Settling in!

Our family blog post telling of December happenings just didn’t happen. I kept thinking there would be time to sit and reflect and write, however, another week passed and before I knew it, it was nearly time to write about January and December had become “old news.” So, now that I’m getting back on track, I thought I’d incorporate a bit from both December and January and catch you up to speed on how things are going since many of you have asked.

Our final days spent in Togo were good ones. We were able to visit both village churches as a family, as well as bid farewell to many Togolese whom we’d formed relationships with over the years. With most we knew it was only a temporary goodbye, as we look forward to a reunion and worshipping our Lord together one day in Heaven. However, our Muslim electrician, who we’ve had in our home repairing problems so many times over the years, and who had become a good friend of our family, surprised me when his eyes filled with tears when saying goodbye. I tried hard to hold back my own tears, as I knew this was not where I could remind him, as I’d done with others, that we’d see each other again. Our family will continue to pray for Adam and his family, as we know our God can save him and show him the light of the Gospel, using the witness of the many Togolese Christians around him.DSC08231

As our final week arrived and we packed, cleaned and finished selling nearly everything we owned, I was thankful for Jon’s urge a few weeks earlier to really get busy since it was quite a process. Starting early made the last few days stress-free and gave us more time to visit with multiple missionary families who had become like family to us over the years.DSC08112DSC08179

On December 27th we boarded a plane in Lomé, Togo and began the trek home. I was really concerned about Eli, since his stage in life is one of action, movement and climbing. The sitting still for hours on end and sleeping in mommy’s arms instead of his usual bed, made me pray more that we wouldn’t be the passengers getting all “the looks” for the disruptive baby. He did have a couple of crying episodes when he was so tired but could not get comfortable, however, we had kind flight attendants and those around us seemed understanding which made me feel much better. The girls all did wonderful, thankfully, and though we spent a night stranded in Detroit, the Lord worked everything out for us to sleep well in a hotel there and not get sick without jackets or warm clothing in such cold temperatures!

We arrived to my parents and younger sister’s welcome at the Little Rock, AR airport on Jon’s birthday! We weren’t shocked to see only 2 of our 14 checked bags made it in on our flight, as Jon had warned me that would most likely happen. Having traveled from Lomé to Paris to Detroit to Knoxville, to Atlanta to Little Rock….I think it would have actually surprised us had all of our suitcases arrived. Two days later, our luggage was delivered to our doorstep, and that in itself was a huge blessing since the airport was nearly two hours away.

Jon flew out for Tampa the following morning, after ensuring we had arrived safely in the USA, while the kids and I cherished the next two weeks with my parents. My dad enjoyed playing ball outdoors with the girls, allowing them to help him gather small pieces of kindling for the fireplace and loading it in his truck (it was the truck ride they liked best!), playing games like “Match” with Emma, surprising them with a children’s magazine subscription and gobbling up a bowl of popcorn with his youngest grandchild, Eli. DSC08329DSC08494DSC08308DSC08469DSC08354

My mom was a huge blessing in traveling to Florida with the kids and me – a drive I really didn’t care to do as the lone adult. In addition to helping me drive, just the little time consuming tasks of making sure everyone was buckled, helping put shoes on and assisting in bathroom breaks, ordering food while I changed a diaper…etc. were all such big things to me and time savers with mom helping out. The trip went well, and we were very happy to arrive to our new home where Jon was smothered with hugs and kisses from three little girls who really missed their daddy!DSC08509DSC08529DSC08569Girls and Jon

I imagine it is not often that a family “moves in” with just a car load of suitcases as their belongings, but that’s what we did! It has been fun “starting over”, kind of like newlyweds….yet with four children! It has been amazing to see in our short time back home, just how God provides. Family, friends and even total strangers and new neighbors on numerous occasions have been an amazing blessing to our family. I love to see Him at work and do not ever want to lose sight of who is behind every blessing that comes our way.

A highlight for the girls since arriving home has been to attend church where the kids class is in English! Abby made the statement, “I just wish I didn’t have to wait a whole week to go back to church!” Annabelle was tickled pink to find out a sweet little girl, just her age and from a Christian home, lives across the street from us. Emma is learning to ride a bike with training wheels and loves to be outside in Florida’s gorgeous “winter weather” and Eli, well, he’s pretty much the main attraction whenever we’re out and about. Growing quickly and chasing his sisters around gives Eli quite a bit of exercise, and he has really enjoyed exploring his new surroundings.DSC08484DSC08362

My job as wife and mom, which I love, really hasn’t changed drastically, though I am enjoying a few perks and conveniences of life back stateside in getting my tasks done a bit quicker….like having a clothes dryer. J

Many of you have kept us in prayer during this transition time, and we want to again say THANK YOU! God has promised to take care of His children, and we’ve come to realize that in a greater light since moving back. How blessed we are to have a God who loves us so and cares about even the most minute concerns we have. What a joy it is to serve Him no matter where we are.

