Sister Stories - Cornerstone Church Kingston
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Sister Stories

This podcast encourages us to reflect on how the Lord has grown and moulded us into becoming more like Christ.

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S3 - 6. Jean W.

In this episode, I am interviewing Jean, who is married to Les and has been serving with him in Zambia for many years.

This is a special Zambia episode, leading up to the Zambia trip happening in June, in which several Cornerstone Church members are involved.

Transcript (Auto-generated)

Welcome to the Sista Stories podcast.

The aim of this podcast is to model a good sovereignty in each of our as women, and to encourage 1 another by sharing our stories.

My name is Sophie, and today I'm joined by Jean.

Hello, Jean.

Hello? Hi.

Eric, let's start with, can you tell us a little bit about who you are? Right.

Well, I'm I'm Jean married to Les White.

I'm 89.

And, I and we've been we've been married for a long time.

In a few weeks' time, it will be 68 years since we've been married.

We have 5 children and 8 grandchildren, all of whom are now adults.

The youngest 1 being 18, and we have 2 great granddaughters.


That's great.

So we're going to be talking about how you came to to know the lord Jesus Christ.

But to start us off, could you tell us about your childhood and what it was like? Had a very stable, happy childhood.

Les and I grew up, living in the same road.

We were living in Downham, housing estate, on the edge of Bromley.

And charthood then is very different for the than it is today.

But We did have a we each had a very happy childhood.

My mother went to the local church, a brother in assembly called Brook Lane, and she became she was a member.

And so, Les and I were both sent to a Sunday school at an early age.

And my and we used to and when I think back at at my childhood, I I think, well, the the 3 things, there was school, there was home, and church, because the church provided everything we needed in the way of a social life, really.

We were there all day on Sunday at meetings.

Saturdays were youth groups and various things.

And so that was a very stable part of my of my life.

And, we're very grateful for the help and support encouragement that we had from from the church, the leaders, And we're very, very grateful to have had such a good basic start in life.

Did you have, at that time, a clear understanding of the gospel? Yes.

I did, but I was quite young, when I became a Christian, the, there there was it was the gospel service in the evening on Sunday.

And the preacher was talking about pilot.

And he said he felt a bit sorry for pilot because he was put in a very difficult position.

And he said, I wonder if pilot, is is in we'll see him in heaven.

And when I thought about it, I was 7, and I thought, well, I don't really know that I'm going to heaven, but perhaps I want to do that.

And and and very simply, I became a Christian then.

I think, because I was so young, I worried that perhaps I hadn't done it properly, so I probably did it another couple of times later on, but And and and that was that was the the start of it, really.


Oh, that's great.

And what role did your parents some people in the church playing that? And how do they help you to grow in your faith? Well, the my my father wasn't a a church member, but he used to come on a Sunday night.

My mother was a member, and, they they they just gave us Well, it's it's difficult to say because there was no sort of outward, they they just encouraged us generally, and it was just I felt sort of safe at church.

And and and there was a good crowd of young people, particularly, So we we had good friends and could do things together.

And as I said, the the air bleed us were very, very, very helpful to us and encouraged us in everything.


So did you stay in that church and in that area for We we stayed.

We were in that church until we were, until we we got married.

Less was in the army, and he went to army apprentice school at 15a half.

And, we we became friends quite early on, as young teenagers.

And so we have, as I say, to be we've we've known each other forever.

Also, it seems.



What's when did you get married? We we got married, in 1955.

I was 21, and this was 20 3, so we were quite young.

But, Les had been with the army.

He'd been in Egypt for, several years.

And he came home and we and we got engaged and and because I was young, he promised my father that we would, he we would be engaged for a year before we got married.

So this is what happened, and And by that time, he was settled teaching, in, in Chatham at the army school.

And so we moved there after after we were married.

That's great.


It it feels like a very different time, obviously, with young men going to the army and things that we're not as familiar with nowadays.

Yeah, I'm really interested to see how how that things developed for me, actually, and and how things are now almost and what differences made you've noticed.

So we can come to that a bit later.


So obviously you you got involved in ministry in Zambia, and you were there for 60 years, almost.


60 years.




Very nice round number.

So how how did that happen? Did that come through the church you were at, or how did that happen for you? Yeah.

Well, Well, less left the army, we'd we'd had Heather by that time.

