And Now for Something Completely Different

“The wind (pneuma) blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (pneuma).” – John 3:8

We’re going to France for 3-6 months!

 

Did we lose you there? Here’s the situation:

Once again, the name of the game is flexibility. When we chose the name for our website, we had little idea how true it would be. Our willingness to be led by the Spirit (pneuma / wind) has meant that Brandy has had to grow in the area of letting go of control. Her ability to plan and organize has been a strength for the decades of our married life, but lately it seems that the Lord is working to teach us to trust Him more than ourselves or even our God-given strengths.

In the latest unveiling, we are feeling strongly led to France – and not sailing there. We have an invitation to house sit in the South of France.

There are several reasons that this is a reasonable and viable option. First of all, it is a direct answer to prayer. Our trip north to La Paz was not in our original sailing plan (though apparently it was in God’s). We had intended to be half way to El Salvador by this point. Hurricanes get a (majority) vote in this part of the world. Officially, hurricane season starts in June, but the first one last year was May 9. El Salvador is still technically in the hurricane zone (the very southern edge), but historically speaking, isn’t known for having problems. We were a little anxious about getting there because it meant we would be in a hurry and on a schedule. The saying goes that the most dangerous thing to have on a sailboat is a schedule. Not that laid back is a requirement (though it helps), but when you have to be somewhere by a certain time, you are more inclined to do things you might not otherwise.
 So, we would be hurrying south for several weeks, pushing ourselves and the boat, racing against the clock with no truly safe locations to hide if a hurricane does form early this year.

As we saw it, we had three options for this hurricane season (officially June 1 – October 31).

1. Stay in La Paz longer and then sail north into the Sea of Cortez as hurricanes get further north. The hurricanes in the western Pacific usually start in southern Mexico/Guatemala and move gradually north throughout the season. Space for a sailboat in La Paz is considered premium and they charge based on that. This is by far the most expensive marina we have stayed in. It’s not something we can afford for an extended period of time. And, it’s still in the hurricane zone.

2. Sail north into the Sea of Cortez. This isn’t such a bad option. There’s plenty of amazing things to see and beautiful places to visit in the Sea of Cortez. The missionaries we spent time with last spring are still in Loreto. Again, it’s super expensive there too, and not somewhere we could afford for more than a month. And, well, Loreto is still in the hurricane zone too.

3. Sail to the top of the Sea of Cortez (hey, our insurance company finally says this is out of the hurricane zone!) and haul the boat out for the hurricane season. Many boaters choose this option, so it is quite common and safe. We’ve spoken to several dry storage places and found one that can haul our boat (really, our friends left their boat there last year and they have a bigger boat than ours, so no issues like last year when we tried to haul the boat in Loreto). The haul out and storage fees are quite cheap and it’s in a very secure location. But, if we go with this option, we need to find somewhere to live for 3-6 months.

During all these discussions of what to do and where to go, Brandy spontaneously responded to a post on World School House Swap looking for a house sitter for a bed and breakfast in the South of France. A few hundred other people did also. I mean, what are the chances?

Well, I guess they are pretty high when God is directing our path.

We were their first choice! We will be at Zocalo Ranch near Oppede, France, in June, July and August, with the possibility (depending on whether or not we are granted extended visas) of staying through September and October. The kids are ecstatic! A 2-acre ranch surrounded by lavender fields (there’s even a lavender museum). Land to roam around. Cherry, fig and olive trees. A pâtisserie just a short walk away. What a change this will be for all of us!

We’ve already reached out to a missionary agency in the nearby town and are waiting to see what God wants to show us this summer.

There are more reasons that this is a huge answered prayer. It solves our hurricane season problem mentioned above. It also allows us to save some money. The storage fee will be less than $300 per month. Since we will not be using the boat, maintenance and upkeep costs will be reduced. What about plane tickets, you ask? Well, one of the benefits we paid for over the past 20 years is free space-available military flights – including to Europe. The money we are able to save will pay for things like new solar panels, a new solar arch, a new dinghy (or major overhaul of our current), cockpit enclosure, and possibly a higher output watermaker (=everyone gets at least one shower/week and maybe some laundry).

In addition, the deadline for Dennis’ Doctor of Ministry project in support of our ministry model is approaching. The plan of working while sailing to exotic locations hasn’t worked out as most of his time in these exotic locations is occupied with fixing the boat. France will provide 90 or more days of a desk and good WiFi (both unavailable out here) to research and write. Brandy will take advantage of this time to gain additional training and preparation for the work ahead.

As flexible and available as we are, there are still bureaucracies to deal with. We are running into some challenges with long-term (greater than 3 months) visas for France. We have been in contact with several French consulates and are gettting the run-around. We haven’t been able to get an appointment and it appears that there will be none until the beginning of June.
 So, at this point, we will likely only stay the three months, then have to leave Europe. September is still hurricane season, so we’ll possibly spend time with our friends in Scotland before crossing the pond again. We will make our way back to the boat, take care of those big projects, splash the boat and start south again. We have contacts in Guatemala, Honduras and Panama that we will plan to support next year.

