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'Tis the season of mixed emotions

If you haven't heard our big news yet, check out the following video:

So . . . . . this pause isn't the only thing that's pregnant. You should probably watch this video NOW.
Posted by Joshua Slabaugh Garber on Sunday, November 15, 2015
Helping Julija with her church camp in August. You can see a
post from last year's camp here, although this time Alisha was
able to join. Julija is the student who adopted us.
If you know anything about our story, you know that our process of trying to grow our family has been one filled with pain, disappointment, and fear. In fact, almost exactly one year ago we were not celebrating -- we were in deep mourning as Alisha and I tried to cope with our second miscarriage.

But this season is much different. Advent has taken on new meaning and the place where Mary's song comes from is filled with new life as we hear those words with fresh ears. If Christmas is about birth, then Advent is about pregnancy.

And holy cow is Alisha pregnant! (For those of you who are interested, we've established Alisha is the "sassy" kind of pregnant lady)

Josh and several of the Ukranian students at the first day of classes parade.
Josh secretly hopes he can be as cool as they are.
We know our blog has been somewhat silent and we apologize. In many ways, it's hard to know what to say. Our fourth year at LCC has not been filled with new experiences and new revelations, but we have stayed busy. In many instances, it feels as though we could just re-link to a past blog post and it's content would be just as relevant today as it was when first posted.

However, outside our LCC routines, there's a lot we've wanted to comment on but we've not been able to find the words. I'll do my best here to recap with hopes of revisiting some of these ideas second semester:
  • Alisha's pregnancy is something we learned right at the start of this school year, so we've had growing anticipation all semester that we had to keep to ourselves out of fear of the devastation of another loss.
  • In the midst of our joy and the anticipation of new life, we've found ourselves in mourning -- late October, we learned that a very close friend and the lead pastor at our church in Phoenix died in a motorcycle accident. I tried to write about that in a blog post but there are no words that can express our sadness. We're still recovering from that along with the Trinity Mennonite Church community.
  • The refugee situation here in Europe -- what is there to say? We've tried to do our part in bringing the conversation to LCC's campus but there's not a lot of certainty on how incoming refugees will impact us and the rest of Lithuania.
  • We were fortunate to travel a few times this year (click the links to see photos). First to Malta for our 10th wedding anniversary, second to Spain to visit some exciting Anabaptist communities, and finally to Telšiai in Lithuania to play music at the SIELOS festival with the LCC Chapel Band and our group, Sparrows.
  • What is our plan for next year? December is usually when LCC wants to know if we intend to return next school year or not. As we are in the fourth year of what was initially a two-year commitment, this has become a process involving great reflection and discernment. We are certainly in the midst of seeking God's will for us.
As you can see from this post, our thoughts are everywhere and anywhere. Our hope is to elaborate better on some of these ideas next semester but, for now, we seek to stay present in this Advent season.

Also, we will be learning our due date and whether we will have a boy or girl after New Years, so check back regularly! We are resolving to keeping this blog updated on a much more regular basis from here on.

If you are reading this, we thank you for your support, encouragement and prayers!

"Cruisin' down the street in my '64..." This is why Josh doesn't get to choose where to park the school van anymore.


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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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This year's Christmas band, led by Josh, dressed in traditional clothes from countries represented at LCC to symbolize the world coming together to celebrate Christ's birth.
Alisha wrote and directed the Christmas program, featuring the cutest Mary
and Joseph ever! It also spawned locally trending hashtags
#babyking and
also #ItsTooWonderful.
Our Fall Semester at LCC International University has come to a close. The students have finished their classes, the finals are complete and we are adjusting to the slower pace. 

In the past weeks, Josh and I have been quite engaged with holiday parties, Christmas Programs, final chapels, Angel Tree Project, Student Leader appreciation parties, data tracking, invoice input, employee reviews and semester end evaluations, not to mention the budget conversion to Euro that will hit on January 1! 

Check out this video about the 2014 LCC Christmas Program and Fair made by LCC Student Mykola Kutola from Rivne, Ukraine:

Sometimes we smile even though it's
hard. Our blessings are great and team
Garber feels your prayers.
In all of this busyness, it's been difficult to focus on the recent tragedy that hit us last month. Too many appointments, meetings, reports, emails and action-items to reflect on the loss we endured in November. (If you're not sure what I'm talking about, check out this blog post.)

For those of you who were wondering, our visit to Dr. Odetta on December 8 was a reassuring one.  Although it didn't provide any answers, it did open doors to more information. I've been referred out to a hematologist and geneticist. These appointments will happen some time in the new year.

I finally had a few moments to myself this morning and had time to think about the loss of our second child, and found peace in knowing that although I am not "great with child," Mary was. Even though we are not expecting a baby of our own, we can wait patiently for the birth of Jesus to be celebrated on December 25. 

I must remember that Jesus doesn't come wrapped in twinkling lights and satin bows; He comes straight into our pitchest black. And our God, He knows the comings and goings of our darkest days and roughest personal battles, and this is exactly where He meets us.

