Tuesday, August 9, 2016


We are on a short home assignment. We are staying with family and so between visits with churches and supporters we are able to enjoy some time with family. 

Today our outing was to Uncle Henry's Handmade Pretzels for a factory tour. The average American eats about two pounds of pretzels a year and the average Pennsylvanian eats 12 pounds a year. Some of that is the German roots and then combined with that is the fact that there are numerous companies here making pretzels. 

My mom asked me what I was expecting and I told her that I thought it would be in the back of a barn. My guess was close. 

We walked in and were at the packaging department. There was no fancy facilities or reception area. The girl came over and began the tour. The first thing we saw was the dough machine. One hundred pounds of flour, yeast, sourdough, water, salt, and soda. One batch makes 2000 pretzels. The day shift makes 16 batches. The evening shift makes 11 batches.

I think one of the most interesting things in the factory was this machine. The lady would knead the dough to get the air out and then put a tube through and turn it and it was cut the tube to the size of piece for each pretzel. The factory was not that high tech.

Uncle Henry's pretzels are twisted by hand. There are about 10 ladies there twisting the pretzels. I asked if there were other pretzels companies that twist the pretzels by hand. She told me that there are two other companies that she knows. The training is three months. That surprised me a bit. They need to be doing about 11 pretzels per minute.

Each tray holds about 90 pretzels. These are formed and then they get a soda bath which gives them the colour.

The salt is put on the peel and then the pretzels are placed on that to put them in the oven. I had made soft pretzels at home. Soft pretzels bake at 400F as that is about as hot as my oven goes. The oven is 600F so that is probably how they can make hard pretzels. The pretzels are only in there for about seven minutes.

After baking the pretzels are cooled for about an hour.

Then they are packed in bags and they cool in front of a fan.

The factory is small with maybe 15 people working there.

I thought this was an interesting sign. There is one

It was a fun outing and factory tour. Uncle Henry's has been make pretzels since 1983. I was told that they ship worldwide.

We got a free pretzels. It was hot, just out of the oven.

We bought a bag to eat. We need to eat our 12 pounds for the year in a month which I don't think we will really do but we are enjoying pretzels.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

June & July in Review

I actually began this post in June because I wanted to write about one of the books that I had read before I returned it to the library. Then I never got around to finishing this. So now I will combine June and July.

Books read.

Aprons and Silver Spoons by Mollie Moran - The heartwarming memories of a 1930s kitchen maid. I saw this book in the library and thought it was interesting so I added it to my library bag. The first that impressed me was that she wrote this book when she was 96 year old. I loved her humour and love of life. She began as a scullery maid at 14. A scullery maid is basically the lowest maid, the one that scrubs the steps and kitchen, peels the vegetables, and washes the pots. She worked her way up to being a cook in her 20s. I love seeing the relationship change between Mrs Jones, the cook. She tells of her friendship with Flo who was the kitchen maid at the first place she worked. They became friends and at the time that she was writing the book they still kept in touch on the phone and with visits. Flo has also written a book and that is on my reserved list at the library. "The 10 years I spent in domestic service were some of the happiest times of my life and made me the woman I am today. Starting as a scullery mad and working up to cook instilled in me confidence, a good work ethic, self-esteem and pride in my work."

I also read two books on trafficking. That is my book about a current topic. It was interesting to read these two books. One was based in the US and the other was a girl from England. One might have found Christ and healing, while the other girl did not seem to have that hope.

Gilled - This was an interesting read. I borrowed it from the library. A friend had recommended it.

Miss Buncle's Book - I absolutely loved this book. It was funny and light reading. Now I am reading another Miss Buncle book.

In July I read

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Queuing for Beginners - this was a book on life in UK. It gave me bits of information. I still think Britty Britty Bang Bang was a favourite.

The Boys in the Boat - I borrowed this from the library. I enjoyed the references to Seattle and also the history. It was an excellent story of the hard work and all that was done to overcome the challenges and to go for the gold.

I still have a few books that I am working through a Commentary on Ephesians, Seabiscuit, a biography of George Muller.

In June we had some outings and in July our outing was an adventure as we had 1/4 tank of diesel and we got lost. We did finally find our destination.

It was a hot day and we were headed to Slippery Stones one of the wild swimming places.

We drove and drove partly because we got lost. Then we walked a bit. It was in a beautiful area. I think it would be a great place to go for a walk.

I love the blue sky.

One of the books that I recently read or skimmed through was called, 8 out of 10 Brits. It was just full of interesting stats.

77% of adults say that they walk for pleasure at least once a month (8 out of 10 Brits)

I have not worked on any unfinished projects. I have not started any new projects so it is okay at this time.

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Monday, August 1, 2016


One of the things that Miss K has been doing this past year is Brownies. She began it in November and is one of the highlights of her week.

Brownies has been a great activity for her. She group meets at the church and the leaders are from church.

