Len and Mary came to the Black Forest Academy the year we left, so we never got to meet them on that occasion. When we arrived in Horsham, they were back in Canada visiting family, so they weren’t here to greet us, although we did stay in the manse where they have been living for the last couple of years. By the time they got back, we were ready to move into our own place, so we didn’t have much time to connect then either.

We have made up for that oversight during the last five weeks. Len and Mary are wrapping up their 25 years on the mission field and returning to British Columbia. They have spent most of that time in Germany, and have accumulated the typically ponderous German furniture – including several enormous schrank – which all had to be wrapped up and moved back to Canada. Mary’s ministry is based on hospitality, at which she excels, and her collection of cookware and dinnerware would rival any catering firm. That all had to go back as well.

The manse, where they have lived for the last few years, is a large two-story, four bedroom house with plenty of closets, nooks and crannies which were all stuffed to the hilt with the clothes, books, pictures, and memorabilia of a lifetime. All of it had to be emptied out, sorted, catalogued and packed as safely as possible for the long voyage home.

To say that we packed 380 large boxes for shipping doesn’t do justice to the enormity of the task. Bookcases and schranks needed to be disassembled where possible, wrapped in protective material, placed into cardboard boxes that had to be assembled from available stock to fit and then shrink-wrapped to seal out moisture for shipment home through the elements. Solid oak sideboards weighing 80 pounds or more were wrapped as well; the strain of which threated to dislocate my back on several occasions.

For her part, Pam individually wrapped hundreds of plates, tea cups, glasses, endless decorative mugs, plaques, cuckoo clocks and kitchenware, not once, but several times each in different layers of wrap and before being packed in boxes. By the end of the day neither of us could move our hands properly, and the pain would often wake us up in the middle of the night.

Having moved through four countries in the last fourteen years, we knew as soon as we looked at the task, that the five weeks they had scheduled for the move would not be enough without a significant commitment on our part. So we have put in four to six hours a day, six days a week for the last five weeks working alongside the Len and Mary and getting to know them well as we laboured together to complete the task. It is a testament to our Lord, who schools all who love Him in how to work alongside others, that we got along so well in what was an enormous strain on all of us.

With some help from Trevor, we finished the packing the day before the movers arrived. As soon as the movers had cleared a room, we began cleaning that room, ten in all, plus hallways and closets. The movers were most efficient and were able to fill the three large trucks they brought with them in less than five hours. Those trucks will then be taken to a warehouse to load the container they will be shipped in. It will have to be a 40 footer to hold everything that is going back, and I have to say I don’t want to be the one who has to unpack it all.

Len and Mary are a dear couple, and they will be dearly missed here at TeachBeyond Global. They have offered sanctuary and extended hospitality to hundreds of missionary families over the years. Those accumulated memories of connection form the bonds to the physical items they wanted to take home with them. We totally understand their connection to these things. How could we not, after giving up so many of those very things ourselves over these past years.

We are physically exhausted and bruised from our labours. But our strength will return and those bruises will heal. And in their place will be the memory of having had the opportunity to serve a couple who have served so many others for so well for so many years. God bless you both, Len and Mary.