Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Fiji to USA!


Equipping students and the poor for greater life encounters.
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 August and September were extremely busy months for us as we wrapped up loose ends in Fiji and got ready for our trip to the USA.  I was entering receipts and doing finances up to the hour before we got on the airplane!  The Borg family is in Fiji staying in our home and looking after everything while we are away.

So far we've been in Hawaii and Thailand (Ray) and are now in California.  We've had the blessing of speaking in churches and to small groups, making new friends and being prayed for and encouraged.  We are still a bit worn out (esp. Ray after his Thailand trip!) but are so thankful to be here and to have a change of pace after a very full-on year.

Our update below includes a little bit about Fiji and a little bit about our USA trip so grab a cup of coffee and enjoy!

FIJI HAPPENINGS

August and September were super busy months somehow, even though we didn't have any mission teams.  We debriefed with the Green family (who were helping us in Fiji over the summer, and are now raising support to come back in a couple of months).  We were thankful to have the  time to get caught up on some office and administration work we've been putting off all year (well . . . almost caught up!).

The Borg family (pictured above with our Fijian team), arrived at the end of September, coming to help us look after our home and pets, the farm, and the ministry while we are away.  God provided amazingly for them to come (including the connection through a mutual friend, providing a renter for their USA home and the ability to take 3 months away from work!).  We showed them the ropes and now they're staying in our house, selling produce, running a kid's club/tutoring class and doing some music in the schools.  We are so thankful for the Borgs, for their hearts to serve and for the way they have come to enable us to spend this time in the USA.  Please lift them up in your prayers!

FARM MINISTRY

Stee, our caretaker at Oasis Farm, had an unexpected hernia surgery and will not be able to  work again 'till next year. (Please pray for him!).

Ray and I, along with our teammates Tomasi and Serina, weren't sure about what to do in Stee's absence.  Tomasi spoke with our M*slm neighbors at the farm and asked them if they would consider working as caretakers for us (coming over each day to water and feed the animals).  They agreed, and so far it's been an excellent arrangement.  They take good care of things when Tomasi and Serina aren't there.  It's a great way for us to get to know our M*slm neighbors better, share our faith, and shine the light of Christ.  Right now things are pretty quiet at the farm, but come January we'll have young people staying there again, interns and teams coming and going and more agricultural training and development.

The Jenyns family in Australia is preparing to come help with the farm ministry in 2016.  Please pray for them as they've been having a difficult year as far as sickness, loss and transitions.

SAILBOAT MINISTRY

Last month we were able to finish the paperwork to import the sailboat that we hope to use for ministry to the outer islands!  It was a ton of work to figure out how to best do this in Fiji, with lots of ups and downs and the spending of more money than we hoped for, but God provided a good chunk of the funding miraculously just when we needed it. We were able to import it without leaving the country.  The sailboat is now an asset of Island Encounters, and we are looking forward to getting the new engine in it and getting it out on the water next year!  We are still praying about how to best use our time and resources to kick this ministry off.  It's exciting to think of the adventures ahead and the potential for discipleship and outreach.

BLESSED IN HAWAII

Last month we began our 3 month journey across America by landing in Hawaii to visit Makakilo Baptist Church for a week.  It was such a blessing to be greeted by the church at the airport with leis, smiles and hugs.  This was a taste of the blessings of that week, including a house, car, groceries, meals, get-togethers, and several opportunities to speak and share.  We loved making some new friends and contacts, and having a chance to spend together as a family.  Thank you Makakilo!  We feel truly supported and loved by you.

Our second week in Hawaii we headed over to the Big Island where we used to live before we moved to Fiji 15 years ago.  This was our chance to have some holiday time as a family and to get together with some close family friends who live there.  We were able to share about our ministry and make some new friends in Kona as well!  We also got to snorkel with dolphins and Manta Rays!  What an awesome week.
 

THAILAND

After Hawaii, the girls and I traveled to California to spend some time with my (Laura's) mom.  Ray traveled to Thailand for a Pioneers conference for Team Leaders.  He was able to connect with other workers from all over the world and be encouraged by the sessions and the fellowship.  One unexpected thing he was able to do while there was to spend some time with and encourage a friend. 

CALIFORNIA

We are currently in California visiting Laura's mother.  She's very close to Yosemite National Park, so the photos above are from a drive we did to an overlook there the other day.  Its just beautiful here! Laura's mom is moving to Nebraska in a few months so much of our time here has been spent going through our boxes in storage in CA.  Getting rid of old memories, wedding gifts, books and more. . . it's been hard but also good to pare down.  Since we haven't lived in the USA for 15 years, and since our parents have moved, it doesn't really feel like we have a "home" in the USA anymore. Fiji really is our home now.

