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Hello all, and merry Christmas!  We would like to send a Christmas card to every one of you, but logistically that would be rather challenging from Tanga.  Instead, we have decided to post our yearly report on our blog for all to enjoy.  This year was full of joy, transition, and travel for our family.

Heather graduated from nursing school at the end of 2009.  Both of our families took us on amazing December vacations: the entire Kellis family boarded a cruise ship for a week, and then the Lehman side flew down to Key Largo to a Yacht Club and sailed the keys.

Ross continued to plug away at his studies into the spring, completing a Masters in Christian Ministry by the summer.  Heather was offered a nursing job at Prime Care clinic in Searcy.  One of the delights of that situation besidesthe fact that it provided good nursing experience was that she got to work with her long-time college friend, Cassie Beagle.  We both began to work full time for the Downtown church in March, our task was to enter the life of the congregation on a deeper level and to prepare to leave for Africa.  We enjoyed eating with many members, establishing a bible study with Harding students, and attending weekly prayer meetings with Downtown members.

In May, Heather attended a tropical medicine intensive course in North Carolina.  In Later that month, we moved out of the Woodrooff home into Heather’s Mom’s house.  Preparations for the departure to Africa began in earnest from this point on.

The summer was one long journey.  We lived at the Kellis house to work with the Lexington Church for the month of July and enjoyed eating at the tables of many church members.  One of the highlights of this time in SC was when our beloved friend and brother, Chris Pike was baptized in the lake.  Afterwards, in celebratory style, we all jumped in the lake too, clothes and all.  At the end of the month, Ross’ sister, Raegen married Kale Ferguson, and Ross performed the ceremony.  The wedding was beautiful, and Ross’ sermon was a hit with all of the guests.

During the summer, we took final vacations with each side of our families.  Heather traveled to VA Beach to visit with her Dad one last time.  The visit was full of bike rides and delicious meals at nice restaurants.  The Kellis family rented a house on the beach in South Carolina and we had a great time playing with our numerous nieces and nephews.  Heather’s Mom took all of her kids and their significant others to a cabin in Jasper, AR.  We spent our entire visit hiking, rock climbing, and swimming in scenic wooded pools.

Next, the entire Makonde team traveled to Colorado Springs for a language preparation training class that lasted for two weeks.  There we learned to make funny sounds (breaking out of our “English sound box”), and prepared for the months of language learning ahead.

Next on the lineup of things to do was to get Heather’s sister, Haley, married off to her long-time beau Hunter Main.  The wedding was in a beautiful outdoor setting punctuated with yellow accents (flowers, etc.).  Haley looked stunning, and Hunter couldn’t stop grinning.  We enjoyed dancing and hanging out with the Parson/Main crew.

After the wedding, we began to pack a container, which we share with the team, full of items that we wanted to ship to Africa.  Reorganizing every detail of our lives to transition overseas was no small task, and Heather’s Mom, Anne, was invaluable support during this time.  Often, we ate yummy meals at her table after days of long work when we had no time to even think of eating.

In September, we said our final goodbyes to the Downtown church.  The church threw a touching and overwhelmingly loving sendoff ceremony for us, which deeply moved us.  Ross’ Mom and Dad as well as Heather’s family members were all able to attend.

On September 25th, the day we had been preparing for arrived, and we said goodbye to our friends and family in the Little Rock airport.  That was not fun, but luckily our travels went smoothly, and upon our arrival in Tanga, we found the language school more beautiful than we could have imagined.  This special place where we will live for six months is a haven and a blessed transition place from which we are beginning to know Africa.

The last of the year was spent intensely studying Kiswahili.  We have language class every day and we do practical time out in the villages.  God has blessed the relationships we have made here and we continue to make good friends.  We plan to move to Mtwara in April.

May God bless you and yours as we remember the Word made flesh this holiday season.  May the miracle of the incarnation be played out in our everyday lives in the coming year.

Grace & Peace,

Ross and Heather