Friday Family Update – #alwayslate :)

February is off to a great start! We’re still in the midst of hot season here, so trying to beat the heat and continuing to pray for rain for our area.

We’ve started a two-week training this week, welcoming leaders from across the southwest. Pray for this group as they learn and grow and serve!

Chyella is still loving school and loving on her friends there! We’re also enjoying a new children’s book in French each month through a subscription service the school runs. And, Jairus is walking!!! He’s super proud of himself as he wanders around the house! 🙂

Nathan and I are enjoying taking a class this month by Be the Bridge for white people wanting to learn about racial unity work. We’re learning a lot!

We just sent out our monthly update, so email me if you’d like to receive it. I’m attaching it here as well.

Resource Spotlight: Black History Month

Chyella is still loving her French preschool! And we love it too–we love that she can make friends with children from many different places, and that she can learn a new language too! We also really enjoy doing “worksheeps” together at home on off-days, so this month we’re supplementing with some Black history month resources! If you have ideas or resources, please share as well!

Here are some fun animated Black History Stories as videos for preschool age. They’re from Goose Goose Duck YouTube channel, and it seems they have lots of fun videos I want to check out!

I was also able to download free printable coloring pages highlighting famous African-Americans on ScribbleFun. Looking forward to learning with Chyella many of these historical Americans’ stories this month! There are many other great resources–here’s a link to lots of ideas–but most of these are for older kids than preschool.

Our organization has also created an app to share new initiatives and current stories of what God is doing around the world. This app has been promoted through many of our SBC churches–feel free to download it here. A few months ago, our organization partnered with Barna Research Group to do a study on the Future of Missions. Barna and others then shared much of what was learned through the app. This month, starting February 7th, our organization is highlighting many stories of African-American missionaries who have served around the world and throughout history, including some children’s resources! Check out these stories through the app!

We’re so grateful for these initiatives and look forward to learning a lot this month–both with Chyella and ourselves as adults! At the same time, as a couple, we have also learned a lot this past year about the racism in our history in the SBC, and, honestly, in our own hearts. We absolutely want to celebrate the contributions of African-Americans to our denomination and organization, and any progress we are making toward greater racial equity. But we also want to acknowledge that we still have a long way to go. This Christianity Today article talks about the low numbers of African-American and other minorities serving as missionaries with our organization, compared to the numbers of those minorities in our Southern Baptist churches. This IMB.org article discusses why it matters–the great loss to our organization and its impact around the world without more minority voices and leaders.

For our awareness and learning in this area, two books have also been very helpful in the last year: Jemar Tisby’s The Color of Compromise, and this collection of Southern Baptist pastors and professors writing specifically about the SBC’s history, Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention.

We have a lot to learn!

Recipe Thursdays: Homemade Tortillas

Let’s start off the year of recipes with one of our family favorites: homemade tortillas!!

When I was in college (and arrived in Madagascar), I could make a very limited repertoire of meals. Noodles with red sauce (from a jar), scrambled eggs, grilled cheese . . . honestly that was about it.

Thankfully, some sweet American ladies living in Madagascar started teaching me how to cook. One was Kristi, and this is her tortilla recipe.


Homemade Tortillas

all-purpose flour – 2 cups

oil – ¼ cup

salt – 1 tsp

warm water – 2/3 cup (as needed)

Mix flour, salt, and oil in a large bowl with a fork. Add water slowly, stirring with a fork, then with one hand. Water should be warm—not hot or cold. When the dough is ready, it will pull together away from the sides into a ball. Be careful not to add too much water. Do not overmix.

Once dough is in one ball, divide into smaller, golf-ball-sized balls. Begin heating a non-stick pan on the stove. Roll out each ball (or use a tortilla press!). Cook tortillas one by one in the hot pan, flipping, until small brown spots appear on each side. Tortillas are especially good / ready / right if they blow up with big bubbles. Serve warm.


This quickly became one of my weekly staples. When Nathan and I got married after we moved back to the USA, I tried to switch to store-bought tortillas. Nathan came home from work one night, and I had fixed tacos and heated tortillas from the grocery store. When he saw them, Nathan’s face fell. He asked me, “You just didn’t have time to make the homemade ones?” I explained that the ones from the store are a lot easier. “But I’m sure it’s cheaper to make them yourself,” he suggested.

I laughed–“Not really! This pack of 30 is about three dollars!” But Nathan was just so sad about it–and let’s face it, the homemade ones are delicious!–so I always made our own after that 😉 And then my sister-in-law blessed me with an electric tortilla press . . . definitely made the process faster and cleaner!