Miss K decided that she wanted to work on the toymaker badge. I looked at the requirements and we began working on it. Since it was almost the end of the year we had to quickly work on this. Miss K made a teddy bear from a kit. Then we made a game.

I was tying to come up with another toy that she could make. One of the suggestions was puppets. As I looked in the craft cabinet I found the wooden clothespins and so we turned them into puppets and created the Three Little Pigs. Miss K drew the houses and each pig had some materials to show what kind of house he made.

Miss K needed to take the things she made to her Brownies and show her leader. She was excited to get her badge. Now we will begin working on badges. I wonder how many badges she can earn this next year.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Heart Surgery

The night before the heart catheterisation

It was 12 years ago today that Miss K had heart surgery. In many ways the heart surgery was much easier than the heart catheterisation for us emotionally and for Miss K physically. It was during the heart catheterisation that her heart stopped and as they told us "she had major bleeding." It was the night after that procedure that we were told she would not make it. Three days later she was going in for heart surgery.

I discovered an email we sent on 1 August, 2004.

Last Monday the surgeons at Xin Guang Hospital in Taipei successfully removed the stenosis from Miss K's aorta, which allowed her for the first time to have adequate blood flow to her legs. The blood pressure in her upper and lower body has now equalised and her feet no longer feel cold. We have a lot to give thanks for!

This surgery was considered to be high-risk because:1) her heart had stopped completely a few days earlier and had to be restarted, 2) she had been through a major surgery on her stomach only 10 days earlier, 3) in general, operations on the aorta in this age group have about a 15% mortality rate. Complications during surgery could have included stroke, heart attack or damage to the lymphatic system.

We are grateful to report that, thanks to your prayers, the surgery went smoothly and no complications occurred. This past week Miss K has made lots of progress -- she is beginning to breastfeed which is hark work for her and has moved out of the ICU, she is gaining weight and they are beginning to talk about discharging her.

on Friday, July 23 we were informed, in a brief phone call from the doctor's office of the cause of her heart and stomach deformities. Miss K has Down's Syndrome, which originates in a chromosome disorder and cannot be cured. We heard this news at about the same time that we learned of her need for heart surgery. After all this, we were in shock for about 2 days, but found strength in God. Still, it is a very severe trial. We are gradually adjusting to Miss K's condition now and thinking of how we can get the training we need to provide her with adequate care.

Thank you for your prayer for Miss K! God has already answered them in a wonderful way. Please continue to pray that she can recover and come home soon. She is nearly 3 weeks old and knows nothing of the world outside the hospital.

Now 12 years later I look back and remember some of those emotions. I remember sitting in plastic aqua chairs watching Chinese TV while she spent hours in surgery. I remember walking down the hall. I remember the doctor coming out and saying, "everything is okay".

As I look back on what we wrote and some of the emotions, I reflect on God's goodness. I am reminded that God is good when he healed Miss K and God is also good even when healing doesn't happen.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Heidleberg, Germany

Normally when we have a conference we have an afternoon of fun and exploring something local to where we are meeting. While we were in Germany we went to Heidelberg Castle and then had about an hour to walk about Heidelberg a bit.

Heidelberg Castle is somewhat of a ruin. There were parts that were just facade and some rooms and places to go through.

Our tour guide was a man from the 1600's. He had quite a bit of knowledge of that time and was also able to predict things that would happen in the future. He was the tutor of Frederick V.

Here is a facade that is remaining.

The view from there shows the town below.

It was a hot day. There were figures in each of the rows -- Greek mythical figures and Biblical figures.

We finished our tour and had some time to walk through the town. This is looking across the river.

We walked to the bridge. I enjoy the history. Often I learn more as I blog and share things that we have seen. This is the Old Bridge and the gate is part of the old city walls.

There is the castle from the river. You can see bits of the ruins.

I am glad that we were able to see a bit of Germany during the conference.

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Friday, July 15, 2016


Last week our Europe ministry team had a conference in Germany. Once a year or so we gather as a field - people from UK, Netherlands, and Germany,  and it is normally either in England or Germany. This year it was in Germany. For the children and I it was the first time we have been to Germany. We had transited through Germany numerous times and during one of those transits got our passports stamped but this was our first visit.

We were staying at a Christian Conference Centre near Stuttgart. There was another group there but we only saw them at meal times.

Our time at the conference included some teaching time from Ephesians, some time getting reports and updates of what is happening, and some time in focus groups, groups focused on the same people groups.

This is a view from an abandoned church near the centre looking towards the town nearby. We walked down there one day but it was mainly houses.

This is a door and window at the conference centre. I looked like what I think a window should look like in Germany.

It was hot. Maybe not real hot, just in the 20C/70F range but for us that was hot.

I loved the sunset one evening.

Here is another view of the sunset. You can also see the fields. There were corn in some of the fields which we don't have growing here in England.

