Monday, December 5, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Equipping students and the poor for greater life encounters.
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Happy Thanksgiving (a little late)!  We are so thankful for each one of you, who care about our family and ministry here on this little island nation in the middle of the Pacific. We appreciate your prayers and your encouragement, and are thankful for God's provision through you. There's a longer list of what we're thankful for below!

Since we last wrote, we have hosted the Jenyns family on their survey trip, said farewell to two volunteers, and kept busy with the farm, children's ministry, relationships, photography, and office work.  Somehow it's always full-on busy, and we are looking forward to a change of pace next month when we travel to Thailand.

We are so excited that our Island Encounters team will be welcoming two new families soon!  The Greens arrive next week and the Jenyns in the new year.  Read on for more!

WE'RE THANKFUL FOR . . .

  • Prayer and financial supporters (many of you)
  • A year packed full of teams and students that encountered God and missions on a trip to Fiji with us.
  • Children coming to faith in Christ and being discipled through our IE ministry.  Laura meets weekly with a group of children and is helping one girl who is 13 learn how to read.
  • The Greens who arrive next week with their two daughters, to carry on IE children's ministry. (more below)
  • The Jenyns who arrive next month to help us grow the kingdom impact of ministry through Oasis Farm. (more below)
  • A chance to go to Thailand next week, to bless some missionaries with photography, to get some medical check-ups, and to have a family holiday.  We have had a busy year--we are tired and so looking forward to a break!  :)
  • Our kids are learning, growing and love the Lord.  They help us in our ministry and are growing up so quickly.  They are now on "summer break."
  • Our marriage, which we are trying to prioritize after a very busy year of just "keeping our heads above water."
  • God's grace and faithfulness, which we fall back on EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  He is so good to us and we are forever thankful.

THE JENYNS FAMILY

We have been talking with Anthony and Jacqueline Jenyns about coming out to help us with the farming ministry for some time.

Anthony visited us in the past and we got to know him (and heard about his wife and six kids!).  As veteran missionaries from Bangladesh, with a background in farming, aquaculture and discipleship, they seemed like a perfect fit for our needs.  Definitely a "God thing" as we see how the Lord brought them to us to meet the needs that we have.  They have been faithfully raising up their support and preparing for a move to Fiji throughout a difficult year including Anthony losing his parents and their family going through a lot of transition.  Thank you for those of you who have been lifting them up in prayer.

We were thrilled to finally meet Anthony's family last month on a survey trip.  They are such a wonderful fit with our team and we can't wait for them to get here.  Their work permit is being processed right now.  Would you please pray that it is approved before Christmas so they can buy tickets to Fiji?  They're hoping to arrive in early January.

Praise the Lord that they will be here soon to help us expand the farm and the ministry through discipleship, training and community development.

THE GREEN FAMILY

The Greens came out on a family missions trip that we hosted about four years ago.  God really got a hold of their hearts for Fiji, and when they read in our update several years ago that we needed helpers, they responded to the call.  They have been faithfully raising support, taking Bible classes, receiving training and living in transition over the last year, after coming here to help us out through Summer 2015.
Their family will be coming with their two daughters and their oldest son will stay home in Texas for college.  The Greens will be helping us with children's ministry.

When we have a team here we do daily children's ministry including school visits where we teach in the classrooms, after-school kid's clubs, and school assemblies.  We also do tutoring and discipleship at Loloma Home (a home for single mothers and their children, and orphans).  When teams go home it's hard to maintain this pace.  The Greens will help us keep the children's ministry going throughout the year, and the short-term missions teams will plug into this when they come.

We have seen a lot of fruit in children's ministry in Fiji, and find it to be very strategic to focus on the children here since the adults are very much steeped in their culture and religion.

Please pray for the Greens as they transition to life in Fiji. They will be staying in our home while we go to Thailand and will be looking for a house to rent after they arrive.  

