It is almost a year since we last updated our news on the church website. As for all of us, the past year has been nothing like we had expected and nothing like we have ever experienced.
Despite being mission partners with Gleneagles church to work with the Church Mission Society in Moldova we have both been living in Antrim, Northern Ireland since March 2020. From December 2019 and through the pandemic Arleen has been the main carer for her mother who was diagnosed with Myeloma. After excellent treatment for this condition, she has made good progress and since September Arleen has been able to work part time for the health trust in Belfast. Mark has continued to teach a full timetable of English classes on zoom, as part of the Baptist church English project in Cahul, Moldova. It has been a real privilege for us both to be able to find ways to serve and to develop relationships with the people of Moldova and Northern Ireland despite the restrictions and challenges of Covid. As our stay in Antrim was becoming longer term than we anticipated, we have let out our house in Wellingborough and accepted that we are to be here for the time being.
So, we have found the Lord to be faithful to us through all the ups and downs. Have we made the right decisions at each step? His peace has reassured us that we are where we are meant to be and he has given us strength for each day. We’ve been greatly encouraged by His word to us, by our faithful prayerful friends, many of you at Gleneagles, and by resources such as the ‘Choose life’ book and Lectio 365, a daily devotional. This has helped us face the next challenge of Arleen’s diagnosis of breast cancer in January. Once confirmed, the treatment started quickly and she is now well into her course of chemotherapy, before surgery and radiotherapy early in the summer. We are so thankful to have excellent care here and for the kindness shown in so many ways. What a compassionate and loving heavenly Father we have, he doesn’t leave us but walks with us through these times.
Like many, we look forward to that day when we can see our children and Mark’s family again. Meantime zoom has been great fun, even having an online birthday party, murder mystery and lots of chats. We always look forward to the Gleneagles Sunday zoom too and to seeing many of you there. You may not be aware what a great encouragement that has been. For the future then there are questions of course, but this song from our childhood has been our prayer,
‘I know who holds the future, and he’ll guide me with his hand:
with God things don’t just happen, everything by him is planned.
So, as I face tomorrow, with its problems large and small,
I’ll trust the God of miracles, give to him my all.’
With our love and prayers,
Mark and Arleen
This comes with our very best wishes in these difficult days. Like for many of you, a lot has changed for us over the last few months. Arleen’s mother became very unwell at the end of November so Mark picked up Arleen’s English classes in Moldova as well as his own while she returned to Northern Ireland to support her mum. Mark was well looked after meanwhile, by the Cahul church family and teaching staff, with gifts of meals and goodies often coming his way.
Since January mum has been having chemotherapy for myeloma and thankfully there has been some improvement. In February Arleen’s sister came to stay, which allowed Mark and Arleen a few days away at the beautiful Co Antrim coast and we had some wonderful walks along the beaches. Through this time, we have had many encouragements despite the pressures. A book ‘If it’s not too much trouble’ by Ann Benton helped to give insight into the issues surrounding the care of elderly family members and the value of serving in this way. Although we don’t have clarity on a longer-term plan it seems right for Arleen to remain in this role and review the situation in early summer.
The English classes seemed to be thriving and one class met Mark for a Sunday afternoon walk to explore secret Cahul. A network of underground tunnels used by the Turks is being excavated and they had a look at those, finishing off in a café for tea and cake. Relationships have deepened and we have become very fond of so many of these young people.
We, like everyone else have now been overtaken by events surrounding Covid 19. Mark felt it right to return to the UK when the schools closed and lessons stopped mid-March. He had one of the last few flights leaving Moldova and stayed in Wellingborough for a few days before taking one of the last few flights from England to NI. He’s now very good at packing quickly!
For the past four weeks we have been together in Antrim. Arleen continues to care for her mother and Mark has started to teach some online lessons with the students in Moldova. Zoom is wonderful and it has been a real privilege to maintain and develop contact with these young people, who are very appreciative of the support. Last weekend was Easter in Moldova and we were able to share a message of resurrection hope with the students and were so pleased to have some lovely responses.
We have much to thank the Lord for-
Please continue to pray –
With our very best wishes, Mark and Arleen