(Sorry for the lack of pictures! I don’t currently have access to any of the photos that would fit this post as they are all trapped on Jamin’s camera that I don’t know how to work!)
I can’t believe it has been 2 months since I last wrote an update! I sure would love to post regular life and ministry updates, but like many things in life these days for me, there just isn’t the time!
Starting December 5th, our family entered into a time of serious extended illness/injury. We have literally had at least one person sick very nearly every day for almost 2 months, and several of these ailments have required trips to the ER or urgent care, which is very unheard of for our family. Please pray for our health. We are ready to be done with illnesses!
Besides the illnesses though, we have had a wonderful past month. I didn’t even get around to writing anything here, but due to the fact that we cannot take our usual bi-annual furlough this coming Summer, we made a quick family trip back to Seattle to make sure we don’t go too many years without getting quality family time.
We lived with “Nana and Tapa,” which are what our kids’ call Jamin’s parents, and loved getting to enjoy so much time together with them. The kids loved reading with their grandparents, playing games with them on the computer, playing baseball outside (Silas and Tapa, that is), helping in the kitchen (Joyelle and Nana), taking trips to the library, and may other things. Jamin and I loved just getting to be with our dearly loved family, especially over meals, movies, and just enjoying life together. We also spent a number of days as even a larger family as we got to enjoy having Paul and Jen (Jamin’s brother and brother’s wife) and our 3 awesome nephews added into the mix. Our kids and theirs are very close in age, so it is a wild good time when they are all together. We know with confidence that God has called us to Russia, but it is times like these when we are painfully aware of what God is calling us to leave behind (and what our family is called to sacrifice as well). We joke about storing up extra hugs and special moments together to ration out over the coming time before we see each other again. If only it actually worked that way!
We enjoyed a wonderful Latvala family Christmas in Auburn, WA, and just a couple of days later flew to Boise, Idaho to spend a week with my parents in their beautiful new home. They just moved there 2 months before we arrived! We enjoyed getting to spend time with my parents, my “little” brother Jake and his girlfriend Katie, my grandma, and my parents’ adorable dog, Brady, that our kids loved! Among the many special things we enjoyed during our time were conversations over good food, swimming at the YMCA, a trip out to the park and then ice-cream, a family drum session (Jamin gave a djembe lesson to my parents!), going on a hike and seeing horses, and pulling out some pretty amazing memorabilia from our family history. Again, we couldn’t be more thankful for the family that we have been blessed with.
Sandwiched on either side of our time in Idaho, we got a couple of day with Jamin’s Aunt Mary. She is such a loving and fun person with so many interesting things to share. We always enjoy our times with her and this time was no exception. A highlight of our short time together was seeing Les Miserables in the theater with her and Jamin’s dad.
Though this trip was planned to be a short family-focused trip, we had the joy of spending time with a number of dear friend and partners in ministry at a few gatherings at Bear Creek Community Church in Woodinville, WA, and at Grace Community Church in Auburn, WA. We treasure these visits when we come back as we get to be surrounded by those who faithfully pray and partner with us to enable the gospel to go out here in St. Pete. We literally could not be here and the ministry that we are assigned to could not happen apart from this incredible group of faithful ministry partners. We left each of these gatherings so encouraged by our family in Christ and so grateful for the privileged of serving with such incredible people.
We managed a few brief visits with friends, but far fewer than we had wished we had time for. We can’t wait for a longer furlough so that we can get a chance to catch up with many more of the people dear to us!
The last main element of our trip was shopping for needed items for the next year+ before we’ll be back. We try to stock up on things like medicines and kids’ clothes while in town, primarily because we can get these things at far better prices in the US than in Russia. Have I mentioned before how expensive everything is here? You wouldn’t think that Russia would be an expensive place, but prices are actually drastically higher here on most things. I enjoyed getting to stock up on some new baby gear, thanks to some generously given baby gifts. This baby may be the 4th, but I think he/she just might get some of the best gear out of all of them! We got a new car seat, a fancy Ergo baby carrier, some swaddling blankets, and other helpful items.
Our trip culminated with the craziest travel experience that we’ve had to date. It took us over 3 days from door-to-door and there were so many turns of events along the way that I’d have to have take a bunch more time to explain the details. The most important part is that we are just very thankful to be home after having enjoyed such a special trip, and are excited and ready for the new ministry semester!