Saturday, December 24, 2016

Annual Christmas Letter 2016

Merry Christmas 2016!

It seems as though the cool thing to do with your Christmas cards this year is the “minimal” letter... such as a chalkboard highlighting the year in five quick bullets, with the family gathered for a hipster portrait wearing flannel shirts and standing in a field of grass with a gray sky for mood. Our five bullets would surely put any reader to death of either boredom or sorrow:

 Tyler moved to Canada
  Jeff’s mom passed away
   The kids have scattered, so we went on vacation alone
    Karyn went back to Bible college
     The kids have scattered, so Christmas will be delayed this year

But here is our hipster family photo in our cool flannels

Believe it or not, we did not plan to wear flannel!

See how we are smiling?  That’s because it was a good year and our kids are happily pursuing God’s will for their lives.  So forget the bullet list...this is how the year really went.
Tyler did move to Canada in teach guitar in a music academy run by the same church Justin is working for as technical director in Calgary.  The boys live together and have a great group of friends there. We are happy they have a good church and each other.
Jeff’s mom did pass away this spring. It was one of those trips where you throw some clothes in a suitcase, jump in the car and drive, drive, drive—praying that you’ll arrive in time to say goodbye.  Jeff’s brother was flying in from the east coast at the same time.  The entire clan was together at Mum’s bedside. Tyler brought his guitar along, and we all sang worship songs together and prayed her into heaven.  She died four hours after we arrived. We had a precious time as a family celebrating the life of a woman who had served God so faithfully and prayed for her children so diligently.  What a joy to see the godly heritage displayed in the lives of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren!

Mum's funeral...such a beautiful sunset on a beautiful life

All 14 Wells cousins in birth order

All of six of us in the car...don't remember the last time this happened!

We actually ended up traveling to Canada four times in two months! We already had two ministry trips booked long before, but then we added in a wedding and a funeral, so it made a very busy spring with driving and flying there and back four times over! I must say, I was pretty done with the flat, brown landscape and chilly weather of the prairies in April, but it was wonderful to spend time with the boys and see where and how they lived and also to gather with all the Wellses for not just a sad occasion but a happy one too!

Kyle and Bethany's Wedding

Jeff and the boys in Calgary

The summer heat turned on when we returned to Oregon as the temperatures rose into the 100s and the visitors began arriving in one group after another, as it has been ever since we first moved here nine years ago.  One group that visited was not from Canada...they were from Peru! Anna has been dating a young man she met at Bible college who is from Peru, and this summer Diego’s family stayed with us for ten days.  We had a lot of fun showing them the beauty of Oregon, eating our “traditional” foods (Burgers! We eat more of them than you think, as we discovered), and learning a lot more Spanish! Anna also had the cool experience of traveling to Peru to meet “la familia” with Diego a few months prior to that.
Jeff and I did squeeze in a 5-day vacation between all the guests and summer church events, like VBS and summer camp.  We completed the “Seven Wonders of Oregon,” (which are the Oregon Coast, The Columbia River Gorge, Crater Lake, The Wallowa Mountains, Smith Rock, Mt. Hood and The Painted Hills, in case you were looking for an awesome road trip next summer!).  The coast and the gorge we’ve visited countless times, and Mt. Hood and Crater Lake we’ve experienced as well, but the other three were new experiences for us, and they are all worth seeing. Added to the adventure was staying in a near ghost town in an old historic hotel with wooden walls, ceiling and floors, an iron bed, and a communal bathroom down the hall, as well as two nights in a tipi (or tepee, both are correct) where the squirrels ran up and down the tipi skins, the birds could fly inside, there was no electricity or cell phone service, and there was nothing to do after sunset...except curl up by the campfire in adirondack chairs with Pendleton wool blankets and count the stars...millions of them without any light pollution from any city or even town...and wake up to the sun rising over the canyon right outside the open flap of the tipi door.  It’s called “glamping” (glamour camping), and it was a lot of fun (right, Jeff?). We hiked every day to the top of mountains and rocks, swam in the cleanest, bluest water, drove through gorgeous scenery, and ate great food at “farm to fork” restaurants (I’ll go for unique accommodations, but I won’t compromise good food!). It was a short-but-sweet trip to recharge before hitting the schedule hard again.