THE NEXT TWO MONTHS

Saturday we fly to Dallas for a few days to visit with our sending church, Grace Church of Ovilla, and then we continue on to Florida where we will catch up with Ray's side of the family, attend a conference, visit the Pioneers home office and travel a bit based from there including a visit to Grace College in Indiana.

We'll be back to CA in December for some medical procedures and such.  We'll spend Christmas with family and fly back to Fiji on Jan. 2.  We're looking forward to connecting with old friends and making some new friends and contacts on our travels.  Please keep our family in your prayers in the midst of all of the transition and travel!

ISLAND ENCOUNTERS FIJI

Some of you are new to our updates, so if you've made it this far, thanks for reading!  Here's our background:  We have been working in Fiji for fifteen years.  We originally came to Fiji to shine the light of Christ by working with the poor in community development, and soon added on working with university aged students in study abroad programs, internships, and short term missions teams.  Three years ago we started  Island Encounters Fiji including the purchase of Oasis Farm.  Next year we hope to add on the sailboat ministry and continue to expand our farming ministry and children's ministry (above) with the help of two families come out to join our team.  We're in the states right now, visiting churches, family, friends and supporters, and hoping to make some new connections to expand and breathe life into our ministry. We are in need of more financial patterns and always need more prayer! We really can't do this without the rest of the body of Christ.  If you're interested in partnering with us, scroll down to the bottom for some quick links on how to do that.  Thank you!

FAMILY CORNER

Above are some photos of our last month or so in Fiji.  We were able to get away for a weekend for a mini Pioneers get together, and took the Greens and Lauren (our missions nanny volunteer who came back again this year after serving with us last year) to the beach and an eco-park.

The girls have been doing well on our travels and are enjoying the new adventures.  Please keep them in your prayers (as well as me!) as we are continuing to home school the best that we can as we travel.  They are missing home but enjoying spending time with family and friends.

If you'd like to see some photos of our last couple of months in Fiji as well as our recent USA adventures, click here for our online photo gallery.
Isla turned six just before we left for the USA, so she had a "Frozen" party complete with a melted snowman cake and toilet paper snowball fights and "snowmen". Click above for more photos!
We'd love to hear from you as we travel and spend time in the USA!
We have a USA number (until Jan. 2) if you'd like to call:  808-428-8779.


Thanks for caring about us. We appreciate you!

Much love,

Ray, Laura, Eden, Elani & Isla Grace
 

Check out our Links:

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


**NOTE:  Make sure to like our Facebook page in order to get more regular photos and updates of what is going on with Island Encounters and Oasis Farm!

 
PRAYER & PRAISE
  • Praise for a wonderful connection with Makakilo Baptist Church in Hawaii and for the friends we made there.
  • Praise for time with family after two years away.
  • Pray for safety as we travel
  • Pray for God to provide the extra funds needed to pay Fiji's tax on our USA income.  The amount will be between $300-$400 USD/mo.
  • Pray for times of rest for us, coming off of a busy, busy year.
  • Pray for our girls, esp. with home school as we travel.
  • Pray for continued funding for the IE ministry and Oasis Farm, especially for funding to hire local workers.
  • Pray for the Green family: finished with their missions training and raising support to come back in Jan.
  • Pray for the Jenyns family:  dealing with a difficult year and raising support to come to Fiji in early 2016. 
  • Praise that we were able to import the sailboat without taking it out of the country and for the amazing friends who have helped provide for the financial needs!
  • Pray for the Borg family staying in our home in Fiji and looking after the house, farm, and ministry while we are away for three months.
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PERSONAL SUPPORT NEEDS:

With the recent tax change (we have to pay Fiji tax on USA income), our family is in need of an additional $800 per month.
We are in need of both one-time gifts for current ministry needs,
as well as monthly support pledges.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT OUR FAMILY (tax deductible)

RAY & LAURA PITTMAN, ACCT #111546

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

************************************************************************************************************************

HELP FUND THE MINISTRY!

 
We are in need of funds to help the non-profit pay off the Oasis Farm property, and to enable further development so that we can expand the ministry.  We are looking for people with a heart to invest in God's kingdom and partner with us in this.  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

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Highs & Lows in Paradise


If we had a dollar for every time someone teased us about "suffering for Jesus in paradise," we'd be pretty rich.  YES, Fiji is a beautiful country, and we are blessed to live here and experience life in the islands.  YET, this can be a difficult place to live and we have faced quite a few challenges and setbacks lately. I can't remember a day recently when something rather major hasn't gone wrong!  Ray had a nasty relapse of malaria combined with bronchitis (malaria was from when we traveled to Indonesia in December). He was quite sick in bed for three weeks and has still not recovered fully a month later even though he's up and working now.  We had more thefts at the farm (our third brush cutter/weedwhacker), plus some other equipment and paint.  We found out that Fiji is going to start taxing us on our USA income.  We've also experienced some major recent frustrations with logistics and ordering of supplies that we need.  Not fun.

