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Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You

January 19, 2022

Dear Friends,
I started brushing my dog’s teeth this year.  We both enjoy this equally, which means not much.  Today, while I knelt on the bathroom floor struggling to force the toothbrush between the dog’s clenched teeth, I wondered, “Why am I doing this?”  Have I lost my mind?  Is it because I love the dog?  Could it be the money saved from not having the vet pull his teeth?  Maybe it is a sign I am getting old, or is the dog getting old?  I’m about to turn 65 (you can check Facebook if you want the date), and the dog is 54 (if it is 6 dog years to every human year.  Maybe it’s 7?  If it’s 7 then the dog and I would almost be the same age.  I don’t know). And then the big question, “Why would I write about this in a prayer letter?”  Again, I don’t know, other than realizing I didn’t want to write another letter that sounded like a prayer letter.  Prayer letters are great, but after almost 40 years of writing prayer letters (are they prayer emails now?) I was ready for a little change.
Chuffy, the dog, has developed a fear of our dishwasher. The technical term for this is Oikophobia.  Oikophobia is a fear of household appliances such as toasters, ovens, fridges and apparently in dogs, dishwashers.  Who knew?  Bev and I are constantly trying new things to help.  Once, we set the dishwasher on time delay, and it started a few hours after we went to bed.  We knew the dishwasher had started when Chuffy jumped on the bed, shook uncontrollably and tried to sit on my head.  His panic was specific to our dishwasher for a while, but now he is triggered by any dishwasher.  It is also spiraling down into panic whenever Bev or I go into the kitchen.  The noise of dishes clinking together makes him fold his ears back, he pants, paces and his hind legs tremble.  We have tried drugs (vet approved) but then he is just weird and panicked.  We think it may be PTSD from being put in a crate and flown back and forth to Ethiopia.  Does the dishwasher sound like an airplane?  Pitiful!
I need a dog like a fish needs a bicycle.  What possessed me to get a dog nine years ago?  Why would I bring a dog back and forth to Ethiopia?  Part of it was therapeutic.  You may remember that I was attacked by a rabid dog, and I thought having my own dog might help.  Yes, thinking about it, it probably was the only reason, and it has helped.
But the greatest thing about having Chuffy is joyful worship.  Yup, worship.  Because Bev and I are in a condo I walk the dog.  When I walk the dog, I often find myself looking up and all around and joyfully worshipping God.  Evening walks in the dark are best, especially in the cold, with a clear sky and full moon.  Seeing the glory of the moon without a telescope pulls me powerfully into worship.  In the early morning walks at sunrise, or late summer evenings at sunset, the sky, with streaks of clouds and colored light, can be spectacular and tugs my thoughts toward God who made every day.  I love the crunch of snow, the flash of red from a cardinal.  Every season pulls my heart toward joyful worship and each different time of day brings new beauty that draws me to God. 
I would miss a lot of God’s handiwork and majesty and joyful times of worship if I didn’t walk the dog.

“Joyful, Joyful, we adore you, God of glory, Lord of love; hearts unfold like flowers before you, opening to the sun above.” Henry Van Dyke (1907)

I can’t end without at least making a nod to the laws of missionary prayer letters (emails).
Bev and I head back to Ethiopia in February.  It will be a short trip, but we are excited about seeing friends, and being in person with the ACT team.  We have kept good communication with weekly Zoom meetings and phone calls and email, but in person is always best.
Speaking of friends, we are grieving the death of a long-time Ethiopian friend.  Tenaye passed away last Sunday. Tenaye is Gizaw’s wife and Gizaw has worked with us for almost twenty years.  They have three sons, one who recently finished college, one in college and one in high school.  If you have ever been to Ethiopia on one of our medical teams you will know Gizaw.  He is the host and guide and the personification of sweetness and patience.  Please pray for Gizaw and his family.
The war in Ethiopia has been brutal but seems to have taken a better turn.  Fighting has decreased and an opportunity for talks and compromise seems to have opened.  Pray for Ethiopia and the Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy.
Despite the war and the covid pandemic, Ethiopia ACT keeps on serving.  One of the best things about ACT is the staff’s passion for sharing the Gospel, and the war and covid have created challenges but also new opportunities for Christ to be proclaimed in word and deed.
Thank you for your prayers, and for reading this far.
P.S. I will try and write a more traditional missionary prayer email soon, with actual news in it.  Also, feel free to share this newsletter with friends, family, your church.