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Dear Friends and Loved Ones,
Paul and I have had a wonderful year and hope yours has been a blessing to you as well. The problem in writing our Christmas letter now is that contentment has far fewer comic possibilities then tragedy. Happiness is not very funny. Our past years of trauma drama are over, and with it go the fodder for our annual letters. This year we will have to be content with just the news.
January Rebecca and I went to India and Nepal. We visited some orphanages (of course), delivered some humanitarian aid (of course) and then played tourist. We went to Agra (Taj Mahal) and spent 6 days trekking in Nepal around the base of Annapurna. It was hugely difficult for me to keep up with tri-athlete competitor Rebecca. At times she thought I was going to die. The thought was sometimes not far from my mind either. Nonetheless, it was a glorious adventure and we plan on going back in March 2004 to attack Everest base camp. On our way back to the states we picked up a little girl in Delhi to escort her home to her adoptive family. March I went to Peru and Ecuador to help explore the possibility of adoption and humanitarian aid work there. April Paul and I went on an adoption related cruise where I guest lectured. I love my job!!!!!!
Jon remains with Frontier, a great job with one of the few stable airlines. Matthew is teaching flying in Annapolis to Navy cadets. As soon as he has more hours he will graduate to the big planes, not the big bucks, just bigger planes. Ruben is slowly remodeling his condo and continues to sling hash at the local’s favorite diner. Rachel and Kellie are finishing up their doctoral course work and tests in North Carolina and begin their dissertation preparation in earnest in February. Robert gets out of prison, again, January 25. Jamie still has another year before he can go before the parole board (drawings: "CoporateTakeover," "The Huntress," and "Kikenko". Jesse is incommunicado. No one has heard from him in several months. Amber is a floor manager at a cosmetics store and uses her skills as a massage therapist to give customers hand massages while selling various creams and oils. Brandon and his wife have another child, Andrew MacKenzie. He works as a night clerk in a hotel and spends days being the best father a child could hope for.
Paul’s job with Xcel Energy has its highs and lows. He turned 55 this year so could retire at any time. It is a decision he wrestles with continually. The adoption and foster care agency continues to grow and occupies more and more of my time. As a lecturer I remain gratified by the number of people and agencies who believe so strongly that I have something worthwhile to say that they pay me the dollars and fly me around. One of the benefits of Paul retiring would be that he would be able to travel more with me.
He did make the big leap this year and went with me to Peru. We gathered together a group of 10 volunteers and spent a week painting and refurbishing, furnishing and cleaning a home site for victims of domestic violence in Manchay, a slum outside of Lima. We were rewarded by a community fiesta and then took off for a week of tourista activities – Cuzco, Machu Pichu, and the jungle. Plans next year are to return in April with a volunteer group of teens and then in September with adults. Anyone wanting to join us….let me know. We have a great time and, as testimony, most of the volunteers from last year are returning! Why do I return again and again to the world’s shanty towns?
Because….in the slums of the world the veil between God and man is exceedingly thin and the Presence is more keenly felt. This is not a romanticization of the poor…..of hunger, disease, violence, ignorance. It is an acknowledgement that where possessions are in short supply there is more room for God. Every minute I spend in the slums of Manchay is a gift to me of the nearness of the Presence of God. We get so scared about risking our lifestyles to leap into the unknown. But leaping into the unknown is what Christmas is truly about. Jesus leapt from glory to a stable. Where does our leap of faith take us?
Peace and Joy to you all!
Paul and Deborah