Thanks to all of you who have sent cards, emails, or Facebook posts updating us on your lives. You have inspired (guilted?) us to update you on what’s been happening with us. Since we haven’t done one of these for a while, it will include news from the past two years.
First, for the big, good news. Daughter Jamie (31) is engaged to be married to R.J. Rongcal. He proposed at the gazebo near our new house (other big news), and she said YES! R.J. teaches second grade in Seattle, and also offers classes in mindfulness and meditation. We got to meet his family in Seattle as Jamie and R.J. hosted us for Thanksgiving. The table was graced with Filipino food from R.J.’s mother, Thelma, as well as our traditional family Thanksgiving dishes. The wedding will take place this coming summer.
Our other big, good news is a house. After renting from our good friends Joan and Jay for 9 years, we took the plunge and bought a house in a woodsy neighborhood in southeast Olympia. It has great light, character, and two guest rooms. We moved in October 29th, and we and our dog, Pinto, are nested, and enjoying a white Christmas.
Our son, Micah (27), and his wife, Kelsey, live in Seattle, and spent part of their Christmas vacation in New York, enjoying something of a honeymoon; the one they didn’t get after their wedding in June of 2020. Since a large family wedding wasn’t possible in June of 2020, we enjoyed a small but beautiful outdoor wedding on Whidbey Island (where Kelsey is from), and a celebratory outdoor dinner hosted by Kelsey’s parents (Carolyn and Billy Pape) at their lovely home.
Kelsey and Micah both teach elementary school in the Seattle area, as do Jamie, and R.J. Yes, lots of teachers. Today’s children are in good hands. And of course, our grown children are still trying to teach us some important things.
A family trip to Southern California allowed both Mylinda and Gary’s families a chance to meet Kelsey, and provided us a chance to enjoy siblings, cousins, and lots of little ones that we don’t get to see often enough.
Circling back to teaching, Mylinda continues her work as a global consultant for training through restorative arts with International Ministries. The pandemic has certainly limited her travel, and she misses interacting with amazing people in places like Cuba, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Mexico. She stays in touch with ministry partners via Zoom and WhatsApp; especially folks in Cuba. The Cubans continue to use the tools and practices of restorative arts to strengthen their communities in spite of political unrest and food shortages. It would be good if both the Cuban and U.S. governments sought the best for the people of Cuba, who inspire us with their faith and resilience.
Mylinda traveled to the Dominican Republic in the spring, holding to some strict Covid protocols, and collaborating with Dominican church leaders, as well as her colleagues, Mercy Gonzalez-Barnes, Stan Slade, and Tim Long.
While grounded from travel, Mylinda read voraciously, mostly about restorative arts, racism, and our country’s ongoing culture of white supremacy. She led a Zoom group that read Resmaa Menakem’s book, My Grandmother’s Hands, and responded to it using embodied practices and art-making. I was part of that group and can vouch for its impact. And yes, we recommend the book.
Mylinda kept fit by playing plenty of Pickleball (level 4 and moving up), riding her bike while Pinto the wonder dog runs alongside, and exploring local forest trails. She visited her friend, Shabrae, in Florida. They planned expressive art sessions together, then led a training at Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center in central Washington.
Mylinda was blessed to reconnect with her best friend from college, Sandy Eves. After several years without contact, Mylinda and Sandy are enjoying the beautiful gift of reconciliation.
Gary spent the year teaching Spanish at Pope John Paul II High School; sometimes in person, and sometimes via Google Meet, which leaves much to be desired. The current school year has been in person! We are a faith based school with a conviction that science matters; we mask, vaccinate, and distance to care for each other and our broader community. Gary is an academic advisor, encouraging students to keep learning and growing in spite of the pandemic and its accompanying depression and anxiety. All teens, like adults, are in need of supportive community and meaningful work and learning as we walk through this pandemic together. Finally, Gary enjoys throwing around slang like “snatched, lit, and flex,” mostly because the teens cringe when an old man talks that way. It’s quite groovy and far out; no cap.
We remain involved at First Baptist Church of Olympia, and we’re glad to be worshiping in person again. Mylinda uses her artistic and teaching gifts, and preaches occasionally. She also got to have online expressive arts sessions with some wise senior women. Gary got involved with youth ministry at Oly First, and continues to coach our Ragamuffin softball team. He got to pitch some (almost reaching 12 miles an hour on the radar gun!), and play first base.
Like many of you, we lost too many friends this year. Our mentor and friend, Jack Kiekel, died this fall. We celebrated his life and mourned his death at a beautiful service on Vashon Island (WA). Jack’s wife, and partner in ministry, Beve, misses him terribly. Gary’s cousin Joan died in Hawaii in November, as did Mylinda’s Aunt Jan in California. After living 27 full years, Micah’s dear friend Dr. Dylan Nehrenberg crossed the threshold this week, succumbing to brain cancer. We, along with their family, and friends miss these dear ones, and we are honored to have known them.
Gary plans to attend his 40th high school reunion in San Diego in July. We have heard nothing about a reunion for Mylinda’s graduating class, but we’ll be on the lookout.
Historically, these letters from us have been in quiz form. So, to honor tradition, we present the following multiple choice questions.
At his high school reunion, Gary may do which of the following?
Mylinda hopes to do which of the following in the coming year?
As followers of Jesus, we hope for the following in the coming year.
The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.