Enjoy this recipe y’all! Fix ground beef or chicken with your favorite spices, chop up some fresh veggies for salsa and guacamole, grate some cheese, and put out a large container of sour cream . . . yum! Have fun!

Friday Family Update (a little late, as usual ;)

Tessa here, with a quick monthly family update. At the bottom is our downloadable monthly update I sent out January 1–please let me know if you’d like to receive that by email! Let us know ways we can be praying for you!

We’re praying for our home country in this time of upheaval and uncertainty. As American Christians and especially as American missionaries, we know we personally have much to learn and repent of. We’re praying all who are believers are looking to Jesus to guide us in love and repentance as well. We’re realizing–though we should know this, but maybe haven’t lived it out–that repentance is really a daily part of the life of the Christian.

For us personally, over the last year the uncertainty of COVID, the murders of George Floyd and others, the subsequent protests over the summer, and the protest at the Capitol this week, have been very eye-opening to sin alive and well in our own hearts. It’s at that point–the clear look at our sin–that we most need Jesus to transform us. Praying we look to Him–not within ourselves for justification or hope or help–so He can make us more like Him. We’re always open to talking if anyone wants to share or ask us anything or for prayer.

We’re all doing well as a family. The kids are loving having each other to play with, and Chyella is definitely still a huge fan of French school. She’s learning a lot of French–still not speaking a ton, but growing! Jairus is crawling at record speed and still cruising . . . we know that walking milestone is right around the corner!

We celebrated our seventh marriage anniversary in December, along with Jairus’ first birthday! We also loved celebrating Christmas and New Years’ at our local Toliara church. Online visits with family are always a huge lift during the holidays–we know many of you may have celebrated with family that way too this year! We also enjoyed some beach time to celebrate the holiday season!

We as a couple have both enjoyed some focused reading and writing time, and also are thankful for some time this month to think through goals with the local believers here. We feel a little silly setting annual goals when last year turned all of everyone’s plans on their heads! Still, the time to hear the local leaders’ priorities and pray about how we can help is very encouraging to us.

We think we’re about halfway through hot season right now, so hanging in there. We’re also praying hard for rain for the south of Madagascar, as the people here need it for a harvest. Please join us in praying for this big need!

Love you all!

Recipe Thursdays: Christmas Morning Cinnamon Rolls

Christmas morning is fast approaching!! 

I’ve posted this recipe before, but in honor of Christmas I’ve got to post it again! Cinnamon rolls are a critical part of my Christmas morning memories and tradition. I searched for several years of Nathan’s and my marriage for the perfect cinnamon roll recipe for us to use overseas, from scratch (I grew up on the pop-can ones!). 

But, I’ve always been so intimidated by trying to use yeast! When I read in this recipe that the author also found yeast intimidating, I knew it was at least worth a try. And it worked!! Now I’m a loyal fan! 

Chyella and I enjoy making this fun recipe each Christmas Eve, in preparation for a special Christmas morning. I hope you enjoy it too!

Merry Christmas!  

Recipe Thursday: Rich, Christmasy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

OK, time for a Christmas favorite! I first made this cake for a friend who loved chocolate and peanut butter together. We could never have imagined how rich it would be! After that, Nathan swore it off—he said he needed years in between eating it, lol. So we compromised and made it our Christmas cake. 

I follow this cake recipe pretty closely. The cake itself is incredibly moist—definitely a staple when you need a chocolate cake! The peanut butter cream cheese frosting is so fluffy and tasty, and the ganache really seals the deal. Enjoy!! 

Recipe Thursday: My Dad’s Turkey and Dressing

Thanksgiving is coming up! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It was one of my dad’s favorites too.

Now, on the subject of turkey, in my circles I’ve noticed two main comments around turkey: 

  1. I don’t really care for turkey—it’s too dry.
  2. No, I’ve found the perfect way to make turkey. This is the only way to make it!

Anybody with me on this? But, unless you’ve had my dad’s turkey and your perfect way is his way, then I’m going to have to disagree with you 😉 My dad loved turkey and dressing so much that when he was a bachelor, he used to make the full Thanksgiving meal for himself all throughout the year. He truly mastered it. So many amazing Thanksgiving memories with him and our family every year. 

And, so special, Dad once wrote out in detail the way he made the turkey for our dear friend Kristi. Now we have the recipe just the way he did it, in his own words. I’ve added some of my own notes to the bottom, which I made when my lovely friend Jodie made her turkey this way a few years ago.  

