We recently got back from visiting friends and presenting at 2 churches in western Montana. A great friend, Lindsey, hosted us at her house for a few days in Belgrade (near Bozeman). We also got to meet up with friends Josh and Lisa and Ryan. Up above are Gretchen and Houghton, Lindsey, Josh & Lisa, Ryan, and me. Lindsey is orignally from Miles City (I used to be her really mean babysitter way back in the day so if you want to hear stories about that, let me know. :) Josh and Lisa lived in Miles City awhile after high school and went to our church there. Ryan is an old family friend Gretch and I grew up camping and going on other vacations with. They treated us to great meals and great fellowship.
On the way to Lindsey's, we blew out a tire in the van so Houghton got to lay in the interstate, or really close to it anyway, to change it. We were blessed that it didn't blow completely before we pulled over and that we were only half an hour or so out from Lindsey's so we could limp in with the doughnut. We ended up needing to purchase not one, but four new tires for the van! Quite an expensive trip to Belgrade, which is about 4 1/2 hours from Miles City.
At Lindsey's, aside from getting to catch up with her and friends, she also treated me to some "spa treatments" for my rediculous sinus and respiratory infections. She and I enjoyed breathing deeply from steaming bowls of water one evening! Lindsey allowed us to really feel at home and comfortable to just relax and rest before taking off again. You're the best, Lindsey! I thank God for you!
We headed back on the road to go to a little town in NW Montana called Ronan, which is up near Kalispell and Flathead Lake. Ordinarily, it is gorgeous up that way, but fires and smoke made it nearly impossible to see the mountains. We stayed with a friend of Houghton's named Aaron.
Aaron hooked us up with a house to stay in that was right up near the mountains and was big enough for us to spread out. It was such a blessing! We all healed up from our consant sicknesses from the last 2 months (I had everything from infections to colds to the flu and we were running really low on energy and brain capacity after being sick so long). The house had a huge grand piano that allowed me to practice up on my songs for accompanying Gretch and Houghton for a few songs during presentations. We hadn't been able to do them much because my playing was pretty scary but I at least have those 2 songs down now! Aaron's parents, Fred and Tammy, made us into complete bums by cooking meals for us for every lunch and supper the entire week we stayed there. They made some amazing food and were fantastically hospitable. The church they attend in Pablo allowed us not only to present during the entire service of both morning services, but also to put on a dessert for those interested in returning in the evening. The Pablo church gave us a love gift that covered the cost of replacing the tires, as well as for a much-needed alignment and oil change, praise the Lord! We need to check on the brakes next, but God's been holding up the travel van! It was so encouraging to have a good-sized crowd back for the evening service who asked questions and were interested in God's work in Vanuatu! We were also able to hang out with people from the church a few other times during the week to better get to know them.
One of the fun things about staying up in the mountains was the animals who graced us with their presence. We saw deer every day up by the house, but also enormous wild turkeys and one day even two brown bears!
The bears were far enough away to require zoom so I don't have great pictures of them, but they really were fairly close. When we came outside the house to photograph them, they stood up and stared at us, then ran off awhile later. We didn't walk very far away from the house after seeing them... but it was amazing to enjoy God's creation.
While we were becoming healthy human beings again in Ronan, Josh came up to visit us for a day. Gretchen and Houghton went to Bible school with him at Frontier in Wyoming and performed in the touring choir along with him. We headed to his home for the next weekend to present in Frenchtown, which is next to Missoula. On the drive, we went right past the raging fires. We had been told we may not make it down to Frenchtown because of efforts to keep the fire from jumping the highway, but the firefighters were working hard and kept it to the west. Many buildings and homes were just barely spared though and the fire came right up to the highway in a lot of areas. In Frenchtown, the property of many people was ruined or burned. Please pray for provision for all the families and individuals hurt by these fires!
The Lord is teaching me a lot about myself and my utter dependance on Him for my strength, energy, joy, encouragement, fellowship, and help. This has definitely been a time of much trial through difficulties but as I said above, also a time of unexpected and unbelievable blessing. Praise God for using the difficulties to refine and the blessings to lift up! The verse I quoted at the top of this blog I'll quote again:
1 Chronicles 16:34 "O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting."