Newsletter: Christmas 2008
Dear Family and Friends,
The latest installment in the lives of our family, beginning with the boys:
Dan came home for a three-month furlough in January, after completing his first two years on the MV Doulos. He slept a great deal, read, caught up with old friends, and enjoyed being in Cyprus again. He also spoke at some meetings about his ministry, helped Richard with his boat, and then went sailing with him a few times. Daniel had planned many projects for his furlough, most of which were not achieved, but he did seem more rested by the end.
In early April, we took a family holiday to Cairo, something we had been talking about doing for at least ten years, since it was probably the last time we would be together as a family for some years. On Sue's 48th birthday, just before Dan left, we had a wonderful day out together in the Troodos mountains.
At the end of April, Dan flew out of Cyprus – not back to the Doulos, but to Carlisle in the UK for a couple of months. He trained and worked at his company's media department, then rejoined the Doulos in early July. From September 1st, Daniel became the audio-visual manager for the ship. He is now responsible for scheduling and seems to get even less sleep than he did before.
Daniel expects to remain with the Doulos until it is decommissioned some time in 2010. He is currently in Malaysia; we do not know if we will be able to visit him again before he returns in a couple of years.
Dan's blog is: http://brummieatsea.blogspot.com
For the first half of 2008, Tim continued his studies with the Open Theological College, and eventually gained a Certificate of Higher Education from it. He also volunteered for two mornings a week at a local private school, including teaching some music lessons, played piano for St Helena's church each week and directed their choir, and was the musical director for the inter-church youth group band. He finally took his Grade 8 piano exam in May, and was pleased – and relieved – to pass with Merit.
Tim applied to universities in the UK at the start of the year. Unsure whether to continue studying theology or to train in primary education, he applied for courses in both, and was offered a place to study Theology in Education at Newman University in Birmingham.
So another big change in our family happened in the summer, when Tim moved to the UK; he now lives with his grandmother in Birmingham. He and Sue flew there at the end of June so that he could sort out a bank account and funding for the course, and get to know the buses. He was given a full tuition grant and bursary, despite not having lived in the UK for over ten years. Tim has settled well into his course; he is enjoying life at university and finding the classes challenging as well as interesting.
Tim has decided to attend Christ Church, Selly Park (formerly St Stephen's Church Centre) which we belonged to before coming to Cyprus. Despite saying that he would not get involved in much at first, he is playing the piano once a month at church, on one organising committee, helping with the 11-14 age youth group, and thinking of starting a youth band in the New Year. Tim is also now the accompanist for the Bournville Young Singers, and for his university choir, and – sometimes – the university Christian Union.
Alas,from our perspective, Tim is not coming home for Christmas. Instead, he will be spending time with family members, as well as playing and singing in various carol concerts and services. We look forward very much to seeing him again at Easter, when he's coming to Cyprus for two weeks. We are thankful for modern communications such as email, Instant Messaging and Facebook, which at least mean we are regularly in touch.
Richard has continued working too many hours in 2008, for most weeks of the year. He has not travelled as much as in previous years, although there have been a few short trips to Middle Eastern countries. He has had to do too much technical work, leaving too little time for creativity, although he did manage to write the first draft of a book about media in his 'spare' time.
Richard's weekends have mostly been taken up with sailing. In the winter, he did extensive maintenance and repairs on his Wayfarer dinghy. By March he was back on the water, sailing regularly and occasionally racing. In November he embarked on a Royal Yachting Association 'Day Skipper' course which he completed last week. He passed the test and received an appropriate certificate. He still has to complete a short practical course, and will then – theoretically – be qualified to charter a yacht.
And what of Sue, no longer needed as Mum for the first time in 22 years? Sue looks after the house, and also our guest flat (on the ground floor) which has been occupied for about half of 2008 by several friends, a few relatives, and some friends of friends. She sends out email updates about Richard's work, and Daniel's 'epistles' (if you do not get them, and would like to, please let her know at the address below).
She also proof-reads Tim's essays before he submits them, helps once a week at a local Mother-and-Toddler group, does the family bookkeeping and pays the bills, hosts a cold lunch on Wednesdays for any short-term office visitors (and periodically for all colleagues and their families), and hosts a church house group of about 10-12 people, starting with a full meal, on Friday evenings.
In between times, Sue works on her websites and blogs, and also does some other writing. She is part of the Larnaka Christian Writers' Association, formed just 18 months ago, and in the summer she produced their first year anthology. She has also had two short stories accepted for publication by magazines in the past 14 months. Sue enjoys keeping in touch with family and friends all over the world, even if email is rather sporadic sometimes, and finally joined Facebook in the summer, so she can play Scrabble with Tim online.
Other random news
Cyprus joined the euro currency in January, a smooth and welcome transition from our perspective. Unfortunately sterling has become weaker as the year has progressed, meaning that our support, and that of our colleagues and friends has effectively reduced, as have the pensions of our retired British friends living here. We are very thankful that we bought our house when we did, when sterling was much stronger, and that we thus no longer have to pay rent.
Our guest flat is already booked for most of January, almost all of February , and the latter half of both March and April. If you would like to come and stay with us – and we would love to see more family and friends using it – then please let us know, in plenty of time. It sleeps four to six people, and is reasonably warm even in winter. There is air conditioning in one bedroom for the summer, and also in the kitchen.
We still have three of our cats, now middle-aged but still very active when not sleeping. Jemima, who disappeared just over a year ago, never did return.
With our love, and best wishes for 2009,
Richard and Sue