And then, and then I had twins.

And he left the army.

And, we were living in in Sidcap.

And the and he he became a because he'd, he'd got quite good, practical skills.

He was trained in the army, and he'd he'd learned quite quite a lot as an engineer, electrical engineer, mainly.

And he wanted to use this gift, practical gift, to help missionaries.

And so he had the idea of getting a getting a job in in Africa somewhere and then being able to help, in his spare time.

But nothing really came of that.

And and then the our church that the church that we grew up in was very missionary orientated.

And we had these 2 nursing sisters who were working in Zambia.

And 1 of them was a great friend, and she'd known me from a very small child.

And she came home on Fellow and said that the the mission where she was, which was, hospital, 300 bed hospital, in the bush and that they were desperately in need of a maintenance man.

There was no the power, you know, they had to generate themselves had, so there's lots of practical things to do.

And it was only when we thought, well, perhaps we ought to go full time as missionaries that the door really opened.

And, and so we decided to to go to Calaney to do that work.

And and it's Heather was 6 and the twins were 4 when when we we left to to do that.

Oh, okay.

Did you how long were you involved in that Ministry and did you move to another place afterwards? Yeah, well, we went to we went to Calaney, and we were there a few quite a few years.

And the children had to go to to a boarding school.


Which is 1 of the most difficult things that we had to face was was sending our children away, but it was a mission, a school for missionary as children, and it was only half an hour's drive away from us.

So although they had to board, we did have them home regularly.

And and then, and then they owe then the the government center was 50 miles away, and they built a secondary score there, which, and everything was being done in English.

And there was a 1 of our missionaries was their teaching scripture.

To half the school, and the Catholic father was teaching the other half.

And she was going home on Furlough, and Furloughs in those days were long a year.

She was going to be away for a year.

So the missionaries, senior missionaries were quite concerned that if no 1 did that job, then we would lose our position in the school, which was very important.

And, and by that time, I think Les had got someone else to help him with the maintenance.

And because he hadn't got, he wasn't terribly good at the local language.

It was decided that he he should go And so being junior missionaries, we did as we were told, and we we moved to many longer.

To teach scripture in the school.

We did that for a year.

By this time, Helen was 14, and there were no good secondary scores that we could send her to in the country.

And so the the 2 alternatives, that missionaries had at that time, 1 was that you sent your children overseas and didn't see them for a couple of years or even longer in some cases.

Or you packed up and you went home with your family.

And we didn't really like either of those options.

But while, while we were living in Winnie Longer, they were building a power station.

It was a the to put them on that national grid.

It was being built by Russians.

And, less, really, on the off chance, went into head office and to see what qualifications were necessary for the district engineer to run this power station.

And he hadn't, by any means, got all of them, but he was offered the job of district engineer.

So this meant that we could stay in winning longer.

We were we could still do some the Christian work amongst the school children.

They use the secondary school, we had a sec we had a service for them on Sunday morning, that the whole school had to attend, and there were various other things, that we we did there.

And so it meant that we could we could stay any longer, but the company would pay for Heather to go to UK and come out for for the for the holidays.

And as far as we were concerned, this was god providing for our family.

It meant complete change, and we came off the missionary list.

But we we we really did believe that this was god's provision for our family.

And, Can I ask you as well? So you said you were involved in different, jobs around the place.

Were you helping with the Sunday school and teaching the the children there.

And not uh-uh, Wendy and Longer, but the the school was being, staffed by quite a lot of expatriates.

There's a Zambian Headmaster, but there weren't many Zambian teachers at that time.

And there was sort of tremendous work among seasick patriots.

There were probably about 30 of them.

Quite a lot came from the UK.

What happened was that you would get a couple, both perhaps teachers, they would come out, for a duet 1 or 2 contracts and save up enough money to go back and buy a house.

And, so there were there were English people, French, Russians, so many different nationalities.

And there was nothing for them to do in any longer.

You know, there were there was no sort of social or, life for them.

And, so we're what certainly when we start did, well, they started running the power station.

We had a house, which was attached to the job, big a fairly big house.

And we used to have open house on a on a Sunday evening.

And, there was also an English speaking service the local Zambian church on a Sunday.

So there was quite a lot going on amongst the the the staff there.


So what did you get on to do next? I need a Scott a few more.

