Posts Tagged With: Josiah


Four years ago today, I walked, barefoot, down the aisle of a little church and pledged to spend the rest of my life alongside my best friend, Josiah Van Der Decker. There was a winter storm that day, and I can still remember how cold it was to stand outside in the freezing December air, getting a few wedding pictures taken next to a tree whose bare branches had been encased completely in ice.IMG_0181.JPG

Now, on the other side of the globe, sweat trickles down my cheek as I sit at the computer, writing under the breeze of a ceiling fan that tries in vain to alleviate the oppression of the humid tropical air. Ice-covered trees and freezing temperatures seem like a vague memory from a totally different world, almost a totally different life.

So much has happened in these short four years. From surgery to linguistics, to a crazy 8-month tour of the US, to Pidgin studies, to housebuilding in Mouk, to months of sickness and completing our study of the Mouk language. We’ve been through all this and more — together.

God has been faithful each step of the way, and I can’t put into words how incredibly grateful I am to have spent the last four years by Josiah’s side. Being a team in life and ministry is an experience like none other, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health, we’ve been together. We are together. We’ll be together.

I don’t thank God near often enough for the privilege of being Josiah’s wife. There’s no one else I’d rather run the race with. No one else I’d rather live the daily-ness of life with. No one else I’d rather laugh with, cry with, or make amends with. Yes, I know it’s not proper grammar to end a sentence with a preposition, but I want you to catch the operative word here: with. We’re together. And we’re in this together. Because God has put us together.

Thank you, God, for the last four years you’ve given us. Your grace is what’s brought us this far. And it’s what will carry us each step of the way into the future.

Thank you, Josiah, for making the last four years the most incredible and unforgettable of my life. Here’s to the next four years. And four more after that. And four more after that. And on and on, as long as we both shall live.

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my PNG man

“I think bananas are good for my emotional well-being.”

I smiled to myself, watching Josiah’s face light up with pleasure as he scarfed down yet another banana. Was that number four? I’ve lost count. 🙂

We’d only been in PNG two days at that point, but already I could see another side of Josiah emerging. A side of him that I’d only barely glimpsed when he brought me over to PNG the summer of 2013 so I could meet his family and see where he grew up. Now, having moved here to live in Papua New Guinea on a long-term basis, this side of him that I’d glimpsed before began to fully emerge. He is still the same gentle, loving man that I met and fell in love with. He is still a man after God’s own heart. His mind still thinks way more abstractly than mine, he still loves cooking, he’s still generous and fun-loving.

But the “PNG side” of him was what I hadn’t really seen before. The side of him that eats bananas by the handful, carries a bush knife everywhere he can, jumps at the chance to scavenge for firewood and build a fire in the jungle, and loves having the chance to refuel a helicopter again. The foods that he would dream of while we were in the US are now available to him – foods like greens, tapioc, kaukau (like a cross between a sweet potato and a potato), guava, Maggi noodles (like Ramen, but better), sugar fruit, sugar cane, green coconut juice, and breadfruit.

Josiah and I at the lighthouse in PNG where we got engaged

Josiah and I at the lighthouse in PNG where we got engaged

Though in many ways being back in Papua New Guinea as an adult is very different for him (especially since he now has a wife with him), in other ways, it’s still very familiar to him, and he just thrives here. As I watch him get “recharged” by hiking on jungle trails, as I see him light up when he gets to “story” with the nationals in Pidgin, I can’t help thanking God for this amazing man he’s given me to do life with. Today is a milestone, marking his completion of 25 years of life. For almost two years, I’ve gotten to do life with him as his sidekick and helpmeet. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with him, watching God use Josiah and his unique abilities to bring glory to Himself. Happy Birthday, Josiah!!

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If you were to lick our fingers

We’d finished scarfing down Chic-fil-A nuggets and fries, we’d made one final pit stop at the airport restrooms, and boarding was starting in 20 minutes. With the knot of emotions tightening in our stomachs, we knew it was time. The whole group formed a circle, and a few people prayed.

Then, one by one, we started saying our goodbyes. I (Rachel) had already spent the last few weeks crying at the oddest times – at my sister’s wedding rehearsal dinner, in the shower, and late at night in bed. But now, as I hugged my siblings and parents goodbye, the wave of emotions hit me like a ton of bricks. And the tears came.

Goodbyes at airport

Goodbyes at airport

I couldn’t stop them. It was hard to make sense of the whole tangle of emotions, thoughts, and memories that all coursed through my heart and head. I realized I was crying not only because of all the good times we’d had together over these past few weeks, but also because of all that I would miss in each of their lives while we’re gone overseas. Four years is a long time. A lot of life is going to happen to each of them, and I won’t get to be there for it. My niece will be 6 years old the next time I see her. My youngest sisters will be 17 and 20 before I see them again. There will be so many moments of their lives that I’m going to miss.

And so I cried. And I held them tight, trying to etch those hugs in my memory. Trying to memorize their faces, their voices. Trying to choke out the words “I love you” between my tears.

For Josiah, the wave of tears welled up inside him and started leaking out his eyes even before we all circled up to pray. But as our pastor prayed for us, prayed for God’s guidance and peace for us, he felt an incredible sense of calm come over him. It’s not that he wasn’t sad to leave our family, because he was. He cares about them deeply. But the tears and pain were overwhelmed by an even greater sense of peace and security in knowing that this is exactly what God has for us. He still felt the pang of loss as he hugged our family members and friends goodbye, and as we waved one last time before we disappeared out of sight.

Since walking down the jetway to the airplane in Kansas City, both our faces have been watered many times with unbidden tears as memories of our family members flood our minds. I’m sure we looked pretty strange to many people as we sat there on the plane with tears running down our faces.

Please understand I’m not having a pity party, and you don’t need to have one for me, either. I’m just trying to give you a glimpse into the real heart and guts of what it’s like for missionaries saying goodbye at the airport. It is honestly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

So if you were to lick our fingers, you wouldn’t taste the nuggets and fries we had for lunch, or the soft pretzels we ate during our short layover in Dallas….you would taste the tears that we have wiped from our own faces, from each other’s faces, and from our family’s faces. The tears that mean that we care so very deeply for our family, but we have to leave. The tears that realize that no matter how tightly we hold them when we say goodbye, we still have to let go.

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to the other side of the globe

This is going to have to be quick, because I need a good night’s sleep tonight. 🙂 In about 16 hours, I’ll get on a plane and start my journey to the other side of the globe…aka, Papua New Guinea. Josiah (the guy God’s brought into my life) and his cousin will be going with me on this 1 1/2 month trip.

I have two main reasons for this trip: 1) to get an idea of where in the country of Papua New Guinea I could serve as a Bible translator, and 2) to meet Josiah’s family, who are missionaries there. It’s been so cool to see God work out all the details for the trip, from providing for plane tickets to working out our itinerary to supplying the anti-malarial medicine we need, and so many other details.

I’d appreciate your prayers for safe flights (we have 17 flights in about 6 weeks), smooth connections (lots of customs to go through), good health (preferably no malaria), and some clear direction from the Lord as to where to work in Papua New Guinea. Thanks so much for praying!

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