Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Coming Home

Technically, we were supposed to write this blog post two years ago. And then a year ago. But now it is really time, and as much as we look forward to returning it will be so hard to leave Swaziland!

We like love our life here. We wake up in the mornings and sip tea while enjoying the beautiful sunrise over the surrounding hills.

We read a lot of books and we never see any streetlights at night. We've developed many friendships that will leave holes in our hearts. We have jobs we love. We have become comfortable in our surroundings and can readily anticipate life here.

In many ways, Swaziland feels like home.

So why are we leaving? Sometimes this question is even difficult to us to answer.

So here's the simple answer:
We are leaving to allow Swazi nationals the opportunity to step up and assume responsibility. We came here to learn, train, and equip. Mandi and I have many responsibilities at New Life Homes and our continual presence here presents the risk of creating more dependency. We want other people to step up into positions that they have the knowledge and the skills to fill. 

This process of handing over is not easy, nor is it comfortable, and at times it can be really frustrating. We do not know how exactly how this transition is going to work. We are trusting that God will continue to provide the wisdom and personnel (both locally and abroad) that is needed to fuel New Life Children’s Homes.

Here are some key things that we want you to know:
1. We will be coming back to the U.S. (permanently) on December 15, 2016.

2. Our mission organization (African Leadership Partners) will continue to provide our personal salary for three months (through March) while we settle, and thus we are asking our financial supporters to continue their regular support until then.

3. We do not know where are going to end up yet (more on this below).

Please pray for the following:
1. New Life Homes. We are about to go into a massive stage of transition with the farm and the school. Please pray for wisdom, energy, and the right people to step up.

2. Pray for Peter and Mary Jean Kopp. Out colleagues and dear friends who founded New Life Homes will be taking on numerous additional responsibilities in our absence.

3. Jobs. I (Tommy) have been working for the past few months to find a good fit but have not yet be able to finalize anything--primarily due to the distance. I have a brief visit to the U.S. scheduled for interviews and transition preparation. If you do hear of any interesting positions opening up, please feel free to contact me (tommy.bottoms@gmail.com). Thanks!

4. Our transition. We have a lot to sort out here and when we get stateside. Jobs, housing, insurance, vehicles, and much more. All while preparing for the arrival for baby #2 in early February. 

We will leave with mixed emotions. Though, a few things are certain:
1. We gave it our best and it's been an incredible adventure.
2. We have been consistently encouraged by God working through you!
3. It really is time to come home.

With Love,
Tommy, Mandi, and Avery

Sunday, October 2, 2016

An African Adventure

In August, we took a family vacation to Victoria Falls. If you are not aware of Vic Falls, they are  big (355 feet high and 1 mile wide) and awesome. We drove more than 1000 miles through South Africa and Zimbabwe. We eventually arrived at our destination, and spent about 4 hours total at the falls and the rest of the time running after Avery. Here are a few pics.

It is the dry season, so the falls are not at their peak.

There is an insane amount of mist that arises from the falls. At certain times of the year, you cannot see anything. We did manage to get quite soaked while we were there.

One afternoon, we walked from our hotel to the Victoria Falls Hotel. It is a pretty neat, colonial-style hotel that has hosted the British royal family. This is where Avery had high tea to celebrate her first birthday. We left her and went and took a nap. Joking. We did feel very English. 

Mandi is quite fond of her.

So am I. 

We went swimming every day. 

This is right before Avery pooped in the pool. Seriously. 

She really liked drinking the pool water. We did not encourage that behavior. This is a pre-poop photo as well. Sorry for the legs in the pic. Not my choice.

We visited a crocodile farm. I instructed Avery not to tease the crocs. That is a picture of a croc with a human arm hanging out of it.  The farm had more than 10,000 crocs on site. Really cool place. And yes, I wore Crocs to the farm.

Avery holding a baby croc.

BIG crocs being fed. This is the first time we have ever seen Avery scared. We think it is good that she has a fear of crocs. 

We went on a river boat cruise on the Zambezi river. It was very beautiful.

Saw lots of elephants, crocs, kudu and monkeys. The two and a half hour boat ride was a bit long for Avery (and us), but we had a great time nonetheless. 

Overall, it was a great family excursion. Not easy and sure, and in hindsight we would have done some things differently (like fly instead of drive), but who cares now? Fun times. Thanks for your support and for loving us even when we take time to get away.