I need the grace and peace of Jesus in this season of my life, more than ever.Isaiah 40:31 says: "...but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Alisha and Natalie wearing awesome hats approximately
751 years ago.
I'm happy that Christmas is coming... and so are our friends Natalie Mast and Bryan Howard from Phoenix! 

Natalie and Bryan will be our first visitors in Lithuania and they arrive tomorrow (Christmas Eve). We'll pick them up in the Vilnius Airport and show them around Lithuania and Latvia, sharing the Christmas season, until they depart on December 30. We are so excited. This is truly something to celebrate. #ItsTooWonderful

I wish for you and your families to have a peaceful and loving holiday season as you celebrate the birth of the #babyking. May you be blessed in the coming 2015.



Summer Travels pt. 2

Our second, shorter round in Central Indiana ended with an afternoon barbecue in the park with the extended Denny family.
What a whirlwind trip this has been! Who would have thought we could have possibly crammed in as much fun, adventures, stories, and food into a short five weeks?
Jeanne and Jerry Garber guide us through an afternoon tour around the lake they
live on in Michigan.

It was such a joy to reconnect with all of you while we traveled in Indiana and Arizona. The delicious meals, the heartfelt conversation, the meaningful sharing -- what more can we say but thank you!

We had so much fun at the Talent Night & Silent Auction as well as the viewing of “The Other Dream Team” documentary. If you missed out on either of those events, DVD copies can be borrowed from the Trinity Mennonite Church office, 4334 W. Vista Ave., Glendale, AZ 85301.

One of several Lithuanian summer feasts we prepared for friends
and family.
Thanks to the generosity of many, many people, we can honestly say our fundraising efforts while in the U.S. have been successful -- we’re closer to our goal for the upcoming service year.

That said, we still have a ways to go. If you are interested in making a donation to us, please visit this site. Make sure that you enter “Josh and Alisha Garber” as the comment in the Faculty/Staff support line.

Although our time "back home" may not have been entirely restful, it was definitely worthwhile and helped refuel our spirits for another year at LCC International University.

While naming everyone who helped us out during our time in the states would be impossible, there are a few individuals we want to give an extra special thanks to Aaron Gouldthorpe, Daniel Wohlberg, Alissa & Tyler Prater, and Jerry & Jeanne Garber for housing us and making us feel like family. Also, thanks to the Schrocks for helping us with our technology and got us out of town for a night of mindless fun.

We feel affirmed that we have returned to Lithuania as ambassadors of our community at Trinity Mennonite Church. We are also excited to be serving as Mission Associates for Mennonite Mission Network -- a development we'll explain more in an upcoming update.

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we return to work here in Klaipėda.

Performing a few songs at our Variety Show
fundraiser at Trinity Mennonite Church.
Playing the Game of Life with Stephanie Quirin, who treated us
to an afternoon of games and lounging by the pool as an escape
from the desert heat.

Alisha was able to un-
expectedly reunite with best
friend and local grump,
Harry LaPillough.
Josh experiences Sam Schrock
for the first time. Both are unsure
how to feel.
Myriam Sollman, a former bandmate and good
friend, traveled to Phoenix from the East Coast
to spend some time with us. Playing Dutch Blitz
at a new-ish outdoor, mist-cooled venue was a
great way to catch up.



The Garber Dinning Room Tour 2013

For Alisha's first birthday outside the United States, we went with a Muppet/puppet theme, including a trip to the local puppet theatre with friends! A local friend, Ilona, hooked us up with a behind-the-scenes look at the puppets and chance to meet the puppeteers. As you can see, Alisha was only slightly happy.
We made our own puppets later so we could act out stories from
Alisha's life. Josh poses with a "tree" and "Alisha."
In our last blog post, we mentioned ways we were going to stir things up here at LCC International University. Specifically, we mentioned Alisha's Art Club, Josh taking a bigger role in Roots of Justice, LCC's anti-human trafficking group, and what we are now calling the Mustard Seed project, a church alternative for people who like Jesus but don't like religion.

One thing we're still working on is budgeting out time because, while these things have all been incredibly life giving, they're also quite time consuming. As such, we've not been able to blog our adventures in as timely a fashion as we'd like. However, with a trip back to the United States in the horizon, we have a solution to help get you up to speed: The Garber Dinning Room Tour 2013!

More than anything we want to spend this time reconnecting with family and friends -- what better way to do that than over a meal? The idea is that you invite us over for lunch or dinner and, in exchange, we can share our experience of serving in Eastern Europe.

Here's our current travel plans:
May 9-11................Northern Indiana/Michigan
May 12...................Jordan S. Garber graduates!
May 13-17..............Central Indiana

May 18...................Travel Day
May 19-June 15.....Arizona (June 3-6 Idaho Conference)
June 16...................Travel Day
June 17-19
..............Central Indiana
June 20-24..............Northern Indiana/Michigan
June 25...................Return to Lithuania

We made a calendar below so you can see which days are available and which are already occupied.

Contact us via the comments or e-mail (, and let us know when you are free to kick it. We'll put it on our calendar and make sure we're there!

It would be fair to say we are also viewing this as an opportunity to raise funds, but please do not feel like that is a requirement. For planning reasons, please give us a few dates that would work for you and be aware that family will take priority.