Sunday, December 26, 2004

2004 Christmas Letter

The Emerson's offer you and your family Season's Greetings from Memphis, TN! 2004 has been a year full of adventures, beginnings and endings, and blessings from God Most High. He has also taught us many lessons, and we have learned more and more about what it means to fully trust Him.
To talk about 2004, we have to take a quick step backwards into 2003. On December 29th, Brett's sister Amy and her husband Ed welcomed into the world their first son and our second nephew, Nathaniel John Baynes. We were able to be at the hospital just after he was born, and we also spent the first couple of days of his life at the Baynes' home loving on the newest addition to our family. Nate is extremely cute and he has been such a fun baby! He is usually quite happy, and Uncle Brett and Aunt April can always make him smile.
Shortly after Nathaniel's arrival, on January 19th, Brett's brother Chad and his wife Betsy had their second son, Dawson Kendell Emerson. We have loved having Dawson around, and he has been given a well deserved nickname – "Wild Man"! He was given this nickname after his brother Owen and his daddy taught him how to growl like a lion. He is constantly on the move, and he is definitely not shy about playing a little rough. His wildness is offset by his sweet nature and the fact that he is a very beautiful baby.
We also received a very important phone call towards the end of January. As most of you know, we spent the summer of 2003 in Togo, West Africa, and we had been contemplating our options to return to Africa in some capacity. Towards the end of January, our now teammates Brian and Tracy Reis were on furlough, and they called to invite us to join their team working among the Kabiye people in Kara, Togo. We humbly accepted, and we have now made a commitment of at least 5 years to work with the Reis, Reeves, Neal and Miller families. We are currently searching for a sponsoring church that would like to join us in what God is doing among the Kabiye, so if you know of any churches that we should contact, please let us know. Our departure date is uncertain, but we would like to leave sometime in 2005. Check out our website and leave us a note in the guestbook.
In March, after spending so much time with babies, we needed to remind ourselves that we are still without children – and lovin' it! We were ready for a trip, and we spent our Spring Break in Washington, D.C. with our friends Josh and Cristen (Godley) Roberts. The Roberts had a great apartment that was very close to all of the main attractions, and we had a blast exploring the city on foot and hanging out with Josh and Cristen.
Also in March, April's mom, Leslie Gillespie, had hip replacement surgery. April was able to take a few days off from her work at the Sunshine School to help her parents out around the house while her mother recuperated. As of this writing, her new hip is in great shape and she is getting around without any problems.
In May, April's time as a Speech Therapist at the Sunshine School came to an end with lots of mixed emotions. She truly loved her job and her co-workers, and the special little children she worked with everyday have left a life-long impression on her. We give thanks to God for providing her with a job that allowed her to touch so many lives and at the same time provide for our family during our 3 years in Searcy.
Our time in Searcy came to an end with Brett's graduation from Harding University in July of 2004. He finished his Master's Degree in Education in Reading, and after passing his Praxis II exam, he is now a certified K-12 Reading Specialist. While our immediate plans will take us to the mission field, Brett still desires to one day work in a school setting, helping children not only learn to read, but to acquire a life-long passion for it.
In August, we made the big move from Searcy to Memphis. April's parents were gracious enough to allow us to live with them while we prepare to move to Togo. They have been so wonderful to us, and we would have had a difficult time with this transition were it not for their love and their desire to help us get to the mission field. Our belongings currently occupy just about every square inch of the 2nd floor of the Gillespie home, but no worries, we're planning on a big garage sale sometime this spring.
Our next adventure was also in August, when we took a two week trip to California. The Los Angeles area is home to many of our dear friends and family, and we spent the first few days with April's brother Allen and his wife Sarah. Allen is finishing school at Pepperdine, and Sarah works in the corporate insurance business. We had a great time, making two trips to the beach for body boarding and just spending some quality time around their home. We also were able to worship at the Hollywood church of Christ, where we have many fond memories and good friends. After leaving the Gillespie's we met up with our good friends Marcus and Jessicca Moore for a camping trip to Yosemite National Park. If you've never been, we highly recommend it. Yosemite Valley and the surrounding area is some of the most beautiful creation in the world, at least the world that we've seen. The highlight of the trip for Brett was the climbing of Half Dome with Marcus, a very strenuous 12 hour round trip hike. We were sad to leave California and all of our loved ones, but we know that we'll be back someday soon.
In September, we realized that we didn't have any money! Ok, so we weren't broke, but we also didn't have April's steady Sunshine School check either. We signed up to substitute teach at Harding Academy, and that along with odd jobs for April's dad is how we will be supporting ourselves until we find a sponsoring church. In fact, Brett recently accepted a teaching position at Harding Academy. He will be filling in for the 8th grade history teacher for 6 weeks beginning in January while she is on maternity leave.
So now we've come to the holiday season, and we have already spent lots of time with our family. We were in Nashville for Thanksgiving with Brett's family, and we all stayed at Brett's parents' house for a few days, including the nephews. Brett had an especially fun time playing with Owen, who is now 3 years old and at a very fun age. He is incredibly smart for his age, and he keeps everyone smiling with his large words and sentences as well as his love for the alphabet and phonetics. It's not uncommon to hear him say, "The 'W' says 'wuh', 'wuh', 'wuh' what's happenin' dude!"
As Christmas approached, Brett's grandfather, Ray Pippin, was married to Nora Bagwell on December 4th in a beautiful ceremony at the Madison church of Christ. It was a great time for everyone on Brett's mom's side of the family to be together and bless our grandfather as he begins a new chapter of his life with Nora.
Well, we'd like to thank you for taking the time to read this very lengthy letter, assuming you didn't just skip to the end. We can't help it! God has blessed us with rich, full, and exciting lives that we love to share with our family and friends. We hope that 2005 brings you many blessings and a closer relationship with the Lord. Keep in touch!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Light

