From July 4-18, we attended a training called APO (Appointee Orientation) at the WorldVenture headquarters in Littleton, CO.  It was a sweet time, greatly exceeding our expectations.  Here are some stories that capture a picture of what happened.

1.  The first week of training focused quite a bit on public speaking.  We were required to create a three minute presentation and practice it several times in front of our fellow “appointees”–aka missionaries in training.  After the first practice session, Kathryne was discouraged.  A combination of sleep deprivation, being separated from children (repeatedly) and the stress of speaking in front of people weighed heavily on her.  About half way through our training, Kathryne (along with the rest of us) shared in front of over 100 people.  She did awesome.  The Lord did a visible work in her life through it.  After two weeks at WorldVenture, I (Jamison) think Kathryne is coming home a stronger, more confident woman in Christ.  That alone was worth the whole trip.

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2.  Before we all went on stage to share our three-minute stories, the leadership at WorldVenture gathered us in a room to pray.  Then, in remembrance of Jesus and his disciples, they got out water basins, pitchers and towels and used them to wash our feet.  The ceremony illustrated something we saw throughout our two weeks–humility.  The leaders at WorldVenture demonstrated it over and over again.  There were countless moments where Kathryne and I commented to each other, “I’m so glad that we’re going to Japan with WorldVenture.”  We feel like we’re in really good hands.

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3.  Ezra made friends quickly.  Baby Luke (5 months old) and Baby Cora (10 months) were two of his favorites.  One morning, he crawled into bed with me at 5am and immediately said, “Daddy, Baby Luku is my friend.  I really like him a lot.”  Another time he commented, “Baby Cora is so precious, Daddy.  She has little teeth.”  That pretty much summarizes Ezra’s two weeks.  He was the unofficial shepherd of the Tinies.

4.  Oh man.  There are so many people I want to share about.  I wish that all of you could know the people we’ve had the honor of knowing since July 4th.  Michael and Christie, who are headed to Bangkok with their two beautiful girls, sat with us every day and quickly became some of our new best friends.  We love them.  We stayed up late talking to three other couples nearly every night–one couple who will also be going to Japan, another who will hopefully be coming to Japan and a third who won’t be near Japan but will be near our hearts.  All three families are the types that we’d joyfully partner with for years or decades to come.  Pray for them.  Pray for their families and supporters.  Ask us about them and the many others at APO, so that we can share more.

5.  On Saturday, July 11th, we drove out to Winter Park, CO for a wedding.  (Thank you, Chris and Natalie, for planning your wedding around our training schedule).  We rode a ski lift to the top of a mountain, where the ceremony/reception took place with the sun setting in the background.  I can’t imagine a better setting to celebrate the covenant of marriage.  I’m reminded of our own wedding text, “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” Isaiah 54:10.  A special thank you to my parents who flew out for second half of the training and watched our children, so that we could attend the wedding and have a hiking date earlier in the day.

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6.  Speaking of my parents, I think the training was good for them.  And, it was good for us to have them there.  Not only were they a tremendous help with the children, but their presence helped me begin the mourning process inherent to the missions life.  When we were getting ready to go up on stage to share our story, I told myself, “Don’t look at Mom, or you’ll start to cry.”  Mom and Dad, we’re going to miss you.  We’re going for the sake of the Name of Jesus Christ, and I think we will all agree that the sacrifice of distance will be worth it, even though it will be hard at times.

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7.  On one of the last days, all of the TCK’s (Third Culture Kids) received matching T-Shirts (“Life is a Pair of Ducks”).  Seeing them all together, made us realize that our children are now members of a new community.  They will be growing up in a place where they won’t completely fit in and going “home” to a different culture where they don’t completely fit in. The TCK community is one where they can be understood.  They will have friends around the world, living the pair-of-ducksical life together.  It was a blessing to see Ezra walking up to the older kids and saying, “Look, I have a duck shirt, too.”

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8. When we pulled away from WorldVenture on our way to the airport, Ezra said, “I’m not ready to leave Colorado yet.  I like being here.”  He was audibly distraught.  I silently felt the same way.  Yes, it’s nice to be home after two weeks away.  At the same time, leaving WorldVenture felt like leaving home.  The people we spent APO with feel like family.  We won’t see many of them for years, if we ever see them again in this life.  We will miss our dear Brothers and Sisters.  Yet, I’m incredibly encouraged to think about them spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ literally around the world.  I hope that thought encourages you, too.

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