Christmas greetings from Nebraska, where we are staying in one place for at least a little while, after our epic 2.5 month trip that took us across 3 countries and 25 states. (We took the snow photos above while in New Hampshire!) With 7,000 miles on the road racked up (in a small car), we are a little tired!
It's been a good trip, with some great stops to visit with friends, family, supporters and churches. We've shared about our life and ministry in congregations, camps, homes and coffee shops.
We've received pledges of $80/mo.so far to meet our $1,250/mo. need. (A church and some supporters just dropped us--we need to raise the difference in order to return to Fiji). It's a bit of a slow start, but at least it's a start! Please pray that the remainder of the funds we need come in before we return to Fiji in February! If you'd like to help, please click the link below.
As we've traveled around visiting people we've found that a few folks are asking, "What exactly do you do?" We're doing so many different things that it can be a little confusing I guess! So here's a quick attempt to summarize our ministry for you:
"Equipping Students and the Poor for Greater Life Encounters"
Island Encounters exists to demonstrate the love of Christ by meeting practical and spiritual needs across cultures in the context of relationship.
We do this through:
✓ Kid's Ministry: Evangelistic & discipleship-oriented children’s programs in schools, communities and orphanages, including tutoring, literacy, and after-school Kid's Clubs.
✓ Oasis Farm: Sustainable development including practical help, employment, training and outreach within our local community.
✓ Student Ministry: We host about five short-term teams a year coming from churches, schools and universities to learn and serve on the mission field.
✓ Consultations and partnerships with other organizations such as homes for single mothers & orphans, discipleship, vocational and Bible training.
✓ Upcoming:Sailboat Ministry to outer islands (practical helps and discipleship)
We founded Island Encounters as a non-profit in Fiji, and operate under the umbrella of Pioneers USA. We are the "Team Leaders" of the families serving with IE. We are in charge of vision, leadership, logistics/administration, finances, and discipleship. We often have missions interns/volunteers living with us.
We also do a bit of photography on the side to help fund the ministry, since we are not supported at the level we need to be (in order to meet all our expenses and pay Fiji's taxes of 20% on our support from the USA). This does not fully fund our family, but rather provides money for Fiji's taxes, our yearly travel, and gives 10% back to the ministry funds, wherever it's most needed (from administrative expenses to the boat ministry).
Click the video above to view of what we do, and meet some of the great people that we work with! Callie, our media intern this summer, did an amazing job really telling the story of Island Encounters with this video. A picture is worth a thousand words, but this video is even more valuable. Please check it out!
We're also so excited to announce our beautiful new website that can help you understand more about what we do! Click the image below to view it. (Thanks to David Janis, our amazing board member/web-developer/former Fiji student/friend/chiropractor who built our old and new websites)
We just got back from the most recent segment of our trip, estimated below. It has been a whirlwind journey. It's been so amazing to visit with people, but so tiring at the same time! We have been living out of suitcases for 2.5 months and can't wait to unpack our bags for a little while (we're here in Nebraska with Laura's mom for a month over Christmas).
Our goal for the trip was to connect with family, friends, and supporters, as well as to make some new connections and find a new sending church. Please keep us in your prayers as we really need to raise up our monthly support before we head back to Fiji in February. We have received some generous one-time gifts but not enough monthly support (we are still in need of over $1,000 per month). Please pray with us for God to meet this need. If you'd like to help, please click the button below or email us for more info. Thank you!
It's been so fun to sell over 300 of Ray's books on the road trip! People are really loving the story, and are messaging us back about how it has inspired them. Ray's book is still available for purchase ($15 paperback, free shipping in the USA), just reply to this email with your address and the amount you'd like to order, or if you'd prefer a Kindle version, you can click here for a $9.99 Kindle e-book. Thanks for your support in this way!
BACK IN FIJI . . .
We just had a board meeting for Island Encounters Fiji last weekend (in Indiana), and were happy to receive some reports back from our team on the field to share with the board and with you. Here's some highlights:
Christmas party for the kids at Loloma Home (home for single mothers and their kids, and orphans).
Camp out at the farm for Loloma boys (who don't have any male role models)
Boys and workers at the farm who come from broken families, Liki and others are happy to be able to share the gospel with them.
A nearby public school asking the Greens for more help and resources with literacy (IE does a Bible-focused class there monthly)
The Jenyns family hosting and meeting more Indians in the community in need of help and the Gospel.
Continued progress at the farm including honey harvest (despite the vandalism/thefts), and new plantings.
Praise the Lord for our team back in Fiji and all that God is continuing to do there!
We visited Ray's mother's grave in Lancaster, PA. We saw a lot of friends, former Fiji students, friends of Ray's from growing up in Indonesia, some of Laura's old high school friends, former volunteers, our future mission nanny for 2018, and met the families of people who have stayed with us.
