Dear Friends, We greet you with the hope and peace of Advent!
A sketch is a good metaphor for our lives lately—we don’t have the full picture filled in, but we continue to pick up pencils and try to map out possible futures. We keep a lot of erasers handy! We are still in Pasadena, at the House of Rest, an apartment complex set aside decades ago as a place for missionaries between assignments. We are immensely grateful for this provision!
When we came in September, we knew Malaysia’s borders would be closed through 2020, but hoped to head there in early January. With the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, we have no idea when borders might open. Even if they do so soon, at this point we have made the decision not to attempt to leave the US without a vaccine (we hear your sighs of relief). We have promised my mom, daughter, and son-in-law another visit to North Carolina before leaving the country, so we are hoping for sufficient flattening of the curve for that travel to be deemed safe early in 2021. We are not holding our breath for any timetable, but we are, on our good days, walking that line of patience and hope, as we know all of you are needing to do in multiple areas of your lives.
“So, you’re basically in Rich Lamb Hog Heaven, aren’t you?”
…said a friend, after listening to Rich describe his life these days. Rich has stood out as the MVP of our little team for his capacity to make tasty lemonade of the lemons which life has handed us. I (Lisa) am so proud of the way he has sought out opportunities and said yes to invitations to invest in leaders, never complaining about the disruption of his sleep schedule.
He has taught this fall (via Zoom of course) in India, Moldova, Ukraine, and Nepal, with occasional sessions for St. Paul’s Theological College in Malaysia as well. Most mornings, he begins teaching at 4:30 or 5AM. After a brief nap, he starts in with gusto on the creation of new content. He will teach a new course, Gospel Survey: Ministry Insights from Jesus, for Nepal New Covenant College this winter. This has propelled a deep dive into the gospels, which he has enjoyed immensely, and the creation of over 30 new Sketches. For those not familiar with his Sketches, they are modules designed for flexible use in an adult Sunday School, small group, leadership training session, or as part of a more formal class, such as a leadership or gospel survey course. The format is simple: page one is a Bible study. Page two synthesizes that content in a paradigm for ministry or discipleship. Pages three and four are the leader’s notes. He has enjoyed working with a designer in Romania, and many of them have been translated into Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, and Nepali, with more of that translation work underway now.
Each sketch is designed to be taught in an hour or less, so they are ideal not only for the classes he’s teaching, but for those leaders to take into their small groups, adult Sunday School or youth group settings, etc. It is multiplicative ministry at its best to hear that leaders in rural Nepal are tweaking them to fit their context and using them to build up their churches. And you are welcome to use them, too! Here’s a link that describes the Sketches and how to download them. If you’d like a walk-through of how to use them, he’d be happy to offer a Zoom/phone call and a quick tutorial—just not too early in the morning!
I (Lisa) have honestly had a harder time finding my lemonade-maker this fall. Life gave me lemons and I sliced one open and arranged half of it next to three other ones? It’s a start! I have felt like the limping member of the team, at times literally as I have struggled with a persistent knee injury. I probably took on too much, with two online Fuller courses and a small distance-learning-style course in Nepal. I have not enjoyed the real-time contact Rich has with students, and with IFES staff-workers he has known for years (in Ukraine and Moldova). My days have mostly involved grading, but there have been a few surprisingly enjoyable highlights. The best way I could contribute at St. Paul’s in Malaysia this fall was to help get some theology lectures recorded for classes that had to move online quickly, so I created lectures on topics as varied as Pneumatology, Atonement Theories, Free Church Ecclesiology, Preaching for Weddings, and Preaching for Funerals. While I never saw the students, it did awaken an interest in teaching systematic theology more in the future, so I may yet have that as a glass of lemonade with which to toast the welcomed end of 2020. I also very much enjoyed some opportunities to preach this fall.
Knee and Nancy Updates: My (Lisa's) right knee has had 6 episodes of swelling up a lot in the last few months. When this happens, it cannot bend or bear any weight, and is quite painful. Two orthopedists agree that it is not a matter for a knee replacement, and one rheumatologist believes it is in part due to an infection in the spring where the immune response never quite shut down, and settled on my mildly arthritic knee as a locale to go to work. An odd but plausible theory, with frustratingly no treatment plan but ‘take it easy.’
My mom, Nancy, is settling in well overall in Durham, a grateful diner at Becca and Avery’s table once a week. We sadly cancelled flights for a visit which would have been this week, but we talk almost daily.
Friends, we are so grateful for your prayers and support in this strange year. We pray that the gifts of Advent-hope, peace, joy, and the love of Christ--would fill your hearts and strengthen you to endure the challenges of this season. We’d love to hear what your lemons and hog-heavens have been this fall! Drop us a note with a quick update any ways we can be praying for you.
With love and gratitude,
Rich and Lisa
Rich and Lisa Lamb