A Trip to the Beach

Oh, dear friends, what a month this has been! Since the last time I posted, we have been busy, busy, busy. Most of it has been good busyness, but honestly, I’m so glad to be beyond it all. January started with a family vacation to Florida where we all got to spend a week simply being together. (That was so, so good.) The week after we came arrived back in Minnesota was The Mango Gala where we celebrated with friends at Greysolon Ballroom and shared our vision for our ministry in Kenya. (A beautiful event following lots of work.) The very next day, we packed up the condo and moved three miles down the road to our new apartment! (Is any move easy?) We then battled sickness while unpacking. (To be expected in the middle of winter.) And then I tackled Perspectives, the online missions course we’ve been taking since October. (Just one more week, though the class has been pretty amazing.) As I sit on our new, overstuffed sofa in our cozy, little apartment, I am so very thankful to have entered a month that looks much different than the last. I’m letting out a sigh of relief and thanking Jesus for the little moments of peace he provided in the days we’ve experienced since the start of the new year.

First, thank you so much for your prayers after our last post! We knew moving out of the condo would only make sense if someone came in to rent it right away. The DAY AFTER we moved out, the condo was shown to not one but TWO interested parties! A family moved in on February 1. Yet again, God has provided for our needs. We are incredibly thankful!!

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With all that we’ve experienced in the last month, there is so much I want to share. So, let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. (Sound of Music, anyone? Go back and sing those lines, then you can keep them in your head the rest of the day. You’re welcome.)

Florida! We had such a wonderful time away as a family  when we visited Florida a year ago, we thought it would be fun to escape to the warmth again. This year, we chose the opposite coast and rented a beach house on Cocoa Beach. (Do you ever use VRBO while vacationing? The best! We’ve used it many times to find cute vacation rentals for the same price as local hotels.) Again this year our dear friends Luke & Hannah joined us on our trip. They are like family to us and the kids adore them. We all have a great time together! The first few days were hot, which were perfect for the beach. Then it cooled of slightly, though really, it was still quite warm for us northern Minnesotans!

This was the backyard of our beach house. Just beyond those palm trees was a quiet stretch a few blocks north of Cocoa Beach Pier.

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Of course the kids’ favorite part of vacation is the beach.

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Sam! Showing a little leg!

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Our rental shared a small pool with the neighboring rental, which thrilled Ella. Such a little fish.

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Though she also plays a convincing turtle.

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Unfortunately, our little buddy got sick on New Year’s Eve. He laid low for a few days at the house.

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While Sam was resting, Daddy and Ella had an adventurous date together with the gators!

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Daddy introduced her to clams, which are now her favorite food. This girl will try anything!

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Apparently, wee alligators like hot dogs?? That’s what Ella told me, anyway. She strung them on the end of her pole.

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On a cooler afternoon, Ella and I walked down to the beach for a little picnic.

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One afternoon while it rained, I drove the kids to Orlando where we met up with my sweet friend, Ashleigh, and her boys.

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Ella taught Sam the proper technique for digging for fossils.

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Sam joined the boys on a shaky bridge to get the feel of an earthquake. I was proud of him for keeping his balance so well!

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Sam made a friend in the giant tree play structure. He’s usually very gentle with new friends. At least until he feels they’re ready for wrestling. Then he takes them down, laughing the entire time.

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The kids could have played here for hours and hours! It was a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.

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Sweet mama Ashleigh. We met at a conference a couple years ago and have tried getting together multiple times since then. We finally did it! And how adorable is she? That’s baby boy #4, making an appearance soon!

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We spent one morning at Ron Jon Surf Shop, something that’s been on my list since I was in 7th grade. Why, you ask? Let me tell you. When I was in 7th grade, my family took a road trip to Florida. On that trip, we spent a day at Cocoa Beach. At one point in the afternoon, my mom, brothers, and sister walked to the surf shop to rent boogie boards. I stayed with my dad at the beach. For years and years, I’ve regretted that choice. Every time I’ve seen a Ron Jon’s sticker in a car window, I’ve remembered that day as a 7th grader and the grand opportunity I missed. So when we decided to stay at Cocoa Beach this year, I knew my visit would finally happen. And it surely did. (Why was it so important for me to visit all those years ago? I have absolutely no idea. F some reason, it just stuck with me.)