We skied in New Hampshire, got lost in Montreal, drove through a blizzard in southern Quebec, visited Niagara Falls, and ate pizza in Chicago. We made some great connections and renewed some old ones. We were safe on the roads, and thankful for Laura's mother's car to drive. So many people showed us amazing hospitality.
We are tired of driving!!
The girls are almost done with home-school for 2017, and we're gearing up for the new year. Elani will start 8th grade with Liberty University Online in January, so please pray for that adjustment (from me being her teacher, to having other teachers online).
Ray's dad will be here for Christmas, and then we will fly to stay with him in Florida for a couple of weeks next month (along with some Pioneers meetings). We will finish up our time in the USA with 20 days on the west coast (still haven't planned that trip!). Please keep our family in your prayers.
We are tired and ready to enjoy a slower pace over the next few weeks. God is so good to us and it's appropriate to stop and remember that at Christmas time. What a miracle Jesus' birth is--to take all of our brokenness and pain and redeem it, making something beautiful.
With the change in Fiji's tax laws (taxing us on our support raised in the USA) and the recent loss of our supporting church, we are in need of an additional $1,220 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 above to give.
Hello from the USA! Since we last wrote, we hosted a team from Australia at the farm, packed up our house, welcomed the Patel family (who are currently staying in our home in Fiji), and took off on a five-month journey!
It's been a full and busy 2 months, from Australia to Nebraska to Texas to Iowa. We've traded in year-round summer for spring (Australia), fall (Arkansas) and now very winter-ish conditions here in Iowa.
ALSO, Ray's book, "When the Sharks Come," has been released! Check out the feature below. (Email us if you want a copy for $15 incl. shipping).
Read on for more of our adventures, updates, and prayer requests.
AUSTRALIA TEAM & VOLUNTEERS
Thanks so much for your prayers for the Hervey Bay Bible Church team who came to us from Australia in mid-September. We enjoyed hosting a team from this area of the world, and getting to know a new group. The team was so happy to be in Fiji, and although most of them were not students, they all came ready to learn and serve in whatever capacity they could on the farm and in the children's ministry.
We were so thankful to have the help of Brent from Indiana who came out to Fiji again to help us run this team. We only had a few days after they left to prepare for our big journey, so we were so thankful to have that extra assistance. We were also so thankful to have Sierra come out to help our girls with home-school for the last six weeks we were in Fiji. She came to us last minute, and was an absolute life-saver and answer to prayer. It was neat to see God calling each volunteer specifically to come and serve. We weren't sure how we were going to make it through September, but through Brent and Sierra's help we pulled through, and saw God glorified so much through the entire process. He is so good to provide what we need.
MEETINGS IN AUSTRALIA
We attended some Pioneers meetings in Australia the first week of October, at a camp on Mt. Tamborine. It was exciting to finally get a chance to visit this country that is so near to Fiji (for longer than an airport layover)! We loved the fresh berries, cool air and the beauty of the mountain. It was encouraging to meet other workers from our new region called "Oceania," which includes Australia and the South Pacific. We were able to hear the God-stories of the different teams and pray for them in their work with aboriginal people, migrants, prison ministry and more. It's always good to be reminded that we are part of a larger organization that is full of people living by faith and shining for Christ. The kids also got to meet some other TCKs (Third-Culture Kids) and made some new friends.
SPRING IN AUSTRALIA
I think it's been around a decade since we've experienced Spring! After the meetings at Mt. Tamborine, we traveled to Melbourne, where flowers were blooming everywhere. We visited with Jenny, who was one of the volunteers that has stayed with us in Fiji and has returned to us several times. We got to speak at her sister's church, (where Ray gave the sermon, and we were able to thank the youth for their awesome fundraiser for us) as well as travel around a bit to see the coast, the city and the mountains around Melbourne. After that we had a few days in Brisbane as well before we headed off again . . . directly to the USA.
USA ROAD TRIP
We spent a few days with Laura's mother (who has moved from CA to Nebraska since we last visited), and then started off on a 1.5 month road trip! Gulp! It's really great to take the family new places and to visit friends around the country (and we are so thankful for the opportunity), but it's also kind of exhausting, and living out of suitcases can take its toll. (Not to mention trying to continue to do home-school on the road, check out the photo below for what this looks like!). We're borrowing my mom's car to travel around (not very spacious in the back seat, but we are just so thankful for a car to drive!)
