12/01/2016 - By Gayle M. Irwin
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When Jerry and Christeen Howse married more than eleven years ago, they melded two cultures, two backgrounds, and two families, creating one caring, cohesive unit with Christ as the focal point.
"Jesus is the center of our home," Christeen said.
Born and raised in Kenya, Christeen was brought up in a Christian home. She and Jerry met online, and he visited her homeland so they could meet in person. They married in June 2005 when she relocated to North Dakota, where he was living at the time and raising his two daughters. A few months later, the family moved to Casper. Jerry works in the oilfield industry, commuting from Casper to North Dakota. Christeen attended college after the move, finishing with a master's degree in social work.
"I found my (career) passion," said Christeen, who works for Central Wyoming Counseling Center.
Moving to another country and experiencing harsh winters and living in a different culture was an adjustment for Christeen.
However, she met several international students while attending college, and the Howses experience varied friendships, including with people originally from Trinidad. The family often invites their friends for meals. Cooking is something Christeen, Jerry, and 17-year-old Rose enjoy and share.
"I like to cook for our friends," Christeen stated. "Jerry is (also) a good cook – he likes to barbecue and bake pies."
Gathering at the table and trying various dishes, especially those of African-origin, melds the family as well.
"I think it's great having different foods – I like to try other foods," Jerry said.
Christeen creates various meals from her country of origin, such as bread-like chapatis and samosas, made with ground beef or ground turkey. Using "Portuguese-influenced" spices sent by her sister who still resides in Kenya or purchasing them in Denver stores, Christeen retains some of her roots and shares them with others.
Three years ago, Christeen's mother, Salome, came to live with the family. She helps with youngest daughter, Ruby, who is about 18 months old; she also works part-time at a local hotel. Even though moving to the United States and Wyoming was a culture shock to her as well, her faith and her family steady her.
"I feel very welcomed and loved," said Salome. "Jerry is so loving, and I love him so much! I am grateful to God for the great opportunity that comes with being here in the United States."
While at home caring for Ruby, she watches TBN Television and The Christian Worship Hour. Her family surprised her with a trip to Los Angeles to see Joel Osteen, whom she enjoys for his positive messages.
"I was so surprised, I screamed!" Salome said.
Salome served as an evangelist in her home country.
"I love Jesus so much!" she said.
The family prays together nightly, and Rose is considering following in Salmone's footsteps.
"I'm thinking of going into the mission field," she said. "I also want to go to college."
Rose is active in her youth group at church and was baptized last month. Her primary extra-curricular activity is running indoor and outdoor track.
"I like competition, I like being active," the Kelly Walsh junior said.
She also enjoys Christmas and is following in the family footsteps of cooking and baking. Rose received a baking set last year as a Christmas gift. Jerry bakes rhubarb, pumpkin, and blackberry pies and takes charge of the traditional turkey. As a family, the Howses will put up a tree, part of Jerry's original family holiday tradition, and though they will share presents, that's not the main reason for the season.
"It's not about the presents, it's about being a family," Rose said.
Her 18-year-old sister, Monica, who has been attending school in another community, will join them. And Ruby will be old enough to more greatly understand about this special season.
"Ruby is going to appreciate Christmas more (this year) – last year she was pretty little, so that's going to be wonderful," Christeen said.
"We love Christmas," she added. "It's about Jesus and family, not gifts. Home is important. I appreciate my mother and I'm grateful for my blended family."