Several years ago, a little boy who was about five years old at the time had to learn something about suffering. This little boy lived with his little sister and parents. The family was poor but they loved Jesus. The mother was pregnant with a third child and, when the time came, the parents went to the hospital to have the baby. However, there was a problem. The baby was too big for a normal delivery and he was birthed by C-section. They discovered that the baby had an inoperable brain tumor. After four days, the baby died. Before the funeral, the little boy sat by his baby brother’s coffin and thought for a long time.

    So what does a little boy think when he encounters tribulation? I believe that it’s much the same as when anyone else faces such things. We ask, “why?” Those of us who know the Lord ask, “God, why? Why must we suffer?” I know many of you are familiar with loss such as this. If you haven’t experienced such loss, it’s really just a matter of time. It was difficult for this little boy to understand that, even though Jesus said we could live forever, we would still have to encounter death. Yet, Jesus said in John chapter eleven, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” It is certain that our bodies are dying from the moment we are born. I know, “thanks a bunch for the encouraging word today!” But understand that the encouragement is that, for those of us who are born again, we are born into a second life, and it is this second life that will never die.

    However, even with this promise, we face many difficulties in this life. The little boy grew up and had to deal with many other problems. He lost an aunt and uncle tragically. And, later, another uncle similarly. Certainly, it’s expected that the elderly will eventually die, and so the boy lost several grandparents over the years. Around the time the boy started his college education, his father was incapacitated by a tumor of the spinal cord and the family went bankrupt. The temptation to think that our difficulties are too much for us is always present. So again, we often ask “why must I put up with all this suffering?” For me, this is actually a question of pride. There are some monarchial cultures where, when you are in the presence of a king, you absolutely must keep your head lower than his at all times. Now imagine our King, Jesus, and consider just how much honor He deserves (hint: it’s a lot). Yet, Jesus lowered Himself in a tremendous act of humility and service. He’s God and yet He decided to come to this earth to also suffer through trials and tribulation. He has effectively laid Himself prostrate on the floor. How could we continue to stand with our heads higher than that of our King in an unwillingness to take part in suffering? We read in 1 Peter 4:13, “but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”

    This verse suggests that we should endure suffering with joy. Why? Well, because suffering makes for an opportunity to grow. It says in 2 Corinthians 4:17 that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” When the little boy from my story lost his baby brother, it was as if he received a deep wound in his heart. I think we all know that wounds of the heart have a tendency to harden and scar. Yet, the little boy remained in the arms of God and his heart did not harden because it belonged to God. Indeed, there was healing, yet with each difficulty, each loss that would come, the wound would open again and bleed. But here’s the thing, every time the wound opened, the heart became more tender. Granted, this was a painful process, but the heart became something soft enough for God to mold. During all the following years, whenever somebody else would suffer or experience loss, the boy could feel their pain because his heart was soft and full of the Lord’s own compassion. This is how it works for many in the body of Christ. From our own suffering, we can see much change and growth in our lives.

    This amazing ability to deal with trials comes only from God. Certainly, it’s part of our own growth, but it’s also for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Corrie Ten Boom once said, “[God] uses our problems for His miracles.” This is undoubtedly true! Take the miracle of saving a soul for example. Sometimes we think it’s normal to accept difficulties because we are surrounded by others who know Christ. But think of it this way: imagine a group of people together, each person with a light inside them. While everyone is together, there is plenty of light to see. They all know the light and think of it as normal. Yet, when one person walks out into the darkness alone, though he should think it very dark indeed, the people of the world will see his small light as shining brightly in the darkness. The people of the world only know darkness. This is what it’s like when people see us acting in a Godly way. Imagine what people who do not know the grace of God think when they see us suffer with grace and in obedience to God. Even a small light shines brightly in the darkness. Remember that the world is watching us.

    Moreover, we should also have grace for one another. There are many ways in which we suffer in this life. Indeed, there is death, but there are also sicknesses, financial troubles, and bad relationships. Maybe we fail an exam, or think ourselves insufficient, or are just having a rotten day. It’s easy to say that there is something worse or that someone has it worse than you. It may be true, but know that God meets each of us where we are with the same overwhelming grace. Sometimes we pass judgement on others when we think they don’t really have it so bad, but every tiny problem can seem huge in the moment. We should have grace for others as a testimony of Christ in us, and we should certainly have grace for our brothers and sisters in Christ that they may also be built up.

    When the boy from my story was a teenager, his family kept the baby daughter of a friend for a few months while she was in Germany for treatment of breast cancer. When this friend finally came home, she was actively dying as all treatment had failed. The boy and his father took the baby girl home to see her mother one last time, and the boy held this baby girl while her mother was dying that night. Later, the boy was sitting alone mourning the loss of the family friend when the father of the baby girl, who had just lost his wife, came over to the boy to comfort him. What an amazing example of God’s grace. In this life there will always be difficulties, big and small.  I hope that we will be able to overcome our tribulations with the strength of God, that we might become better servants of God.

