Greetings from the Okkens! We have some big personal news to share.
We praise the Lord for His wonderful guidance and provision with regards to our next place of service. I have received a call to serve as a pastor at Shiloh Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. During multiple Skype interviews I enjoyed getting to know the pastor, elders and deacons. Then the church graciously flew our whole family from Uganda for a ten day visit in March. The congregation was truly wonderful and the visit went very well. The Lord led us to the decision that, should the call come, we were ready to accept. On April 8th they voted unanimously to extend that call. We decided to wait on announcing it until it was approved by the presbytery. That happened today. I am so thankful that they allowed me to meet with them by Skype. I was interviewed and the call was approved.
I look forward to working alongside Pastor Matthew Holst, whom I so enjoyed getting to know. In addition to helping with the preaching, teaching and pastoral care, I will also focus on leading the congregation in outreach and evangelism. We plan to return to the States by the middle of July and then arrive in Raleigh by the end of the summer, Lord willing.
Okay, our other huge news: Sunshine is pregnant! Of course, we praise the Lord for this precious new life. But this was a most unplanned and unexpected surprise. We learned of it while we were candidating in Raleigh! Many of you remember our scary experiences with pregnancy and malaria in our early years in Karamoja. We would never have chosen to go through it again all these years later during our last months on the field. So, truthfully, this was a reality which was not easy for us to process ourselves, much less were we ready to share the news publicly or even with our prospective new church family at Shiloh (as wonderful as they are.) Talk about an emotionally charged couple of weeks! Sunshine did a fabulous job pulling herself together as we met with the folks in home after home as well as in church.
We so praise and thank the Lord that Sunshine has been malaria-free and has done well. We decided to wait to share the news until after our first ultrasound. That also happened earlier today (what an eventful day!). Tears filled my eyes as we heard a normal heartbeat while seeing on the monitor what appeared to be a healthy little baby moving around. We are only a couple of weeks away from being out of the first trimester, the most dangerous time for a pregnant mother to get malaria. Needless to say, we covet your prayers as much as ever.
“…call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15)