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By the time we visited the surf shop, this little guy was feeling much better. We ate at a nearby cafe where we had the privilege of meeting a young man from the area with Down syndrome. We sure do love meeting other amazing people wherever we go!

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One of my favorite days in Florida was New Years Eve. Pete and I have spent a majority of our time apart the last few months, ever since his job in New Mexico began in September. Because of that, we wanted to do something really memorable to celebrate the new year. Luke & Hannah stayed at the beach house with the kids while Pete & I ventured into Orlando to spend the day at Universal Studios! It was amazing! My heart gets excited even now when I think about the fun we had that day. Just the two of us.

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We walked all over, went on rides, saw shows, and ate really tasty treats. The weather was perfect!

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Then we made our way beyond the brick wall into Diagon Alley in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was like stepping into the books! I have listened to the first four audio books in the Harry Potter series, so I was so looking forward to seeing how the park brought it to life. Pete, on the other hand, didn’t know much at all about Harry Potter. That was fine with me, because it meant I got to tell him all about it. Our first stop was at a cart for pumpkin juice. Mmm.

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Really, I would probably be equally thrilled to step into a park designed after any number of books or movies. It’s definitely my theatrical side that adores the idea of being inside something so imaginative. Every nook and cranny was intricately designed to match the books and every park employee played the part.

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For lunch we stayed in Diagon Alley and ate at The Leaky Cauldron. We liked it so much, we went back for dinner!

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This was where we had our first taste of Butter Beer.

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And it did not disappoint. It’s a creamy butterscotch-flavored non-alcoholic drink that comes straight from the books. I lost count of how many glasses we shared!

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After dark, we watched the Macy’s Holiday Parade, which included many of the gigantic balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I am such a fan of parades, and I’ve always wanted to see the Macy’s Parade, so this was fantastic!

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At midnight, we stood on the edge of a fountain in front of Diagon Alley and watched an incredible fireworks display over the park. It was every bit as exciting as I hoped it would be! A very, very memorable New Year’s Eve with my Pete.

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So many photos, but this is not the conclusion of our Florida adventure. I’ll share some very special memories in my very next post!


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Moving Toward Minimal

Just over a month ago, Pete told me he felt God was showing him a path that would take us another step toward Kenya and living more simply. This journey has been ongoing for us. We started by getting organized. Then we got a dumpster to clear out junk. Finally, we had an estate sale to sell everything but what we were using regularly. We sold the house and bought a furnished condo on the lake. Then we went down to one vehicle and had a six-month spending freeze. In the year-and-a-half we’ve been in the condo, we’ve tried to keep from accumulating more things, but let me tell you, it’s hard! We don’t intentionally go out to buy random things that will become clutter. In fact, we always have a “to be donated” box in our laundry room that fills faster than I expect it to. Friends and family have bought us experiences as gifts rather than little items, which we have loved and so greatly appreciate. Additionally, I go through nearly everything every couple months to keep our belongings under control. But even with all that, I was not at all surprised when Pete told me we need to pray about another step toward simplicity.

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So pray we did. And in that praying, we felt that the time had arrived to prepare our condo for renters. This is something we didn’t think we’d be doing until we were also packing our bags for Kenya. However, when we looked at the numbers, we realized this plan could cut our monthly budget tremendously by allowing renters to move in and pay our monthly mortgage. Once we felt that this really was something God was putting in front of us, I began looking for inexpensive rentals around town. After a week or two of searching, I found one sweet little rental that feels as though it’s been waiting for us. It has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a small kitchen, and a cozy living room, all in 1,000 square feet. It’s right along the Lakewalk, where we can ride bikes and go on runs and walk the five short blocks to my favorite local coffee shop. We’ll have a yard and a shared garage and the little house sits right along the route of Grandma’s Marathon, one of our favorite events of the year. It is exactly what we were looking for.