Ready to hike!

Smith Rock

Sheep Rock in Painted Hills

Jeff found a Canadian friend!

The Wallowas

Joseph Canyon (view from our tipi)

The fall church schedule was very busy.  We’ve had a great year of growth in the congregation, but not in our staff or team. In fact, we lost team members when first Tyler left and then Anna for new jobs at other churches, Tyler, as I mentioned, as a music instructor, and Anna as the children’s pastor of the new downtown campus of City Bible Church in Portland. I’ve picked up the children’s ministry and at the same time started a couple courses online at Portland Bible College, finally deciding to finish my senior year and get my degree after 30 years! Jeff and I were married after our junior year, and he got to continue school and graduate while I worked full-time to support us. I’m not was our choice for that season in our lives, and I’m perfectly content with that. But now that our family days are over, I thought I’d finish what I’d started.  Is it okay to say that taking a Bible school course as an adult with 30 years of ministry experience is kind of dull?  I have to admit that more than once I thought to myself, “Really?” when doing an assignment or listening to a lecture obviously geared towards 18- to 20-year-olds. But maybe a lesson in humility is what I’m really learning, because the teacher’s assistant who was grading me was our own 26-year-old pastoral assistant here at our church!  I think he liked it when I asked him questions or called him “Teacher.” It was also fun to be a student with Kate and do homework together, as she is in her junior year at George Fox University (But she would be quick to remind me that she is a full-time student at a “real” school, and I’m just “taking a couple courses” which means my daughter is smarter than me...another lesson in humility!).
Then, just like that, the fall semester ended and it’s the holidays!  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with almost everyone from my extended family clan and all our kids except for Justin celebrating at my house.  And then we had beautiful snow two weeks in a row to remind us that Christmas is coming! Jeff’s dad is here with us until January, and although our kids won’t be with us for the actual holiday because they have their own church Christmas services they are involved in, Boxing Day will be our gathering time, and I am so excited to have everyone back around the table again.


Trying out our new selfie stick!

Ready for Christmas!

Our prayer for you is that your table will also be full this Christmas....with family, friends, and even strangers who need a place to sit and be fed and blessed.  And at the head of your table may Christ preside, His presence filling your home and your hearts with the greatest gift and most powerful love ever given.
Jeff and Karyn

Monday, December 21, 2015

Annual Christmas Letter 2015

Merry Christmas 2015!

It’s another gray, rainy day in Newberg as we continue to break records for the wettest December ever! "Cozy" has a different meaning this means coming in from the rain, shaking off wet umbrellas and raincoats, and drying off beside the fire. Even our cat has adopted this routine! Our summer went on record as one of the driest, with week after week of glorious sunshine, but those memories are fast being washed away by the deluge of daily rain.

The year 2015 was a busy, productive year, and the year Jeff and I began living together literally 24/7, as I work full-time at the church and we share a car, having given our second vehicle to our darling daughters. Together we get up in the morning, get ready for work, drive to work, work at the church, drive home, eat, do our evening routine, and go to bed together, and then get up the next day and do it all over again! And with our kids increasingly away from home, we vacationed alone together and did ministry trips together. If you can weather that kind of togetherness, you can weather anything! We looked at our half empty nest and our conjoined ministry lives and said, "Well, if we’re going to be alone together, then let’s enjoy it rather than mourn our fragmented family." So enjoy it we did. We made a concerted effort to hike all over Oregon and beyond. I was thrilled to see Jeff’s adventurous side stirred up, as we trekked over mountain, hill, creek and waterfall in the pleasant spring, hot summer and crisp fall weather, with hopefully a couple good winter hikes over Christmas break to see the spectacular falls and ocean waves caused by all the rain we’ve had. The highlight hike of our year was in Yosemite. No, we didn’t put on boots and gloves and climb up the cables of Half Dome, but we did go to the top of Nevada Falls, plus all the minor hikes in the park and beyond. It was absolutely gorgeous and a lot of fun. We also went to Hawaii for the first time, joining our good friends Brian and Bev who have a time-share there. What a beautiful, diverse place...such fun to try paddle-boarding and shave ice, experience everything from wild rain to dense fog to tropical sunshine, tour a coffee plantation, and best of all, ring in the New Year on the beach with fireworks over the ocean and a balmy 70-degree breeze blowing over us in the dark!
Hawaii at sunset
Ringing in the New Year, Hawaiian style, with the Esslingers!

