Finally!

A number of years ago, Melissa and I were walking around our neighborhood one evening. I had just returned from my first trip to Vietnam, changed, and as we walked, we talked about my experiences there. As we walked and talked, I told her I could see myself working in full time mission. For me, that was the beginning of a journey that has us about to move to Zambia in March. As we discussed the pros and cons of such a move, and in particular, the sale of my business, so we might be able to take such a big step in our lives, I can remember telling Melissa, “I look forward to a time, when I can look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Some or all of my new supervisors with Presbyterian World Mission may be scratching heads, hearing that their new mission co-worker didn’t look forward to Christmas. Let me explain a little further. From July of 1994, until October 7, 2015, I owned and operated a company, Patty’s Herbs, Inc., which was located in Pearsall, Texas, south of San Antonio. We grew and distributed fresh-cut culinary herbs; our customers included food service companies such as Sysco, local produce distributors, restaurants and a large regional grocery chain, H. E. Butt Grocery Company (HEB). Our relationship with HEB spanned over thirty years, beginning before I joined the company.

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As a supplier to such a large grocery chain, we saw a huge increase in sales leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas. While the sales revenue was a blessing, the stress associated with that time of year was extraordinary, and by the time each holiday arrived, I was exhausted. I can remember many a Thanksgiving where I ate lunch, and then went straight to bed to nap.  This year was the first time since 1994 that I didn’t have to deal with this yearly stress. Yes, our new grandson, Max, threw a wrench into Thanksgiving, when he was hospitalized with RSV, but we knew he was in good hands at Emory.

Next week we will celebrate Christmas with our children and grandchildren, and I will be able to focus on the coming of Christ. That day I hoped for during that evening walk with Melissa has finally arrived, and I will cherish it.

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Melissa and I would like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Lucy with the Christmas ornament she made for Mimi and me.  Mimi holds baby Max in the background.

May the peace of Christ be with you this Christmas season!

Charles & Melissa

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Kindred Spirits

I grew up around farming in South Texas. My dad was a farmer, my uncles were farmers, and my grandfather was a farmer. If I wasn’t working on my dad’s farm, I was working on someone else’s. I grew up in a house that worried about drought, late frost, hail storms, bad crop prices, insect pest infestations, and bankers. And sadly, if things were good for farmers in our area, if often came at the expense of farmers in other regions, dealing with some or all of the things we worried about.

During mission co-worker orientation, Melissa and I were paid a visit by Reverend Paul McGlassen, Bob Tomey and Jim Exline, from First Presbyterian Church of Sullivan, Indiana. Their church began supporting Chasefu Model Farm in Zambia in the fall of 2014, just about the same time Melissa and I traveled to Louisville for our discernment interview, and they wanted to meet the new mission co-workers to Zambia, who would be working there. During their visit with us, they invited us to come to Sullivan and share about our work in Zambia.

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First Presbyterian Church, Sullivan Indiana

This past weekend, we made that trip to Sullivan, a town not unlike Pearsall, where I was raised. First Presbyterian is not a big church; one of the members told us, “We’re small, but mighty!” No one had to convince us, we could see it and feel it. From the time we arrived on Friday, until we left for the airport in Indianapolis on Monday morning, we were shown nothing but hospitality and kindness. We participated in the life of the church and we made new friends.

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Our friends, partners and supporters at First Presbyterian Church, Sullivan, Indiana

During our stay, our host, Bob, and I met a group of men (farmers) for breakfast at a local coffee shop. We toured the small Indiana town of Merom, which has a rich history. We climbed to the top of the Merom Conference Center, which was once Union Christian College, where we had a beautiful view, and I held on for dear life. We spoke during worship on Sunday morning and then later that day, we went to the church’s annual Christmas dinner, followed by the hanging of the greens. I felt like the Abominable Snowman, as kid after kid asked me to hang their ornaments up on the sanctuary Christmas tree, higher than they could reach. We were made to feel welcome and a part of their church.

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Merom Conference Center, Merom, Indiana

As I reflect on our weekend in Sullivan, my opinion that farmers are kindred spirits was reinforced. Whether in Sullivan, Indiana, Pearsall, Texas, or Chasefu, Zambia, farmers know what it’s like to experience the issues I mentioned above. In talking with my new friends in Sullivan, I believe that’s what first drew them to their decision to support Chasefu Model Farm, and as we recently learned, to provide support for our mission work in Zambia. We are so thankful for that special connection we have now made with them.

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Children decorating the Christmas Tree at First Presbyterian Church, Sullivan, Indiana

Melissa and I are on our way back to San Antonio, where we will spend the coming week making more visits, telling others about our work, before heading off to Atlanta next week. Please keep us in your prayers as we continue to share how God is at work in Zambia.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Charles & Melissa