Monday, June 4, 2012

It’s About Relationships

I love this photo and I thought that I would take a minute to share with you why this is one of my favorite photos from our 2 weeks in Africa this past summer.  My husband took this photo at the beach in Gabon when we were there for a week this summer. The first boy in this photo is the son of close friends of ours, Jacob and Martha – his name is Eric.  The other boy in the photo is our son (Eric and Brynn) and his name is Carter Jacob.  These two boys playing on the beach together were named after the other one’s dad.  We wanted Carter’s first name to be Jacob, but knew it would not work.  Our last name is Schmidt and let’s just say there is a familiar little jingle that way too many kids know that includes both Jacob and Schmidt in it, along with the name Jinglheimer.  Anyway, the story goes back 19 years, and to be at place where we finally got to spend time together as families and connect in deeper relationships and watch our children develop friendships with each other was an amazing gift from God for us all.
At E4 we talk a lot about engaging in relationships first, before partnerships can be formed and projects or programs put in place. We also use Tim’s expression that “you cannot take bricks and building into eternity with you, only relationships”.  This brings me back to the photo.  Eric and Jacob (the dads) established a friendship when Eric spent a summer in Gabon 19 years ago.  Since that time, they have stayed in touch, although infrequently at times, but alway reconnected.  Through couples serving Christ in Gabon as missionaries, we have been able to give funding directly to Jacob’s ministry – OSPAC – medical clinic and mobile medical unit that travels to the slums and villages outside of Libreville -over the last 15 years.  (You can read about OSPAC on our website as they are one of our key partners in PK27 and the work they have been doing for years lines up perfectly with our core values.)
The relationships have grown over the years between our families through letters and phone calls and now finally Skype and facebook too.  One of the most amazing things about these relationships is that Jacob and his family speak French, not English – and we do not speak French.  Jacob knows a little bit of English and we can get by with what he knows, but the rest of us have been at a loss as far as language goes. However, when you look at this photo, you see that these boys developed a relationship without even sharing a language and we have done the same with Jacob’s family and our other new friends that we made this past summer.  There is such an amazing bond in Christ that transcends cultures and languages and we felt that so strongly when we were in Gabon.  I consider the people that we spent time with and partner with as close friends, even though it is difficult to communicate. We pray and worship together and have a deep connection (and hopefully we have Tim around  to translate for us the rest of the time).  One of our family’s goals before returning to Gabon is to learn French. Eric will be going this summer, so he does not have much time, but the boys and I will probably not return until summer of 2012.  I can only imagine how much deeper our relationships will be when we actually speak the language.
So, that is a little bit about this photo.  Plus, it is just a really cool photo – but so much more so when you know the story behind it and that these boys carry into the next generation the friendship started by their dads years ago, who had not seen each other in 19 years, but loved each so much that they named their boys after each other. I think that is really awesome.  Below is another photo of our family with Jacob and Martha at the church where Jacob pastors.

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