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. www.geocities.com/emersontogo
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!