Haven't written in ages...for a time, I didn't think I would keep this blog running, but I guess it will be one of those 'when the urge to write hits, I will update the blog.'
So where has life been since I last wrote? Well, here is the text from our first family newsletter that we wrote for the new year. I will post sometime soon about that last four months of the new year...
SWIHART NEWSLETTER: VOLUME 1, ISSUE 1
The beginning of a new year allows us to reflect on the past year, and for us, it was quite an adventure. It’s really amazing how much things can change in a year.
Karin spent last Christmas leading a Sterling College medical mission trip to Egypt, where they worked closely with a doctor, delivering medical supplies and providing clinics to impoverished areas in Cairo as well as Sudanese refugee camps. Ben’s sister, Addie, was one of the students that was able to go and it was a great way for them to get to know each other.
After finishing his degree, Ben began volunteering with the Habitat for Humanity Restore. They run a used furniture store (basically a thrift store without clothes) and he worked his way up to “pick-up/delivery driver.” Talk about climbing the corporate ladder.
February saw us both add a year, Karin turned a mere 23 and Ben began suffering through his “quarter-life crisis.” (I realize that most people reading this are older than me [Ben], but most of the people I work with call me “Papa Swi” because I’m “so old.”)
In March Ben was hired as a Resident Director in one of the men’s dorms at Sterling College, Campbell Hall. His job includes a lot of mentoring/discipleship roles within the dorm community. He has really enjoyed sharing life with so many men in the hall. Many students have really blossomed in this intentional community, and he has taken such pleasure in being a part of that.
April 25th was a busy day that many of you were able to be a part of. At 9:30 am, Ben walked across the stage to receive a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in religion and philosophy. After lunch he changed clothes and at 7 pm, walked down the aisle and became a husband. We were married in Sterling, Kansas, and flew out the next morning to celebrate our honeymoon in Napa Valley, California.
Our summer picked up in June, when Ben led a team of ten Sterling students to New Reque, Peru. While there they participated in the building of a school. Poverty and violence were rampant in the area so the school and church became a true oasis for the villagers. The school that started out as a class of kindergarteners has now grown each year. That original class is now graduating next November (right before their summer break). The school is now thriving thanks to the recruitment of so many children from the area. The students are all sponsored by families in the States, and several of the students on the trip were so moved that they decided to “adopt” children to help pay for the uniforms, support the school’s teachers, etc. When one of the students found out that a girl on our team had decided to sponsor him, he ran out to her while we were laying cement and gave her a big hug. After work was finished that night he ran home and told his parents. The next day his mother had baked us all the Peruvian equivalent of apple pie and was weeping profusely after sharing their story with us. We also got to swing by Machu Picchu and check out some ancient Incan ruins, and visit some cathedrals and museums in Lima before coming home. For more on this trip, visit PurInPeru.blogspot.com. (Quick note: We don’t recommend leaving a new wife at home for almost three weeks)
Two days after returning, Ben repacked for summer (Peru-winter-Southern hemisphere) and tagged along with Karin to Phuket, Thailand. Karin led a team of nine down from Sterling College, where we worked with an organization called SHE (Self Help and Empowerment). SHE is an aftercare facility (kind of like a half-way house) for girls who are coming out of the commercial sex industry. SHE provides them with job skill training, English lessons, counseling and discipleship, and a safe place to live. SHE trains the women to hand-make jewelry, chocolates, and different types of bread. We also spent a lot of time recruiting for SHE in the places we would go, but we were also able to visit a few Buddhist temples including a giant Buddha that stretched up 45 meters tall, and it was already on top of a mountain looking over the island. To read more about our journey, check out thethailandexpress.blogspot.com
August came as kind of a relief. Even though school was starting and students were arriving, it was good to be back home. We were also blessed to bring home our beautiful little “girl.” Thanks to Cash for Clunkers (big thanks Obama) we were able to get rid of a couple of junkers and buy our first car, a Kia Optima, which we christened Lola.
In September, Ben had another awesome opportunity as he was able to help chaperone a group of worship leaders from the campus worship bands to Dallas for conferences. They were even able to be the “guest audience” in a video they were producing about the theology of worship.
In October, Karin began a master’s degree program from Eastern University in Philadelphia in organizational leadership. She has been busy with reading and typing ever since. Ben will join her in May as he begins his own master’s program in international development, also from Eastern University. They are both distance learning programs, so we will be able to do them in our free time while maintaining our residence in Sterling for the next couple of years. As part of our residency, we both get to travel to Uganda this summer for a three week intensive. In summer 2011 Ben will travel to South Africa for his last residency.
And finally, Thanksgiving and Christmas were both a great relief for us, as we were able to enjoy the company of family and friends, many of whom we were able to spend lots of time with. It was our first holiday season together, so it was fun to be with both families for the holidays.
As we look back at the many events of 2009, we recognize just how blessed we are to have such wonderful friends and family members sharing our lives. We hope that all is well with you and yours and that 2010 comes with many joys and blessings.