    In conclusion, I’d like for you to watch this encouraging video:


    Our Father,
    We praise you because you are just, but you give us your infinite grace. We thank you for the opportunity to serve you and for the opportunity to know you better. Help us during the times of our difficulties and give us rest in you. We thank you that you have already overcome the world. We ask you to make our hearts tender. Help make us into your servants and into servants of each other. Bless us today and bless all the work that we do in your name.
    Amen

    Prayer Update


    Brothers and Sisters,

                    We’ve lived in France four months already! It’s amazing that a third of our time here has already come and gone. Rebecca and I completed our first French trimester with week-long exams in March. We both passed and are now moving on to the second level in our language studies. Learning this language has been a predictable struggle for me, but I put in many hours of study and have seen progress. Rebecca excels in the area of language, but her heart is in mothering and teaching our children and so she also looks forward to putting language class behind us (someday…). We have been blessed, however, with a wonderful teacher. It is amazing to see the way our God orchestrates things in our lives. Those who work in this school view their work as their ministry to prepare us for our own mission work. It is evident to us that our teacher takes this work very seriously and she expects the same from us. Every assignment and every correction (which are frequent) are given in resolute love and with a desire to see us grow. Our classes were given partially in English for a few weeks, but we are no longer allowed to speak English in the school and all lectures are fully in French. In a few weeks, I will be giving the morning devotions to my class in French with Rebecca giving them the following week.

                    If you follow us on facebook, you’ve probably seen some of the pictures that we’ve posted of our surroundings. We live in a smallish town completely surrounded by green slopes and climbing mountain peaks, many of which are still snow-capped despite the onset of a vibrant spring. There is some rain, but most days are fair and many flowers are in full bloom right now. There seem to be bakeries on every other corner which give off the scent of fresh-baked bread. Each weekday, the children attend an old school downtown after an invigorating fifteen-minute walk. They have made friends and are picking up some of the language. Our days here are very full, but we continue to make time for one another despite all the studying and daily requirements of life. We have met with more illness here than expected as our bodies try to adjust to germs from a different region. We seem to be past the worst of that, yet would appreciate your prayers for our health and strength.
    Photo of Albertville taken in January


                    We see things here that remind of home sometimes, but where is our home? Our house in Michigan sold a few weeks ago (praise God with us!), but Michigan, although a supremely awesome state, is no more our home than France. Our French brothers and sisters will sometimes refer to God in prayer as “l’Eternel” meaning The Eternal or The Eternal One. Sometimes we have a deep sense of longing for home or for times gone by, yet those times and places would not satisfy if we had them again, because our true longing is for our true home, which is wherever The Eternal One resides. To dwell with Him is to obey Him and live in His will, and that is why we are excited to toil here now and why we look forward to our labor in Togo.

                    Please remember us in your prayers and feel free to contact us to let us know what you are praying about or if there is something we can lay before the Lord on your behalf. We have been teaching our children to pray, and it is such a joy to see them grow. You can pray for our health, for strength to persevere in our studies, and for diligence in our daily walk with the Lord. Pray that we would be an encouragement to the other missionaries here and that we would know how to be a blessing to the French people that we are coming to know. Pray also for Togo and the ministry that has long been underway there.

                    Don’t forget that, for more frequent updates, you can follow us at facebook.com/mallays or at mallaysonamission.blogspot.com (email: mallaysonamission@gmail.com)

    Love from France: Seth, Becca, Arwen, Caspian, Elora, and Gwynevere

    Missionary Doctor: A saint goes home


    A missionary surgeon in Togo has died after fighting malaria, typhoid fever, and possibly an unidentified disease. Even when I was young, I have felt the loss of others as if my own. I did not personally know this man, but I have felt the grief of his family and of those in Togo who worked with him. Beyond that, I think that my wife and I realized anew the danger and risk of mission work. Yet, in the same instant that I was tempted to fear for the lives and safety of my family, I also remembered seeing sorrow and loss back home. As a physician, I would see illness, loss, and despair in Michigan as much as anywhere (although the diseases were usually different). I recognized again that my family or I could become sick or die tragically at home, and I realized that I would much rather face tragedy in obedience to God in Togo than at home where the loss would be for nothing. The loss of this faithful man has increased my resolve to go and serve.

    Pray for Togo and those who labor there. The work is always abundant, but now is a time when they have one less man while they are also grieving his loss. Pray for the surgeon’s wife and children. Pray that God would be glorified.

