We've had some pretty significant events transpire around here over the past couple of months! And we are still quite busy around here, so I hope to keep this letter brief.
On April 1, our church celebrated our first wedding! Didi and Evelyne had been coming to our church faithfully since shortly after we started meeting. Didi was already saved and was hungry to grow and be discipled. Evelyne had grown up around church but never realized that she was missing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The two of them had been living together and had a son, who was only a few months old when they started attending our church. Shortly after they began attending church, Evelyne realized that she needed Christ and made the decision to put her faith in Jesus. Not long afterward, while having a conversation with Seth about baptism, Seth pointed out that neither of them could be baptized yet since they were living together unmarried. They were quick to realize that this was a problem and made alternative (separate) living arrangements. They also began saving up money for a wedding. After many long, difficult months apart, they finally saved up the money they needed to have their wedding on April 1, 2022! It was a beautiful, God-honoring celebration, and our whole church rejoiced to see this couple step out in faith and obedience to the Lord.
On April 10, we had our first Palm Sunday service. Pastor Jack Lezza, our sending pastor, graciously agreed to sacrifice some precious hours of sleep so that he could preach for us via FaceTime! Chicago is five hours behind Côte d'Ivoire, so he was preaching for us at 5 a.m. CST. Our people really enjoyed getting to "meet" our sending pastor and having him preach for us, and we were all blessed by his message. He preached in English and Seth interpreted the message into French for our people.
Our most exciting news is that we had our baby in April! Our son, Sebastian Moses was born at home on April 25 at 8:05 a.m. He weighed 7 lbs. 10 oz., and measured 19 inches long. It was a more difficult labor than we had expected, but ultimately, everyone was safe and healthy. We are thankful that Seth's mom was able to do the delivery, and praise God for a beautiful, healthy son. Our girls are so smitten with their new brother, and Sebastian has already brought so much joy into all our hearts.
A few weeks after Sebastian was born, our church people came together to celebrate his arrival after the Sunday morning service. An elderly lady (the mother of one of the men in our church) came over early in the morning, quite unexpectedly. She brought her own traditional clothes and jewelry in a bag, along with some clay to use as "makeup" and dressed me (Paige) up in traditional Baoulé attire to celebrate. It was definitely outside of my comfort zone, but I appreciated the love and acceptance she was showing me by taking the time to dress me. And all of the women at church were so excited to see me all dressed up! After the service, our people presented us with a bin full of soap, diapers, detergent, and similar supplies (soap is the baby gift of choice here). Every person in our church brought something, and they gave so joyfully! We were so touched and humbled by the way our people gave so generously and cheerfully to us, and by how wholeheartedly they celebrated the birth of our son with us! What a blessing! And they all had such a good time with this "baby shower" that they decided this is how we will celebrate every birth in our church from now on.
Two weeks after the birth, in May, we made a trip to Abidjan to apply for Sebastian's passport and born abroad papers. Right before we made the trip there, we were able to obtain Sebastian's birth certificate. We received it so much faster than we anticipated, thanks largely to our good friend Stephane's help and influence at the local hospital. Our Abidjan trip went fairly smoothly, except for some car trouble that cost us an extra day in the city. We even got to visit the newly updated zoo, much to Eden's and Zion's delight. We also picked up Seth's sister Susanna and her husband from the airport. They will be serving on a short-term mission trip and interning alongside Seth's dad in San-Pédro for a year.
Seth has kept busy training his core group of men to lead the church in our absence. He has been helping these men learn to study the Scripture and prepare messages, teaching them to preach, teaching a couple of them to play the guitar and lead music, and delegating responsibilities (such as leading visitation, giving announcements, and heading up evangelization) to each of them. The men have been working hard with him, and he has been very pleased with their efforts. We trust that God will continue to grow and lead this church while we are Stateside.
Speaking of being Stateside, we purchased our tickets finally! We fly to the United States on June 27! Before then we have a lot to do. We are looking forward to a visit from Steve and Martha Anderson, our Baptist World Mission field administrator (aka, our boss!) at the beginning of June. We also will be celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary! And, of course, there are all the minute, but important details involved in cleaning, packing, and making arrangements for our home and animals while we're away. Please pray for our health, our safety, and our sanity as try to finish all of our preparations in the next few weeks! And please pray for our beloved church plant as it functions indigenously for the first time over the next several months.
We look forward to seeing many of you soon! In the meantime, we thank you for your care and prayers for our family.
Happy in His service,
The Seth Cuthbertson Family
Seth, Paige, Eden, Zion, and Sebastian.
P.S. We apologize for the lateness of this update! It sort of got stuck in traffic. :)