Can you guess what this is a picture of? Yes, it is Africa... It's the pumpkin we carved for Halloween. After we placed the candle inside, we discovered it was symbolic of taking the Light to Africa. As we proceed in our search for a supporting congregation we are reminded of the journey we are on. That journey is occuring because we have a desire, placed in our hearts by God, to take the Light to Kabiyeland. As we talk with people and meet with missions committees, we are continually encouraged that we are following God's calling for us to move to Africa.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

World Missions Workshop

The 2004 World Missions Workshop was held at York College in York, Nebraska. We left at 7:00 AM from Searcy, AR on a van with seven people following a bus of about 40+. Around 8:30 PM, we arrived at York College. The weather this weekend was quite different from our warm southern weather as we experienced a cold front and temperatures of 60's during the day and 30's at night. We went with the intention of making contacts for possible supporting congregations. Even though we didn't have the chance to hand our packets out to anyone, we were able to share our information with several people and receive lots of encouragement. This weekend was one of refocus for us. We have been away from Harding (not to mention our teammates) for over a month and it was nice to be around lots of people with the same interest and heart for missions. We were also able to see friends we haven't seen in a while and find out where they were in life. Of our list of things we'll take from the weekend, riding in the van with Monte Cox, Sam and Nancy Shewmaker, and Oneal Tankersley is at the top. We were able to have conversations with them that they often don't have time for during their university schedules. We had their attention for 12 hours to Nebraska and when we returned home. They are wonderful mentors to us both and we cherish our time with them. The next few items on our list would include different classes we attended (together and seperately). Brett's favorite class was Wendell Broom's "Snapshopts of Africa" where he gave some history on the entry into Africa as well as missions in Africa. He is a wise man with much wisdom to offer. April benefitted most from Becky VanRheenen's "Reluctant Warrior" class. April felt she connected with so much of Becky's story and was encouraged to hear that such an amazing woman began her ministry as a reluctant warrior. Other class topics we attended included: Video and Drama (Oneal Tankersley), Team Mission Efforts: Pros and Cons (Sonny Guild), Missions in the Family (Gordon Hogan), Syncretism in Africa, Israel, and America (Wimon Walker), Raising Funds (Terry Fischer), Contextualization (Monte Cox), and split panel classes. Of the keynote speakers, we both agree that Shawn Daggett was our favorite. He presented his message clearly and captured the audience as he shared his thoughts. York College is a very small school compared to Harding, ACU, etc. With that in mind, they did a great job hosting the World Missions Workshop. Next years workshop will be at Harding University. As much as we'd like to be a part of that, we hope that we're not in the country, but on our way to Africa.