And now, I would have to say, my sister, Nathan and I have also mastered the turkey. Molly can do it all by herself! And she handles the lovely table arrangements.

Also, another note, you must enjoy this recipe with TONS of cranberry sauce!

And we’ve also enjoyed adding the Baker favorites to our traditional Thanksgiving, as we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving together many times since our marriage! Maybe we’ll share those recipes later! 🙂

I hope you enjoy it! We do every year!

From Dad: 

I BUY A 20 POUND FROZEN BUTTER BALL TURKEY. IT TAKES ABOUT 2-3 DAYS TO THAW OUT .

TAKE OUT THE HEART, NECK AND LIVER AND COOK IN A LARGE POT UNTIL SOFT AND PUT THEM IN THE REFRIDGEATOR OVER NIGHT.

I COOK THE BIRD ON 180 DEGREES OVERNIGHT FROM 11 PM TO 7AM.

I PEEL 2 LARGE SWEET ONIONS AND PUT THEM IN THE TURKEY RIB CAGE.

I CUT UP 2 STICKS BUTTER AND STICK THEM IN ALL THE SKIN FLAPS AND UNDER THE WINGS AND LEGS.

I SPRINKLE SALT AND PEPPER, POULTRY SEASONING ALL OVER THE BIRD. THE INGREDIENTS ARE: THYME, SAGE, MARJORAM, ROSEMARY, BLACK PEPPER AND NUTMEG.

NEXT I DOUBLE WRAP THE BIRD IN 2 LAYERS OF HEAVY DUTY FOIL.

I FOLD  2 MORE SHEETS OF FOIL TOGETHER AND PUT IT IN THE BOTTOM OF THE COOKING PAN. 

PLACE THE WRAPED UP TURKEY, BREAST DOWN, ON THE PAN, WRAP THE  2 FOIL SHEETS AROUND THE TURKEY AND PUSH IT DOWN NICE AND TIGHT, ADD 1 MORE SHEET OF FOIL OVER  THE TURKEY THE PUSH DOWN TIGHT.

(YOU PROBOBLY THINK I HAVE A LOT OF REYNOLDS WRAP STOCK IN MY  401K,  BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO SAVE ALL THE  TURKEY BROTH AND MELTED BUTTER AS IT IS USED  IN EVERY PART OF THIS MEAL, FROM GRAVY TO DRESSING.

IF EVERTHING WORKS OUT THE TURKEY WILL BE FULLY COOKED AND SITTING IN 3 TO 5 INCHES OF GOLDEN STOCK BY MORNING.  POUR THE BROTH INTO A  LARGE BOWL AND COVER.

NOW FOR THE DRESSING.

I USE 1 BAG OF SEASONED CROUTONS AND 1 BAG OF CORNBREAD CROUTONS.

4 TO 6 STALKS OF CELERY CHOPPED 1/8” TO 1/4” SATAUED WITH THE COOKED ONION FROM THE BIRD CUT UP

TAKE ALL OF THE MEAT OFF  THE TURKEY NECK, CUT UP THE LIVER AND HEART, PUT ALL OF THIS IN THE BLENDER ALONG WITH SOME BROTH AND PURREE IT. THIS LOOKS AWFUL BUT IT GIVES A GOOD FLAVOR TO THE DRESING.

PUT THE 2 BAGS OF CRUTONS IN A PAN AND ADD SOME BROTH

THE ONIONS AND CELERY AND THE PUREED MIXTURE AND STIR AROUND

AND ADD 2 TO 3 CANS OF CRÈME OF CELERY SOUP.

ADD POULTRY SEASONING AROUND TO TASTE. THE DRESSING SHOULD BE FAIRLY WET.

COOK IN THE OVEN UNTIL THE TOP IS BROWN AND CRUNCHY AND THE BOTTOM IS SOFT BUT NOT WET,

 LET ME KNOW HOW IT ALL TURNS OUT!

From Tessa: 

For the poultry seasoning, I just use poultry seasoning from the store—I think he included the list of ingredients in case poultry seasoning wasn’t available.

The goal is 180 for 8 hrs. You’ll want a poultry thermometer to plunge in in the morning just to be sure it’s done. We have typically pulled it out then, drained out much of the broth (for dressing, gravy, etc.), but left the turkeys wrapped in the foil for most of the day while we do other cooking. Sometimes we’ve put them back in for a warm up later on—right before serving. I think as a family we’re used to eating the turkey at room temp, and we don’t mind that (since it’s cooked), but if you want it hot you’ll want to reserve time at the end for putting them back in—just be aware when you put them back in that that can dry them out.