TIME TO GET DRESSED UP

This month we attended a Muslim Indian wedding (almost half of Fiji's population is Indian (originally from India)).    The weddings last three days, and men and women are separated.  The first day yellow turmeric paste is applied to the bride to make her skin glow.  The second day henna is applied to the hands and feet.  The third day the groom comes to take the bride away.  Each of the three nights includes a meal of Indian palau.  It was a great time to build ties with our Indian neighbors and deepen the relationships there.  There are so many here in Fiji who don't know Jesus and we pray that we continue to be a light.

We also got dressed up to attend a fundraising 20 yr. anniversary banquet for Homes of Hope, a home for single mothers that we have supported throughout our years here through bringing teams of volunteers to help out and providing some consultation.  Laura helped with photography and we enjoyed a chance to celebrate the ministry of our friends who have persevered by the grace of God to make this amazing ministry what it is today.

FAREWELL TO VOLUNTEERS

It seems we're always saying goodbye to people here!  We have so many people who come out to volunteer and to bless our ministry, and we are so thankful.  But it sure doesn't make the goodbyes any easier!

This month we said goodbye to Darcy, a missions intern from Grace College who was with us for 3 months, helping with everything.  We also farewelled Grace, a mission nanny volunteer from Oregon who helped out with  the girls' homeschool as well as the farm ministry and children's ministry.  Both girls have been living with us over the past few months, Grace in the treehouse and Darcy in the upstairs attic office (I promise the accommodations are not as shocking as they sound!).

We love this part of our ministry that includes our life at home, and are looking forward to next year when Tara and Karla return (the nanny and missions intern from last year!).  Our worldwide family grows with each new "daughter" that we "adopt" into our Fiji Tribe.  Thanks so much to Darcy and Grace, we love you!

FAMILY CORNER

Isla turned seven last month! She had an "animal party."  She is doing so well.  She has been at a local school down the street but this month transitioned to home-school.  She is reading well and very bright.  She brightens up our days in many ways!  :)

Elani (11) just finished up 6th grade, so now we have two middle-schoolers.  She loves our pets (dogs, cats and guinea pigs) and makes us the sweetest cards.

Eden (13) is doing online 8th grade and enjoying it.  She loves to read, paint, and help Dad with the boat (which we are still fixing up).  The girls are happy that they are now on summer break (2 months off)!  They work through America's summer so they can take this time off during Fiji's summer.

Ray has been working on fixing the boat quite a bit this last month, and we have been working on remodeling our rental home for the landlord (part of our deal for good rent). He's also been helping another ministry with their boat and working on collaboration and vision-casting to build the boat ministry in the future.

Laura has been busy with office work (financials and non-profit stuff) as well as photography, kid's ministry and the girls' schooling.  Plus just feeding everyone and living life here in Fiji is a big job!  :)

All of us are excited to travel to Thailand next week.  We are looking forward to some quality family time and a chance to see some new places, meet new people, and be refreshed after such a busy year.

We are planning to bless different missionaries and organizations with photography, get some training as well as get some much-needed medical stuff done (quality care is cheap in Thailand), and just take a break.  Please pray for our safety in our upcoming travels.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support.  We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving remembering all that you have received from the Lord.  We are thankful for you and don't take you for granted!  It's humbling to know we are here because of His provision through His people.  THANK YOU!

In Him,

Ray, Laura, Eden, Elani & Isla Grace



Check out our Links:

Island Encounters Website
Island Encounters Facebook Page
Fiji Family Adventures Blog
Our  Photo Gallery
Give through Pioneers
Laura's Island Encounters Photography Website
Laura's Island Encounters Photography Facebook page


PRAYER & PRAISE
  • Praise that Ray is feeling better, and that we are all healthy after over a month of sickness.
  • Praise that the Green family is arriving next week and that they were able to get their support up in order for Pioneers to release them to come.  Pray for their transition to Fiji, and for them as they take over the ministry while we are away.
  • Praise for a wonderful survey trip for the Jenyns.  Pray for the Jenyns work permits to be approved before Christmas, and for their transition to Fiji to go smoothly.
  • Pray for God to continue to provide the extra funds needed to pay Fiji's tax on our USA support.
  • Praise that we are headed to Thailand!  Please pray for our medical check-ups, family time, and general safety.
  • Pray for our caretaker Talolo who is now engaged and planning a wedding for May 2017. We are happy for him!
  • Pray for the upcoming teams and volunteers preparing to come in 2017.
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PERSONAL SUPPORT NEEDS:

With the recent tax change (we have to pay Fiji tax on USA support raised), our family is in need of an additional $400 per month.
We are in need of both one-time gifts,as well as monthly support pledges.
All gifts are tax-deductible.


CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT OUR FAMILY 

RAY & LAURA PITTMAN, ACCT #111546

Or print a response slip and mail to:
Pioneers, 10123 William Carey Dr., Orlando, FL  32832
************************************************************************************************************************

Ministry Funding Needs:


Click the button below to give to Island Encounters through Pioneers (tax deductible)
or contact us for more ways to get involved.  
Click here to give: tax-deductible gifts to Island Encounters
Copyright © 2016 Island Encounters, All rights reserved.
An update on the Pittman Family serving with Pioneers in the Fiji Islands--thanks for reading!

Our mailing address is:
Island Encounters
PO Box 10976
Nadi Airport
Fiji

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

We're still alive!

Equipping students and the poor for greater life encounters.
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 It's been an extremely busy year for us, recovering from Cyclone Winston in addition to all our other responsibilities, and we are just now finally feeling like we have a chance to come up for air. (Somehow it's been FOUR months since our last "monthly" email!)

What have we been up to? We've hosted three missions teams over the past few months, and are now getting caught up on all the things that fell through the cracks during our busy summer.  THANK YOU to all of the amazing youth, adults and students who came over the summer on a missions encounter with us.  Read on for more of our summer adventures, and proof that we're still alive!  (For recent photos, click here).

A SUMMER OF TEAMS

We were super busy hosting teams over America's summer.  We loved them all.  First we had a group from Pioneers "The Edge" of five university-aged girls, staying for six weeks.  They helped at the farm, with cyclone rebuilding, and at Homes of Hope in Suva.  While they were at the farm they helped us to host a two-week high-school youth group team from Makakilo Baptist Church in Hawaii.  In August we hosted another two-week high-school youth team from Grace Church of Ovilla, Texas.  Hosting a team is exhilarating, rewarding, effective and exhausting, all at the same time!  Ray and I do a lot of driving, mentoring, shopping for supplies, overseeing projects, taking the team around for kid's ministry, finances, etc. while a team is here so it leaves us feeling tired at the end, but it's well worth it.

Some huge praises:
  • Several young people feel a calling to missions in the future.
  • The two church groups came from our two supporting churches with the goal to learn more about our ministry and encourage us (which was much needed!).  We have been in Fiji 16 years now are always so happy when we get a chance to reconnect with our sending churches as we often start to feel pretty isolated.
  • We developed new relationships and deepened some existing ones with team and church members as well as in our local ministry.
  • Many children heard the gospel message through Kid's Clubs and school visits, including an all-school assembly at a nearby school.
While a team is here they usually do a project at the farm or in the community (these teams planted new crops to replace the cyclone-damaged ones, built a chicken coop and worked on building a porch onto the guest house).  They also do some kind of children's ministry each day and get out into the community, as well as just having a good time getting to know the people, culture and beauty of Fiji.
Click to view a slideshow presentation that the Grace Church of Ovilla group made about their missions trip to Fiji.

FIJI WINS A GOLD!

In case you missed it, our tiny nation won a gold medal in rugby at the Olympics!  It was not only Fiji's first gold medal, but their first medal EVER, so the excitement was very great around here (we even got a national holiday in honor of it!).  As dual citizens, we are so proud of both our countries.  We loved the way the Fijians represented our nation as well as faith in God!  Click here to view a really cool video of the victory song they sang.  Our girls are holding a Fiji flag below, on a recent photography trip we made to a nearby island.