However, we've also had joy, hope and peace in the midst of all of this. Our Fijian teammates (Tomasi, Serina & Stee) really stepped up and helped out while Ray was down, as well as Tim & Tawnya Green (their family is here for 3 months and hoping to come back next year).  The Edge team left after six weeks in Fiji and they had a great experience, making quite an impact in the children's ministry as well as getting a lot done at the farm.  They were able to travel around Fiji and hear from different ministries and missionaries here.  Many of them are praying about long-term service overseas so it was great to be able to mentor them and provide exposure in missions.  Read on for more!
 

THE EDGE TEAM

 
Pioneers (our sending organization) recruits young people every year for their summer missions team called "The Edge."  They send teams out all over the world.  We have hosted Edge teams here in Fiji for the past four years. The college-aged students are from all over the USA.  We run a six week program for them including staying at and helping out at Oasis Farm, daily children's ministries, and the opportunity to be exposed to missionaries and ministries including Homes of Hope and the Gospel School for the Deaf in Suva, and several other ministries and missionary speakers. Ray and I also meet with them one-on-one weekly for prayer/mentoring.

We had five girls and two guys on our team this year, plus one missions intern and one missions nanny over the last couple of months.  They have all recently departed (which means now I actually have time to sit down and write an update!).  THANK YOU to the Edge team for all of your hard work this summer!  If you'd like to see some of their photos of their summer, click here.  

CHILDREN'S MINISTRY

This is an area of Island Encounters that has been growing and is just so exciting. Having the team here as well as the Green family has really given a big boost to our kid's programs.  Here's what we've been doing each week:

Monday:  After-school Kid's Club with some village children at a nearby church.

Tuesday:  Teaching in the schools; alternating between two different Hindu schools that allow us to share.  In the small school above, they call a whole-school assembly each time (right next to the school's Hindu temple) and we have been able to share the gospel very clearly to all the Hindu children! (I still can't believe they let us do this--it's amazing).

Wednesday:  After-school tutoring and Kid's Club at Loloma Home, a home for single mothers and their children, and orphans.

Thursday:  After-school Kid's Club at our church for the kids in our neighborhood.

Friday: Tutoring at Loloma Home.  Some of the older high school girls still can't read so it's meeting a huge need.  Imagine being in high school and not understanding anything you're copying down from the blackboard.

Yesterday at the village Kid's Club the kids recited all their memory verses from the past six weeks (with hand motions!).  It's encouraging to see that this investment in the lives of Fijian children is producing fruit for eternity.

We are maintaining as much of the above schedule as we can now that the teams are finished and are praying that the Greens can raise their support in time to join us early next year to help with this growing ministry!

VISITORS & TEAMS

It's been a busy season of hosting people coming and going.  Below you see Kiera (EduVenture Fiji alumnus) & William Duncan and their daughter.  They came for a visit from China where they are working at an international school, shining Christ in Asia.

Right now we are hosting Terence & Nicole.  Terence was a student with us in the Discipleship Training School we attended in Hawaii in 1999.  Now fifteen years later he's here with his wife on a short-term trip, helping out at the farm and in the kid's ministry.

Last month we hosted the Year 7 class from International School Nadi (where Laura taught for two years), for their school camp.  It was great to be a light to them and to enjoy teaching them about sustainable agriculture.

Yesterday we welcomed Lauren, volunteering as the Mission Nanny for two months.  She was here last year as well, so it's amazing to have her back again to join our family and to help Eden and Elani with their home-school.  Welcome back, Lauren!

In the photo below you can also see Jessica (Mission Nanny) and Mackenzie (missions intern) who lived with us for the summer but have recently departed.  It's always so hard to say goodbye.  We miss you, Jess and Mackenzie!
 

OASIS FARM

In the photo below you can see we've been preparing a new field and have planted new papaya, eggplant, beans, watermelon and more.  Our current papaya orchard is still producing and hopefully will give us enough income to last until the new field can be harvested.  Our baby chicks are not babies anymore and hopefully will begin laying soon.  We also hope to harvest our first batch of honey this month!  The goal is that all farm income will go right back into keeping the ministry running and the employees paid.



Tomasi and Serina, who host and cook for the teams, have also been working hard on the farm and teaching us how to best grow things in Fiji.  They are a tremendous asset to our IE team on every level, with a passion for God and a huge heart for people.  I can't even tell you how much of an answer to prayer they are.  Even though they have their own farm a few hours away, they leave it behind for weeks at a time to live at Oasis Farm and work there with us when we need them.  We'd like to keep on employing them now and then even when a team is not around (so they can help maintain the new plantings and such and keep things going with the farm and ministry while we are away this Fall).  We are praying for God to provide enough donations to help pay for their time and labour.  We also need to employ a day laborer as the work load grows (right now it's just Stee and it's too much farm work for one person).  Would you please pray with us for God's provision in this area?  If you'd like to give to Island Encounters to help us meet these needs, please click the blue button below.
Click here to give: tax-deductible gifts to Island Encounters

TAXES TO FIJI

Our accountant just told us that the Fiji government is going to begin taxing all Americans living in Fiji on their USA income.  This has not been the case in the past but will begin in October this year.  We will have to declare all assets and income and pay tax to the Fiji government on our US income (support/donations through Pioneers).  This means we will need to increase our monthly support.  Please pray for God to provide for our needs in this!  It will be between $300-$400 USD per month.