We don’t put our stuffing in the turkey, so we don’t stuff them and then put them back in—but we need the broth for the stuffing, so we drain it out and then close up the foil. Sometimes if you’ve done the foil well you can poke a small hole near the bottom and pour out a lot of broth without even opening up the turkey, and I usually do the poultry thermometer through the foil, so as to keep the turkey sealed for warmth.

The foil is really important. You’ll want to put two pieces side-by-side and fold them together (connecting them on the long side, sort of like a hem), and lay that in the bottom. Then put the turkey on that (in a casserole dish or on a baker or something). Then, do the same thing again (two pieces, folded with a hem), and lay that over the top, then connect the top section and bottom section with the same kind of hem . . .  does that make sense? The foil is really important for making lots of broth and keeping the meat moist—because turkey has such a tendency to be dry.

Good luck!

Resource Spotlight: Preschool Fun from home!

Tessa here, with a few fun preschool resources that have been a lifesaver for us during this time! Chyella was loving her French preschool here in Toliara, and thankfully has been back in school for the month of October! During the “confinement” as we have called it here, we found these great websites for educational worksheets and videos! These links work for me here in Madagascar, but may not work for you if you’re in the USA—sorry about that! Just Google the names and that should work, and let me know if you have trouble 🙂

Thanks to my friend Jodie’s recommendation, we used Talking Letter Factory and Talking Word Factory videos to introduce basic alphabet and reading skills—Chyella watched these repeatedly last December and learned her letters–woohoo!

We worked through this “Letter of the Day” worksheet series from Preschool Mom twice! 

Great “Read the Alphabet” curriculum from This Reading Mama. We haven’t really tapped into all the resources here, but our favorite worksheets in this reading series are the “Color by Sight Word.”

And speaking of sight words, this whole series of “Meet the Sight Words” videos from the Preschool Prep Company has helped Chyella a ton with learning the blends and lots of new words.

We also have some favorite books—the Jesus Storybook Bible of course, and God’s Very Good Idea. This last one is a new addition and Chyella loves it!

Also, here’s a fun shot of Chyella trying a sidewalk chalk obstacle course we did–thanks to a friend, Caroline, for this idea on Facebook! 🙂

Recipe Thursdays: Chicken Pot Pie

This is one of those recipes that has evolved over time. It started with a turkey pot pie recipe from my friend and first Mada roommate Melody–thanks Melody! But we always used chicken. Hers had a biscuit topping, which was tasty, and then a few years ago I switched to a pie crust top and bottom. I also switched to that canned veggie assortment of peas and carrots . . . just to make life easier! But the main thing about this recipe is that it’s very forgiving!! It’s one of those you can use at the end of the week to get rid of extra veggies—that’s one of the reasons I love it! Here’s what I do:

Ingredients – Filling:

  • Five garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 chicken breast or pack of tenders
  • 2 T olive oil
  • any extra chopped, fresh veggies you want to use
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth (or water and bullion cubes)
  • ½ cup sour cream (or ½ cup heavy whipping cream + ½ T vinegar)
  • ¼ cup corn starch

Directions – Filling:

  1. Chop the garlic and onion, and begin to sauté it in a big pot with the oil. 
  2. After a minute or two, lay the chicken breast or tenders in the pot and pan fry them.
  3. Sprinkle salt and pepper, a chicken bouillon cube, and any spices you like. 
  4. Be ready to add oil or a bit of water to make sure nothing burns.
  5. Break up the chicken as it cooks. 
  6. Add any other fresh vegetables you’re including: chopped green beans, fresh carrots, chopped potatoes, chopped zucchini. 
  7. Once the chicken is cooked through and browned just a bit, add about two cups of water (and maybe another bouillon cube) or chicken broth. 
  8. Add the canned carrots and peas.
  9. Take ½ a cup of the hot broth out and mix in ¼ cup of cornstarch, and then mix back into the pot. 
  10. Mix ½ a cup of sour cream into the pot. 
  11. Turn off the stove and add the mixture to the pie crust in the casserole dish. 

Then, here’s the pie crust recipe I use. I almost always have salted butter, so then I just leave out the teaspoon of salt. Make the crust sometime during the day and then have the two “disks”—the dough balls of the pie crusts—in the fridge. 

