We/ve been home in Sassandra, Côte d'Ivoire for nearly a month now! We landed in Abidjan on Friday, November 10. Seth's dad came to pick us up from the airport, and the next day we all headed home. Seth's sister Lydia had come to our house the day before our arrival and enlisted the help of a couple of girls in our church to help her start opening the house up and get a head start on the cleaning. There was still a ton of work to do when we got back, but we're so grateful for getting it started for us. It made it easier to get things "livable" for the night and took a bit of the edge off all the things we had to do. She was such a blessing to us!
The day after we arrived home we had our first church service. We enjoyed getting to see our friends and our people again, and Seth had a few meetings that afternoon to get some reports on how things had been in our absence. It was a busy day, but most of our people thoughtfully gave us some space so we could rest and recover from our travels, as well as start getting our lives reorganized.
We dedicated our entire first week at home to cleaning. Anything made of fabric smelled musty at best or had actual mold growing on it at worst! I can't tell you how many loads of laundry we did daily, but every scrap of bedding, clothing, and linens was washed with Borax and run through the dryer. (Praise the Lord for a washing machine and a dryer!!!) We had to take all the drawers out of our dressers, wipe them down with vinegar, and let them sit in the sun for several hours so we could put clothes back in them. There was sweeping, dusting, mopping, and a whole lot of vacuuming. (We bought a stick vacuum in the States and it is now my favorite invention. Besides the washer and dryer, of course.) All the dishes and food storage containers in the kitchen had to be washed to free them from dust. We're still not done dusting decorations/pictures that are hanging on the walls. You get the point-- it was a long, busy, dirty week!
For Thanksgiving, we all went to San Pédro to spend time with Seth's parents. It was nice to be with family for Thanksgiving! The girls enjoyed getting to spend time with their grandparents, and some aunts and uncles too. Seth spent a few hours that day in a meeting with some local pastors, while the rest of us spent time at his parents' house. The day after Thanksgiving Seth and his brother-in-law, Matthew Shrock, went to Abidjan for an overnight trip. Seth was asked to speak and a pastor's conference about missions. It was a long trip, and he was excited to preach and teach-- about faith, dependence on God and not Americans, and what it really means to be "missions-minded"-- for about two hours! He says it was a great meeting, and that his message was very well received. The next morning (Saturday), Seth and Matthew took a very delayed bus back to San Pédro; and shortly after he arrived, our family packed up our car and drove back home to Sassandra. It was a fun weekend for all of us, but we were certainly worn out!
We jumped back into ministry about a week after our arrival. We also reformatted our schedule for Sundays. We based our new schedule on one that a supporting church follows, and we've really liked it so far! We start Sunday school at 8:45 a.m.; the morning service starts at 10:00, followed by a thirty-minute break that starts at 11:00; and at 11:30, we start the final service! We're finished with everything by 12:15, and people often stick around to fellowship or to see Seth until around 1:00. Then the rest of the day is free for all of us! We listen to a message online while the kids get an afternoon nap/quiet time. And our people have time to prepare for dinner and to rest for the remainder of the day. So far it's been working out so well for everyone!
Our church has had several visitors since we've been back. We also got to have a communion service, which everyone enjoyed. Some upcoming events for our church are:
1. Churchwide Christmas Party on Friday, December 16
2. Christmas morning service, followed by communion
3. New Year's Eve prayer meeting
4. New Year's Day service, followed by a potluck
5. Baptism service on Sunday, January 15.
Speaking of upcoming events... while we were in the U.S. a lot of people talked about possibly coming to visit us in 2023! If you are one of those people/churches, or if you'd like to visit us this upcoming year, would you please shoot us an email with the dates you would potentially like to come? We're not looking for any set-in-stone commitments right now, but it would be super helpful to know who is tentatively planning to come out here and when so that we can work out our schedule and make sure we don't get over-booked. So please do let us know ASAP if you intend to come to see us next year and what your ideal timeframe is! It would help us greatly. Thank you so much for your help with this!
Some quick prayer requests:
1. Seth hopes to start up his prison ministry next month. Please pray for open doors, for favor with those in charge of the prison, and for the salvation of the men imprisoned there. We would also appreciate it if you prayed that God would use these preaching opportunities to help train the young men in our church, and to strengthen their faith.
2. There are several specific people we would like to see get saved soon. One is a Muslim man who owns the big hardware store in town; another is an old lady whose son is one of our core members; and a lady who comes to church occasionally with her husband, but usually goes to a doctrinally unsound Pentecostal church. Please pray for these three!
A few praises:
1. Sebastian is crawling and working on cutting teeth! We love watching this sweet boy grow, and we're so thankful for him!
2. We're in the process of getting our wall and our house repainted. It looks beautiful!
3. Eden got saved on Sunday, November 7! She had been very resistant to getting saved and kept telling us she wanted to wait. But as we were getting her ready for bed that Sunday after church, she announced on her own, completely unprompted, that she was ready t get saved. Our hearts are full of joy to know that she now has her own personal relationship with Jesus!
4. An old man named Christophe got saved this month! He was formerly Catholic, but has been attending our church for several months now. We're praising the Lord for his salvation, and that he intends to be baptized next month.
Thank you all for your continued prayers and support for our family and ministry here in beautiful Côte d’Ivoire! We hope you all have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year! May this holiday season be one in which we are all able to intentionally take time to savor and internalize the wonderful miracle of Immanuel, God with us.
Happy in His service,
Seth and Paige Cuthbertson
Eden, Zion, and Sebastian