Well, I’m way overdue for giving you all an update on our family here in Toronto and for that I apologize. I knew having three kids three and under would be challenging, but I don’t think I fully anticipated how much time it would take every day just to care for little humans. Some days feel packed from beginning to end (and I feel like I accomplished a lot when I go to bed exhausted), and others days feel incredibly slow (but I still go to bed exhausted wondering where the time went!). Being a mom is both rewarding and incredibly fun, and also frustrating and at times a little boring. It is a weird mix of emotions. Thankfully though on good days and bad, God has given us a love for our kids that is stronger than I ever really understood as possible before having my own. My gosh, do I love my kiddos! All that’s to say, a lot has happened since we last “talked”, so let’s jump in!

Over the summer David wrote his thesis proposal and in October it was approved. Thanks be to God, he got it done, defended, and is officially in the “candidacy” stage of his PhD. That means he is now writing his thesis! So a long with many other things, he is spending the majority of his days researching and writing. While he still has a ways to go, at this point he is basically on track with his prospective timeline. His advisor has pointed out that the goal of getting his thesis submitted by the start of next Fall would be very fast, but he still thinks it is doable (even with a house full of kids!). Over the summer David purchased a laptop and is now able to work in the study rooms or library. It has actually taken a lot of stress off to know that David can have a quiet space to work without so many distractions. Please pray that we are able to find a sustainable schedule for our family so that David can have plenty of time to write. On top of working on his thesis, David is also co-teaching a Wycliffe course on “Anglican Theology” this semester and leading music for the daily morning prayer services. Please also pray that stress levels stay down as he really has a lot on his plate! 

For me and the kids, the highlight for the end of Summer was getting to visit family for just over a week. We are fortunate to have both sets of parents almost directly south of us, so before the New Wineskins conference the kids and I were able to see David’s parents for a couple days in Indiana and then spend some time with mine in Georgia. This was my parent’s first time to meet Lily (extra special visit), and my sister even drove all the way from California just to see us (we hadn’t seen each other in three years!). It was an absolutely lovely visit. We feel very blessed that we are within driving distance of family durning this time of Educational Home Assignment. We figure our next placement will probably require plane tickets for five people if we want to visit, so we’re enjoying these chances while we can.

After our time in Georgia we headed up to North Carolina for the New Wineskins Conference. David was not able to join us in Georgia as he had to stay in Toronto to teach, but he met us in Asheville for the conference. New Wineskins happens every three years and is a chance for missionaries from all over the world to come together to worship, network, and learn. One of our main goals in attending this year was so that we could get a better idea of where we feel God may be calling us to go at the end of David’s studies. While we have to remember that David is not planning on graduating until Spring 2024 at the earliest (meaning we can’t actually have a placement yet), we were able to connect with people in almost every continent. Now I realize that that doesn’t seem like we narrowed it down much, but we now have specific countries and people we’re talking with to see if we might be a good fit in the future. At this point we’re mostly looking at places that have seminaries for David to teach in where he can train up more leaders in the Faith, but also places where our whole family can thrive and minister to those we are called to serve along side. It is strange, on one hand, to imagine going back on the mission field. When we left Belize we had one kid who was less than year old, and now we have three kids (the youngest of whom will be at least two years old when we move again). I’m both nervous and excited to see how our kids will learn to both know and serve God, but also share Him with others. SAMS is unique in that both spouses our called, vetted, and commissioned as missionaries. And while our kids won’t be “interviewed” as missionaries, they will, in their own way, be serving on the mission field. God is going to have to give us wisdom and courage as we get closer to returning. One of the talks I went to at New Wineskins was all about TCKs (Third Culture Kids) and the issues they can face. I knew life would be a little more complicated, but I didn’t know how hard it could be if we’re not paying attention. And I think our kids get the triple whammy by being TCKs, PKs, and MKs. Whew. Besides the fact that I’m going to have to really read up on this to make sure we’re adequately prepared, I have also come to truly appreciate the value of community. Here at Wycliffe we are surrounded by people who love and support us and our kids. When we go back on the mission field, community is going to be something that we actively search out to help support our family in our own faith. Even with all my nerves about the future, I’m getting excited that we are closer to knowing where we’re headed next! We truly believe there is a need for more Christian leaders who are able to train up others in the Faith and we are looking forward to seeing how God uses us to meet that need.

As far as other things going on here in Toronto, I’ve taken job as an organist at another church! This is pretty exciting for me as I’ve not regularly played the piano (and definitely not the organ!) since having Lily. Now I only ever took one semester of organ in university, so I’m kind of learning as I go, but it is pretty cool to go to a 200 year old church every week and play their pipe organ. The church our family regularly attends here at the college still meets in the evenings; making my morning job a perfect fit. In general I have been surprised at how much we have been able to continue leading music to some degree since moving to Canada. David leads music every morning in our chapel services (and on some evening services as well), and I’ve been asked to put together the Advent Lessons and Carols service again this year. It amazes me even now that God always finds a way to use the gifts He’s given us wherever we are called to be.

So here we are, at the start of Advent, anticipating Christmas. Our kids are at the wonderful age where everything is exciting. And a birthday party for Jesus is absolutely necessary! Even with so many things filling up this season, you are still always very much on our minds and in our prayers. Thank you so much for supporting our family! We have grown since the last time we saw many of you in person (the fact that we’re a family of 5 still amazes me!), but we are so very grateful. Please do continue to keep us in your prayers. And thank you, as always, for your continued financial support! Our time here in Toronto looks very different from our time in Belize, but we are confident that God is not only preparing us to return to the mission field with the necessary tools to further His kingdom, but He is also showing us that even now we are on a mission field. We are in a huge city, surrounded by people who don’t know our Lord. Whether reaching out to those visiting our church here at Wycliffe, meeting new people in “mommy groups”, or even interacting with those on public transit (we take it everywhere!), God is showing us His harvest. If you know anyone who would like to partner with us in our ministry, both while we’re here in Toronto, and as we prepare for our next placement, please share our info. We would love to talk more directly (on the phone or email), to connect with you!

Happy Advent from the Alenskis Family! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!