We appreciate your prayers as we do all the stuff that is involved in hauling the boat, getting visas (or not), working out details and moving overseas. We are especially excited about what the ministry will look like there. We look forward to sharing the new thing that God is doing.

One week down in La Paz…

Since we arrived in La Paz last Monday, we’ve been busy! Our first night here we went to Applebee’s for dinner. Mmm, those were some delicious burgers and just what the doctor ordered for our American stomachs.

We have a few boat projects (and other stuff) that we decided to jump on while we’re dockside (way easier than at anchor).

-Solar…our old panels just aren’t keeping up. We’ve been limiting our power use as much as possible (refrigeration only and solar lights at night) and still having to run the generator every day. So, we’ve been doing a bit of shopping, networking and finding stainless steel guys who could help set up a new solar system (Caleb just pointed out that I’m not talking about a new galaxy).

-repaired (well, almost finished) our dinghy…it went flat just a couple of days before we left La Cruz. It blew a hole along the forward seam. We’re hoping this repair will hold. That’s our only way in from anchor (which is another reason we’re actually in a marina right now).

-filed our taxes…boy, that was different and much more challenging after all our years on active duty!

-made several LONG walks around La Paz to find grocery stores, electronic stores, solar panels, and people

-cleaned our fish tank…we can actually see our two cute little fresh water fish again

-kids are catching up with and spending time with their other boat friends who came here from La Cruz also

-I went to a “What my boat did during summer vacation” seminar, which could also be known as “It’s almost hurricane season, what do I do with my boat?!” This has been a constant topic around here lately and the more we discuss it, the less confident we have become that we can sail south before the first hurricane of the season. That’s not exactly something we want to get stuck in on our way to El Salvador (where we intended to spend hurricane season). The first one last year was May 9. If we leave La Paz (planning around May 7ish) and go as fast as possible south, it would still probably take a month (did I mention that sailboats aren’t known for their speed?). That timeline isn’t looking good, so we’re exploring other possibilities for the summer/early fall.

-and we cut Caleb’s hair for the first time in almost two years!

What’s going on ministry-wise…

We arrived a few days early (what?! And on a sailboat even!) so our new missionary friends were still spending time with their family visiting from Canada. We thought we’d make ourselves at home in La Paz and get started on those boat jobs.

The missionaries we worked with last year in Loreto told us about a Christian couple here in La Paz that runs a bed and breakfast called CasaBuena. They told us to go see them if we ever made it here. So they were on our list. We were also given the name of an English speaking church and a horse therapy program for disabled kids from another cruiser. Our first morning here we were asking some other boaters about solar panels and were told we must go meet Milton. He apparently had a “solar farm” on the roof of his B&B. And maybe you can guess this, but the B&B was CasaBuena! Let me tell you, this is the most impressive solar setup I have ever seen! He even has it wired into the city grid and pumps power to them all day! So as we’re spending an afternoon getting to know them, we mention the church we were told about and the horse therapy program. Well, the church is right there on their property, and Milton’s wife, Susu, runs the horse program!! They also know all the missionary families that we’re here to see! Hope has been joining Susu with her horse ministry to disabled children and definitely in her happy place. Horses are Hope’s love language 🙂

 

We also spent a few afternoons with the Thiessen family last week getting to know them. The kids hit it off too. We spent Saturday evening at their youth ministry which had 25-30 kids (I didn’t count, but it was a lot). The kids had a blast playing gaga ball and even Micah and Seth jumped right in with these teenagers. I loved how everyone was accepted and cheered on no matter their skin color or the language they spoke. Mine may have been a little lost though when it came time for their lesson (ok, I was too). We’ll keep working on our Spanish skills. Everyone enjoyed April birthday cake at the end!

Sunday morning we drug our tired selves out of bed (everything is late here in Mexico and we’re still on a sailor’s schedule) and made it to church just a few minutes late. It was another packed house! We stayed after for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon with Milton and Susu while our kids enjoyed their pool.
Tomorrow Dennis and Hope are traveling a couple of hours by car to renew her passport and then she’ll head out to the horse ranch for the evening. We’re going to lunch with 2 missionary families tomorrow and then going over to the Thiessens in the evening. As they run a sports ministry here, we may be joining them at their basketball practice Thursday evening and their tournament Friday evening. Thursday morning Dennis will be going to a men’s breakfast with the local church. During the day on Friday we’ll be joining the Thiessens and several other missionary families for lunch at their missionary prayer day. Saturday…well, we haven’t planned that far yet but I’m sure it’ll be busy!

Thank you for your prayers for us and we ask that you also pray for the many missionary families here in La Paz!