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We are leaving our condo furnished for renters, so nearly everything we put into our new place is temporary. I’ve had great luck finding a dresser and a bookshelf and bunk beds on Craigslist (which means Sammy is moving to a big bed!). All other items have come from IKEA, Target, Amazon, thrift stores or are things we don’t need to leave in the condo. It is our main goal to begin living even more minimally with this move. With very little closet space, we will all reduce our wardrobes. The kids already have a fairly small amount of toys and books, which helps. Our kitchen will be stocked only with what we use on a daily basis. Pete and I feel confident that we want to live minimally as we continue forward, and we are excited about it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean this an easy thing to do.

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I do trust that this is what God has for us. My heart feels joyful with the idea of clearing more clutter from our home and our lives. But I love our condo. I love waking every morning and peering out over Lake Superior to discover her always-changing mood. Enormous ships move through her waters and sea planes fly over her surface. We fall asleep to the sound of the waves, even on these bitterly cold nights of winter. Our condo is new and beautifully furnished. We have space to host friends on a regular basis and to let the kids play freely. As much as I adore the space we call home this week, it does not compare with following every step that God puts in front of us. I have lived enough years and followed (or not followed) him enough times that I find it a bit easier, and certainly far more exciting, to follow his path and plan without as much questioning as I once did. So in one week, when Pete is off for the weekend, we will make our official move out of the condo and into our new house. Pete and I often sing to each other, “Home, let me come home // Home is wherever I’m with you.” And we believe that. Where we’re together, celebrating life and living our days, that is where our home is.

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As we get ready for this move, will you please be praying with us? We’re taking the step to move out and allow renters to come in, but we don’t yet have those renters. We’re working with a management company who is very familiar with our building, and we’re praying for the right renters to come in as soon as February 1. I will be working on preparing it for renters while Pete is away in New Mexico the remainder of this month. Also, please pray we settle well in our new home. I love to decorate and make a space cozy, so I’m really looking forward to that part. We first took Ella to the new house before New Years to help her mentally and emotionally begin the transition, and she’s gone shopping with me for her new bedding and such. She seems to be doing well with the idea of the move, and the promise of having the top bunk makes her want to be there already!

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So we’re off on a new adventure! We will surely keep you posted on our progress in the days ahead. I’ve said it before, and I certainly mean it…we are so happy to share this journey with you!

 


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From Pete: Please Help Us Get to Kenya

Dear friends, family, and colleagues,

In just 10 months, we hope to be on our way to Kenya where I will be training young, Kenyan family medicine residents to help them become Kenyan doctors who will work in the most remote areas of Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia. They will provide essential medical care in some of the most remote areas of the world – areas I cannot access.

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Tenwek Christian Hospital is a 300-bed hospital located four hours west of Nairobi. People get primary care at Ministry of Health dispensaries and health centers but when they need surgical or specialized care, Tenwek is known throughout the whole region (around 1 million people) for its compassionate care. The care is provided at the most reduced cost possible, often supplemented by grants from Christian organizations. Supplies are extremely limited and often consist of donated medical equipment from various companies and organizations. We utilize well whatever is made available to us so that we can deliver the best care for the least expensive cost to the patient, many of whom are quite poor. Kenyans walk two to three days from the surrounding region for the medical care they desperately need. There are about twenty ex-patriot doctors and a small but growing number of experienced Kenyan physicians at any one time training family medicine physicians, general surgeons and orthopedic surgeons. I will be one of those twenty.

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There is certainly risk involved for our family. Kenya is the site of recent mass shootings and bombings. Christians have fled from the north part of the country where El Shabab, a Muslim extremist group, has been exterminating those who claim to follow Jesus. We will be in a slightly safer region of the country in the Western highlands of Kenya.

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Recently, the questions I have received by many have intensified, correlating with the reports of violence in the region.

So why? Why go there?! Work here and serve another population of underserved or stay somewhere in the States. Certainly, there must be need here!

