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!

 
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Facebook
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!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

June 2015: Welcome Edge Team!

Equipping students and the poor for greater life encounters.
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BULA once again from Fiji!  Yesterday we welcomed a group of students from The Edge (here for six weeks on a missions trip) and the Green family (here to help out for the summer).  Last month we hosted a group from Grace College.  We said goodbye to volunteers Lydia, Jen and Charisma and we have welcomed Jessica and Mackenzie  for the summer, as well as several other shorter term visitors.  Life never seems to slow down here and we're just keeping up the pace as best as we can!  Ray and I celebrated our 17th anniversary yesterday. . . how does time pass so quickly?  It seems we blinked our eyes and now our kids are so big . . . our ministry is growing . . . and we have more on our plates than we ever dreamed.  It's exciting and exhausting all at the same time!!  Please read on for more details on the past two months and how you can pray for our family (including the latest with our kids) and the ministry of Island Encounters Fiji.

GRACE COLLEGE


We always look forward to hosting our annual team from Grace College in Indiana.  Deea and Steve have been here multiple times and are good friends of ours.  They do a great job leading the team and set a solid example for the students.  We enjoyed the team a lot . . . vinaka vaka levu Grace team, for all of your hard work and great attitudes!  The team helped with quite a few projects at the farm including expanding the chicken shed for our new chicks!

HELLOS & GOODBYES

We farewelled Charisma (mission nanny), Jen (missions intern) and Lydia (IE volunteer) last month.  Each one had become a part of our family and we found it so difficult to say goodbye after sharing life together all year.  (Here's all of us above).  We now have Mackenzie from Gordon College serving as our missions intern (she's been living with us and blessing us for two weeks but is now joining the current missions team).  We also have Jessica as our Mission Nanny, who has been a huge answer to prayer as we weren't sure who would be helping us up to the last minute.  In Fiji we do school through June/July and have our long break over Christmas, so the girls are doing school with Jessica's help.

This month we got to see Cassiee and Titus, who were kids when we first came to Fiji with their family to start up the ministry that eventually evolved into Island Encounters.  They are all grown up now and we had a great time reconnecting with them.  We are currently enjoying a visit from Heidi and Marcus as well. . .Heidi was a student of ours in Fiji 11 yrs. ago with EduVenture and has come back with her husband for their 10 yr. anniversary (which they are enjoying spending helping out with the team and at the farm!).   This is the third EduVenture student to come back and visit Fiji this year, and another one planning to come later this summer!

THE EDGE TEAM

Every year we host a six week long team through Pioneers called The Edge.  This year we have 7 young people on the team (plus Mackenzie for a total of 8).  They are university aged students from all over the USA.  They live at the farm and usually do a half day of work at the farm and a half day of kid's ministry.  We'll also take them around Fiji and introduce them to different ministries and ways of doing missions here in Fiji.  They just arrived yesterday, so we are looking forward to spending the summer with them, discipling them and seeing how God works in and through them.  It's always so nice to have a group here for a longer period of time.  We'll keep you posted on their adventures!

OASIS FARM

We have new chicks at the farm! We've found there to be a huge market for free-range eggs, so we've purchased another lot of chicks to expand our egg business.  The farm continues to produce papayas, but production is slowing down as we head into a very dry spell (predicted to be worse than last year).  The trees are also nearing the end of their expected two years of peak production.  We have plowed another field in order to plant some more trees and crops, but the problem is that the seedling supply keeps falling through so we have nothing in the ground yet.  As a result we are expecting a decrease in the farm's ability to financially sustain itself, until early into next year.  We are counting on our first harvest of honey from our honey bees and our laying hens to help us get through the slump.  Please pray for the farm.  We really need to hire another worker.  We're praying for financial provision as well as for us to have wisdom in what to grow, and for the baby chicks to make it (we've already lost a dozen or so. . .).  Click below if you'd like to help us out!
Click here to give: tax-deductible gifts to Island Encounters

SAILBOAT MINISTRY

The sailboat saga has been a mixture of highs and lows.  We are encouraged that we've been able to meet several others here in Fiji who have a similar vision and want to partner with us to go out to the outer islands with students (we could go as a group to provide Biblical training, community development in the villages and do discipleship with a small group of young people along the way).  However, we have found that the engine on the boat we are buying needs to be replaced.  It will cost us $10,000 USD to buy an engine and ship it to Fiji (an unexpected expense).  Even before we asked, we've seen God provide $1,750 of this!  If anyone is interested in partnering with us in this need, please reply to this email and ask us how you can get involved.  We really need prayers for everything to come together . . . it's a huge leap of faith. 

