Monday, June 26, 2017

June 2017

Equipping students and the poor for greater life encounters.
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It's been a whirlwind as usual over here!  We last wrote the week of Easter.  Since then Ray (barely) survived an ocean voyage to New Zealand, we had an awesome Easter assembly in the schools, volunteer Isaiah got baptized, we hosted Grace College (2 weeks) and welcomed the Edge Team (6 weeks).  Isla lost her two front teeth, we celebrated 19 yrs. of marriage, and Eden started online high school.  We are planning our USA trip for later this year, and God has brought a family to come to Fiji to look after things in our absence. Keep reading for all of the stories, and to learn how you can pray and get involved! 

EASTER ASSEMBLIES

I'm so embarrassed that I haven't written a prayer update since Easter!  (Sorry!)  Thanks to everyone who prayed for the Easter assemblies, they were really good.  The Greens are doing such a great job leading the children's ministry and getting the teams and children involved.  It was cool to see our kids, the Jenyns kids and the Greens kids involved in the all-school assembly pictured above.  It's such a precious opportunity to speak the truth to the kids in these schools (many Hindus), and we are praying that these seeds planted will grow into maturity in faith.

GRACE COLLEGE

Every year for the last 7 years we have hosted a team from Grace College in May.  We always look forward to this team, and this year was just as great as past years (and we love it when students return to Fiji, like Johnny did this year).  This team helped in the children's ministry and at the farm, and painted some new signs for the farm (Oasis Farm sign pictured below). As the team plants at the farm, and we watch things grow, it's a parallel to what we pray is happening in people's hearts, including the lives of the precious kids and individuals in these photos!
Click for more photos of May and the Grace Team

LIKI & OLA'S WEDDING


Meliki Talolo (Liki) was one of Ray's Bible college students, and joined the ministry of Island Encounters one year ago.  He was finally able to marry his sweetheart last month, after waiting several years for everything to come together.  Liki and Ola wore traditional Fijian attire for their wedding (bark cloth decorated with Fijian tapa designs), and then changed into "Bula Wear" for their reception.  For those of you who have met Liki, he is very happy!! Ola is wonderful. Please join us in prayer for the newly married couple, that God would continue to use them in their lives together.
Click for more photos of Liki and Ola's wedding

ISAIAH'S BAPTISM

We had the privilege of hosting volunteer Isaiah for several months with Island Encounters. He helped out at the farm and helped Uncle Tomasi and Auntie Sarina in Suva and up at their house in Rakiraki (still working on cyclone repairs!). It was literally so amazing to see a transformation in him as he pursued God's truth during his time here and gave his life fully to the Lord. Uncle Tomasi baptized him in the ocean. It was super special to witness this moment, and the symbolism of the reality of the new life Isaiah has in Christ. A really awesome, memorable moment!! Isaiah's back in the USA now and we're praying for him as he continues his journey walking God's path.  Please also pray for his brother Ilias (who came on a team last year), who was in a very bad car accident today.
Click for more photos of the baptism
Click for more photos of the Edge Team!

THE EDGE TEAM

The Edge team is here for six weeks, and have started off strong.  They help with farm projects, community help (pictured here fixing the roof of a handicapped family), and kid's ministry.  We will take them to Homes of Hope in Suva next week. Our often-returning amazing volunteer Brent is staying with them and providing leadership at the farm, as are Uncle Tomasi and Auntie Sarina, and Liki.  IE staff meet with the Edgers weekly for prayer and mentoring and we enjoy having them over to our house to get to know them.  Please pray for them during their time here in Fiji, that God would work in and through them.

One cool story is that Courtney (pictured the pink shirt above, with Laura) was an Edger from 2011.  During her missions trip with us she told us didn't have any interest in long-term missions.  (Never say never!)  :)  Now here she is, stopping to see us on a layover in Fiji, on her way back home from her first 3-year term as a full-time missionary in Papua New Guinea!  Courtney said that God used the seeds planted in her heart during her time in Fiji to grow into a calling to full-time missions.  She'll return to the field for another term next year.  THIS is one of those stories that reminds us why what we do is worth it--it's awesome to hear how God is using this ministry!

RAY'S JOURNEY

In April, Ray helped a friend sail his boat from Fiji to New Zealand.  It was supposed to take 10 days, but ended up being a 16 day journey.  Ray says, "We lost our wind 1/3 of the way and ran out of fuel motoring. We drifted for a day and then a 500 ft Freighter stopped and gave us 14 containers of fuel (an amazing feat of ingenuity in itself since their deck was twice as high as our mast) which was just enough to motor all the way to NZ against the current and head winds. All our onboard systems broke down so we were unable to get any weather reports but we made it."  He was pretty dehydrated and shaky when they reached land. . .their water system broke down and he survived by drinking the juice and syrup from canned food.  They missed a cyclone but didn't even know since their systems were down! We were all so thankful that he made it across the sea and that he was able to fly back home safely last month, after visiting some friends and supporters in NZ. God really took care of him and taught him some good lessons.  As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor."  So he's a bit more weathered and wiser now. . .we're just thankful he survived!  Speaking of boats . . . our boat here is STILL held up with repairs and registration.  Please pray this through!  We would like to get it going and start up the sailboat ministry this year. (Yes, Ray still wants to get back in a boat . . . but it's sure been a difficult journey!)

FAMILY CORNER

Thanks for reading this far, friends, I know this is long!  We have just been so busy . . but life is good and God is good.  Isla lost her top two teeth, Elani got to be a mermaid, and Eden started online high school. Karla, our amazing missions nanny, helps the girls with home-school every day (we are doing school through the USA summer so we can take a longer break in the fall/winter when we're traveling to the USA).  She's doing online school herself and Isla & Elani do a CD-Rom program, so there are often four laptops on the table in our one-room school house (see photo!).  We also welcomed Tara back into our home last month (missions intern who was also here last year with Karla) who has been a massive help to us with finances, shopping, logistics, and driving the team.

We are still planning our USA trip . . .it's a bit hard to know where to go and when!  We are thinking we will arrive in Nebraska or Indiana in October, and drive around the northern states, fly down to TX for a visit, have Christmas in Nebraska, then fly down to Florida, then do Southern CA/AZ at the end of our trip in Feb 2018. We have a vehicle in FL but we still need one somewhere up north.  We are deciding if we should buy and then sell one, or what we should do.  If you have any ideas for us please let us know!

God has provided a house-sitter for us in Fiji while we are away!  Brooke and Sammy found us through Pioneers and their availability fit our need exactly.  It was 100% a "God-thing" and we are praising Him for bringing really awesome people to help with the ministry!  Please pray for them and their 4 kids as they are preparing to come to Fiji, with the goal of a possible long-term role!

We are still praying for a "missions nanny" or helper for mid-Aug/Sept. before we depart.  If anyone has availability and a heart to come and help, please let us know!
Thanks for praying for us, as we make it through a busy season with teams.  Both our IE vehicles are broken right now and we are reaching the $6,000 USD mark on unexpected vehicle repairs due to these problems and the accident earlier this year.  It's made it challenging to transport the teams.

Please see the box below for more ways you can pray.  


Thank you,

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
Island Encounters Photography Website
Island Encounters Photography Facebook


PRAYER & PRAISE
  • Praise for the children of Fiji hearing the gospel in the schools and communities, pray for these seeds to grow in their hearts.
  • Praise God that Ray made it safely back from his ocean voyage
  • Pray for the vehicles, it's reached $6K US outside of our budget and neither van is working!  :( (We're going through a total engine rebuild on the 15 seater van and accident involving the farm van). Pray for $ for a new van!
  • Pray for the sailboat to get registered and be use-able.
  • Pray for God to continue to provide the extra funds needed for our personal monthly support.
  • Praise for Isaiah's baptism, pray for him to continue to grow in the Lord.
  • Praise for Liki & Ola's marriage, pray for their life and ministry together.
  • Praise for a great outreach for the Grace team
  • Praise that Brent and Tara have returned as volunteers to help us with the summer team, pray for the Edge team here for six weeks.
  • Praise for Sammy and Brooke coming to house-sit, pray for their family as they prepare to come in late September.
  • Pray for a volunteer to help us with home-schooling the girls from mid-August through the end of September. 
  • Pray for our need for a car in the USA and for us as we plan our trip.
  • "Fijian Focus":  Pray for "Uday," whose roof the Edgers helped to fix last week.  He is handicapped, his wife has been sick, and their grown daughter is handicapped and can't walk.
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PERSONAL SUPPORT NEEDS:

With the change in Fiji's tax laws (taxing us on our support raised in the USA) and the recent loss of some supporters, we are in need of an additional $1,000 per month .
We are in need of one-time gifts, and especially monthly support pledges.
All gifts are tax-deductible.  Please click the blue button below to give.