Well, well, then, we were coming to the end of his first contract.

I mean, we started in 1970.

So we were now up to 1973.

And, he was coming to the end of this contract, and then the next 2 children were due to go to the UK.

So, we so we we moved to because William Londer was a sort of a tin pot little station in the bush.

They wanted Les to be more involved in the in the town, in the head office, and, you know, that area.

And so we went on leave and got the the next 2 children settled at at school in the UK and came back to, in in in Dola, which is 1 of the CobreBot towns.

There's a whole whole range of about about 6 towns all close together that were the mining towns.

But of course, there was lots of interest industries that are connected with the mind there.

And, so there's actually left the power company and went to work for 1 of these these, firms, engineering firms, and we did that for for quite quite a few years.



And what next then sorry.

I'm just going to be carrying on with this.


Personally, I hadn't been doing very much up to this point.

I had been raising children, but when we were in Kittway, the the the last 2 children went off to England.

So it was 1977.

And then I got involved in a private primary school.

I'm a trained secretary, and I got the job of, as as a secretary at the school, and they There were always good schools for the mining children, but the the children of the companies they needed their own school.

So this was the school that was built for them.

And, and I was involved in right at the beginning, literally right at the beginning.

And and I was involved in in it in for 10 years, helped to to build up the school.

Start it we started off with 4 pupils, and then, at the end of the first term, the school had risen to 40 something.

And By that time, we had obtained a piano.

And so the very 1st Christmas of that year, the headmistress and I put on a carol concert, and the children had to learn all the words, and no, learn them at home.

And I was able to put in quite a few evangelical carols, meaningful carols, and, and this tradition, carried on well after I left school.

And, so and then, you know, that was an influence that I thought I could have.

That I also got very, very involved in music.

I'd played the piano since I was a small child, and I got involved in music.

So although I was just the receptionist, the secretary, I did all sorts of other things, and that was a very, very happy time in my life for 10 years.

All this time, Les had been working at in various.

In fact, he'd been working for another power company, but but he had been led into farming.

It's he he was interested in farming, and and and the the the per company had a small a small farm.

And 1 day, the the managing director got crossed with his his farm manager and sacked him on the spot.

And then he knew that Les was interested in farm because by that time, we were trying to run a farm up in in the bush.

So he asked him to take it over.

In the meantime.

And then, of course, as so often happens, it just that job just continued until in the end Les was in charge of, 4 or 5 mine farms.

So that's where he, you know, he got his farming experience all the time.

He was still on the books as an engineer, but he was actually farming.

And then we got involved with the the other farmers in the district.

And there were sort of ways in which we were involved in in the community, and they all knew what we stood for.

And it was amazing.

This the the small things that you could do to, to to witness witness to them.



How long how long did you stay that far? So, of less less was a bit he was finding life a bit difficult in the in the company he was working for because he his his boss was there were things going on that weren't weren't right.

And, you know, being a Christian, it's difficult to to to cope with that.

And and so he dis he decided, or we decided that we wanted to go up and try and the the farm, and up in the bush to really make a go of it.

By this time, the the there was 1 of the 1 of the men that we were doing it with was was actually running it.

And so he was very keen to get get to the farm.

And and so we we moved up there.

It was very hard for me to to leave the school, because I'd been very, very happy at it.

And they gave me a wonderful farewell.

And so we did that for for about 4 years.

So we're now up to 91, some like that.

And it was a very, very happy time because Les had he'd put in a hydro, scheme there.

He dumped the it may built a big dam down the river I made 2 lakes from the from the river.

And so, so it was a lovely place to live.

And we we were very happy there.

And then the other 2 2 men that were with us want it to go on and do something else.

And there was no way we could run the farm on our own.

I was absolutely devastated because I thought we were there for good.

And, I was crying every day as to why we had to leave this wonderful place and what had got got in mind for us.

But then then over the years, we had known Barry and Rachel Hague being very involved with them.

And Barry was at that time building, a Bible.

A Christian Training Center is its title.

His idea was to start a Bible school, but he wasn't content with just teaching the Zambians, the Bible.

He wanted to he wanted to cover the rest of their lives in various ways.

And so he he had a a small clinic and the and then the the main the other main thrust of the work was trades training.