It’s true. There are needs everywhere in the States from Native American reservations to crowded urban areas to small, rural towns. But God hasn’t called us there. He’s called our family to Africa, so that’s where we’ll go. I am called as a physician and Angela is called as a teacher. He’s calling Ella to offer the gifts he is still building within her. Sammy’s ministry within the special needs community has already begun. God has called us as a family, a family that hopes to expand once we arrive in Kenya through adoption – another part of the ministry we feel called to by God.

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Why don’t you just make large sums of money and donate it to the hospital. Certainly, a physician’s income would allow you to give a lot of money!

That would be one option. In Kenya I’ll be making 5-7% of what I would earn as a physician in the U.S. But we know without question that our family is supposed to be on the ground in East Africa to share his love in person, train up physicians to continue this ministry and even extend it into areas where Christians (and white people – Wazungu), cannot go without the constant threat of death.

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How is fundraising going? You must be fully supported by now, right?

Many of you have also asked about our fundraising. Honestly, it’s been a difficult road. Our family requires recurring funds for transportation, food, shelter, children’s education and yes, even a salary (part of which is saved for missionary retirement). Specifically, our missionary budget has been set at $7875/month. While this number seems high (it certainly gave us sticker shock!), we have a detailed sheet accounting for every penny and are happy to share with anyone who asks.

I am writing this because after contacting everyone we know, speaking at churches, Rotary, Kiwanis, local woman’s groups and many others (and continuing to do so), we have been able to raise just 15% of our required budget. We cannot set a date to move our family to Kenya until we have created a stable base of recurring support that meets or exceeds our expenses.

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So, please help us. Provide the recurring support we need to help people across the world who you’ll never meet. People whose basic needs for food, water, shelter, safety and medical care are threatened daily. Needs we intend to meet and exceed.

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As of today, 12/29/15, we still need to raise a monthly amount of $6,690. We are asking each of you to pray about an amount you can provide to support our family to carry out the ministry above. 

That would be:

1) $100/month from 16 people

2) $50/month from 75 people

3) $25/month from 59 people

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One of the beautiful parts of ministry is that God never calls us to do it alone. He calls each of us to pray, to give and to go. You probably don’t feel called to move to Kenya, but you can still join what God is doing there by supporting our family in this work. We need ministry partners who will stand by us and pray for us and provide the financial support needed to make this work. We can’t do it alone and right now we really need your help. Please partner with us to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters living in Kenya.

With gratitude and in the name of Jesus,

Pete

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I’m ready to support your family. How do I do it?

Start here: wgm.org/olsen.  On that page, you can easily create a recurring contribution using a credit card or set up an automatic payment from your bank account.

I want to know exactly where this money is going.

Great! You can email me at pete.olsen@wgm.org and I will send you the exact budget provided by World Gospel Mission. It provides a detailed explanation for every penny spent on the mission field and demonstrates that we will be good stewards of the funds we receive. Every donation goes directly to the Olsen family’s ministry and won’t be spread across multiple accounts.

I need to know more before I can give to your family.

We understand. Reply to this email and we’ll have you over individually for coffee and dessert. We can go into far more detail and provide you with pictures of the work we’ve done and our detailed plans for our future ministry. I will show you the specific areas I will be teaching while Angela can tell you more about homeschooling and opportunities at a local teacher training school.

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One additional way you can learn more about our journey to Kenya is by attending The Mango Gala on January 14. It will be a night of live music and dancing, and we’ll be sharing our vision for our move to East Africa. Please join us! You can RSVP by emailing mangogala2015@gmail.com.

Mango Gala Invite

 

Click here to read a piece Pete wrote following his first delivery in Africa.



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Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas, friends! May you experience the wonder of this season and the joy of the incredible gift that was given to us through the birth of our Savior Jesus.

 

That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord’s glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened. 10 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. 11 This very day in King David’s hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord. 12 You will know who he is, because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay.”  Luke 2:8-11 CEV

 

card from Shutterfly


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