Heartfelt greetings to you all from the heartland of the United States! Our family is doing well, and we pray yours is as well. It’s time for an update on our stay in Indiana as it comes to a close, and a preview of what our ministry, study and life will be like in Canada in a very short time.
Time has flown since the end of the semester. The University of Toronto’s “Winter Term” wrapped up for me in mid-April, and I am pleased to report that I did very well in my coursework. That said, it has taken me almost all of the last two months to feel like life has returned to normal after the stress of final papers and exams. And it has been time well spent: I have been able to help Mary Beth a lot more with the boys, with yard and house work, and with the beginning stages of unpacking and then repacking those of our belongings from Belize that arrived here in March. Although I have also begun work on a thesis prospectus – something I will need to submit to my committee around year’s end – and although I will be working on reading academic German theology, these things have not been the focus of our lives right now. Instead, many of our family’s conversations have revolved around how God will be leading us in ministry moving forward, and what shapes that ministry might eventually take: whether in Toronto, or whether on the mission field once again.
With respect to our move to Toronto, we have good news to report. As of this week, we have signed an agreement with student housing at Wycliffe College and come August our family will be living in a two-bedroom apartment on campus. This is a tremendous answer to prayer: not only is it the least expensive of the housing options we have explored in downtown Toronto, but it will put us solidly in the heart of community life at Wycliffe, something that we have been looking forward to since accepting the College’s offer in April of last year. After such a long period of isolation and distancing and uncertainty, knowing that we will be surrounded by a worshiping and studying community of believers is truly energizing. Given how scarce student family housing is at the University of Toronto, and at Wycliffe especially, we give thanks to God for this opportunity, and to you for praying so faithfully for our family’s wellbeing. The Lord is good!
This all means that we are also having to figure out how to make our move to Toronto happen by August. The largest pieces of that puzzle involve what COVID-19 travel restrictions will be in force on the border at that time. As a number of journalists have recently noted (for example, here and here), following their country’s huge spring surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Canada’s border with the United States (the longest in the world) is still closed to most travelers, and those who are allowed across are required to quarantine for fourteen days. Although I now have my Canadian Study Permit – and therefore we qualify to cross the border – unless Canada relaxes some of its requirements we will have to quarantine for those two weeks. This introduces a whole host of hurdles to settling in our new digs: not only will it be rough quarantining for fourteen days with a two-year-old who practically lives outdoors, but the restrictions suggest we may not be able to return a rental truck, forcing us to ship our belongings (again) rather than bring them up with us ourselves. For these reasons, please pray that the border opens to families like ours such that we won’t have to quarantine long upon arrival, or at least that we can figure out the how of quarantine with little extra cost to our bank account or to our collective sanity.
The boys are doing really well. James is scooting, sitting, climbing, standing, balancing, and trying his absolute best to get everyone’s attention all the time. He’s begun competing with his brother for toys and things to munch on, but in general he adores Austin and loves (most) of every minute of attention that he gets from him. And we should mention that on the Great Day of Pentecost James was baptized into Christ, surrounded by family and friends at the church we have been attending in person since last month. We are still so blessed with this newest addition to our family!
Austin is still an avid reader, and he’s been signed up at the local public library to receive a prize every time he reads a hundred books … a feat that takes him only a handful of days before he’s on to the next set. After months of relative isolation Austin has also really been enjoying being back in contact with other children. Some of this contact is at playgrounds and public parks, but a large dose of it is with the other children at church. We are so grateful for his steady transformation from infant to child, and a day without hearing his (surprisingly intelligible) babble is unimaginable.
We are still connecting with our new church in Toronto as much as we can before arriving. Although since May we have not been able to join their Zoom worship like we had been doing, we are now privileged to form part of one of their online small groups, and we are enjoying the new connections and partners in prayer. Mary Beth has agreed to be one of the many musicians accompanying worship when we arrive in Toronto, and I have been asked to collaborate on refining the church’s website. We are very curious to see what doors for service the Lord will open through this vibrant community of believers, especially since their weekly worship will be taking place on Sunday afternoons at the Wycliffe College chapel … just a stone’s throw from our new apartment.
Finances at this time are rather tight, as our regular readers can imagine. Just as I predicted in my February update, in March we had to accept a 40% reduction in our salaries, and while we have been able to make this new budget work in rural Indiana, it will be much harder in Toronto, since our monthly rent will have gone up by about 50%. Still, we are deeply grateful for all of your financial contributions to our family’s ministry through SAMS: despite the deficits, your gifts are making this transition to a new kind of mission possible, and we thank all who have made ongoing or one-time donations to our missionary account.
As we look to the future, beyond the next three or four years of ongoing education and preparation, we ask you again to join with us in praying for God’s leading even now. We are seeking to make connections with dioceses, seminaries and churches with whom together we could serve our Lord Jesus Christ in raising up new disciples and new leaders. And if he thus leads you, we ask you prayerfully to answer his call and commit to partnering with us financially even now in preparation for what he has envisioned for us next.
So, from all us at Team Alenskis, we pray that the Lord will bless, keep and preserve you … and we thank you for doing the same on our behalf. Have a wonderful rest of your summer!