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:
~ 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.

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