As many of you know, December has been an interesting month here. I'm not sure about the month as a whole, but there were at least 2 or 3 days where we set record cold temperatures. Starting in late November, we had about 2 weeks of temperatures around 40 below zero, it warmed up to about 10 below for a few days and then went back to 40 below for a couple more weeks. I think the lowest we saw on our thermometer at our house was 48 below. We did fine, and nobody got frostbite ( not even the husky that we are dogsitting who never wants to come inside), but it does give you cabin fever because you can't get outside much. (Sue here. I did manage to get mild frostbite--on my stomach, of all places! While loading groceries into the back of the Suburban, I was leaning against the hatch with my coat unbuttoned and only a t-shirt between me and the metal (not very smart, but I was in a hurry to get on the road back home!). Upon feeling a burning sensation, I hurried to finish and hopped down, but I continued to feel that burning sensation all through the day and had a very red belly for two-three days following! I learned a lesson on that one!). Right around Christmas, it started to warm up and is supposed to be above zero today. After being at 40 below, zero feels really warm, although we're not in shorts (except maybe Bridger, who loves this climate). The big problem with it staying cold for so long is frozen water lines. At one point, we had 9 houses of mission personnel at the clinic or the Bible college that had no water. We have 2 maintenance people who have been working hard to thaw the lines and 2 of the lines are open at last count. They tell me that it is not unusual for some people in the community to have their water to freeze and for them to live in a "dry cabin" all winter. Our house has had no problems to this point. I know that many of you have been praying for the temperatures and the water situation and we appreciate it.
The other big news this month is that Luke is home for Christmas (thanks so much to the team from Riverview who helped us get him here!! That was the best present we could have gotten). He had a great first semester at Liberty and is looking forward to returning. His broken leg is healed, but he still has to wear a brace when exercising. He has been out cross country skiing and we've played a little indoor soccer and he seems to be doing fine. Bridger has finished a couple of classes at the community college and we're talking about what to do for college in the fall after he graduates from high school. He is Russ' main cross country ski partner. Case is now enjoying playing JV basketball for the local school. He goes to the gym almost every day, even when he doesn't have team practice. Ansley had a good season playing basketball for the middle school. She had a great Christian coach, and Ansley was able to pray for the team before each of the games. Sue was a chaperone for many of Ansley's trips, which meant that she got to know many of the girls better, got to sleep on the floor of classrooms in many schools, and was given a stadium seat by the coaches because she sat through 6 or more games each weekend.
Life at the clinic has been good , but busy. It was slower when the temperatures where so cold, but not as slow as last year. We have had a busy 2 months from an emergency standpoint, seeing people with heart attacks, strokes, and serious abdominal issues, who have had to fly into town. We've seen two people show an interest in following Christ after a serious illness and our chaplain has been visiting with them. We may have a change in the spring as Melodye, our physician's assistant who comes up part time from New York, may not be able to come consistently. That would mean we may need extra help, especially for the busier summer. Russ was able to go to a missions conference in Louisville, KY to recruit help. Nothing definite has come of that so far, but it was a great encouragement to be around medical missionaries from around the world. He heard a speaker on Christian suffering and was reminded that many times life can be hard for those trying to follow God's plan, so don't be surprised if things get tough sometimes. Russ also read the book Not A Fan on the trip and liked it so much that we are reading it as a family.
We continue to be involved in our local church and serve in AWANA, which we enjoy. We get to see kids from Glennallen, but also from the local villages. Russ is the Game Leader and Sue continues to be a TNT girls leader. Bridger, Case, and Ansley all work in AWANA, but are also continuing to work on their own books as well. Sue and the kids continue to travel to Chistochina at least once a month to teach Sunday School for the kids in the village. The church has a new pastor and we're hoping that more of the adults from the village will start attending as well. Quite a few of the adults came out for a Christmas program put on by the children. Sue and Ansley, just helped out with a sleepover for the girls in the church at Gulkana. In some ways, it is a slow process getting to know the people in the area, but it has been fun to get to know the kids through Russ' work, basketball, and the ministries in the area.
We had a good Christmas and holiday break. Luke will be heading back in January. Thanks to all who have visited, encouraged and helped Luke since we are so far away. We are hoping that December is the coldest month this winter and that January won't be as bad. We are also hoping for more snow, as it insulates the ground. We hear that some people may be visiting in the spring, and that is always a treat. We are always encouraged by all of the prayers, cards, packages, and support we get from our friends and family "back East". Thank you.
-For Luke's safe trip home and a good 2nd semester at Liberty.
-For the continued outreach through the medical center, AWANA, and the local churches and for the many people in our community who need the light of Christ in their lives.
-For more moderate temperatures, more snow, and flowing water to the houses in the area.
-For the personnel needs of the clinic in the coming months and that God would send the right people here at the right time.
-For continued guidance for our family in particular as we pray about our plans for the coming year.
-For a boy we have been working with in Sunday school, who had been growing greatly in the Lord. Because of difficult circumstances, he had to move, so we are no longer able to see him. Pray that the Lord will bring people into his life who will pour the Word and love of Christ into him.