“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.'”
Lamentations 3:23

Our last update was primarily about our work at camp throughout the summer, so I thought I’d send an update about our family and what each of us are up to. We have seen some of you around camp in the recent weeks so we have been able to share some of this individually. But I figured it would be nice to get all of you updated at once!

Our youngest daughter Lydia is in 11th grade and still homeschooling. She has a school load that is keeping her very busy so far this year. She enjoys playing piano and is quite self-motivated with it, so she improves consistently. She practiced our summer camp songs gradually throughout the summer, and by the time some of our shorter-staffed weeks rolled around she was able to play in chapel. She served as piano player one week on West Side and one week on East Side. It met a need for camp and was a great learning experience, as well as a great joy for her. She also practiced some photography skills during the summer and filled in as media YAP when we were in need of help in that role. During those weeks she made her way around camp taking photos of campers and activities and then contributed those to the video that is put together at the end of the week. One week she even doubled up helping with both piano and media which kept her very busy! Lydia also plays violin and just a couple weeks ago started attending a small string ensemble program in Alpena that we are going to on Thursday evenings. Our hope is that with an ensemble experience she will regain some interest that had waned a bit. She is still finishing up learning to drive. That slowed down a lot in the summer, so we hope to get her back practicing that more this fall. 

Lydia’s first week playing piano in chapel was on West Side for junior campers. The chapel leader was Matt Kirkland, and the speaker was Kirby Huseby. For those that know either or both of those men, she couldn’t have had a better, more supportive group to be in chapel with!
She enjoyed learning more about cameras and photography this summer. She has a natural, artistic eye so it was a good fit for her to gain skills in that area.

Mary Emma is in her second year out of high school and will turn 20 next week! She finished her school year at Joffrey Ballet School in NYC in May. We were able to go see her final performance there and move her out. It was fun having a reason to go several times to New York City throughout the year, and we were thankful that we were able to reasonably work it around the camp calendar each time. After returning home, she jumped right into training at the ballet studio in Oscoda. She did a performance with them in June and then continued to train there Monday through Friday over the summer. She decided to stay here this year and continue training at this studio rather than go back to Joffrey. She loved being in the city and learned a lot about the ballet world while she was there, but the training in Oscoda is such high quality and so efficient!  At the end of the summer, the Lord provided a place for her to stay in Tawas with another dancer who has also come to train there. This means the two girls can share their classes and work together. It also means that Mary Emma has a shorter drive each day compared to living at home. The Lord also provided a way for her to make some money by cleaning homes for two ladies. This has been a great situation as well since her schedule is quite full with the dance training, so it doesn’t work well to get a job anywhere with traditional time shifts. With the cleaning she can work it around her schedule, and both ladies have a connection to the dance studio so they are very willing to work with her availability. So far she is loving the training and is thrilled with the progress she is making. Audition season comes at the very beginning of next year so we will see what opportunities the Lord brings her way.

Our last day in the city before heading toward home. This was walking the High Line. We for sure enjoyed our opportunities to explore Manhattan. You can’t get more opposite than Fairview!
On our day off each week of the summer, one of my favorite places to go is the beach in Oscoda. This worked particularly well this year since Mary Emma was there doing ballet class anyway. I could drive over, catch the last hour or so of her class, and then we would head to the beach mostly to read and rest. I was determined enough to even go when it was a bit rainy and cold. This particular day we were a little too ambitious and didn’t stay long in the sideways rain!
On one day in the city, we took Lydia to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Both of our older girls were there years ago, but Lydia had never been, so we snuck this in while we had the chance. That evening we went to Mary Emma’s performance and the next day was move out day.

Grace and Soren just celebrated their first anniversary and are still living in Columbia, South Carolina. They are teaching for a second year there, although Grace is only teaching a small amount….on account of expecting their first baby at the end of October! We are very excited to be grandparents soon!  They are doing well and enjoying preparing for a baby. Everyone’s first question: are they finding out what it is? The answer is: they are not, until it is born. We look forward to knowing what sweet little one the Lord has been knitting together over these months. 

Grace and Soren are enjoying experiencing life in the south for a while, although they aren’t fond of being far away from both sides of their family. For now they are soaking up the southern culture and year-round warm weather.

The end of our summer brought some rest and also some unexpected sorrow. We had a two week break between cleaning week and preparation for family camp, and we had a vacation planned that almost filled those two weeks. Unfortunately, during our second day there we found out we would need to return home early. Jim’s mom had been in the hospital for several weeks at the end of the summer, and we knew she was not seeming to get better. We also knew that it was a risk to leave town then, but things were pretty locked in with our travel dates and we didn’t have any flexibility to postpone plans and travel later in the year. So we hoped for the best, but then had to regroup and make plans to return home early. Jim’s mom wasn’t doing well and after the weeks she had been in the hospital they were suggesting it was time to change her to comfort care rather than continuing testing and treatments. We couldn’t get flights home for four of us right away, so we ended up having 6 nights away before flying home. We arrived home on a Monday and went right to the hospital in Ann Arbor. I can only be honest and say it was the hardest way to end a vacation that we’ve ever had. To fly home from what was supposed to be a good respite at the end of the summer season, and to walk into final goodbyes with a parent. It was heavy and daunting. But at the same time it was a beautiful gift to make it back to spend those final hours with her and the immediate family. We made the most of our days of resting and being away, and then we walked through the next week of goodbyes and closure and funeral plans. The following Monday was her funeral service. We spent Tuesday handling some more details and came back north on Wednesday. Family Camp started that Friday. It made for a somewhat disorienting start of fall retreats for us again this year. Last year it was moving Mary Emma, Grace’s wedding, and another family funeral during those same weeks. In our humanity, we don’t think of those kinds of line-ups as the ideal, or something we would choose. But we do trust God in them and through them. He knows our hearts better than we do. The thing about starting into a new season of ministry when you feel even more depleted than when you left for vacation, is that it forces us to rely on Him rather than to have any false ideas that we can manage on our own. We came here by His call, we remain here by His provision, and we will be sustained in our work here by His strength alone. 

Heading out on vacation from a layover
We did our best to balance seeing things and resting in the days we had away
Jim’s mom, Sue, loved all things beautiful and feminine. Instead of the formal black, all of the girls in her immediate family honored her by wearing florals and pretty colors at her funeral service.
While we were all dressed up we actually remembered to get a family photo with all of us in it.

Some specific prayer requests:

  • For our support level. We are currently under our recommended level of monthly support by about $620 a month. We have many very faithful churches and individuals who regularly support us. But to help with rising costs it was recommended by Barakel’s treasurer that we seek to increase that amount. We have already had a few supporters increase their giving, some before they even knew the need. We are continually amazed to see the Lord provide for our needs of living here, sometimes even out ahead of the need. But we do need to raise an additional $620 a month to be at our recommended support level.
  • For our healing hearts after the loss of Jim’s mom. Jim was 12 when he lost his dad, so this was his last parent. That brings an additional depth to the loss.
  • For our zeal for the ministry as we continue through the fall
  • For Grace and Soren and baby Moody as they prepare for this exciting arrival in just about a month
  • For staffing needs at Barakel. We are undeniably short staffed across the board. I think it’s safe to say that everyone is feeling the strain. On that note….
  • For the two individual ladies raising support to join staff. Katelyn Leach and Arianna Hassenzahl are both in the process of raising support. Katelyn is a little over halfway, and Ari is just starting out. Pray the Lord would bring them at just the right time, but that perhaps that time would be soon! 

Thank you for your prayers and support as we continue in the ministry here.

Rachel, for the Bennetts