Because if you train someone, his idea was that you trained big bricklayers and carpenters, could go back to the villages and they could earn their own living.

And so he started the training scheme and the actual trainees built started building the actual, but the Barber School.

And Barry was is a great teacher and preacher.

He speaks the language absolutely perfectly.

And so he he did get help, in the actual building, but he would say to Les, oh, I wish you could come and help me.

Because he knew Les would be able to help him in, so many ways.

And practical ways.

And so we thought about it.

We thought, well, perhaps this is this is the time that we should do that.

And and so we we spoke to them and we agreed that we would we would help them.

We would come This was Nyang Nombi is the name of the place, and it was being built just outside Winnie Longer.

So up in the area where where we we knew very, very well.

And so we agree to do that.

And then god's timing is just amazing because having agreed to do that Then Rachel was suddenly diagnosed with cancer, and she needed to go back to the UK.

And so we were left, looking after the place.

In the meantime, the 2 people had had had come out drawn out of the the farm.

So we were running that as well.

So at the beginning of 92, we we were we were commuting from from Satibondu to Yangonbi twice a week to keep an eye on the buildings and that.

But then Barry had had, he'd he'd had civil work done for a hydro scheme, and he'd got all the hydro equipment in boxes.

And so in January 90 2, Les started to put the machinery all in in in place and actually build the build the hydro and electrify the place.

And and then April 92, he switched on the, let's see, hydro.

And it's been running more or less, full time ever since.

That provides a 100 KVA electricity.

And, so so then we had to live at Yangonbi and commute to the farm while we we we finished up there.

So that was that was really when we went to went to to live at Yangonby was in the beginning of 90 2.

And the And some of those trainees there that were building the place, they are now elders and leaders in the church where we where we are, where we were.


So hence, they're now grandparents, and so we sort of grew up with the with that with that family.

That's great.

So you stayed in Niagara before about 30 years? Yeah.


And then it came back to the UK after Yes.


Well, we the the work has really, really increased.

So at Nangonbi, you've got to we've got the bible school is still the main thrust, but it's still it's short short courses for various groups of people like, leaders, evangelists, some of the school teachers, women all sorts of of groups like that, that come only for a a few weeks and that.

But, and then the other main thrust is the trade's training.

There's also a clinic.

Rachel started, a preschool.

We have a primary school on the place, but it's a government school, but we have, you know, a bit input into it.

I should perhaps say that the local chief gave bury the land, you know, for for the bible school.

And then there's some guest houses for hospitality and the facilities are available for other groups, world vision use the facilities a lot, and also when the power is offering winning longer, the education people come and hold seminars and workshops there and also the medical people.

So, it's so the facilities are available.

There's a a we've got a lovely campsite.

And then, of course, we got the farm, which we we started.

We took animals with us from from our other farm to start, and there's now a herd of over 200 beef animals in a few dairy as well.

And some and some of our senior men have their own animals running with the, with our herds, and they're sort of looked after, and and these animals are an investment for them, you know, so that there's there's a lot lot going on.


I find it amazing how god seems to have just equipped you for all these different ministries along the way and place to, like, where he wanted you and where you were needed along the way and how it seems that he he helped you develop skills, and then that helped in their life.

Well, well, that's well, that's what's amazed me because, we there's so many things that we've been into that we wouldn't necessarily we didn't sort of set I mean, those didn't set out and say, oh, I must get a job.

We it was sort of handed to him on a plate, really.

And then, and so the experience of farming he got from on the copper belt and, and so when he arrived at to Nyongbi, he had all the skills.

I should say that on the way, he had built out built me a house as well.

In fact, he's built 2 because we built 1 at Yangonby.

So he's prefer.

Well, you see, fail from when, with missionaries, if there's no 1 else to do things, they do they do end up doing lots of things.

And this is what Barry tried to do, but, so he was grateful to have the help of someone who could do it then.

And we we and then, you know, over the years, she, Liz has helped out at various other places like Sakeji school and even the Catholic mission if they needed help with their hydro.

And so, all along the way.

His his CV would be quite, quite interesting now.

I should say that along with the cows that we took, We also had a cold room, and he set up a cold room.

And so he he's also a butcher.

We'd prefer.

Very impressive.

And, yeah, I think It's just a a great testimony of god's faithfulness throughout the years of of keeping you going and and calling you to these different places and quipping you for all of these little things that are very practical but actually probably has a deep impact on Yes.