AWESOME HELPERS

We are so thankful for God's provision of volunteers and local staff this year, who have helped us to keep everything running smoothly.  Clockwise from top left: Kelsey (over the summer) and now Grace serve our family as Mission Nannies, helping the girls with homeschool.  Darcy (yellow shirt) is also living with our family and helping out with just about everything else (she's a missions intern from Grace College).  Brent (bottom right) came back again, hooray! (after joining us earlier this year) to help lead summer teams (driving, logistics, building, etc.--he can do it all!).  Saki (who is always there when we need him) helped with the porch project and some cyclone relief roofing.  Stee (yellow balloon) leads worship for the teams and kid's clubs, Talolo (green balloon) is our new caretaker at the farm (he's so great!!!) and finally Uncle Tomasi and Auntie Sarina who are "Mom and Dad" to the teams, manage the farm, and cook amazing food for everyone.  Vinaka to each and every one of you for all you do for this ministry!! 

NEW TEAMMATES COMING!

We are super excited to welcome the Jenyns family in a few days, who will spend ten days in Fiji and then return to Australia to finish their fundraising and final preparations to move here in January.  Please pray for them in all of the transitions, and especially for those six children! (Below is an old family photo, I need to take some updated ones when they come!!)  Please pray that God raises up financial and prayer partners for them in Australia.  The Jenyns are coming to help with the farm ministry.

The Greens from Texas are needing a final push in their fundraising to get here.  Their Fiji work permit was approved earlier this year and they are eager to get here to help out, but they will not be released to depart until they have 90% of their monthly financial needs met.  They need an additional 15%.  They are stepping out in faith and have set a departure date end of November.  They will be taking over the children's ministry and will be able to sustain much of what the teams do while they are here (teaching in schools, running neighborhood kid's clubs, and continuing the tutoring sessions at the orphanage/home we work with).  Their bio and the link to their support needs is on our website so check it out if you're interested in helping them get here to continue to grow our children's ministry!

OASIS FARM

WHAT'S NEW AT THE FARM?

Since Cyclone Winston devastated Fiji in February, it's been a slow and long road to recovery.  Thank you to all who have helped us in our efforts to restore what was lost.  We have replanted, rebuilt, and repaired. We are finally starting to harvest some of the fruit of that labor.  We have eggplant, tomatoes, green peppers, mint, fish, eggs, honey, and chickens growing at the farm now.  After a very slow season where we couldn't sustain the expenses of the ministry, we are finally starting to see some produces sales help us with sustainability.

The roof of the dorm is fixed and we are building a porch off one side of it which will serve as a meeting area for teams.

Talolo, our new caretaker, was one of Ray's students at the Fiji College of Theology and Evangelism, and is an intern at our church.  He is a committed, solid guy and we are all so thankful to have him living at the farm.

Tomasi and Sarina are also staying at the farm off and on, splitting their time between Oasis and their home in Rakiraki.  Their roof and home rebuild after the cyclone has come along well, but there is still work to do.  Ray has been up a few times with teams since the cyclone to continue this work.

Over the summer the farm has been teeming with new life and new starts--puppies, chicks and more.  God is good!

NEW "NORMAL"

We like to joke that there is never a "normal" day in our life.  We wear many hats and do a wide variety of things.  When teams are here we're running around like chickens with our heads cut off keeping everything going.  Now that the teams are finished (for the whole year!), we have some time to work on the mountains of things that fall through the cracks when we're busy with teams.  We thought things would slow down but somehow they haven't!  In truth, we are feeling overwhelmed lately with all that needs to be done.  Finances, repairs, remodels, vehicle problems, fixing up the sailboat (still fixing it up but hopefully will be sailing soon!), etc. are filling our days lately.  We are so thankful to have a chunk of time to dedicate to all of this.  (I finally have time to write this update, yay!).

I (Laura) have been busy with the photography business since the teams left, which is a blessing.  We ended up paying an unexpected $10K USD to the Fiji government because of their new tax law (taxing us on our support raised in the USA as well as what we make from the photography business).  It's a huge expense that is outside our budget, but we're thankful to have a chance to make some money here to help us cover this.  All of the busyness of running a business does leave us feeling very stretched, though, so please pray for us to find a good balance in life, and for God to continue to meet our needs and guide our days.

