Sunday, December 11, 2005

Greetings to all of our friends and family!

We hope all of you have a blessed Christmas
and are able to reflect
on the real meaning of Christmas.

In Luke 2:20 it says:
"The shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all the things they had heard and seen,
which were just as they had been told."

For us, it is meaningful that the shepherds returned to their jobs and lives after meeting the baby Jesus. After the Christmas season with holidays and special events, we will return to our "real lives" and we hope that we can also praise God for the wonderful ways that God has blessed us as a family. We pray the same for you.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Year in Review

One of the first things
Conrad did this year
was to turn 11
on January 4th.

The MCC volunteers got together for a retreat in Ban Pako in mid February. We played games, had a church service and did some planning for the year ahead.

In March,
friends from Switzerland
came to visit.

Among other things,
we took them to
a monument park
in Thailand.

In April, all of the foreign volunteers went to Cha’Am to meet with Mennonites in the region for the South East Asia Anabaptist Retreat.

Here’s part of our group as we
traveled through
the Bangkok train station.

They say, "Money makes the world go around."
And that's true in Laos too.
For most of the year, the kip has been trading at about
10,000 kip to US $1.00.
We can easily spend a million kip in a weekend!
(About $100.)

in one of the tributaries
of the Mekong
in Bolikhamxay province.
Just going with the flow.

Going on a study tour
with volunteers and staff
is good for team building
and learning what MCC is doing in Laos.

Erik and Conrad attend a very good international school.

Like kids all over the world,

for them,

homework is a big part of every weekday evening.

End of an Era

In June, Arthur’s Aunt Erna passed away after a fulfilling life. She was an amazing woman who loved God and influenced many people in very positive ways. Arthur was able to join all of his cousins and many other relatives at the funeral in Winnipeg to celebrate a wonderful woman who will leave a big hole in the family.

Summer in Canada

First stop: Vancouver
6 hours!

The big highlight of the summer was going to Canada for Ian’s wedding. Arthur traveled on a week and a half ahead of the rest of the family because of Aunt Erna’s death. On their way to Winnipeg, Phyllis and the boys meet with Phyllis’ family for a few hours in Vancouver. We had lunch together and walked on the marina.

Final Destination: Manitoba
3 Weeks

Angela and Ian’s wedding in Winnipeg was a good time for all the cousins to get together.

Weekend on Lake of the Woods
Near Kenora

We spent a weekend with Arthur's extended family at the cabin on Lake of the Woods.

Fun with some of Uncle Gerald's toys!

We were also able to have good times with great friends
like Matthew (below)
who used to be our neighbor in Winnipeg!


One of the last things we did before we left to come back to Vientiane was to eat icecream with the newlyweds.

Our Trip to Burma

Because the boys are in school a lot of the year, we plan most of our travels around their summer holidays. So a week after getting back home from Canada, we headed off to Myanmar or Burma. This time we were attending the Bo Tree Seminar in Yangon to learn more about Buddhism. This couple, one Buddhist, the other Christian, were guest speakers at the conference.

What are the Burmese reading these days? A Purpose Driven Life.

After the seminar, we took a family trip on the weekend to Mandalay which is in central Burma and is much dryer. Here are the boys traveling through the streets of Mandalay on rickshaws.

In Mandalay, we visited the world’s biggest book (below). It consists of 729 marble slabs (one is in the house or stupa behind us) on which are inscribed the entire Tripitaka (Buddhist canon). If one person read aloud for 8 hours a day it would take 450 days to read the whole book. Unfortunately, we couldn't read any of it.

Arthur had some fun barganing with these women before he finally settled on buying the larger gong.

From Mandalay, we went to Thailand and visited an MCC volunteer. Part of her work involves running an evening activity program for Thai kids in a boarding school. Here one of the girls shows a craft that she worked on while we were there.

Erik celebrated his 13th birthday at home in Vientiane in August.

On Arthur's birthday we headed out with all the MCC staff and volunteers to Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of Laos and now a world heritage city. It's usually an 8 hour trip. We had some bus trouble along the way which resulted in getting a new bus.

Because of the bus trouble, we had time to go for a walk and enjoy the scenery.

About 3 hours further along in our journey we learned that the road ahead was closed because of avalanches! Needless to say, we didn't get to Luang Prabang but we did spend one night in a guesthouse before returning home to Vientiane.

In November, the Agriculture and Forestry College that MCC works with celebrated 20 years and invited representatives from some of Laos' ethnic groups. Here we are posing beside the women.

Most Saturdays you'll find Erik and Conrad playing computer games for a few hours at the MCC office.

Christmas 2005

For Christmas this year we are planning to go to Chiang Mai, Thailand. Phyllis' parents live and work there 6 months out of the year and her sister, Cyndy, will be coming from Vancouver for Christmas too. Then we'll travel to a beach resort in Phuket for a few days. We plan to be home on New Year's Day.

We wish you all a blessed Christmas and a wonderful new year.