Friday, September 24, 2004

April's 26th Birthday

Happy birthday to me! For my birthday, Mom, Dad, and Brett took me to the restaurant of my choice...Bahama Breeze. (a first for me) We then had ice cream cake at home (see picture). On Friday, September, 17th my birthday continued. I got to meet Jim Brickman! Ok, you know him...well, he's "America's newest romantic piano sensation" He's a piano player that wrote "The Gift" and "My Valentine" ( Then we went to his concert which was much more entertaining than I expected. He's a really nice guy and has a good sense of humor. He did a questions and answer session during the second half of his show and we got to hear a few commercial jingles he wrote a long time ago (Cheerios, Puppy Chow, and Hallmark) as well as a few alphabet songs he wrote for Sesame Street. The audience loved it! If you get a chance to see him perform...don't miss it!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Another Ankle Injury

Well, I have mangaed to sprain my ankle yet AGAIN! It's the right one this time. Nick Faris and I took a trip to Searcy on Monday to watch his brother play soccer. After the game, we had a choice between playing basketball or playing XBox. I chose wrong!!! At game point in the third and possibly final pick-up game at the Downtown Church of Christ, I was passed the ball just behind the 3-point line. I tried to make a quick cut to my right, and most of my body complied. My right ankle did not. A hideous popping sound was heard by all, and swelling occured almost immediately. I am blessed with great friends who helped me to the car, took me back to the Baur's apartment, put ice on my ankle, and then destroyed me at Halo. It was a great night of bonding.
So, I guess I will be without one of my life's passions for the next 6 weeks or so. Playing basketball, while very important to me, is put into perspective when I need my wife's help just to take a shower or pick out my clothes for the day. Thank God for her and her wonderful servant heart. So if you see me in the next few weeks, don't ask me to play basketball. That would be rubbing salt on my wound. And don't call me "gimp" or "crip". Seriously, it gets old!!!

Monday, September 06, 2004

The Cute Couple

Brett and April outside the Gillespie's on their 3rd anniversary.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Our Anniversary

Brett and I celebrated THREE YEARS of marriage on Wednesday, September 1, 2004. Because we are very tight on budget right now, we took money given by family members as anniversary presents to celebrate. (Thanks Mom & Dad Emerson and Grandma E!) We chose to go to The Melting Pot for a night of fondue. Brett had never eaten fondue and the last time I ate it was my 21st birthday. We enjoyed a tasty meal of cheese fondue, salad, and a main course which consisted of chicken, meat, shrimp, and salmon. We decided to save dessert for another special occasion. We spent some time previous to our dinner writing letters to each other by answering questions Brett had come up with. We talked about what we loved about each other, changes we had seen this past year, things each of us need to work on/change, and some of our favorite memories from the past year of marriage. It was a great exercise and I'm sure we'll cherish those letters in the years to come. --April

Friday, September 03, 2004

August 2004

August 2, 2004. With Brett graduated and our church goodbyes said, several of our friends joined us in loading a U-haul. This U-haul would carry us and our posessions from Searcy, Arkansas (our home for the past 3 years) to Memphis, Tennessee. On August 3rd, we unloaded the U-haul at 6307 Hawks Call Lane...the home of Rick and Leslie Gillespie, April's parents. We literally took over the 2nd floor of their home with all of our "stuff". We submitted our applications at Harding Academy to be substitute teachers at the elementary and high school levels. On Saturday, August 7th, we traveled to Nashville where we spent time with Brett's family and celbrated Grandma Emerson's 80th birthday. We flew from Nashville to Los Angeles, California on the 11th and spent time with family and friends. The first weekend we stayed with April's brother and sister-in-law, Allen and Sarah Gillespie. It was great to spend time with them and not have to share them with parents or other family members. Sunday, the 15th, the spent the night with Jason and Leah Tomlinson, friends from Harding University. The 17th through the 20th we spent at Yosemite National Park with Marcus and Jessicca Moore, more friends from Harding. This was our vacation.