Love,

Heidi

Miscellaneous pictures:

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Our last prayer letter

As we write our last prayer letter, we reflect back on the goodness of God and the generosity of His people. Its been an amazing journey these past ten plus years as missionaries, and we want to thank each of you for being a part of it. We have been privileged to partner with so many generous churches and individuals who made it possible for us to come here and serve the Togolese people, and we can not say thank you enough.

We came to Togo with very clear ministry objectives, and by God’s grace we have been able to see them realized. Our first objective was to plant churches among those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ before. What a joy it is to now see people in the villages of Tchandida and Kpaha who have turned from practicing voodoo and are now following Christ. We will celebrate the independence of our first church and the official installation of their pastor on December 20th, our last Sunday before leaving Togo. Our second church plant will continue to be led by two of our Bible Institute graduates who are doing a great job serving that church.

Our second ministry objective was to build and lead a Bible Institute. It has been my pleasure to teach classes on the Bible and ministry and to see believers grow in their faith and in their ability to lead others in the church. It is exciting to see the lights come on when students are taught new material and discover biblical truth in a deeper way. We will celebrate our last graduating class on November 22nd, during the visit of our field director.

Our last big objective that we have focused much on these past few years has been the establishment of an orphanage to minister to the neediest children in Togo. It was a big undertaking, and we are so grateful for those whose giving has enabled us to build this beautiful two-story building that will provide a place of refuge for up to twenty children at a time. While we fully expected our replacement to be here before we returned home, things do not always work out as planned. We have, however, set things in place with ABWE for the next person to be able to start operating the orphanage right away. Please join us in prayer that God would send that person along soon.

Please know that this is not a rash decision that was made, nor was it made due to any problems here. We set this plan in motion almost two years ago and wanted to make sure we did not leave before we did everything we could to finish what we set out to do at the start. Please pray for us as we transition back home. We are looking forward to being reunited with family and friends and serving God in whatever capacity He has for us. Thank you again for partnering with us and praying for us. May God richly reward you for your investment in His work.

Jon and Heidi Huff

Living water

We would like to thank Breezy Hill Baptist Church in Graniteville, SC for their generosity. Because of their giving we were able to be a great help to a needy village that desperately needed a better well. The one old well that these villagers had was too shallow and the water was very dirty.

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By God’s grace we were able to remove the old well bricks, dynamite down several meters deeper and then put in a new concrete casing and enclose the whole perimeter.

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With the presence of the village chief this morning, we officially presented the well to the village, and then I had the opportunity to speak to the church about the woman at the well in gospel of John.

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She came to the well and left with living water, and that is our prayer for these dear people too.

Family Update 10/15

October has been filled with fun, little memories like: the girls colleting rocks in their shirts for a rock collection, pink jello yogurt popsicles, playing grocery store, cooling off on hot days in a rubbermaid container and lots of game time between Jon and the girls like the board game of Sorry.

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Eli began the month with his first ever ear infection. Taking advice from missionary doctors here in Togo, we were able to purchase the medicine needed, and his taking a liking to his medicine, as seen below, made it easy to administer when the time came each day. After ten days and reoccurring pain, we had him seen at the Hospital of Hope in Mango, Togo. Continued usage of medicated ear drops did the trick, and we are thankful for doctors and nurses who care about our children and are knowledgeable about how to treat them.

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While up in Mango for a visit, both Abby and Annabelle were able to join their missionary friends and “GO” to school for half a day. The girls were so excited to be able to do this and get a better of idea of what school is like for those who leave home each day to receive their education. We were thrilled the teachers were so willing to let our girls sit in on classes, and the girls had so many things to tell us after just a few hours of “real school.” This school year is quickly passing and due to our earlier start than normal, we just passed the one-third mark on the year being completed. We had a fall type contest in October, where the girls earned leaves and decorated their fall tree. It was a very unrealistic tree with various types of leaves of various colors on the same tree, but it was fun for them, and that’s what matters, right?

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It has been a fun month for welcoming missionary friends back from furlough, hosting others in our home for meals and even visting one of our dear friends, Essowé. The girls had a few children’s books they were ready to pass on, so we took them to Essowe’s home, where her four daughters were happy to get them and began thumbing through them while Essowé played with Eli.

