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Loud boys, long bus rides and kittens

Over the next month, Phil and I will both be sharing more about our work and ministry, but in this post I want to take a few minutes to catch all of you up on how we are doing as a family.

We are one year and three months into our new home and lives here in Kandern and we love our tiny town. Having seen it through every season now, we can enthusiastically say that it is a special place surrounded by great beauty in every direction. Kenya is magnificent and will always be precious to us, but the views here are no less stunning – it’s just a different kind of beauty, less raw and exhilarating, more cultivated and elegant. Of course, what makes both places so remarkable is the warmth and care of the communities who live in them, and even though our histories do not go back far with people here, we are all steadily making meaningful connections and developing healthy relational roots.

Our townhouse, just a two-minute walk from the main square, is truly home now – small enough to be cosy, large enough to welcome others in. And we are thankful that we have been able to share it already with so many family, friends and visitors from “home” (all four homes – Germany, Kenya, the US and England).

How is the Dow family doing?

With a year-plus under his belt now as Head of School at Black Forest Academy, Phil is finding his pace and is discovering a little extra capacity to invest in the students more directly. As well as being an assistant coach for the school’s new High School golf team, he recently took on the leadership of one of the school’s many “Small Groups” – in this case, eight 11th Grade boys who meet weekly for food, to play games, for food, to be mentored, and for food. The level of noise that comes with them is scarcely to be believed, but it is happy and cheerful and it is a blessing that we can support and nurture them in this way.

I am continuing to manage the Home Hub and also oversee Emma’s new schooling (more on that below). However, an exciting opportunity has recently arisen for me to tap into my concern for healthy short-term missions and/or development projects. Drawing on various positive and negative experiences, I will be leading students and group leaders through the essentials of a course called “When Helping Hurts” as they prepare to go on BFA’s service trips later in the school year.

This year, Emma (17) is pursuing a blend of online and in-person classes as we continue to understand and support her various sensory needs through counselling and occupational therapy. (We are deeply thankful for her counsellor and occupational therapist – two people who understand Emma deeply and who she engages well with.) Now that she is mostly out of the traditional classroom environment that was so loud and draining to her, we are seeing other areas of her life find balance again and her love of learning return. Emma is a gifted storyteller and she spends much of her free time writing and drawing, mostly about an intricate fictional world she is creating.

Sophie (14) is now a High Schooler! She had a wonderful one year in Middle School at BFA with a fantastic group of kids and teachers, during which she carried one of the main roles (Susan) in the school’s production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, played on the 8th Grade volleyball team and went to Amsterdam for five days where she saw Corrie ten Boom’s and Anne Frank’s houses, among many other things. Then, while the rest of us were relaxing over the summer, she (our “Energiser Bunny” who just keeps going) attended a wilderness adventure camp in the depths of the Black Forest and joined in a big local summer tradition of floating down the Rhine (though she’d already done that by accident when her kayak overturned a couple of days beforehand!). Since starting High School, Sophie’s got off to a swift start by taking on the management of the JV girls' volleyball team (for the non-Americans of us, this means the second level, younger team) which involved multiple practice sessions each week and 5am starts for long bus ride most weekends to play various international or US Department of Defense (DoD) schools.

With such different schedules, we all greatly look forward to our family tradition of Friday Night “Pizza and Movies” when we relax and catch up and simply enjoy unhurried time together.

In all of these things, as we have walked through the highs and lows of a major life transition, we have seen and felt God’s rich provision for us. Our experience of God’s goodness to us has been bookended by an unusual sign of his grace… kittens.

One of the things I alluded to in my description of our journey to BFA in our first blog post ( but that I didn’t describe at that time was the expectation of a kitten. This in itself is a long story, but the gist is that Sophie had evidently been doing some research and had discovered that it is legal in some parts of Germany to keep pet foxes. So, on the day we made the choice as a family to accept the invitation to move to BFA (and having already opened her negotiations successfully by asking for a phone (which we’d been planning to give her anyway)), she then asked for a fox. The answer was no, but we could get a kitten and call it ‘Fox’. Emma had been quietly sombre during this discussion, but she suddenly perked up at this point and asked if we could call it ‘Fox’ in Japanese. (She had been teaching herself Japanese on Duolingo, just for fun, as you do.) A little surprised, Phil and I quickly agreed. It’s hard to describe just what happened in that moment, but we all sensed a dramatic shift. Painful and difficult as this move would be, we laughed and smiled and knew that we were in this together. From that point on, we have eagerly been anticipating the arrival of “Kitsune” at the right time, and one year and one month to the day after we arrived here, we brought her home.

She and her step-sister, Mila (for you’re not allowed to take only one kitten from a rescue shelter here, the rules are that they need another for company), have made this part of our transition complete and are already greatly loved, quirky, wonderfully snuggly little additions to our family.

Thank you for walking with us, praying with us, and supporting us as we have sought to be obedient to God’s calling on our lives here at Black Forest Academy.

We are grateful for you.


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