The children spent time with some teammates children. They have been together before so they knew each other. They had some Bible teaching time and also some fun time in the afternoons while we were in meetings. They went for a long walk, played mini-golf, created a video about our team, and just had fun.

One of my favourite things to do when I visit a place it go to the local supermarket. I just find it fascinating to see the things sold, the brands, comparing it to what I know. Like I said we walked to the town but there were just a few restaurants. On Friday afternoon someone was driving to the shopping area and had some room in their car so I could go along. I had €20.

The first place we went to was a toy/game store. I think the Germans come up with some of the best games. Settlers of Catan is German and Ravensberger is also German. I bought a game. I did have to look online to find the English instructions.

Then we went to the supermarket. We were going to go to Lidl but then we spied another store. I can go to Lidl here so I was up for the other store.

Look at the selection of Nutella.

For some reason seeing Uncle Ben's rice just made me chuckle. I was not expecting to see that there though we do have some Uncle Ben's here in England. We have korma sauce and a few other things.

Walker's biscuits - we can get those here but seeing them there just made me feel a bit at home.

Heinz Ketchup - That is a brand that is know around the world. Here there are some Heinz products that you would not find in the supermarket in the USA.

There were lots of pretzels. The Pennsylvania girl in me came out. I miss good pretzels. I will also add that Pretzel Chips are a favourite of mine and it has been almost two years since I have seen those.

You can't forget the chocolate. Look at the variety of Ritter chocolate. There were other areas of chocolate as well.

That is just a bit from Germany. I will share a bit about the one afternoon that we had to explore together.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Happy Birthday Miss K

Twelve years ago a baby girl was born in Taiwan. Twelve years ago we became parents. Twelve years ago began a journey that would bring laughter, smiles, joy along with tears at times, and lots of prayers.

Recently I found our newsletter from September 2004. I will share what we wrote.

On July 12 at 2:25 am, Miss K entered the world weighting 6 pounds, 1 ounce and measuring 19-1/4 inches long. The excitement of becoming parents was quickly replaced with emotions of concern. Kylie was moved the NICU because of neonatal apnea. The x-rays of her lungs showed that there was a blockage between her stomach and small intestine. A little bit more than 72 hours after Miss K was born she was having surgery. The hours of sitting and waiting were long and difficult for her parents. Following surgery, she had to remain in the hospital for a week to ensure that there was no leakage from her stomach. The next Wednesday we were beginning to get excited about her recovery and anticipated bringing her home that weekend. During our morning visit, however, we were told that doctors wanted to do a heart catheterization because of a heart murmur. The prospects of bringing her home that weekend began to grow dim.

On Thursday we spent most of the day waiting for the procedure to be performed. Late hat afternoon they did it and we learned that there was a heart imbalance, but, ever more serious, there was a constriction in her aorta. There had been some complication from the heart catheterisation and she had required a blood transfusion. Things did no look good that evening. One doctor told us "prepare to face the facts." Our prayer during her entire time in the NICU had been that she would be a light in that ward. But we went home hat evening not expecting Miss K to live through the night. Our co-workers, Ron and Elinda West, as well as our pastor, sat together in our living room and prayed, committing Miss K to God's care. Meanwhile in the USA Beth's parents were working frantically to try to get tickets to come and visit.

Miss K did make it through the night. On Friday morning we met with the heart surgeon. He gave us a thorough explanation of the surge that was scheduled for Monday morning.

On Friday afternoon we received a phone call which gave us the answer as to why Miss K had the medical problems that she did. Miss K has Down Syndrome. This news was a shock to us, and caused us to wrestle with difficult emotions as we worked through changing our expectations of all the things Miss K might do in life.

Beth's parents arrived on Saturday evening. It was a blessing to have them here, visiting with us and going to the hospital. They were here for the heart surgery. "Everything is okay," were the words of the heart surgeon as they brought Miss K back to the NICU for recovery.

On August 7 Miss K was finally discharged. The nurses and staff there were all sad to see her leave. We were looking forward to finally having her home!

We saw a number of demonstrations of God's faithfulness during this difficult time:

  • We met a Christian nurse in the NICU. We visited her Christian cell group there at the hospital, since they were praying for Miss K.
  • We had opportunities to share God's love. One of the nurses told Beth, "Miss K is lucky to have you as parents as most of them are given up during pregnancy." That is very true here. Most of the babies with Down Syndrome are aborted.
  • After the heart surgery, we learned that, for child of Miss K's size, the mortality rate is 50 percent. Her survival was really an answer to prayer.
  • Through a friend at church over hospital bill was reduced more than 90 percent.
  • We are so thankful for the notes and prayer of so many people. God has been faithful in meeting our needs.
Now 12 years later Miss K has continued to show that she has determination. She keeps us laughing. She continues to learn and grow. She loves life and those around her. 

Happy 12th birthday, Miss K. Tomorrow you can begin counting down to your next birthday.

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