FAMILY CORNER

Ray has been sick for almost a month but can't always stay home and rest with all there is to do, so we are praying for him to feel better soon! Medical care here leaves a lot to be desired, so sometimes it's hard to find answers.  He is slowly improving.

Elani turned 11 in July, and Isla turns 7 next month.  They are all growing up too fast! Eden (13) is learning guitar and last week she helped us lead the songs at our tutoring session at Loloma Home (orphanage and home we go to weekly).  It's so great when our kids join us in ministry.

Eden is enjoying online 8th grade.  Elani is finishing up 6th grade home school and Isla is at a small school down the street from us, in 2nd grade.  The girls have been continuing their school year throughout the USA summer so that we can take our Fiji summer break over Christmas.

We are planning a trip to Asia in December.  Fiji Airways opened up a cheap flight to Singapore, so we plan to go there for a few days and then on to Thailand to meet up with some ministries and workers there, get some medical work done, do some photography, and also just take a break.  We are thankful that this expense will be covered by the photography business and are all looking forward to having a great family adventure, and relaxing after a very full-on year (cyclone, flood, teams, photography, catch-up work . . . we are really feeling in need of a break!).  Please keep us in your prayers--that we would have the strength to get caught up and carry on through the next couple of months before we go.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support.  We appreciate you so much.  Please continue to pray by using the box below.  We are feeling a bit overwhelmed lately and are thanking you in advance for your prayers and encouragement.

In Him,

Ray, Laura, Eden, Elani & Isla Grace



Check out our Links:

Island Encounters Website
Island Encounters Facebook Page
Fiji Family Adventures Blog
Our  Photo Gallery
Give through Pioneers
Laura's Island Encounters Photography Website
Laura's Island Encounters Photography Facebook page


PRAYER & PRAISE
  • Praise that Fiji is slowly recovering from the cyclone and flood damage.  We are eating fresh fruit and veggies again!  (Such things were scarce for months).
  • Praise for a full summer of missions teams, and all that God did in and through them.
  • Pray for us as we are feeling overwhelmed with all the work yet to be done this year, and please pray for Ray's health to be restored.
  • Pray for the Greens, raising support to come help us with children's ministry.  They are stepping out in faith to depart in November to stay in our house while we go to Thailand, but they don't have their support high enough yet.  Please pray!!
  • Pray for the Jenyns visit this week and next, that they would raise their funds, that their visa would be approved (submitting it next week), and that God will give them grace through all the transitions ahead of them.
  • Pray for God to continue to provide the extra funds needed to pay Fiji's tax on our USA support.
  • Praise that Laura's photography business is doing well and helping pay for some of these unexpected expenses. Pray that we would know how to best balance our time with ministry, work and family, as this can be challenging at time.
  • Pray for God to help us through this season of catch-up, repairs and feeling overwhelmed.  Please pray for things to stop breaking down!
  • Pray for our girls' eduction and growth in the Lord.
  • Praise for our new caretaker Talolo, pray that he would continue to find joy in his ministry at Oasis Farm.
  • Praise that Tomasi and Sarina were recently able to travel to Australia to visit churches and schools and have safely returned to Fiji.  Please pray for a frustrating situation they are in right now, for God to provide a breakthrough in the paperwork.
  • Pray for our upcoming trip to Asia
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PERSONAL SUPPORT NEEDS:

With the recent tax change (we have to pay Fiji tax on USA support raised), our family is in need of an additional $400 per month.
We are in need of both one-time gifts,as well as monthly support pledges.
All gifts are tax-deductible.


CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT OUR FAMILY 

RAY & LAURA PITTMAN, ACCT #111546

Or print a response slip and mail to:
Pioneers, 10123 William Carey Dr., Orlando, FL  32832
************************************************************************************************************************

Ministry Funding Needs:


Click the button below to give to Island Encounters through Pioneers (tax deductible)
or contact us for more ways to get involved.  
Click here to give: tax-deductible gifts to Island Encounters
Copyright © 2016 Island Encounters, All rights reserved.
An update on the Pittman Family serving with Pioneers in the Fiji Islands--thanks for reading!

Our mailing address is:
Island Encounters
PO Box 10976
Nadi Airport
Fiji