Newsletter: May 1999
Greetings from Cyprus! Five months into 1999, it’s officially the end of Winter; we’ve not had rain for nearly a month now, and the daytime temperatures have been over 30C, warm even by Richard’s standards. The water shortage continues, although there was more rain than average earlier in the year; we are limited to having our tanks filled two or three times per week. Running out of water has become a regular part of our life, and we only run the washing machine on ‘mains’ water days.
In January the Discovery course was filmed, mainly successfully, despite one afternoon when the car was stuck for two hours in some mud, and one morning when an important member of cast went missing. Richard has been to Jordan since then for the initial editing, and some re-shooting, and hopes to have it available as soon as possible. This series will be of great value in the Middle East, so please pray that the remaining editing and distribution will go smoothly.
VTV are currently working, together with MECO’s literature department, on a series of programmes for satellite TV to promote Christian literature. Richard has also started planning and co-ordinating for an 8-part drama series for satellite TV to be filmed (finance permitting) in the Autumn. The script is being written by a Middle Eastern Christian; the ideas have come from several people.
As well as visiting Jordan for editing, Richard has been to Cairo for meetings to discuss these and other future programmes. There are tremendous needs for this kind of work, and many ideas being suggested. Someone has offered considerable funding but most of this has not yet been forthcoming, partly due to business problems.
Towards the end of January, Daniel and Timothy both caught unpleasant flu viruses, which lasted over a week, followed by Richard developing a nasty eye infection. Sue spent her time nursing one after another, and we entirely forgot that our cat Cleo was due to have a necessary operation in January, when she was six months old. By the time we remembered it was clearly too late, and she gave birth to three kittens at the end of February! Although they all thrived at first, one of them suddenly became ill in the middle of April, and died; however the other two continue to grow and give us a lot of enjoyment. We thought we had found homes for them both, but it’s not certain; meanwhile we become more attached to them both and inclined to keep them. Most houses in Cyprus have mice, and the gardens have snakes, so cats are useful in keeping down these pests.
This is continuing to be a resounding success, surprising Sue perhaps most of all! Daniel has become proficient in programming (mainly self-taught) and computer graphics, and now sometimes assists Richard late at night. He is whizzing ahead at maths, now that he can work at his own pace without feeling the stress of competing with his peers, and his English skills are also increasing. Using a word processor with automatic spell-checking, he is at last developing the ability to spell, and he recently won a short story competition in an American magazine for young writers.
Timothy sometimes misses the busy-ness of school, and the structure of a set timetable, but is also learning fast at home, feeling that he fully understands maths concepts and enjoying the freedom to spend as long as he likes on each topic. We are learning a lot about each other and learning styles, and all becoming more relaxed as we realise how much more efficient home education is than even the best of school classrooms. While the boys were convalescing from flu, we built together a family web site on the Internet about home education in the UK, which is far more widespread than we had realised. If you are interested in seeing this the address is: http://home-ed.info/
Margaret continues nobly to give the boys piano lessons, despite a marked lack of practice some weeks. Daniel is still learning clarinet with the town band leader, who has told him that he is around RSM grade 5 standard. He also thoroughly enjoys playing 6 or 7 songs weekly with our church music group, now transposing much of the music at sight. Tim is progressing fast with the guitar, although he prefers singing and playing church songs than practising for his teacher. Tim has also joined two choirs since Christmas: one associated with the Greek evangelical church, and one in the local American school. We have borrowed a saxophone and both boys are starting, sporadically, to teach themselves to play that, much to the horror of the cats!
Someone recently commented that Sue might seem isolated - in fact the reverse is true. With our house being spacious, it has become the centre for many parties and social activities, and we frequently have colleagues and other friends popping in for coffee, for a chat, or to have Richard look at their computers. Sue has joined the MECO publicity committee and helps with proof-reading the Crossroads magazine, as well as continuing to produce the church bulletin weekly and teach the youngest Sunday School group two Sundays out of four. Our church has monthly potluck meals with other local English-speaking churches, giving us all plenty of opportunity to socialise with friends and neighbours. The boys frequently spend Sunday afternoons with friends of theirs, and on Monday afternoons our Canadian colleagues’ children come and enjoy an hour or more building a den with the boys in our back garden.
In addition to this the boys still enthusiastically attend a Saturday morning art workshop and a weekday afternoon basketball coaching session. Tim has decided to give up Cubs since he was getting too old, his best friend left, and he felt that he was doing too many other things. We are also continuing to enjoy friends staying with us: Ray and Wendy from our church in Birmingham had a week with us at the end of April, and Sue’s parents are just finishing a fortnight’s stay here as we type. We hope to have many more visitors: please let us know when you’d like to come and stay!
What of the future?
Richard is clearly in the right place in VTV, fulfilling his calling at last. So it looks as if we shall be staying on here, perhaps indefinitely. We need to talk this through further with our church in Birmingham, and our mission organisation, but everyone we have spoken to so far seems to feel that this is right. Please do pray that we will continue to have sufficient financial resources for this: some of those who started to support us before coming here agreed to do so for two years, so we understand that some will not be able to continue. Nevertheless we have been overwhelmed by God’s provision and the generosity of so many people and are confident that, if this is the right place to be, the funding will be found.
When first coming here, we had planned to be home for Christmas 1999 and the Millennium, and still intend to do this, having perhaps two months in the UK from early December. Our contract with the house we are renting is due to end at the end of December; the arrangement with a local church in Bournville, Birmingham, borrowing our house there for their pastor (and giving us some extra support) was also due to end around the same time.
However, within the past fortnight, we were asked by our landlady here if we would like the house for longer, since she doesn’t yet require it. We were also asked by the church in Bournville if we would be prepared to continue the same arrangement with them for a new pastor whom they are hoping to find for early Spring next year. Both these seem to be positive signs that it is right to be staying here longer.
Please do keep in touch - we very much appreciated so many Christmas cards and newsletters, and the increasing number of people in contact via email. We love hearing snippets of news from home and are all glad to hear from so many friends around the world. Unfortunately post does sometimes go astray, so if you’ve written and not heard from us, it’s possible that your letter never arrived.
With love from us all,
Richard, Sue, Daniel and Timothy, plus Cleo, Sophia and Jemima