RAY & LAURA PITTMAN, ACCT #111546

Or print a response slip and mail to:
Pioneers, 10123 William Carey Dr., Orlando, FL  32832
Click here to give: tax-deductible gifts to our family & ministry
Or, click here to give to Island Encounters (Vehicle Repairs)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Equipping students and the poor for greater life encounters.
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Dear Ray Pittman,

WE NEED YOUR HELP!  We have moved forward in our plans to build a dorm/guest house at Oasis Farm, but we are still in need of $40,000. By faith we intend to break ground this month (in order to finish it before a large group arrives in February next year to stay in it)!

Would you be willing to consider coming alongside us in this fundraising effort?  Help spread the word? Share to your church?  Come and build? Help with grant-writing?  PRAY?  Advise? No donation or role is too small . . . If God puts this on your heart, we would love to have you join in this vision with us.  We are fairly limited with what we can do from here and need your partnership.

Our vision is to use this place to host missions teams, disciple students and locals, and provide training in vocational skills specifically to those who are in poverty.  We are in this for the eternal impact this property has the potential to offer.

Please click the button below for tax-deductible donations (or direct giving through PayPal).  
Click HERE to support Island Encounters (tax-deductible) or Oasis Farm (donations through PayPal). Either way will get us closer to our goal of getting the guest house built!

NEW HOPE

Earlier this year we were blessed and humbled by a generous donation from a youth group in Australia.  The kids worked hard to raise funds to send to us for the vision we have for students and the poor in Fiji.  (A bake sale is pictured below). They didn't just give out of their excess, either--they gave sacrificially.  One boy gave up the money he had intended to use to buy a new winter coat.  Another gave up a Justin Beiber concert to send us the money.  These acts of kindness, self-sacrifice and generosity gave us a huge dose of new hope that we needed at just the right time.  This also gave us the confirmation we needed to step out in faith to tackle some of these financially daunting projects.  We really believe this is what the Lord wants us to do and that He will provide for the rest of the project funds.  We are doing everything in our power to come up with these funds and trusting God for the rest.

AUGUST NEWS

  • The girls are enjoying home-school
  • Laura was able to lead two women to the Lord this month
  • Ray spent two weeks in Suva helping Homes of Hope build fish ponds to help provide food for the single moms and kids that live there (he learned a lot, too)
  • Laura has been working hard to complete her MA degree final project this month!
  • Emily (mission-nanny) is doing great and is a real blessing
  • Laura continues to teach and do photography part-time
  • Ray continues to teach the book of John at the Fiji College of Theology & Evangelism
  • We've enjoyed taking several visitors and our kids out to volunteer at Loloma House (a home for single moms and orphans close to Oasis Farm).
  • We planted over a thousand papaya trees at Oasis Farm; hopefully they will bear fruit next year as well as funding for Island Encounters! The watering is a big job right now. (Click on the photos below for more pictures in our photo gallery!)

CAPERNWRAY TEAM

We will be welcoming another two-week team from Capernwray Bible School in New Zealand tomorrow.  This is their third time to send us a team and we are looking forward to it.  We'll be hosting them between our home and our teammates home and the team will be working at Oasis Farm as well as doing Kid's Clubs and volunteering at Loloma House (a home for single mothers and orphans).  Eden, Elani and Isla have given up their bedroom for the team and are looking forward to having college kids around again for a while.  Please pray for the team that they would be blessed and be a blessing to those they meet!

HELP WITH STUDENT PROMO

Another way to help us out right now is by handing out some little business cards we've designed to promote our student program for next year (see below).  Please reply to this email to let us know if we could mail you some of these cards to pass out to friends, or put out at your school, church, camp, etc.  We have an awesome program to offer students, but it's hard to spread the word when we're on the other side of the world!  Please let us know if you can help.


