From Mountaintops to Valleys… (In Pictures!)

Posted by on May 31, 2024 in Blog | 0 comments

Hello friends! 

Do you know that feeling when so much has happened that you don’t even know where to start to share? This has been the last 2 months+ for us! Alas, we’re going to attempt to share a snapshot… ❤️


We spent several weeks back home in Madagascar in March and April. This time, though always intense, feeds our souls in a different way. It’s the longstanding friendships and mutual encouragement with Malagasy friends and coworkers, the ministries of the Sarobidy Maternity Center and the reforestation work, the coastal air and sunny beaches. This time, we also had the privilege to share this with six of Isabella’s friends from Rift Valley Academy. We packed in all the adventure, all the early mornings and late nights and laughter and conversations into ten glorious days with her crew of friends, including, but not limited to… 

* A 14.5 hour drive to our city from the capital…

* Exploring a massive cave system and underground river…

* Enjoying a meal in a remote village with longtime friends followed by sleeping under the stars on the rocks on top of a 60 foot waterfall…

* Diving through said waterfall and swimming in the water below…

* Visiting and encouraging a remote village where we have been working for the last 9 years, sharing a meal with this community, and swimming in the beautiful nearby river…

* Exploring the mangroves, having a mud fight, and surfing behind the boat…

* Visiting the ministries of the Sarobidy Maternity Center and the Tahirin’ala Nature Center… 

* Riding everywhere in the back of a pickup truck…

* Catching sleep when and wherever possible…

* Building relationships with the Malagasy young people who are our kids long time friends and who joined us for the majority of these activities!

We praise the Lord for His protection spiritually and physically during this time! We praise Him for the awesome relational dynamics and the many adventures! We’re thankful for the opportunity that the Lord has graciously given us to be here at Rift Valley Academy where we’ve been able to intentionally build relationships with students and our kids’ friends! We love and deeply value pouring into the next generation and this was such a special time with this remarkable group of soon-to-be graduated seniors! We also praise the Lord for His healing hand over Josiah, Isabella’s friend who we asked for prayer for in our last newsletter. Though he wasn’t able to come to Madagascar because of the gravity of his illness, he is recovering and growing stronger by the day! 


Central Kenya has been receiving record amounts of rain in the months of April and May- a whopping 39″ in our town of Kijabe in less than two months alone! With an elevation of 7,200 feet, Rift Valley Academy sits on the side of a steep escarpment, surrounded by forest, and overlooks the great Rift Valley. As a result of forest degradation, location, and heavy rains, this region has not been immune to mudslides in years past. With our own history of experiencing the 2018 mudslide in our home town, we have been keenly aware of this possibility. 

In the wee hours of the morning of April 29th, a massive amount of water broke through a blocked railway drainage and barreled down the steep hillside, taking car-sized boulders, trees and devastating amounts of mud and debris with it. Within minutes, a community just 6 miles below Rift Valley Academy was decimated– houses flattened, loved ones swept away, and a trail of death and destruction left behind. Tragically, 61 people lost their lives, including many loved ones of our national Kenyan colleagues here at RVA. 

PC: R. Unruh

In the days following, several more smaller mudslides released on both sides of Rift Valley Academy, including one coming right into the edge of campus. With so many national staff taking time off to grieve, sift through the debris and continue to search for loved ones, a large number of students on campus rolled up their sleeves and helped out– clearing mud and debris near the main gate, folding laundry in laundry services, sweeping and mopping in the dining hall as well as meal prepping, baking and washing dishes for the school in the cafeteria. 

We praise the Lord for His steadfast protection over this campus in the same way that He has done since 1906 when this school was built! We ask that you join us in praying for the Mai Mahiu community who are deeply grieving- including our colleagues, one of which, wrote the following words to our RVA community after losing his wife, home and all earthly possessions in the mudslide. 

“I feel a great urge to write to everyone in the RVA fraternity to thank all of you for your Love, Support and great care accorded to us! But I don’t have that strength. The Lord God reigns in my life! I know that he loves us and has good plans for us! Loss of dear-loved ones and loss of all material possessions has instilled and strengthened my faith in HIM. I’m not counting my losses! I’m counting the immeasurable blessings God has accorded me. I will Keep my faith and Trust in him, it is another Chance that He has given us to Praise, serve, honor and testify that our Lord is in control and HE REIGNS in me.”

Everywhere In Between…

Amidst these mountaintops and valleys, there has been all the in between… 

* Celebrating Isabella’s 18th birthday! 

* Welcoming back dorm boys after they spent 4 weeks at home with their families– this is our 6th and final term with this group of guys before they move onto upper classmen dorms in the fall. 

* Our weekly grocery shopping in Nairobi (75 minute drive each direction)– it’s always a TWO CART event! 

* Rugby season! With half of our dorm guys playing rugby this season, we’ve been nursing new injuries every week– concussions, broken collarbones, broken arms, fingers and noses, injured knees, sore muscles and more! The ice packs and ibuprofen are hot commodities these days in our house! 

* Celebrating Eliana’s 16th birthday! 

* Eliana being cleared to play rugby 7+ weeks post concussion!

* Jamie coaching varsity girls rugby– with both Isabella and Eliana playing and loving this new sport! 

*Weekly early morning Bible Studies with dorm guys and twice a month Sunday school with 10th grade girls. 

* Jamie preaching on a regular rotational basis during church. 

* Celebrating dorm boy’s birthdays– dinner for the birthday boy and his friends and dessert for all 21 guys! 

* A whirlwind trip to the USA for Alissa to spend four days with her sister. 

* Nightly homework and hangout zone in our living room.

* Enjoying all the *lasts* with Isabella as she winds down her high school years and gets ready to graduate in early July! 

Though we often desire a “bit” more breathing room in our schedules, we’re so thankful for the fullness of life and ministry!! We’re thankful that the Lord has extended to us the privilege of pouring into the hearts of teens through conversations, coaching, mentoring, celebrating, nursing and big adventures! We know these days are fleeting and will only last for a short time!  

Partnership Update…

As you may recall, back in August we sent out an SOS email as we found ourselves and the ministries critically financially underfunded. We are so grateful to so many who have joined our financial partnership team or who have increased their monthly giving in these last several months!! Because of your great generosity, the gap in our current monthly need has drastically shrunk! Thank you!! 

We would absolutely love to see this gap gone completely! Would you prayerfully consider partnering with us in one of the following breakdowns? 

1 partner @ $300/month

2 partners @ $125/month

3 partners @ $75/month

4 partners @ $50/month 

5 partners @ $25/month 

** All donations are tax-deductible through our mission organization, WorldVenture. **

There’s three ways you can join our team or increase your current giving…

1. CLICK HERE and follow the link to set up your secure account with WorldVenture where you can proceed to make an on-going commitment or one-time gift. 

2. CALL (800) 487-4224 and select option #1 to speak with someone 8am-4pm MST (M-Th). 

3. MAIL a check to:


20 Inverness Pl E

Englewood, CO 80112-5622

Please specify your donation by writing account #173 in the memo line. 

(Note, for tax purposes, our names should not appear on the check.)

We thank you for your faithful partnership in prayer, encouragement, and finances over many years. Your generosity has and continues to allow us to follow the Lord’s leading to serve Him both in Madagascar and Kenya! 

Blessings to you, 

Alissa, Jamie, Isabella, Eliana and Gavin

*** To view this newsletter in it’s original format, click here ***

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