Happy New Year from the Alenskis Family!
Wow, can you believe we’re already in 2022?! We certainly had a lot of changes last year, but we’re even more excited to see what this new year has in store.
First off, David has officially finished his required coursework for his PhD program – with highest marks! – and his “thesis prospectus” has been formally accepted by the committee supervising his research and approved by the Graduate Centre for Theological Studies at the University of Toronto. Does that mean he’s done? Not by a long shot, but it does mean he’s staying on track to graduate on our preferred timeline. As you may know our current goal is for David to get his degree within just four years (which is about as fast as you can get it done) … receiving his diploma by May 2024. He just finished his third semester, so we’re almost halfway there! Don’t get me wrong, we are actually really enjoying our time here in Toronto. The community life here at Wycliffe has been so healthy for our family, especially because of times like daily chapel services, and weekly dinners with other residents. Yet we do have practical and hopeful reasons for David to finish up within four years:
Practically speaking, David’s advisor is retiring and can only guarantee being able to oversee his work through Spring 2024 (when David is hoping to defend his dissertation and graduate).
The simple fact that this program will be considerably less expensive if he can finish in four years is also a pretty good incentive for moving along quickly.
But the reason closest to our heart – and that we are most focused on – is that we want to be back on the mission field. Our whole purpose for being here in Toronto is so that our family can be properly equipped for supporting Anglican churches around the world through theological education and ministry development.
This third reason is driven by a need that we were already experiencing acutely in Belize, the need for locally available, high quality ways to train new lay and ordained leaders. What’s more, in speaking to other Anglican leaders from around the world we have also discovered that this need exists in so many other places. While David has been involved directly in pastoral ministry for well over a decade, we believe that we are now called to expand our family’s ministry in this new direction. Whether that means he will take a position as a full-time missionary-pastor and teach theology part time (say in a seminary or other form of theological development), or whether it will be the other way around, we feel confident that when our time in Canada has come to an end God will send us somewhere he can put to use the new skills he is giving us: to build his kingdom and bring him glory.
So what does that mean for our life right now? It means that, as SAMS missionaries on “Educational Ministry Assignment,” we are currently focused on David’s school work, all in the context of raising our growing family. For me in particular, this means that while I loved the work I was doing in Belize (music and youth ministry) – something that I’m hoping to continue in our next placement – I’m now also a mommy of two (soon to be three!) little children. As a result, as we envision that future ministry, I am mindful at the same time of my calling to raise and educate them. (So many changes are coming our way!)
Although it’s a little too early in David’s doctoral program to have a clear idea of where we will be going next, we are hoping to have a better understanding by the end of this year. We are looking forward to the New Wineskins 2022 conference this Fall in North Carolina, where we plan on making fresh connections with leaders from around the world involved in theological education. At the last conference we met incredible people from Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America who all shared the same need!
It’s a little strange knowing that we will be returning to the mission field at the end of our time here in Canada, while also not knowing where that will be. My controlling side wants God to just spit it out so I can start planning for our future! But this is one of those many moments in my life where I have to let go and trust that God has a plan, even if I can’t quite see what it is yet.
(On a side note, our children are going to be quite the world travelers in their lifetime! Austin was born in Belize, James was born in the U.S., and our daughter will be born in Canada! I pray that we can raise our kids to know what it means to follow Jesus wherever we are living.)
At this point the boys are doing very well here in Toronto. They love the snow, the community of theological students (they know most of the Wycliffe residents by name), and they consider the college campus to belong to them (they love running up and down the halls!). Christmas was delightful. The college itself was all decked out with Christmas trees, lights, and nativity sets. And, as a highlight for my family, we got to decorate our apartment with our personal Christmas ornaments that were brought back from Belize. We hadn’t opened that box in over two years! We experienced two different services of Lessons and Carols, one from the school and one from our church. While I’ve participated in many Lessons and Carols services growing up, these services were unique for me in that every lesson was read in the native language of a student or congregant and then again in English. There was something special about hearing God’s word from languages all over the world. We then spent Christmas Day at home celebrating with the boys before having some other residents over for dinner (we made SO MUCH FOOD!). As a whole, it was a wonderful first Christmas here in Canada.
As for me, I’m doing pretty well: officially in my third trimester (and definitely looking pregnant these days!). I can’t believe we’re getting so close to meeting our daughter (yes, we’re having a girl!). Each of my pregnancies have been so different, and this one feels like it’s progressing the fastest. We’re trying to start prepping the boys about their coming sister. I think Austin is excited; James is probably going to take it pretty hard (he’s our possessive “snugglebug”). Soon I’ll start unpacking the baby gear again and begin actually prepping our house. Until then, we’re enjoying spending quality time with just the boys … before our numbers go up!
In other exciting missions news, on SAMS’s recommendation our family applied to join and has been accepted by a second, Canadian missionary society, Into All the World (IATW). This organization has a formal relationship with SAMS that allows them to assist American missionaries who are raising financial support in Canada, and our being accepted as part of their society means that there is a way for us to receive gifts more easily from Canadian donors. Does this mean we are no longer SAMS missionaries? Not at all! We’re now both! By being accepted into ITAW we are hoping to connect more with Canadians who would like to support our mission work – both while we are here in Canada and then when we transition back to the mission field.
IATW’s own particular focus is on enabling missionaries to serve wherever and however they are called, and for decades they have helped make connections and find resources to help missionaries around the world serve those in need. For instance, if there is a missionary that wants to put wells in a village, ITAW is able to help connect them with the resources to make that specific project happen. Above all, for us this also means we will have more prayer support (and you can never have too much prayer!).
So now for prayer requests!
These next six months are going to fly by and be rather stressful. David is planning on undergoing his qualifying examinations in May and June. Over the period of a month he will take both written and oral exams in two different subjects covering a ton of information (he has nearly 5,000 pages to read by then!). Once he has (Lord willing) passed his exams and then defended his thesis proposal (still to be written), he will then officially be a PhD “candidate” and can start his dissertation. He’s hoping that he achieves candidacy by the end of the summer, or early fall at the latest.
1. Please pray for David as he preps and studies for his general exams.
To add to the stress, our baby is due about a month before David’s exams start. While he can push the exam dates if needed, our goal is to keep them where they’re at so as to stay on track.
2. Please pray for the baby and me in these last 3 months.
And no bedrest (I’ve been put on bedrest for my last two pregnancies and would love to skip that step for this one!)
While we still have about 2½ years left of David’s program, we are praying and discerning where God is calling us next even now. We know the places we would love to serve, but we also know God already has a plan for our lives and we are willing to go wherever that may be.
3. Please pray that God would make it very clear where He is calling our family next.
4. Please pray for continued prayer and financial support.
Toronto is incredibly expensive. While we are very blessed to get to live on campus (it’s about half the price of any apartment we could otherwise get here in the city), we are still on a very tight budget (we’re eating so much rice and beans!). And on top of all that, the car that we took with us to Toronto has given up the ghost … we’re walking and taking public transportation everywhere we go now until we find a new set of wheels. So there are some real needs. But at the same time, we are beyond appreciative of the continued prayers and financial support from all of you! We truly feel that God has called us on this path of training for bigger things on the mission field than we even know right now, and it’s your commitment to our family and to this vision for ministry that is helping us continue toward that calling. Thank you! If you want more detailed/personal prayer requests, or if you would like to start financially supporting us please send us a message so we can give you more information!