Thank you for your partnership and interest in our lives and ministry here in Fiji.  Sometimes we feel a bit alone out here.  We are hoping to hear back from you on this email, please let us know if you read these updates, pray for us, want to help us spread the word or have some other great idea to help us out! If you'd like to give, click here.

Because of Him,

Ray, Laura, Eden, Elani & Isla Grace



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

March News from Fiji

Equipping students and the poor for greater life encounters.
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It's been a hot and humid start to the year here in Fiji, along with way too much rain and the resulting flooding . . . dengue fever has hit due to standing water breeding mosquitoes (Laura got it last month which is partly why this update is late in coming!).

We are currently hosting a missions team from Capernwray Bible School in New Zealand.  They are giving us a big boost in all areas: children's ministry, farm projects, building projects, community projects, etc.

At the same time we are battling disappointment at the loss of some supporters of our ministry and family . . . we are falling into God's grace right now and trusting Him to raise up the support that we need.  Living on faith is not easy sometimes but we are confident of God's faithfulness and that He can make all things work together for good.

We have another busy year ahead in Fiji and are excited to have the Greens and Jenyns with us working to grow and expand the ministry of Island Encounters.

We're planning a longer trip to the USA this fall for "home assignment."  We are in need of some new contacts and supporters, as well as a place in the USA to call "home," something we don't have at the moment.  Please join with us in prayer for this, as it's really on our hearts right now.  

CAPERNWRAY BIBLE SCHOOL

Every year around this time we welcome a team from Capernwray Bible School in New Zealand.  This year the team members are from Germany, Paraguay, America, the UK and Canada.  We love having teams come to help out, and we're more organized than ever this year.  We have Anthony Jenyns in charge of the farming projects, the Greens in charge of kid's ministry, Brent back volunteering to help with anything and everything (welcome back, Brent!), Saki heading up the construction projects, Tomasi and Sarina cooking/hosting at the farm, and Ray heading  up a small group working on the boat.  I (Laura) keep the logistics and finances in order and help to coordinate the activities each day.

The team is doing a great job, and all have amazing attitudes. Quite a few of them are battling sickness this week (there's a nasty flu virus going around Fiji). I've taken five to the doctor so far.  Please keep them in your prayers, that God would work in and through them during their time in Fiji and that they can finish strong despite the sickness/setbacks.

The team has helped with several community help projects as well, including putting in a cement floor and roof for a family that was cooking outside in the mud, and building bunk beds for a poor family with five kids, who were sleeping on the floor.  We have several other community projects lined up for upcoming teams this year.  It's amazing to see the tears, the joy, and the thankfulness of those who are blessed, and also to see the way these connections with the poor bless and change the young people on the team who are helping.  One Capernwary student from several years ago just wrote to tell us that God has called her into missions and it was during her time with us in Fiji that He first put it on her heart.  We hear this often, and it encourages us to keep on doing what we're doing!

DECK ADDITION:

A NEW PLACE TO HANG OUT

Thanks to a grant from Kingdom Missions Fund, we were able to build this awesome deck extension on the guest house (where we house the mission teams), above.  We really needed a screened-in area in which to eat, and for the teams to spend time together in the evenings (when they do team-time, worship, and we have guest speakers sharing with them).

The hut on the hill has served this purpose in the past, but it's been so hard to eat and focus when the bugs come out and are dive-bombing in your face.  With the recent dengue fever outbreak (spread by mosquitoes), it's even more important to have a safe screened area for teams to gather together.

The deck extension was started last year in May, and each consecutive team worked on it last year, along with other awesome volunteers in our Fiji community.  Saki, Ray, Liki and the crew finished up just in time for the current team.  The Capernwray team is helping to put the finishing touches on it, like a ceiling, and helping to begin a small extension so we can also have a kitchen area down at the guest house.  We are thankful!

VOCATIONAL STUDENTS

Ray has taught at the Fiji College of Theology and Evangelism and/or at their vocational school outreach for close to 10 years.  The campuses are 45-60 minutes away from us, so this year they decided to send the vocational students in the farming class down to Oasis Farm for two weeks of practicals and instruction (instead of Ray going up every week).  It was great!  The students helped out with a fencing project around the chicken coop and some agricultural projects with Anthony.