Once I have the filling made, I roll out one disk, press it into the bottom of a 9×9 casserole dish, and put it in the oven at 190 C. After about 10 minutes, I pull the casserole dish out, spoon in the filling, and then roll out the other disk and lay it on top. Then I put it all back in the over for another 30 minutes or so. Sometimes I put on the top grill for a few minutes at the end to brown the top.

This is one of our favorites! Enjoy!

Things to Ponder: Chyella’s Concept of “English”

Our daughter Chyella is four. She is a huge talker. She goes to French preschool—or at least she did, before COVID-19. She also talks with Malagasy people as we visit them and go to church with them. She knows words in French and in Malagasy, and likes to practice. She has a category for the French language, and one for the Malagasy language. One day, we started talking about English. She learned a new word, and asked if it was a French word. No, I told her, it was just an English word that was new to her. She gave me a very puzzled look. 

C: Mommy, what’s English?

Me: You know, English. The language we speak here at home. What we speak all the time.

C: (still super puzzled) You mean French? 

Me: No—you practice French at school, and Malagasy at church. But English is most of what you know, everything we’re saying right now.

She shook her head. We repeated this conversation in some form or another for at least a week. She never got it. I’m not an early childhood development expert (if you are, please chime in! :), but I think I can imagine why she struggled with this concept. English is equivalent to just talking for her. It was a “does a fish know it’s wet?” moment for me. For Chyella, English is not a language to be learned or studied or practiced (as she does with French and Malagasy, because her exposure is more limited). It’s just talking. Removing herself from her daily speech to examine it is nearly impossible. 

I believe this same struggle is true for many of us who are white when we think about race in the United States. We’ve never examined our experience, stepped back from it and considered the role our race plays in it, because to us, our experience is the “American experience.” Race has nothing to do with it. We don’t even realize uniquely white elements of our experience. We don’t understand African-American struggles, but the depth and breadth of what we may be missing never occurs to us. We don’t often step back from our own and other Americans’ experience because we expect it to be our own. 

With the murders that have taken place in recent weeks and months—at least, those that have come to the attention of the news—and the protests that have followed, I have found myself in the midst of a powerful lesson. I’m humbled to admit that I haven’t learned this lesson before now, that I’m new to this conversation on racial injustice. When the protests and rioting started, I felt the impulse to reach out to African-American friends, to check on them and ask how they were doing. And then I realized—again, with shame—I hardly know any African Americans. Suddenly I realized—I don’t know anything about African Americans. How could I possibly, when I know so few?

Nathan and I are missionaries in Madagascar. We have the privilege of working among people who are culturally different than we are, and having many deep relationships with Malagasy people. We have worked for years on language learning and cultural observation. We have learned to enter every conversation with open ears and open minds, assuming throughout that we’re missing something, determined to reserve judgment and keep learning. That doesn’t mean we do this perfectly, but we have seen that regular and prolonged exposure to another culture has given us an incredible gift—we now know just how wrong it is possible for us to be. 

When we first came to Madagascar, we were enamored with the differences—it’s called the honeymoon phase on the culture shock continuums. Then, we developed some real relationships and found ourselves reveling in the similarities . . . this culture wasn’t so different after all! Humans are the same, the world over! Then, as time went on and language and culture comprehension grew, a deeper reality set in. We are different . . . very different in many ways. This is not a statement of value—different isn’t bad. But it is real. There are significant differences between American culture and Malagasy culture. If we ignore those, we will not be good missionaries. We will not share our message or our lives in ways that are meaningful here. We will miss huge swaths of what is happening around us. And the more we learn, the more we discover is missing or inadequate in our earlier understandings. The more we know, the more we know we don’t know.

This experience has changed the way we view life. We now have a growing instinct to listen first, learn first, expect to be wrong, expect to adapt. We are eternally grateful for the development of this learning muscle in our hearts and minds.  

And yet, here I am, failing to practice this discipline in my home culture. I’ve discovered a huge gap in my experience, a whole group of people I’ve lived alongside, yet ignored. And yet I’ve drawn conclusions, as if I could know. 

I’m determined to change this, to listen and learn intentionally to African American voices, to minority voices, especially those who are brothers and sisters in Christ. Even in beginning to listen, I’ve heard stories of suffering I can’t imagine—would not have thought possible. Romans 12:15 calls me to “weep with those who weep” . . . and yet I have brothers and sisters weeping and I’ve been oblivious to their needs. To friends of color who are reading this, I know you don’t need me . . . but I will be doing my best to learn to listen. To those of you who are white reading this, will you join me in learning?