We continued to go back to the conference each year and they always made us feel welcome even though we weren't official family members. For various reasons it took 5 years before we could officially become part of this mission board. It became official last summer and we just got back from our first conference as part of the family! It felt a little different this time. I felt more connected to this group of people that serve God in various European countries. I enjoy hearing their stories, learning about their calling, getting to know their hearts, and being encouraged by them. We learned from the book of Psalms together, we prayed together, we laughed together, and best of all we were real together. There is no better and purer friendships than those where you can be your complete self without any fear.
The other great thing about being a part of this board and going to this conference is our kids get together with other third culture kids and can completely be themselves and feel safe and have fun. Our two oldest were in the teen group. They took late night walks down to the castle and played games. They talked and laughed a lot and slept very little! They had their own Bible studies with a young man/pastor who is from England and he poured into their lives during the week.
We had an adventure getting to the conference. We flew into Italy and rented a car. Our plane tickets were $10 round trip for each person, yes you read that correctly! We flew to Bergamo and we missed seeing this old medieval town but we will be visiting it again with such cheap air fare available! We drove through beautiful Switzerland. It is just unreal how beautiful the drive was. We drove back through the Austrian Alps and the Italian Alps. They make tunnels right through the mountains. The longest tunnel we went through was 16km! The drive was just breathtakingly beautiful. Of course on the way back the boys missed most of it as they were exhausted and sleeping. We then spent Monday in Venice, Italy wanting to give the boys a chance to see a new place. They were so tired I don't know how much they enjoyed it. We did have Italian pizza and Italian ice cream (gelato) which as always was delicious.
Over all it was a really good trip. It's always an adventure traveling through Europe and this time was no exception! We always come home with thankful hearts full and encouraged!