Courage… every second of every day

Posted by on February 18, 2021 in Blog, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Thank you for your gracious prayers, emails and messages of encouragement since sharing the news last month about the imminent transition of taking our oldest to Kenya to begin high school at Rift Valley Academy

The Lord was incredibly gracious to us amidst the seamless travel of 6 flights, 13 negative PCR Covid tests, entrance back into Madagascar, and the airplane safely landing after two failed attempts in the midst of cyclone Eloise!!!     

Our time in Kenya was painstakingly beautiful and therapeutic as we spent time together, helped Isabella settle into her dorm room and said goodbye with words of affirmation over Isabella, family prayers, hugs and buckets of tears. The last night that it was just the five of us together, Gavin spoke the words of each of our hearts as he prayed aloud… “and God, would you give us courage every day. Courage as we cry and miss Isabella every second of everyday, would you give us courage.”

The Lord has heard our sweet boy’s prayers and He has given each of us courage for every new day. Courage in the goodbyes, courage as we watched Isabella walk away across the field, courage as we drove away from Rift Valley Academy, courage as we boarded a flight leaving Kenya and courage as we returned home as a family of four rather than five. 

Isabella has been so courageous and has been thriving  thus far at RVA though she has a serious case of FOMO– Fear of Missing Out… especially as it applies to social activities and sports opportunities!    

Undoubtedly, with such a transition comes the well-known paradox of enduring and enjoying…holding the grief of loss and this new reality in one hand while simultaneously holding the joy in the other hand. Would you join us in praying for Isabella as she continues to endure and enjoy this first term at Rift Valley Academy.

If you’d like to send her a note or small care package, you can do so by mailing it to: 

Rift Valley Academy

Isabella Shattenberg

PO Box 80

Kijabe 00220


Nearly Unrecognizable…

The community in which we live and work has long been a relatively safe and calming place for us over the last several decades. Jamie and his family moved here in 1986, we were “married” here in 2002 and we have a long history with many people around us. We say hello, wave or do the classic head nod to friends, former patients, co-workers and acquaintances on the dirt roads as we pass one another. 

In the last several weeks, however, the community around our home, the Sarobidy Maternity Center and the multiple Eden Reforestation offices has become nearly unrecognizable. Thousands of people from all over the city and even some from other parts of the country, have flocked to our community in hopes of getting a job with Eden Reforestation Projects, which is now the largest employer in our city, with over 4,000 full-time employees.   

Daily, we’re surrounded by men and women asking for jobs– outside our gate, on the roads, in town, when we’re grocery shopping, or out to dinner as a family. Our staff are followed home at the end of the day in hopes of getting a “foot in the door” and there are thousands of resumes in the Eden offices. Josy has 20-30+ people sleeping outside of his house nightly, in the rain, waiting to speak to him, they know his daily schedule and recently lined the main road cheering as he returned from a 4-day out-of-town work trip. We’ve made radio announcements and have had to involve the police in crowd control. The pain and desperation of this nation and the people is deeper and wider than ever and cannot adequately be expressed with mere words.    

It is soul-crushing. There are no easy answers. There are not enough jobs for the masses who are eager to work so they and their families can eat for the day. 

CLICK HERE to see a 30-second speed video that shows a typical day in our community.

Please pray for each of us on the leadership team– that we would have wisdom in responding to the overwhelming requests each day, that we would speak graciously even when it’s more sternly than is comfortable, that our hearts would remain soft amidst the frustration and that we would rest in the knowledge and truth that only the Lord is the true Hope for the needs of those around us.

Set Apart…

When Eden Projects does hire, we often seek out those who are on the fringes of society– the widows, the single moms, those with physical disabilities or who others have turned their backs upon. Gilda is a young man with oculocutaneous albinism— a rare inherited disorder characterized by a reduction or complete lack of melanin pigment in the skin, hair and eyes, often causing near blindness. Living close to the equator as we do in the northwest of Madagascar, Gilda struggles to shelter both his skin and his eyes from the sun’s brutally bright and powerful rays.    

Back in college, Jamie studied oculocutaneous albinism in his genetics class and as such, has a soft spot in his heart for those who live with this condition. Recently Jamie gave Gilda an old fishing hat that his mom had given to him. Gilda began to weep. Tears streaming down his face, Gilda shared that he had never received such a gift. Gilda is currently one of the planters at the Morangobe mangrove reforestation site with Eden Projects, he’s a gifted song writer and musician, leads worship within his church and is passionate about Jesus. 

It’s this simple reminder that each of these people that we encounter upon the road are known and created by the Lord. Each has a story to tell. Each are wholly and dearly loved. It is our prayer that we always strive to see others through the eyes of Christ, made in His image, died for upon the cross, and called into eternal relationship with the Father. 

With love and gratitude, 

Alissa, Jamie, Isabella, Eliana and Gavin

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