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We are excitedly preparing to host a group from the States, which will include my brother’s family and a few people from his church! Their visit will fall during Thanksgiving, which is an added bonus to celebrate this wonderful holiday with family as well as missionary friends here in Kara this year. We have great memories of the groups who have stayed in our home over the years here in Togo, and it is a privilege to show them the ministries as well as do other “touristy” activities during their stay. Our girls are counting down the days until the group’s arrival, which also means a break from schoolwork for them!

Jon took Abby with him one evening this month to show a gospel film out in the village of Kpaha. The kids and I usually stay home during these late night films due to bed times and mosquitoes, however, this was a treat for Abby and the time alone with her daddy meant a lot to her. We have a couple exciting ministry events also taking place during the group’s visit, including a Bible Institute graduation and the ordination of Pastor Tchaa in the village of Tchandida. I’ll look forward to sharing more details from these in the next update.

Jon and I are thankful for the family God has given us and want to do our best to train our children in the ways of the Lord. As we head into the last couple months of the year, and the holiday season, I think of the quote “the days are long but the years are short.” Time doesn’t slow down, and our children are proof of that as we look at how much they’ve grown just in the past few months. What a noble calling we have as moms, and as parents, to raise our little ones to prayerfully walk in His ways.

Love,

Heidi

A few other miscellaneous pictures from this month:

This face melts my heart many times every day!DSC07390 (1)

These little feet won’t be little too long.

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A close up of this curly head cutie!

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Fort time

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Eli found my ink pad while we were doing school!

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Double trouble!

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Abby’s first attempt at making an omeletDSC07417

Family Update 09/15

How grateful I am for my childhood years, and the wonderful memories still cherished with my parents and siblings. It seems many times when we’re all back “home” that we tend to pull out old pictures and reminisce these growing up years. How I hope our children are able to look back on their childhood with such fond memories as I have – knowing they were loved not just by hearing the words “I love you”, but by the time Jon and I spent with them and as a family.

We were able to celebrate both Abby and Eli’s birthdays during September and fulfilled Abby’s wish of going to the Lomé “water park” to celebrate her turning a decade! I’d love to share with you the moments we captured on camera from Abby’s birthday, however, our computer crashed recently, and unfortunately, we lost all of the birthday pictures from both Emma and Abby’s birthdays. As sad as I was about this, we did take some video footage that will help us relive these special events. Abby also had a birthday party with several families joining us on her actual birthday. The kids played several “Minute to Win It” games, and the adults even joined in for a game of kickball. The reality of our first child turning double digits made me a bit sad, as I realize how quickly she’s growing up and that much closer to leaving home. It also made me think about how much I still want to teach this sweet girl about life and God. She’s a jewel to Jon and me, and we pray her life brings glory to our Creator all her days.Abby 2

Eli’s birthday celebration was also held with friends with whom we’ve shared so many life events. We’ve known Jim and Adie White and Jesse and Tiffany Shanks since our college years, and have much in common because of the path the Lord has allowed us to take in ministry. It was neat to see Jon, Jesse and Jim all holding their sons, and for Eli to have two other little guys so near his age to celebrate his turning one! There were nine children in all at the party….plenty to keep us all on our toes. Eli decided to go face first into his cake after playing with the icing for a bit, and although he didn’t really get much cake into his mouth, the moments made for some great pictures. We cherish these friendships of longtime friends, and are thankful for how God has blessed each family with the joy of children.

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On the home front, Abby and Annabelle are making good progress in their curriculum this year, and we’re getting an earlier daily start than past years. Abby recently completed her Mammal Project, of which she researched and gave an oral report about the rabbit. I am learning so much as we do subjects like History and Science, and in my opinion, it is more exciting teaching the information than it was learning it as a student – granted, I’m not the one being quizzed and tested on what I remember!  Annabelle is feeling school is a breeze and would be on cloud nine just to have her head in a book all day long. Her attitude and aim to please make her a pleasure to teach.

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The girls keep busy with their imaginative and creative play – and whether they’re running the “Huff Girls Restaurant,” pulling Eli around in various bowls and laundry baskets or playing Pirates or Spies, they find ways to occupy their free time. Emma enjoys her role as “big sister” to Eli and has frequently been heard saying he’s “my baby.” She can be sweet and gentle at times and as seen below doesn’t mind sharing her breakfast fruit smoothie with little bud, giving him the opposite end of the straw to suck out of. Eli goes along with the flow well, and is a curious little guy, finding ways into cabinets and drawers and making lots of noise and messes, but I guess that is what little boys do! He also seems to be able to easily locate the “mop bucket” and loves to “help” as shown below with mopping the floors.