The Oregon Caves

Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park
(See me on the rock in front of the falls?)

Halfway to the top!

Table Rock in Southern Oregon

But we definitely did more than play this year! We had an awesome mission trip to Haiti in the Spring, partnering with friends from Daystar Church in Leduc to minister at a youth conference (got to teach "No Ring-y, No Zing-y" and it was a huge hit!) as well as a city-wide crusade in Grand Guave, Haiti with Marc and Lisa Honorat. What a beautiful country and precious people! The Haitians walk and talk with such dignity and grace. I loved how their speech came out in a slow, sing-song rhythm as they greeted us with, "Bon-swaaaa" (Bonsoir in French, but Creole is its own creative mix of French and African dialects). The Haitians are the most expressive, talented, funny and dramatic people I’ve met in all my travels. The ministry time was powerful and the social time was so much fun. We loved our visit to that nation! We also traveled in our own country to do prophetic ministry a few times this year, and I did a ladies retreat and a conference, and we met wonderful people, visited fabulous churches, and made great new friends. We also attended a few ministers conferences, with the happy coincidence that one of the conferences took place in the same city in which my sister lives! So Jeff and I were sure to tack on a few extra days after the conference so we could enjoy beautiful Virginia in the fall and do some touring and hiking with my sister and her family through Monticello, historic Richmond, and the Appomattox River trails.

The road to Haiti Arise

Jeff preaching

My new friends!

Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia

Early morning run by the lake...Virginia in the fall


Southern barbeque at Ace Biscuit in Charlottesville
with my sister and her family

A new endeavor for me this year was joining the Board of Directors of Love, Inc., a nonprofit organization in our city which does a tremendous job of partnering with the local churches in our community to meet the needs of the homeless and needy. What I love about this Christian organization is that they don’t operate alone and try to do it all, nor are the churches in Newberg expected to supply anything and everything a needy family asks for. Love Inc. coordinates and mobilizes the local churches in Newberg to work together and share the load. For example, one church has a non-food pantry with cleaning supplies and toiletries, another church supplies diapers and baby wipes, three churches give out clothes, another church fills backpacks with school supplies, another church provides free haircuts, another church donates bus tickets...or vouchers to help pay a water bill, or wood, or lunches for the homeless, or towels, sheets and pillows, or furniture, or service projects like yardwork and housecleaning for shut-ins. Besides serving on the board, I also volunteer as receptionist in their office one day a week and host at the women’s shelter one night a month with my mom. I have seen some amazing miracles take place right here in my own community! I have seen people weep with gratitude as their practical needs were met. I have wrapped my arms around many and prayed with them when they had a spiritual need that could only be met by the Lord. I have seen the abusers of the system and the blessed by the system. I have smelled the smell of someone who has slept in the rain with their dog for a week. I have huddled inside the office with 911 on the phone while a client was threatened with a knife on our porch. I have watched people take the free items we offer and stuff them into pockets and bags, even things they couldn’t possibly have use of, "just because" they might need them later. But mostly I see hardship eased, hope restored, and love given. It has been a tremendous experience!

