Dear Church Families and Friends,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!
The holiday season from November through December is busy for everyone, but we wanted to take a moment to reflect on what 2021 has held for our family and ministry. So much has happened and we have so much to be thankful for!
Back in January, Eden was hospitalized for cerebral malaria. She was administered to the hospital/clinic after having a febrile seizure and was admitted while unconscious and with a fever of around 106 degrees Fahrenheit. After several days in a nearly comatose state, a week in the hospital, and two blood transfusions, as well as a night in the hospital and blood transfusion for Zion (she had malaria as well, but not the same strain), we were able to check them out of the hospital. Eden had lost so much weight, and couldn't speak or walk. But within days of getting her out of the hospital, she started to make small but steady improvements. One month later and she could walk and run and talk almost normally. Zion bounced right back after a couple of days. By March, you couldn't even tell that either of them had been sick! During this hard, frightening time, we had so much prayer support from all of you and beyond. There were literally people all over the world who were praying for our family! We are so thankful for each of you and the encouragement your prayers brought to our hearts.
In February, Seth had a motorcycle accident. He was in San Pedro filling in for his dad, who was on furlough, and ended up colliding head-on with a taxi! It could've been a very serious accident, but Seth limped away with only a gash on his knee that we were able to treat at home. While the injury definitely slowed him down a little for a couple of weeks, we know we are beyond fortunate that this was the extent of his injuries and that the other driver/passengers were also unharmed. We thank God for his protection of Seth on this and many, many other trips he made to San Pedro while working as his father's furlough replacement missionary.
Seth watched over and served in his father's church as his furlough replacement missionary from September 2020 until this past November, when his dad returned to the field. Taking care of the church and school in San Pedro, as well as beginning our very own church plant, was very hard work, but God gave grace, wisdom, and protection the entire time. He is so good!
In April, my (Paige’s) mom came to visit us in Côte d'Ivoire and stayed with us for an entire month! It was such a sweet time for all of us, and the girls loved having their Nana all to themselves! Her visit was such an encouragement to me, and I am forever thankful that the Lord made it possible for her to be with us for a while.
In May, we officially had our very first church service with our church plant! All of the men who had been saved and attending our Bible studies, as well as several visitors and friends, attended the inaugural service of l’Eglise Baptiste de l'Espoir Brillant, or Bright Hope Baptist Church. The service went so well, and we could sense so powerfully that God was in it. And in October, we were able to have our church's very first baptismal service!
In July, we had some visitors from the States who came to help lead a seminar on music. It was well attended by several pastors and deacons and was received very favorably.
In August, Seth's brother Stephen and his wife Martha, as well as Seth's sister Lydia, came to visit us. We had a great time with them all, and we were happy to be a part of Martha's very first trip overseas.
In October, our church celebrated our very first baptismal service! Five men were baptized that day, and it has been a joy to see them walking with the Lord.
In November, we had a family from Holland stay with us for just under a week. Their family was touring a little bit of West Africa, and we were happy to have them for a few days. We had a fantastic time getting to know them, and our girls adored their two kids.
We celebrated Thanksgiving at our place with Seth's dad and two of his little brothers who had recently arrived back from furlough, as well as his sister Lydia. (Seth's mom and little sister stayed in the States a little longer to help Seth's older sister, who was expecting her third child.) We also had two of our Ivorian friends join us and had fun introducing them to an American tradition.
This year, God also blessed us with a new baby! We were excited to learn that we are having a son this time, and he is due towards the end of April/beginning of May 2022. We are so excited to meet our boy, and the girls are happy about the prospect of having their own cute baby in the house.
Eden and Zion started preschool part-time in September and have enjoyed making friends there. We can tell that their language skills are improving and that they are adapting to the culture here much better now. The best part is that their school is very close by, so we can see it from our house! Again, another sign of God's orchestration of our lives.
On Christmas Eve, we had a church Christmas party. People here think of Christmas as a children's holiday, sort of how many Americans think of Halloween. To them, it's just a time for children to have fun and get presents. This year, Seth took his time teaching the Christmas story in detail and explaining why Christmas is such a special and beautiful holiday. For the party, we bought a birthday cake to help emphasize that Christmas is our celebration of Jesus' birth. Seth taught a lesson, and then we had some party games. One was a Christmas Story trivia game, where Seth would ask questions, and the first person to answer correctly won a prize. We also played musical chairs to Christmas carols, just for fun. :) Our church people have built some great relationships with each other, so we had a sweet, fun time with them all that evening!
That's the long of it. The short of it is, God has been good. Again. Through sickness, accidents, exhaustion, frustration, and more power-outages than we care to remember, God has sustained us. And amidst the hardness of the year, God generously sprinkled in times of joy, blessing, and refreshing. There are so many more blessings that could be mentioned, so many stories of men, women, and children coming to Christ this year, but for the length of this letter. We have faith that each of you can say the same!
Thank you for supporting our ministry, whether it's through prayer, finances, or both. We've started our church-plant, and over two dozen people accepted Christ as their Savior this year (see our Facebook page for stories about each soul!). None of that could have happened without you! You are each a blessing to us, and we hope that you all have a beautiful New Year.
Happy in His Service,
Seth, Paige, Eden, Zion, and Baby Boy Cuthbertson