We arrived stateside at the end of June, and we've been going and going and going ever since! We spent the first couple of weeks in the United States with my (Paige’s) parents and siblings, relaxing and enjoying being with family. Oh, and hounding the airline for our lost luggage!! The first flight was a brief one from Côte d'Ivoire to Senegal, but for some reason, our luggage (and that of many of the other passengers') didn't even make it on the airplane! We filed claims with the airline and with our credit card company, and Seth called the airline MANY times. Every time, the airline told him the same story: the baggage was in Dakar, Senegal, and would be on the very next flight to New York, and would be shipped to our address in Illinois once it arrived. They told us this for over two months! Long story short, our luggage finally made it back to us, with everything intact and nothing missing. We are STILL praising the Lord for its return. And we are so thankful to my parents who helped to buy us all a brand new wardrobe, since we ended up arriving with almost nothing but the clothes on our backs. We are so grateful for their kindness and generosity.
Over the past few months, we have been to Texas, North Carolina, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Georgia, and New York (not necessarily in that order!). We have visited several of our supporting churches ( nearly half of them) and visited many friends. It has been such an encouragement to spend time with friends we haven't seen for several years and to build on those relationships! Community is so important, and we are thankful for relationships with individuals and churches that God has put in our path.
Another furlough blessing is our vehicle! We are renting from Righteous Rides, a ministry that rents our vans at affordable rates to missionaries on furlough and deputation. Having our van has been such a blessing, and the Righteous Rides ministry has gone above and beyond what we expected. When we rented our van, they sent several gift bags with us, full of travel toiletries, road snacks, and other helpful items, as well as individual gift bags for the kids. When we were in Alabama, our vehicle's transmission went out. Within twenty-four hours, they mobilized one of their own staff members to bring us a new van on a flatbed, at no extra cost to ourselves. Switching the vehicles out was a breeze, and they loaded up the old van and took it back to Missouri. We are so grateful to them for responding to our problem so promptly! If we hadn't been using one of their vehicles, we would have been delayed by at least a week! As it was, we only had to cancel one meeting.
In relation to our vehicle story, we are also so thankful for our Baptist World Mission field administrator, Steve Anderson, and his wife Martha. We were about forty-five minutes away from them when our transmission went out, and, long story short, they graciously opened their home to us for a couple of days while we got everything sorted out. They didn't even hesitate to take us in and were so kind and hospitable. We love them both dearly and were thankful for the extra time we got to spend with them, though unexpectedly. I guess God knew we needed that!
In September, we got to participate in our sending church's very first missions conference! It was a busy week, but everything was so well-planned, and we had a blast! We even got to see friends who are also missionaries, which is a special kind of fellowship. Independent Baptist Church in Bolingbrook, Illinois, really put a lot of work, thought, and love into this conference, and we are honored to have had a part in it. They were beyond generous with us, giving us many special gifts, sending the ladies on a shopping spree, and giving us a love offering. The church just kept giving and giving, and we are so humbled and thankful for them.
So, now we're on vacation! My (Paige’s) parents invited us to go on family vacation with them in Florida, and it has been such a sweet time already. It has been wonderful to relax, spend time together, splurge on fun food, and all that great "vacation stuff." We head back to Illinois in a little over a week and then prepare to head back to Africa. We have tickets to fly back to Côte d'Ivoire on November 10! Please be in prayer for smooth travel, and for no lost luggage this time around!
The last thing I'll mention is our church plant in Africa. They are doing so well, and we have been in regular contact with them. Seth preaches for them via WhatsApp once a month, but has left several of our church men on a preaching/leading rotation. They are continuing to grow in the Lord, and we have been so encouraged by their faithfulness. We are looking forward to getting back to them and seeing what God will continue to do with Bright Hope Baptist Church. If you want to hear more about what we did and what God accomplished in our first term on the field, you can view our presentation at sethandpaige.com.
Next time we write we will be in Côte d'Ivoire! We're anticipating a joyful update from our home there.
Happy in His service,
Seth and Paige Cuthbertson
(Eden, Zion, and Sebastian)