On the communities Yeah.

Because when, you know, when we first went out, as missionaries, people people didn't really do that.

And the, you know, the other thing is that the commitment that missionary is made in those days.

I mean, when we left when we left England, that was it.

You know, we were We were starting on a life times Yes.


So, which is all very different today because now you hear of people going out for a couple of years to see how they like it and have to get on.

And I suppose the hardest thing for us was was having to send our children to school.

And I know we've spent 60 years saying goodbye, and that has been really hard.

It gets it gets better at some stage, but, you know, having said goodbye to parents.

And then when the children's to go into school.

And then and then saying goodbye to grandchildren was it was only really 1 when I became a grandmother, that I realized just how how awful it was for our parents.

They were the only grandchildren.

And, and when we left, it was an adventure for us, but we left just a pair with just an awful hole.

And at at the time, I didn't didn't realize I'd just had dreadful that 1 but they never they never tried to stop us.

They never complained, so it's just just 1 of those things.

And, and then, of course, when once we once we started to work for the companies, then going back was a force changed because say the children came out for every holiday, and then, we would have a a a a leave halfway through our contract.

And so, by the time we were at Nyang Onbi, we Although we although we went back on the list as as full time missionaries again, there was no way that we were going to, be away for for years at a time because, you you your first commitment was was for 5 5 years, which is a very long time.

And But then not only do you sort of lose out on on family, the church that you went to who sent you who've sent you out with their blessing, they they don't know you.

And so if you so we So for quite a few years, you know, we have been coming back to the UK every year for 3 months or so.

That keeps us in touch with our family.

They're very good in that they they would give us time and redo things with them when we're here.

And then we'd go back to Africa, and they'd go back to their their usual life and that that suited suited us as well.

And then And then, we were due and then COVID came, of course, and we were due to come back in in in the April of, 2020.

And then the flights were canceled, and we couldn't get out to we came back in July.

And then, Les had various appointments, specialist appointments, and, you know, the medical things went a bit wrong then.

So we knew we would be there be in the UK longer.

And, so we were quite prepared to stay till Christmas.

And and then and then, of course, they brought in the vaccination program.

And we thought, well, if we go back, we ought really to have our vaccine nations.

So we had those in January, the first ones in January.

F 20 1.

And then Heather had been visiting us and staying with us at Yang Umby for 3 months every year since she retired as a nurse.

Which was sort of a decade ago.

And so so we she was going to come back with us.

And, and she was being younger.

She was a bit behind in her.


So we had to wait for her.

And then so we're now up to 2021, I think.

And, and then in the April of 21, I was diagnosed with a blood problem.

Which meant 3 monthly, blood tests and treatment very often So there was no way that we could we could go back permanently, which was a great blow because we we had left as if we were just coming on leave and then going back.

So, but we've had we have managed to visit twice because we needed to sort out our personal things and the house and everything.

So So have you passed on that ministry to someone else? Well, for quite a few years, in fact, to 20 years, another engineer came out, and he he complete his completely transformed the place.

He's 20 years younger than Les, and he gradually took over, the the work that Les was doing.

So the last few years, we've we have not been hands on as much, but, when when Gordon and Sid will go on leave for 3 months, then he he was he was there to sort of look after the after the pace.

Although, must say this, I mean, is a very well trained now.

But they would consult him if, if necessary, but they can run the place on their own.

But we were there to encourage and and help.

And and I was I was busy doing various things.

The Churches and individuals from the UK would send out stuff in containers.

So I would, unpack all the boxes and right to all the people who sent stuff.

And then and then I got involved in sewing, in teaching sewing because, the the bible school there was 1 bible school that was early on that was for 5 months.

And that was really good because we got to know the students.

In fact, there were even 2 2 babies born, I think, in that period.

But Rachel used to sew with the men.

They used sewing machines.

And so I decided to to do patchwork with the women.

I'd only recently learned patchwork, but So, because it was a long Bible school, you know, they were free sometimes in the afternoon, so we used to do our sowing in in the afternoons.

And that that was very good.

And then the the bible scores got shorter and shorter because the they couldn't they couldn't students couldn't really afford to to to pay for their food and that.

So the bible scores got shorter, and so they wasn't physically timed to sort of do that.