The Love, Inc. office and women's shelter
with free Christmas trees to give away

On the RockPoint Church homefront, we’ve been experiencing exciting things as well! One of the highlights is the remodeling project of our upstairs, including expanding our kids ministry area, updating the nursery, and building a new reception area. We’ve had so many kids added to our church that we were cramped in our little classroom. We had to remove all the furniture just to fit the little bodies, but that hindered some of our activities having nothing but a floor and a whiteboard in the room. So our good friends Gary and Donna Rowse from Edmonton came down and joined a team of skilled men from our own church, and they spent an intense week doing the major construction in October, and we’ve been completing the finishing touches throughout the fall and winter. It is so wonderful to have new space and greater efficiency! Everyone in our church is excited to see the positive changes.

After!  (except we still have to hang the pendant lights
over the reception desk)

Thanksgiving Fellowship Meal


Awesome slip-n-slide down the big hill on the church property
The rest of the year was dotted with visits from family and friends...We had the usual influx of visitors this summer, enjoying my sister and her family from Virginia for a couple weeks during strawberry season, my niece and her family during lavender season, the Rowses in the heat of summer, the Wellses after the boys’ annual baseball game to celebrate my 50th birthday, and the Harmons to end the summer with hikes and shopping. Jeff also got to fly home to Edmonton to celebrate his parents’ 60th wedding anniversary, which was a special time for the family as Jeff’s mom is now in long-term care due to her advanced dementia from Alzheimer’s. Jeff’s dad at 85 was free of medical problems and not on a single medication until this fall, when he suffered a severe bout of cellulitis after a toe injury that refused to heal. After hospitalization, antibiotics and home wound care, he is finally getting back on his feet...literally! We are thankful for that! Thanksgiving was a special time of having most of my side of the family at our house to mom, my aunt and uncle, my cousin and her family, my brother, all four of my own kids, and four foreign students from Pakistan, Brazil, Peru and Australia.

Backyard barbecue at my Mom's...all three of us kids
and 12 out of the 14 grandkids 

The girls at the Portland Rose Garden

My niece and her sweet little family

On the Rogue River with my aunt

Visiting my sister-in-law in Modesto

Portland Waterfront with the Rowses

Some of the Wells Clan

Not the best picture, as we were a little wind-blown
at the beach with the Harmons

My mom's new kitty from the shelter
Her name is Helen and she is blind

A full table for Thanksgiving

There were 19 of us to celebrate all weekend long

As for our own family, our kids are in those transitional years of young adulthood...Justin is presently living in Calgary, working full-time at First Assembly heading up their A/V department doing graphic design and stage production. Anna is attending Portland Bible College and taking off for a month in Peru the day after Christmas. She still spends every weekend with us, which is nice. Tyler is about to begin his own adventure right after Christmas, joining Justin in Calgary to teach guitar at First Assembly’s music academy. And Kate graduated from PBC in May and had a fun graduation celebration with her exchange student "sister" Laure, who came to visit from France and stayed with us for ten days. Kate has just been accepted to George Fox University with a great scholarship, planning to major in Intercultural Studies with a study-abroad program. She will be our only one at home for awhile. I told the kids years ago that the plan was this: The last one left at home can’t leave until one of their siblings has a baby, that way Jeff and I will never truly be alone! We’ll see how they honor our wishes! Ha ha!

Kate's graduation with our French "daughter" Laure

Justin's home!

We tried to get a real picture of all of us together,
but it just never happened, so the informal will have to do

Trying out our selfie stick!
It was worth the run to catch this beauty

So another year, with it’s joys and trials...another year of struggles and successes. Don’t ever think life is only about one or the other. But through it all, Jesus is with us. He comforts and guides us though the tough times, and He rejoices over us in the good times. He is Emanuel, "God With Us," and what better gifts could there possibly be than the gifts of God’s presence, salvation, and love?

May you be blessed with those gifts this Christmas!

Jeff and Karyn Wells

Justin, Anna, Tyler and Kate