    Hiking with Jesus


    It's hard to believe it's already been over a month since we left Michigan and traveled here to Albertville, France, to begin language school. It has been such a busy time, the days have flown by. We are enjoying living in this little Alpine town a lot. For those of you who don't know, Albertville is in the south-eastern part of France called Savoie. We are only about an hour's drive from the borders of both Switzerland and Italy. It is a beautiful area full of little picturesque towns surrounded by mountains and rivers. There are also many lovely old chateaux, forts, and churches. However, the main attractions here seem to be skiing and hiking. I have never been skiing before (hopefully I will get to try while living here), but hiking (or la randonnée, as the French call it) is something I know and love.

    Part of the reason I love hiking is that it reminds me of one of my favorite Bible passages, Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." In hiking, just as in life, following the right path is important.

    When we were in Togo last May, Seth and I went on a hike up the mountain to see a nearby waterfall (he wrote about it in this blog entry). When we first started the hike, we were just walking along a broad, straight dirt road. It was fairly easy to determine which way we should go. However, after a while, the broad road ended and we were climbing on a little, twisty path through the tropical brush that grows everywhere in southern Togo. We couldn't see very far ahead, and the path often split into other paths that went to other places. Sometimes our Togolese guide got too far ahead for us to see where he had gone, and we would stop at a fork in the path and call for him. We didn't dare go forward without him (especially as he continued to warn us against falling in certain rivers or stepping on swarms of killer ants). Eventually, our path climbed straight up the mountain, with a steep wall of rock to one side, and an abrupt drop into a ravine on the other! It was a little scary. We learned that day that, when hiking in Togo, we needed to stick very close to our guide.

    While we haven't gone on any difficult hikes here in Albertville yet, we have found that our life has sometimes felt very similar to a twisted, overgrown path filled with forks in the path, swarms of killer ants, and deep ravines. Just the trip to get to France felt like a series of pitfalls. At one point, Seth and I got split up at the Brussels airport and couldn't find each other until right before our connecting flight took off! When we finally got to Albertville, figuring out how to enroll our children in school, how to do laundry, and how to go grocery shopping each presented their own difficulties. Discovering that our children had been enrolled in a different school than the one we expected-- one with no other American students-- felt like a surprise fork in our path! Trying to learn a completely new language has also presented new challenges. It is inexplicably humiliating to try to communicate with the shopkeepers and teachers in town with the vocabulary and grammatical expertise of a toddler! In these moments, we realize how important it is to stay close to our Guide. We don't know what to expect from this challenging hiking path we call life, but God always does. We have chosen to trust Him, and He has directed our paths. He has provided for all our needs, He has brought new and helpful friends into our lives, and we are so thankful that we can be here, preparing for our ministry in Togo.


    Last Saturday, we took our children on a walk up a nearby hill to the medieval city of Conflans. It was a beautiful day and a peaceful walk. I wouldn't call it a hike, though we certainly got our exercise. After climbing the steep road up the hill, we were all a little out of breath, but the view was certainly worth it.


    Similarly, the hike in Togo was very challenging, but when we reached our destination, the beauty of the waterfall and the refreshing swim we enjoyed in the pool beneath it made it all worthwhile. Sometimes in life, we don't understand why the path God leads us on is so difficult (though sometimes I suspect He allows it to be that way just so we will learn to "stick closer to our Guide"), but He promises us that it will all be worth it in the end. As Romans 8:28 says, "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose."

    Remember that peaceful walk up to the medieval city I mentioned earlier? It didn't end quite as peacefully as it began. After we arrived home, we discovered that somehow my purse was no longer in the stroller, where I had placed it at the beginning of the walk. We searched our apartment and the surrounding area in desperation. I cried out to God in anguish. I felt like my Guide had betrayed me and left me in the swarm of killer ants. I was going to have to cancel all my bank and credit cards and somehow replace my driver's license. We didn't even know if the purse had just been dropped, or stolen. We were worried.

    But God was already at work. Even as we searched and worried and cried (well, I cried... Seth probably didn't cry), a complete stranger was sending me a Facebook message. I got on Facebook to ask the other language students what I should do to track down my purse, and I read with relief, "Please message me. I found your bag in Conflans." God is so good! Not only was my purse not stolen, but it was found by an honest man who was smart enough to use my driver's license to look me up on Facebook and message me!



    I don't know what part of the hiking path your life feels like right now. Maybe you are on a broad, sunny road, and your life is a relaxing stroll. Or, maybe you feel like the path is very steep, and you have stumbled, and you are hanging off the side of the cliff! Either way, don't forget to stick close to your Guide. He is there for you and will always come when you call. Nothing about this path is a surprise to Him, and the destination He has prepared for us is something so much more amazing than a waterfall or a medieval city (or even getting back a lost purse).

    We thank you all for your prayers and support for us as we continue on this path, following our Guide. We will continue to keep you updated. Happy trails!