After our Australian Spring, it was so nice to be in the USA for the Fall. We miss both of these seasons so much, so it's been fun to have them back-to-back. Our first trip took us down through Missouri, Arkansas and Texas, then up back through Nebraska. We have enjoyed some visits with family and friends, and also had some low points. Our main supporting church has dropped our support (change in vision) and so we now need to find a new partnering church (a requirement for Pioneers), and make up the $1,000/mo. that the church was sending us. This is the church that we were members of, that sent us off to the field with Pioneers. We have until the new year to find a new church and to raise the needed funds. Please pray for God's provision in this need. It's hard to find a new church when you have no roots in a place--really no place to call home. And yet God is faithful and we know He will guide and provide for us. We have a couple of leads that we are exploring, and are trusting Him in this.
We are currently at Village Creek Bible Camp in Iowa for a week, as one of the first stops on our epic trip mapped out above. We're here with a former Fiji student who works at the camp, and is hosting us for a week (thanks, Peter!). We've had a few opportunities to share/preach, as well as time for the family to relax a bit (and even ride some horses!).
We continue our trip next week, which will ultimately take us to Lincoln, New Hampshire! We'll return to my mom's house in Lincoln, Nebraska just before Christmas. Please pray for our safety on the road, and for good connections and opportunities to share along the way. If we're not already planning to see you and your city is on the map above, please let us know!
As a young man in love with the sea, Ray Pittman finds his life threatened by pirates, shipwrecks, mysterious invaders and sharks in the ocean in the dark of night. Ray wrestles with his beliefs in the jungles of Southeast Asia where he is raised, and discovers he cannot be a bystander in the fight for his soul.
“Get ready for a stormy journey of laughter and tears that will cary you to distant worlds.” - Steve Richardson, President, Pioneers USA
WHEN THE SHARKS COME
Do you remember earlier this year when editor Kathy Groom and her husband came out to Fiji to help Ray finish his book? Finishing it has been about a ten year journey, and the Grooms made it happen by offering to cover all the expenses to get it published, as a way to support our ministry! The dream has finally become a reality, and the books are in hand. If you haven't already seen the news on Facebook, we're now selling Ray's books!! (Just in time for Christmas presents!).
The book is about Ray's adventures in faith, growing up on the mission field in Southeast Asia, and is book-ended with some more recent stories. It's an adventurous, fast-paced read. If you'd like a book please just reply to this email with your order and address. The books are $15 including shipping within the USA.
BACK IN FIJI . . .
We are thankful to have a great group of people on the Island Encounters team, who are keeping the farm ministry and children's ministry going in our absence. Please keep them in your prayers! Here they are installing an aquaponics system at a local Christian school.
We have had two honey thefts in the past months. It's been quite damaging (people are spraying poison on the hives to kill the bees and are smashing the hives to get to the honey). It seems to be a way to make some quick money for someone. Please pray that the thefts stop and that the bees are able to recover from this. It's such a terrible thing to do and so discouraging and damaging.
Here's some double-exposures from Melbourne to symbolize the double-sided nature of this trip. It's so wonderful to see family/friends and to travel, but also difficult in many ways as we're always on the road, living out of suitcases, and don't have much consistency in our lives. The girls are doing amazingly well, and we know this trip is good for them, but it can be challenging some days. Please do keep them in your prayers as they try to finish up home-school for the year.
Ray is still experiencing significant back pain. He's started chiropractic care but we are not sure this will solve the problem. Spending hours in the car isn't exactly helping!
We're collecting memories and experiences as a family which is amazing, and seeing people we haven't seen for years. God is faithful and we know He has a plan for this nomadic Pittman tribe, even as we look to Him to meet our needs.
Thanks for praying for us! We will write again closer to Christmas with more news of our USA trip. We will be headed to FL in January, then spend most of February on the west coast.
Please see the box below for more ways you can pray for our family through all of the transitions.
Praise for this opportunity to visit family & friends.
Pray for safety in our travels and for good connections with people along the way.
Praise that we were able to move the sailboat before leaving Fiji and that we have a good team of people keeping things going in our absence.
Pray for the Fiji team, and for resolution to the honey theft problem.
Pray for the needed financial support to come in to get us to 100% so we can return to Fiji in February.
Pray for a new partnering church that will connect with our family and ministry, and will be an encouragement and support to us as we return to the Fiji.
Pray for the missions teams for 2018. They are slowly taking shape.
Pray for our girls through all of the transition and that they would be able to finish the home-school they need to get done before Christmas.
Pray for the Patel family who are staying in our home in Fiji.
Pray for the families considering joining our Island Encounters team in Fiji.
"Fijian Focus": Pray for "Z," a daughter in faith who has given birth to a beautiful baby girl as a single mother (we can't wait to meet baby in person!), pray for Z's recovery and for her back pain, and for her walk with Christ to continue to grow.
With the change in Fiji's tax laws (taxing us on our support raised in the USA) and the recent loss of our supporting church, we are in need of an additional $1,200 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.