SAILBOAT MINISTRY

As we mentioned in the last update, the boat we are buying needs a new engine.  However it's been very difficult to order it and it still hasn't shipped to Fiji (which takes 2 months).  The boat has to leave the country by next month due to the paperwork it's currently under.  This time crunch means we've ALSO had to buy a smaller (and yet still expensive) outboard engine to fasten to the back as a temporary means of using it.  We need prayer for the extra funding to cover all of this, for a trustworthy captain to help Ray sail it out of Fiji, and for the engine logistics/shipping, etc. to come together in time.  Thank you for praying!  We really need prayer in this, it's been discouraging but we're holding on to the God-given vision that we're doing the right thing and that one day we'll have a sailboat ministry!

FAMILY CORNER

As much as we love hosting people, we are looking forward to the next month and a half (with no teams) to get caught up on life!!  We have been so incredibly busy this year.  We also need to take some time to plan for our trip to the USA this fall.  We depart on Oct. 6 and return on Jan. 4th, so we'll be away for three months.  Our plans are still coming together but we hope to be in HI, CA, TX, IN and FL to visit supporters, speak at churches and get some medical work done.

Our sweet Elani just celebrated her tenth birthday.  Isla won 14 awards at her school camp/competition for the year (and was away from home for the first time!).  Eden is really into painting and art, and is getting quite good.  The girls all continue to do school throughout the summer as they will take their longer break during our trip to the USA this fall.  How can you pray for our girls specifically?  Please pray for wisdom for us as we consider Eden's home-school options for next year, Elani's battles with anxiety, and Isla's continued social and academic development as she heads off to school each day.
www.islandencountersphotography.com
Here's some of Laura's recent work. The photography business continues to do well and is helping to fill in the gaps with all of the financial needs of the non-profit.  Click on the photo above or head to her new Facebook page for more.
PRAYER & PRAISE
  • Pray for us as we battle against discouragement in a difficult season. 
  • Pray for God to provide the extra funds needed to pay Fiji's tax on our USA income.  The amount will be between $300-$400 USD/mo.
  • Pray for Ray's healing from his second bout with malaria this year (coupled with bronchitis).  He is still very low on energy and has a bad cough, as well as the chronic back pain.
  • Pray for our girls (details in "Family Corner" above)
  • Pray for continued funding for the IE ministry and Oasis Farm, especially for funding for local workers.
  • Pray for God to provide for the sailboat ministry: a trustworthy captain to help us take the boat out of the country, an engine solution, and a safe voyage.
  • Pray for the Green family: here now in children's ministry and raising support to come back next year. 
  • Pray for the Borg family coming out to look after the house, farm, and ministry while we are away for three months.
  • Pray for the Jenyns family support raising to come help with farming ministry next year.
Here's our three barefoot girls in the "big city" of Suva (when we took the Edge team to visit the ministries there). They never wear shoes . . . I wonder how they'll do in the USA?!

Thanks for caring about us.  It's your prayers that keep us going.

Much love,

Ray, Laura, Eden, Elani & Isla Grace
 

Check out our Links:

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


**NOTE:  Make sure to like our Facebook page in order to get more regular photos and updates of what is going on with Island Encounters and Oasis Farm!

 
Facebook
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Website
Website
Email
Email
Share
Forward to Friend
PERSONAL SUPPORT NEEDS:

With the recent tax change (we have to pay Fiji tax on USA income), our family is in need of an additional $810 per month.
We are in need of both one-time gifts for current ministry needs,
as well as monthly support pledges.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT OUR FAMILY (tax deductible)

RAY & LAURA PITTMAN, ACCT #111546

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

************************************************************************************************************************

HELP FUND THE MINISTRY!

 
We are in need of funds to help the non-profit pay off the Oasis Farm property, and to enable further development so that we can expand the ministry.  We are looking for people to invest in God's kingdom and partner with us in this.

CLICK HERE TO GIVE TO THE MINISTRY (tax deductible)
 
ISLAND ENCOUNTERS, ACCT # 150658

OR GIVE TO THE OASIS FARM PROJECT OF YOUR CHOICE  
Biggest Needs:  Pay off the Land, Tractor, Renovate the Farm House


Thank you so much!