I would like to begin this month’s blogposts by wishing you all a very Happy New Year! I hope and pray that your 2022 has gotten off to a good start. I realise that with the spike in Omicron cases as well as some pretty severe and unusual weather, we might be tempted to feel a bit down and defeated early on in this new year. But I pray that we will all keep our hope and confidence in Christ and do our best to face the challenges AND the opportunities that are ahead of us in 2022.

In some ways, January always seems like a “quiet” month or time of year to me after all the excitement of Thanksgiving (in America) followed by Christmas, then New Year’s Eve. So it has been for us this year in the main. Consequently, my report for January might be a bit shorter than usual. However, there are a few items to report both with me personally and with our Team and ministry.

Though in some ways January is a bit of a quiet month as mentioned, it is also the start of my travelling schedule for networking opportunities. The first three months of this furlough were spent fairly close to “home” in Middle Tennessee and near my mother, who was glad to have my company and help for a season, especially after such a long time since my last furlough (right at five years). However, I’ve started my travelling schedule now, and I’ll say more about that below. But here are some high points.

On a personal note in terms of connecting and spending time with my family, January has been a great month, particularly at the beginning. One of my sisters was able to come to TN on her own right around Christmas, which made for a more festive time for all. However, this year, the time that worked best for our extended family to be together was more at the beginning of January, with the highlight being my mother’s 92nd birthday on 8 January this year.  I have two sisters and their extended families: one living in upstate New York and the other in Arkansas. Because of work schedules and other restrictions, the “New York” gang was able to be in Tennessee, arriving on the 2nd of January and departing on the 8th, and the “Arkansas” gang was able to be in Tennessee, arriving on the 7th and departing on the 10th. It is very rare that all three of us children (my two sisters and I) are able to be in the same place at the same time together with our mother. It had been about 5 years since the last time. It is even more rare when the three of us siblings can be together with their extended families at the same time. So, my mother had all her children (and spouse), all her grandchildren (and spouses), and even her great grand daughter.

Because of the travel schedules, the only full day that we had all together was on the 7th. Even though it was the day before my mother’s actual birthday, we decided to make that our big celebration together on the 7th. We decided to go out for that time, as the “Arkansas” bunch had just arrived from Little Rock on the day. Since the “New York” side of the family doesn’t often get to enjoy good, old Southern Cooking, we decided to go to nearby Savannah to a popular catfish place that also serves some traditional Southern specialties like fried green tomatoes, fried pickles and even their version of a blooming onion. We had a wonderful time together, and of course ate too much in the process.

Though the “New York” bunch started back for New York the next day, we continued the birthday celebrations on the 8th for my mother (her actual birthday), where I prepared a Turkish-Persian feast. We enjoyed celebrating our mother’s birthday and (again) ate too much.

It was a real blessing to be able to spend this kind of time with my family and especially with my mother. Given the long time between furloughs and her age, it makes every occasion to be together that much more precious.

In terms of personal health issues, there is not much change since my last report. Unfortunately, I continue to struggle with issues like sore throat and headaches (occasionally turning to migraines) related to sinusitis and laryngitis. Some days are better than others. I would like to be over this, but it just seems to continue to linger. So, I’m just trying to make the best of it, even though it is frustrating at times. I’d be grateful for your prayers for full healing in this regard.