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Jon is doing well and keeping busy. He is so good at taking time to read to the girls, go for afternoon walks or even last night, took the girls for an “after dark ride” with their pajamas on and a bowl of popcorn. Though they rarely see the stars at night, as we’re always inside due to mosquitoes, they thought this late night impromptu idea was a blast! I honestly do not know of a dad who enjoys being with his children any more than Jon, and I’m glad they rank so high on his priority chart. The memories in the making will one day be treasured even more as they grow and realize the deep love of their earthly father.

Though my days are jam packed with things that we as mommies and wives do to keep things running smoothly in our families and homes, I wouldn’t trade my job for anything. The Lord has blessed me abundantly, and it’s the “career path” I always wanted as a young girl. Thank you for your continued prayers for our family. Our lives have crossed paths with you by Divine Providence, and it’s so encouraging to know many of you pray for our family and ministries here, which is not taken for granted.

Thank you!

Heidi

Family Update 08/15

We now have four weeks of school under our belt, and my little students are delving into their schoolwork each day and making great strides. Jon has taken over teaching Science to Abby, and both are enjoying learning new things. Annabelle would be quite content to spend all day pacing the floor reading books, but we’re managing to get some writing and phonics in as well!

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Aubrey, our niece who spent two months with us this summer, left in early August and the girls still talk of her often. Many fun times were had during her time in our home and with our girls. Emma was so sad that she couldn’t accompany Jon and the older girls to take Aubrey back to the capital where she flew out, and you can see her sad expression below as she hugs Abby on the morning of their departure.  DSC06373DSC06391

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The first church we started in the village of Tchandida had more new believers desiring to follow our Lord in baptism this past month. It was another wonderful opportunity for Jon to baptize and for us to spend time with these dear people. It was our first baptism service ever in the rain, but thankfully, it wasn’t a downpour and the baptisms continued though we were all pretty soaked by the end. Abby felt so badly for one elderly gentleman getting wet, that she decided to use our bag to shield his head from the rain, and he seemed grateful. Following the baptisms, we participated in the Lord’s Supper with the church members, and it was a great way to conclude the day.  DSC06275DSC06304DSC06320DSC06295DSC06347DSC06331

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Eli turned 11 months old this month and is now just a few weeks away from his 1 year birthday! The time has flown since our little guy came into this world, and it’s hard to imagine life without his smiling face and cute ways. He enjoys being with us as we start school in the mornings in the schoolroom and is especially fond of Abby when she’s willing to put snacks into his mouth! DSC06649DSC06523

There is a four-week period between August and September when we celebrate three of our four children’s birthdays. Emma Grace turned 3 years old this past month, and we hosted some friends for a small celebration of her life. This girl cracks us up with her little voice and funny sayings, though she’s growing so fast we can hardly keep clothes and shoes to fit her! She’s a true joy and sweetheart. We were also able to attend another missionary child’s birthday party as our little buddy, Owen, turned four in August. It’s always fun to be invited to a party and especially one with cake and ice cream! DSC06533

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This rainy season has been the worst on record for mosquitoes since we arrived over six years ago! We hope that after another month or so the rains should start letting up, and we’ll see a drastic reduction in the number of mosquitoes, but until then, we’ll continue our nightly family game of “mosquito swatting!” If it were just welts and itches that the mosquitoes caused, it wouldn’t be so bad, but since they often spread malaria as well, we have made this nightly task into a game, and Jon is whooping us all in the amount he has killed. With each one killed it’s an understanding that there’s one less chance of one of our kiddos catching malaria and for that reason, we get a bit excited about this nightly routine.

September promises to be a month of traveling, birthdays and welcoming missionary friends back from furlough! And even though the fall temperatures are not dropping as they may be stateside, I’m still pulling out some fall decor and my new Pumpkin candle, saved especially for this month. The Lord is so good to our family, and I thank Him for another month of blessings, prayers answered and family memories in the journal.

~Heidi

More random pictures:

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The walk home from church.

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Abby and Jon had a lot of fun making this little town.

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In the name of the Father

Our first church plant in the village of Tchandida is approaching independence soon. That made this last baptism class of twelve new believers in Christ extra special for me as it will be the last time I baptize out there before Tchaa, pictured below with me, is installed as the pastor.

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It’s rainy season right now in Togo and while that makes for cooler temperatures, it can also make outdoor activities a little difficult. Even though we did not beat the rain, the whole church stood outside and sang songs between each baptism. Sweet Abby tried to provide a little cover from the rain for an elderly man.

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Altogether it was a special day and one that we will not forget.

Thank you for being a partner with us and for making all that we do here possible.

Jon and Heidi Huff