We started out our trip with the intention of driving half way through to our first destination. Our plan was to get in 7-8 hours of driving time the first day. Plans changed when we were 4 hours into our trip. Despite the fact that we had taken the van in to be checked and serviced to insure that NOTHING went wrong, we found ourselves on top of a mountain stranded on the side of the highway. While technology still gets mixed reviews in our house - everyone (including Dad) was very thankful for smart phones and Internet connection at that moment!
A man drove passed our van as it was stalled and pulled over to see if he could help. (He just happened to have a towing service.) HE called for his flat bed truck ( our van was too heavy to use a normal tow truck) and we waited for the truck to get to us for about 30 min. Seems he also had a connection to a nearby hotel and booked us a spot for the night. (Yes, we still are wondering about that; but when you are stranded you are somewhat at the mercy of the locals...)
As we drove down the highway, naturally people were inclined to look up at the van on top of the truck. It is not a normal sight to see a family sitting in a van on top of a truck. As we were driving, we were seeing people taking pictures of us in the van. It was odd being on display like that! I have never been so thankful to see the hotel as I was when we pulled in. It was by far, the worst motel we have stayed in years; and we kept trying to keep our spirit's positive by reminding ourselves it was better than sleeping in the van on the side of the highway.
The van was scheduled to be fixed by mid morning the next day; and we were thankful there was a park right by the motel. It required a short hike down a mountain side; but the little kids loved the hike and the jungle gym at the bottom! Rob got a call while we were walking in the park that the van was ready to be picked up. Rob made the hike back up the mountain to go get the van only to have an altercation with a tree branch that left his face looking like he had met Captain Hook and it had not been a pleasant meeting.
We loaded up the van in record time and were happily on our way down the highway. About a half a mile into the journey the van stopped the same way it had the night before. We again were thankful for our phones and called the mechanic we had just left (and paid). He told us it must have been something else wrong with the van other than what he had fixed. Rob agreed with him and asked if he could send help out way. After about 45 minutes help arrived, fixed and charged us for another repair. We were thankful to get out of town just a little after noon that day!
We prayed about what the Lord would have us to do; and felt peace that He wanted us to make it to the church we were scheduled to be in on Sunday morning. We drove fifteen hours to upper MI and got in around 2 in the morning. We were so happy to be at the motel and practically collapsed into our beds within minutes of our arrival. Sleep was sweet and deep - albeit not quite long enough.
We had a wonderful morning at Central Baptist Church in Stephenson, MI. It was wonderful to see people we had known years ago when we attended the church as college students. Rob preached in Sunday School and for the morning service; and we were able to sing together as a family and do special music together. We left there blessed with wonderful fellowship.
We headed on to upper Wisconsin from there and stayed in Eagle River. Rob's parents live near by and we were able to spend time with them and enjoy time together as a family. Eagle River has a Children's Museum and the little kids enjoyed exploring there for several hours while the snow fell outside. Rob preached at Eagle River Baptist Church on Wednesday and we enjoyed a sweet time of fellowship with Pastor Robotti and his family there.
Our next stop was in Appleton, Wisconsin. We were there for a four day set of meetings. We had a wonderful time of fellowship with friends there and being fed and cared for by the people there at Victory Baptist Church. So many of the members are dear friends of ours from our time in Wisconsin when Rob was pastoring. It was wonderful to catch up with so many while we were there. We enjoyed getting to know Pastor Griesbach and his family more while we were there fr the services and during our meal on Wednesday night. It was a wonderful set of meetings and there were tears in our eyes when we pulled out Wednesday night after the last service.
Before we headed out of Appleton we were able to stop in and visit visit with Anna's foster parents. It was wonderful to see them again and thank them for taking care of our little girl till God could bring her to us. Anna was so excited to see them again!
We headed out on Thursday to go to Mayville, Wisconsin the town where we had lived before moving south. We were able to see old familiar sights and friends we have missed seeing for the past two years we have been gone. Zak was able to go and visit his old school and see his teacher. He loved telling her about how we have a dog now. We stayed with some dear friends of ours, Russ and Kris Shroeder, who have been an encouragement to us and help to us and our family. We enjoyed visiting together and getting caught up on our lives (and laundry while we chatted). It was a wonderful relaxing time. Before we left Mayville, Rob's folks came and picked up James. He will be staying up in Wisconsin for a while this summer helping with projects that Papa needs help with and enjoying the north woods a while longer. I already miss him!
Our next stop was Eastside Baptist Church in Milwaukee, WI. We stayed with the Deckers - our dear friends and members of the church there. The kids enjoyed playing together, riding motorcycles and playing games. It was a wonderful time of fellowship with them and we regret there are so many miles between us that we can no enjoy it more often. On Sunday Rob preached the two services there at Eastside and we were able to do special music together as a family It was wonderful Sunday and we met new friends are were so encouraged by the sweet spirit of the church family there. It was hard to leave on Sunday afternoon.
Sunday night we were at Waupun Baptist Church. So many friends were there and we enjoyed seeing each one of them and talking with them. We had a good service there on Sunday night and enjoyed spending time with Bob and Corrine Love after the service and overnight at their house. I am thankful for people who will open up their home to a family of seven. I know it is not easy!!
We stayed another day at the Deckers and caught up on laundry before we headed out on the road. We left on Tuesday morning for home and arrived Wednesday morning at our house. The plan had been to stop half way; but Rob asked me if I minded driving straight through. I wanted to get home; and he did to. It felt wonderful to step into our house and feel like we were home. We were greeted by a very excited dog who showed us just how much he had missed us with a fancy dance routine he did while jumping up on down on four feet! It was wonderful to see him.
Julie a dear friend of mine had stayed here at the house to care for the dog and hold the fort down. I was greeted when I came home to a house that was cleaner than when I had left and everything in it's proper place. When I laid my head on the pillow in the early hours of the morning I could not help but feel how loved and how blessed I am to have so many wonderful friends. It *was* good to be home; but it had been *so* good to be out as a family; ministering together. As I closed my eyes I thanked God for the wonderful time He had given us as a family. There is something that happens when a family is united to a common goal and focus. While not everything about the three weeks was pleasant, we *did* break down, kids *did* argue over things while in the close quarters of a vehicle, Zak's limitations with autism were still present,but we*were* together. We were doing something of value together as a family and it was wonderful!