It always brings joy to our hearts to see Oasis Farm as a point of connection, as a bright beacon of hope and light, and a place where life-giving skills are being learned and applied.  With Anthony here helping with the farming ministry, we are looking forward to more training, more points of connection, and more ministry in the future.

BOAT MINISTRY

It's been a bit of a journey but we keep on getting closer to getting the boat fixed up!  We have been encouraged to learn of more needs in the South Pacific for sailboats to bring the gospel to remote areas that are only accessible by boat.  We also continue to hold on to the vision of brining young people out to the remote areas of Fiji to help with discipleship, community development and encouragement.  It's a vision that has to see Ray through the hot sweaty work that we are in the midst of right now.  We are thankful to have help right now to get a new coat of paint on the boat.  Ray is also planning to get some practical experience with a sailor who has asked him to help him sail his boat to New Zealand.  

FAMILY CORNER:
A PLACE TO CALL HOME?

If you've made it this far you must really care about how we're doing, so thank you!  In all honesty, it's a bit rough right now.  We have heard from some of our biggest supporters that they can no longer support our family and ministry.  We have seen supporters come and go over the years, and it's all in God's hands, so we are trusting Him through this . . . but it's not easy.

We have been in Fiji for over 16 years.  We've welcomed our 3 daughters into the world here, and built a life here.  We are dual citizens of Fiji/USA and we are blessed to call Fiji home.  However, one of the downsides to putting down roots in Fiji, is that our roots and connections in the USA are not very strong.  In fact, we are not sure where home is.  When we go "back home," we are not sure where that is.  Ray grew up on the mission field, and I transferred between five different schools growing up because my family moved a lot.  Since we've been in Fiji, both of us have lost a parent, and our remaining family have moved to new areas--places that we are not familiar with.

As we plan our "Home Assignment" trip back to the USA in the fall, we are hoping for some new connections, some encouragement, some feeling of belonging in a place that our family isn't familiar with.  We are planning on visiting states from CA to FL between Oct 17 to Jan 18.  If you have a place that you think we could connect (either to a church, a fellowship or a family), please let us know!

We are also putting the word out to see if there is anyone who would like to come to Fiji to house-sit and volunteer in the ministry during that time period.  Let us know if you're interested!

And please do keep our family in your prayers regarding our financial support, our need for encouragement, our Home Assignment trip, and our kids who don't want to leave home (Fiji) for such a long time.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support.  You are a tangible reminder of God's faithfulness to His promises.

We have updated the praise and prayer requests below, and ask that you continue to intercede on our behalf.  Vinaka!  (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
  • Pray for the Capernwray Bible School Team that is here right now.  Pray for those who are sick, that they would feel better soon.  Praise the Lord for the way He is working in and through them, in Kid's Ministry, Community Projects, Farm Projects, and the boat ministry.
  • Pray for our family's encouragement as we consider the recent loss of supporters, and the need for a place to connect to in the USA.
  • Pray for God to continue to provide the extra funds needed for our monthly support.
  • Praise for the Greens and Anthony Jenyns who have settled well and are a huge help on our Island Encounters team.
  • Praise for volunteer Karla helping with home-school--the girls just had a short break during the team's visit, but are back at home-school again.
  • Pray for the upcoming teams and volunteers preparing to come later this year.  Our next team is in May from Grace College, followed by Pioneers Edge team in June/July, then an Australian youth group in September.
  • Pray for us to find someone to look after our house and pets while we are traveling Oct - Feb.
  • **New Item** "Fijian Focus":  Pray this month for Bunku, a down-syndrome Indian boy who wants to attend his special school but it's hard for the family to afford the bus fare for his mother to take him there each day.  This is the family that we helped with bunk beds this week.
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PERSONAL SUPPORT NEEDS:

With the change in Fiji's tax laws (taxing us on our support raised in the USA) and the recent loss of some supporters, we are in need of an additional $900 per month .
We are in need of one-time gifts, and especially monthly support pledges.
All gifts are tax-deductible.  Please click the blue button below to give.


RAY & LAURA PITTMAN, ACCT #111546

Or print a response slip and mail to:
Pioneers, 10123 William Carey Dr., Orlando, FL  32832
Click here to give: tax-deductible gifts to our family & ministry