But then as well as the, the trades training in carpentry and building.

They started a sewing group, for mainly for women who perhaps were widows, and to teach them skills that they could they're again, they could, kick look after their family.

And so they come and they have about a 5 month course, and those very good Zambian teacher.

But, if they they used to have to stay stay on the place, live on the place, but then they only had their lessons in the morning and and nothing at weekends.

And their dormitory was very close to our house, and I'd see them sitting outside just doing nothing in the afternoons.

And so I thought, well, I could perhaps work with them.

So I started working with those with there were about 12 of them normally.

And, we did I just taught a very simple patchwork, but but useful things like they would start off with something small like a bag or cushion.

And then make small quilts.

So they always had something nice to to go home, and they they learned.

And if they were if they were industrious enough, you know, they could carry on because they weren't using machines.

It was all by hand.

And so I've done done that for quite a few years.

I also did some interesting things with typing, because, there was a senior, there was a missionary in in Congo, and she was very good at translation.

And she had written a grammar book and a and a dictionary in Lunda.

And so I typed those manuscripts for her, and then And then what then I typed her lie life story, but she was, she was a very what I can't think of the of the word, but a a a very interesting woman as strong minded, and she was in bed.

She wasn't actually sick, but she had to stay in bed, and her her daughter was desperate, and said, well, if you record your your life story.

So she did.

And after she died, her, a relative found these 10 audio tapes, And, so I typed her her life story.

And that that was absolutely wonderful because she was a great storyteller.

And I I didn't have to edit what she said at all.

And it was very, very interesting because I knew so many of the people that, she mentioned and she'd been a missionary, right, from the early stages of of the mission work in Zambia.

And and that she she was, on the mission station, the first mission station, which was actually on Calaney Hill.

And, So that that was very interesting.

And then, and then later on, when I was at Yang Nombi, I was asked to there was a group coming out to do some sort of medical work, but they had a handbook they wanted.

So 1 of the senior men put it into Lundo, and I tried that, but I don't quite what happened to that.

But but the but my the books that I typed are actually, you know, in print.


So Yeah.

Again, the the way it got used all your Yes.

Where you had available.

And I'm just thinking how nowadays people will go for a specific career and build specific skills because they want to achieve.

A second goal, but you just need what you need to do.

And Yes.

Well, if I was needed.

So Yes.

I mean, again, that's got to take all this placing you where you were needed and I'm just giving you equipping you with the right thing Yes.

At that time.

I wonder if we can move to, more recent years and obviously being back in the UK with the situation you described with COVID.

And, if there are any since that god has taught you in that time.

Well, I think too, being grateful for for what we've had.

I mean, I'm the most unadventurous person and, and I hate change.

But when I think of, you know, what what we we've been through, what god has brought us through, I'm just so grateful that, he he he brought us through the things and that I've been happier wherever I've been, you know, I've always been happy then.

Like, when I left the farm, I said, I told you I was crying at morning.

When when I got there and settled down, I thought, why did I doubt? God, this is wonderful.

Wonderful out place outside.

Lovely people to be with doing what, you know, nice, a nice job know, it was so, I'm very grateful.

And then I think trying to be content with with now.

I must admit, I'm still learning that because life is so different.

I do miss Yangonby tremendously.

I miss the people and just, you know, what what we had there.

And and the other thing is is just being grateful for for how we've been, looked after in a sense, pro practically, I mean, when we we went out as missionaries, we were living by faith is the term that's used where you you do not know where your money is coming from.

I mean, in this day and age, that is to would be sort of foolhardy in the sense, but we were never short I mean, sun has to be out to wait for things, but, you know, god has financially supported us all that time.

And to add just having, you know, just learn to to trust trust trust code.


I guess by extension, if there is any advice you would like to give to your recruiters, what what would it be? Well, I I was I mean, we were brought up that that you you you read the Bible and pray every day.

And, that that is 1 thing that I think is is very good I mean, you you don't necessarily learn anything particularly every day.

But just just the getting into the habit of doing it so that when times are tough, you still do it, and and it just keeps your connection with with the lord.

And and also you you and we're grateful for our church, and you need to to be with other people of of god's family.



Thank you so much, Jean.

You've all sharing your story with us today.

And thank you everyone for listening.

That's all for today's.

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