EDEN, ELANI & ISLA

I hope you enjoy the above photos of the girls!  Eden is 12 and loves animals, reading and art.  Elani is 9 and loves playing, cuddling kittens and making everyone laugh.  Eden and Elani both home-school.  Isla is 5 and loves snuggling, laughing and playing with her sisters.  She is attending a little Christian school down the street from our house.  We are so blessed by our girls, but do feel a little overwhelmed lately and would ask for your prayers for them.  Eden is in 7th grade and we aren't sure what the best option is for her education next year (and on into high school).  Elani has been struggling with perfectionism and some stomach aches/fear/emotional issues.  Isla is testing the limits of what she can get away with as far as exerting her will when she doesn't get her way.  They all have amazingly sweet and loving sides but also can be strong-willed at times.  Lately it's seemed a bit overwhelming along with all the busy-ness of life.  The girls as well as some of the rest of us have been struggling with nightmares, poor sleep, etc.  It feels like we're under attack and we would appreciate your prayers.

17 YEAR ANNIVERSARY

Yesterday Ray and I celebrated 17 years of marriage.  It's fun to look back and see how far God has brought us and how He continues to lead and guide us into amazing, faith-stretching situations.  Usually we are hosting teams over our anniversary so we don't get to do much to celebrate.  However, we were blessed this year to be able to do two fun trips, one of them the week of our anniversary, free in exchange for photography through Island Encounters Photography.  We traveled up to the Yasawa Islands with Blue Lagoon Cruises, and we also were able to stay at the amazing Namale resort (up in Savusavu where we used to live on the other island when we ran EduVenture).  Above are some of the photos from our cruise up to the northern islands of Fiji and below is Namale.
www.islandencountersphotography.com
What a blessing this photography business has been, enabling us to provide further funding for the ministry as well as enjoy some time together this year!  God is good.
PRAYER & PRAISE
  • Praise that we got our tickets and we're going to the USA in the fall!  
  • Pray for the Edge Team and for volunteers Mackenzie and Jessica.
  • Pray for Ray's back:  for healing. The insurance company has not been very helpful.  He's slightly better than last month, but still in a lot of pain.
  • Pray for one of the girls we've been working with here who is facing many difficult challenges.
  • Pray for Eden (wisdom for future school options), Elani (stomach aches and emotional issues) and Isla (for her to choose good attitudes) and for the poor sleep and nightmares to discontinue.
  • Pray for continued funding for the IE ministry and Oasis Farm, especially as the farm is brining in less money lately.
  • Pray for God to continue to guide and provide with the sailboat ministry. We have faced a lot of obstacles in getting the engine replaced and need $8,250 USD to do so. Praise God for future networking opportunities in sailboat ministry.  We also need prayer for all the paperwork and customs and duty fees.
  • Praise that the Borg family is coming out to look after the house, farm and ministry while we are away in the fall, and prayer for them as they raise support to do so.
Pray for the Jenyns family, as they raise support to come next year, and as they are dealing with the imminent loss of a parent. Anthony is passionate about farming ministry.  We really need him to come and can't wait to meet his family.

Please also pray for the Green family, who arrived yesterday from Texas.  They will be here over the summer to help out with the ministry with the goal of returning next year.  They have a heart for kid's ministry and discipleship.
We are looking forward to the opportunity to return to the USA for 3 months in the fall.  We'll be in HI, CA, TX and FL.  We don't have firm plans yet but if you want to see us let us know!

We're thankful for the Borg family, who will be coming to look after things in our absence!  It's wonderful to see how God is working everything out and we trust Him to continue to do so.

Thanks for caring about us!

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

Our family is in need of an additional $510 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!