Since departing the leafy idyll of All Nations with ouKatie and Stever young son in 2001, we have done six months of language study and three tours of duty in two different countries. We have added two more children to the family, lived in nine different houses, changed mission agencies and have both retrained and embarked on completely new careers.

Our oldest son told us recently that he said in an interview he had been on the move since he was two, and airports had been his only home! We hope he clarified that we had provided actual homes in between all the flights.

I think it's safe to say that in our youthful innocence, all these moves and changes did not really feature as we stared out of the All Nations library window and dreamed of what life on the 'mission field' would look like. And had we had a sneak peek of all the dots that join up into the crazy pattern that has been our life up to now, would we have done things differently? If we had known we were actually preparing to be global nomads, would we have thought that there was a better way to get ready than two years at All Nations?

Definitely not. Over the years of our different postings in East Africa we have slowly ceased to be 'the new people', 'the young family', 'the ones with little experience'. We have become the older and (apparently) wiser ones, and have had the benefit of hindsight with which to observe the struggles and challenges faced by those who came after us. And time and time again we have seen that the preparation and training we received at All Nations really did make a difference.

The Biblical component of our studies deepened our personal spiritual lives as well as our theological knowledge, and gave us the tools to serve in various churches overseas, mainly in the areas of eldership and preaching. The cross-cultural aspects of the curriculum and daily life at All Nations gave us the foundation for working effectively with both expatriate and national colleagues from other backgrounds and with different worldviews. But we didn't love all of it; sometimes we questioned the validity or the relevance of the things we had to study, and yet just about everything we did has proved useful one way or another. Steve recently reflected that the course he saw the least point in at the time was Pastoral Studies... which has also turned out to be the one he has found most valuable 'on the field'.

In our most recent role of leading the Mission Aviation Fellowship team in Kenya, we have drawn upon and built upon many of the lessons we learned. Steve has managed a culturally diverse team, balancing the high standards of practice required in the aviation industry along with the compassion and mission to reach isolated people that is at the heart of MAF's work. We have lived as part of an international community, at home, at school, at work and at church. While we haven't always got it right, and we haven't always approached all the challenges in the best way possible, we have always felt equipped at least to try to tackle them.

Now we are facing new changes and upheavals as we grapple with 're-entry' and reverse culture shock following our return to the UK for a year. And as we are again drawing on the things we learned 18 years ago, so again we are finding ourselves grateful for those strong roots that have saved our sometimes fragile tree from toppling over in times of difficulty and stress.

Would we have done things differently? Definitely not.

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