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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Our last two updates included news about cyclones and flooding . . . poor Fiji. While it's a long road ahead toward recovery for this nation, we are happy to report that there have been no more natural disasters in Fiji over the last couple of months! No one has been hospitalized and for the most part we're staying healthy. Praise the Lord! Over this last month Laura turned 40 and jumped out of an airplane. Laura and the rest of the IE helpers hosted a team from Grace College while Ray traveled to Thailand to get a captain's license for sailing, and also was able to see a bit of Cambodia. He's home now (yay) and we're all gearing up to welcome our summer teams (first group arriving in a few days). Read on for more!
GRACE COLLEGE TEAM
Every May over the last six years we've enjoyed the privilege of hosting a team from Grace College in Indiana. We've become great friends with the leaders, and always look forward to meeting the new students. Laura was actually able to meet this team in December when she flew up to Grace College and spoke at their chapel. The group was a huge blessing and we all enjoyed our time together. Vinaka, Grace College! (It was especially fun that four of them had been to Oasis Farm on past trips). HUGE shout-outs go to Truus and Jeremy, Joel and Terri, Tomasi and Sarina, Steve and Deea, and Stee for helping Laura host this team without Ray here (more on his Thailand adventures below). The Grace team did children's ministry as well as helping to begin building a much-needed porch on the guest house which will provide a place for teams to gather for debriefing, worship, etc. (Funded by Kingdom Mission Fund)
Since high school Ray has dreamed about starting a sailing ministry, and we've seen God open some specific doors towards making this a reality. Last year we were able to acquire a yacht at a good price, and though there were ups and downs (broken engine, import duty, repairs costing much more than we expected, etc.) we have seen God provide in incredible ways. It's been over one year but the boat is almost ready to sail. Ray needed to get a certification to captain the vessel. After comparing all of our options, he found a course in Thailand for a good price, so spent most of May getting all of the training and certifications he needed. While there he was also able to travel over to Cambodia and take a few days break to see the area. It was a blessing for him to be able to make this trip, which not only provided the needed certifications, but renewed his spirit for continued ministry in Fiji.
Here's Eden at 3 years old, planting a coconut tree at our home at Sau Bay, where we ran the EduVenture program a decade ago.
TEN YEARS AGO . . .
Has it already been a decade since we lived on a remote boat-access-only coconut plantation, running the EduVenture Fiji study-abroad program? The photo above was recently posted on Facebook by Sotia, wife of the late Bob Covert (pictured above). Here Pa Bob is helping Eden plant a coconut in front of our old home. Sotia said that the trees are now bearing coconuts and that they are very delicious! This season of our lives was so rich and the memories are poignant. Despite the lack of electricity, internet, phones, etc. we loved this time in our lives. We lived with such extreme abandon and dependence on the Lord and we saw Him do great things. 51 students came through this program over 3 years and we saw amazing life change. We loved the Fijian families there like our own, and we enjoyed living off the land and the sea. Now, here in Nadi, we have iPhones, computers, cars, internet, a boat, a farm, a photography business, a guest house, a non-profit, a children's ministry, a church, home-schooling, interns, etc. Our life is full in a different way and we've learned a lot through the ups and downs our family has seen since these happy days at Sau. This photo is a great reminder to us to remember that season of joyful abandon (just look at Eden's face!) and faith and to thank Him for the fruit of His work in our lives.
LAURA'S BIG 4-0
Laura turned forty last month! To celebrate she jumped out of an airplane with her friend Karen, both of them wearing Life Runners T-shirts to raise awareness for the unborn. Sky diving is pretty amazing (I loved it). It was also special to celebrate my birthday with some friends at the farm for a pizza party before Ray left for Thailand.
In two days we will welcome our summer team through The Edge. These are five college aged girls who will be serving here for six weeks. They will stay at the farm, help out with our children's ministry, and travel around Fiji to learn more about different forms that missions work can take. They will meet with us for discipleship and will get to visit other ministries in Fiji.
Later this month we will have the youth group from Makakilo Baptist church coming out to serve. We are also looking forward to welcoming volunteer Brent Reimer back to Fiji. In July we have Grace Church of Ovilla sending a team out as well, into early August. We're looking forward to a full summer and are praying that God continues to work in and through the outreach participants coming out to Fiji.
SCHOOL AND SUCH
Ray is pictured above handing out awards at the Glory Gate Christian School awards ceremony as the "chief guest." Since we're remembering the past in this update, this is the church in the town of Sigatoka that we helped at when we first came to Fiji 16 years ago. Some of the children that were small then are now helping at this school! This school is about an hour away from where we live now.
Speaking of schools, the girls are still going strong with school over the USA summer so that we can take our long (Fiji summer) break over Christmas (anyone want to come house-sit then?). Eden is starting 8th grade through online school this week so we're praying for a smooth transition to online learning! We're hoping this works out, since finding good options for our kids' education is one of our biggest challenges here in Fiji. We have said goodbye to Karla who was helping us homeschool since the beginning of the year, and have welcomed Kelsey who is here over the summer to help out.
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 in need of strength and wisdom over the next couple of months of hosting teams and continuing on in the ministry.
Pray for Fiji to continue to recover from the cyclone and flood this year.
Pray for the Pioneers Edge Team arriving this week (they will stay for 6 weeks)
Pray for the Greens, raising support to come help us with children's ministry. They are needed urgently and still need to raise 40% of their support. Please pray for God to miraculously provide--they have their work permits and everything, they just need their funding.
Pray for the Jenyns also raising support to come to Fiji, to help with farming ministry.
Pray for us to have wisdom as to what to plant and start again at Oasis Farm. (We are disheartened since so much was lost in the cyclone). Praise the Lord for the generous love gift from Makakilo Baptist Church towards recovering some of the damages and starting again.
Pray for God to provide the extra funds needed to pay Fiji's tax on our USA income, we just made a massive payment for 2015, much of it unexpected.
Praise that Laura's photography business is turning a profit and helping pay for some of these unexpected expenses. "Tent making" with a camera is helping to fill in the gaps.
Praise that most of the vehicles are working at the moment, pray for more reliable ones!
Pray for our girls' eduction. Eden starts online 8th grade tomorrow.
With the recent tax change (we have to pay Fiji tax on USA income), our family is in need of an additional $500 per month. We are in need of both one-time gifts,as well as monthly support pledges. All gifts are tax-deductible.