For well over a year Miriam and I have been signaling family, friends and partners in ministry that we are approaching lines in the sand, points beyond which the landscape changes in a fundamental way. At the beginning of July, we handed over most of our ministry related responsibilities in Congo to Congolese colleagues and returned to Oregon.
For the first time in 35 years we are coming back with the intention of making the US our permanent home base.
While we have been thinking about the transition to retirement for some time, we are only just beginning to learn what a huge shift in focus and habits this is going to make in our lives – a change on the same scale as the one we made in traveling to France for language school and eventual service in Zaire in August 1984.
Back in 1984, no one talked about a missionary partnership network, but we never worked alone. Our ministry in Congo depended on a wide network of congregations and individuals: from Vernon, Washington to Ft Myers, Florida; from Reading, Massachusetts to Honolulu, Hawaii; an 82-year-old prayer warrior crippled with MS; a wealthy California businessman; a student in Arizona; a small on-fire congregation in the limestone hills of Kansas or the rich Palouse of eastern Washington; people who had been touched in some specific way by Congo and others who knew almost nothing of the Congo other than God loved the land and its people.
You were called by God to be bearers of Good News to the far corners of the earth. You prayed for us and our children, interceded for the Christians with whom we ministered, yearned with us to see God’s light shine in a growing church and penetrate to the heart of a challenging, sometimes dark emerging nation. Some of you labored with us for a short season, seeing the need and ministering yourself directly. Many of you sacrificed a portion of what God granted you in order to make it possible both for us to live and work in Congo. Your gifts made it possible for farm families to begin feeding themselves and produce reliable surpluses. They taught people to read and grow in knowledge and truth. They helped Congolese believers to set a standard for sustainable holistic rural development in a country with huge potential yet still struggling to realize its promise. They called people to hear God’s good news and become followers in their own right.
We may have been the face that most people saw. But we can see better than most that we are no more than a small part of a large group of people brought together for God’s purpose. Thank you for the privilege of serving with you in one of God’s formidable mission squads.
On September 18th, Miriam and I made our final trip back as missionaries to “Valley Forge” – International Ministries’ home office, now located nearby in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. We spent two days with staff in debriefing. On Friday evening, September 20th, the Board of International Ministries invited us to dinner to recognize our years of service. Ten days later we formally retire from one campaign and embark on another, even though we’re not exactly sure of its scope and direction.
Over the coming months Miriam and I will be looking for new directions to serve in the Kingdom. Many of you may want to think about ways to redirect your attention, energies, prayer support and giving so freely shared with us and our co-workers in Congo to some other ministry. However, some of you have asked if you can continue the partnership with the Lusekele Agricultural Development Center and CBCO Adult Literacy Program, even if we are no longer associated directly with the projects. Yes, absolutely. We and our colleagues in Congo would welcome this support.
Miriam and I have decided to invest $300 of our tithe and offerings each month in ACDI Lusekele to help defray administrative costs while the leadership team is building the seed production business. This will create a fifteen-month window (until December 2020) to focus just on business operations. Two or three additional gifts of $100 per month through December 2020 would give the dedicated team space to breathe as they work out God’s new direction.
We would also invite those of you who feel led to support the ongoing search for the next generation of improved varieties of peanuts and cowpeas. Trials in 2018-2019 compared over 20 new varieties of each crop with several varieties showing significant improvements over the current best varieties. An investment of $2600 would pay ACDI Lusekele’s basic costs of tests for one season. It will take at least 4 more seasons to complete the first phase of screening to reveal the preliminary winners – a bargain at twice the cost.
If each of us pledges to extend our giving through the end of the year, we can raise the investment ACDI Lusekele and the CBCO Literacy Program need to take the next step following God’s leading on their own. Think of it as a going-away-to-college gift for a beloved son or daughter embarking on the adventure of adult life. It is a celebration of the life God is giving them and a challenge to them to wisely use the investment to build a stronger future.
Please designate your gifts as follows:
Our next few steps
At the end of August, we bought an old craftsman house built in 1920 in Salem, Oregon. It is full of character but a little the worse for wear at the end of its first century. We put a new roof on it last week and next week will remove asbestos contaminated ceiling insulation for the well-being of future generations. The bathroom and kitchen need remodeling, the floors need refinishing, and coats of paint (both inside and out) will bring out some sparkle. We admit that all this will carry us into next spring.
In the first half of October we have speaking engagements set in McMinnville and Gresham, Oregon. We can still fit in dates in the second half of October here in Oregon and Washington. We would relish opportunities to thank you in person, even if that means early next year.
On November 12 we leave for a three-week trip to Congo to encourage colleagues at Lusekele and to monitor ACDI’s progress on seed production and the screening of new crop varieties.
We will be back in Salem on December 2, leaving us just over two weeks to prepare for Christmas and family reunion in New Zealand. I think this will be the first time in more than 9 years since we, Mark, Elena and Reba have all been in one place at the same time. Our grand-daughter is now more than 4-1/2 years old – it is a long overdue trip. Mark has proposed some time in a cabin with a taste of beginning-of summer hiking. We will spend 2 weeks in New Zealand, returning to the US on January 1.
We trust that the Lord will guide your steps just as He is guiding ours and those of believers in Congo. May you know the Lord’s blessing. May you be the Lord’s blessing
Forever grateful for all of you,
Ed and Miriam Noyes
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