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There's so much to be thankful for.

School is back in session. The students have returned from their holiday travels. The campus of LCC International University is buzzing. Our calendars are filling up already with events, celebrations, meetings and other tasks. As I sit in my office, working on budget updates, discipline reports, and other important emails my mind can't help but drift off to the fabulous holiday we had away from the LCC campus. 

Josh and I had the tremendous privilege of having friends from the United States visit us from December 24 through December 30. Natalie and Bryan flew in on Christmas Eve and we set out to tour as much of Lithuania and Latvia as humanly possible in seven short days.

Although the journey was long (by kilometer), it was not tiresome. It's too bad that we couldn't travel like my friends The Muppets - by map. That would have made things much faster... Check out our journey!
Insert Mennonite inside joke here.
This tour took Josh and I from Klaipeda to Vilnius, from Vilnius to Riga Latvia, from Riga to Klaipeda, from Klaipeda back to Vilnius, from Vilnius to Moletai, from Moletai to Kaunus and from Kaunus back home to Klaipeda. That's 1,606 KM for those who keep track of such things. Praise God that the travel blessings flowed freely through our trip. It was not without it's hiccups, or shady bus situations, but we always felt warm and safe, but also a little bit like human ping pong balls (excuse me, Table Tennis balls - just in case Evan Oswald reads this). 

We bundled up and toured churches, took photos, stayed in fun hostels, ate a LOT (mostly cheese and dried meats), sampled local beers, pet dogs (using my Lithuanian language skills), and had an all around superb time. Here are some photos from our adventures!

Natalie delivered Christmas goodies - she knew just what I wanted!
On Christmas, we climbed the Vilnius "Pilis" and enjoyed a snowy day of sightseeing.
The holiday meal was followed by an evening of pub games at "Spunka," recommended by our Klaipedian friend Kipras.
Once we arrived in Klaipeda, Josh facilitated a "Concert for Friends" at Herkas Kantas - our favorite local pub. Friends Kel and Inga also performed.
"Let it snow, let it snow let it snow!" sings Josh!

After dropping Natalie and Bryan back off in Vilnius on December 30, we went to Moletai to ring in the New Year with our friend and student, Julija, and her family.This was a party to remember as we joined with Julija's Moletai church to celebrate the New Year with worship songs, bible quizzes, 2 meter long sparklers, home-made cepelinai (here's the process if you are brave enough) and a pet bunch of awesome cows on the dairy farm. A baby cow named Schumacher even licked me. The hospitality we experience in Moletai was unbelievable-- I think I am still full from all the delicious meals and tea. It was great.

A quick tour of Moletai before leaving for Klaipeda.

When our journey finally ended, and we were back in Klaipeda, we were greeted by several letters, Christmas cards, and two special packages. It is always a great pleasure to receive mail here in Lithuania. I am particularly touched by all the people that take time out of their busy lives "back home" to think of us while we serve abroad. I LOVE LOVE LOVE getting mail, so it's always a special surprise to see what arrives -- especially during the holiday season.  

Cards and letters from loved ones afar.
On the same day we got two packages! One from our Trinity Family and a package from my sister Alison and her husband Zach!

A beautiful letter, lovely scarf and other goodies from Alison.
Josh loves his Christmas Present!

That's right, more Cheez-Its from both Trinity and Ali. No, I can NEVER have too many of these.
We might be able to hang this stocking with care from the TOP of the chimney.
Thank you for all your thoughtful notes and kind words.
After all these grand travels, amazing visitors, lovely letters and surprise packages, it's easy to see that we have a lot to be grateful for. Entering into our next season at LCC, we now feel replenished, refreshed and rejuvenated to tackle the challenges ahead. Thank you for sending love and prayers from afar!

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A season of gratitude, snow (finally!) and giving

Unexpected fireworks at the Christmas tree lighting in Klaipeda town square. The event was confusing and wonderful at the same time, with dancing lollipops, lip-syncing singers, and questionable lighting.
In the midst of communicating our daily, weekly, and monthly happenings, we sometimes forget to express something that is constantly on our minds. Namely, we are thankful for you.

Josh and Alisha play in the first big snow of the season. Like rain, snow is still quite
novel to us -- especially for Josh, who has made it his mission to kindle Alisha's
love of snow.
It's amazing to consider: we're thousands of miles away from most of you and, still, we are constantly reminded of the love and support being sent our way from friends and family back in the United States. These reminders have come in the form of Skype phone calls, e-mails, letters, care packages, encouraging comments on Facebook, and financial support. To be honest, such support has been crucial during some of the hard, stressful times.
Thanksgiving at an "American-style" restaurant.

We've tried to document some of what we've accomplished here in this blog but, in reality, the things we've been able to record here only scratches the surface. How do you show the relational seeds that we are planting and cultivating on a daily basis? How do you determine the unique impact our presence has had on the local community since we've arrived? How do you make a blog post that really conveys the exciting plans and developments that are just beyond the horizon?

Josh directs the choir at the Christmas program.
In being here, we hope we are representing you well and, in a sense, serving as an extension of each person that has helped shape and mold us into the people we are today.

We also hope that we have "sold" you on our service here -- we certainly believe in what we are doing. So much so that we would like to ask you to continue to partner with us through financial means, if you are able.

The end of the calendar year is approaching, which means you still have time to make a tax-deductible donation to support us as we look to complete our fund-raising for this school year.  Every little bit helps. Just CLICK HERE to make a donation and make sure you designate it for "Josh and Alisha Garber."
Alisha teaches her Resident Assistants how to
make hula girls for an upcoming event.

If money isn't something you can spare, then please send us an e-mail telling us what's new in your life. This will be our first Christmas away from friends and family and word from home would be great blessing.

The next week will be one of transition as the students prepare for their final exams, projects, and prepare for winter break. We, at the same time, will be preparing for their grand exodus from the resident halls and do our best to make the last few weeks meaningful for the students we mentor most closely.

Please feel free to send us thoughts and questions and, as always, we'll do our best to answer them as soon as we are able.