It's Jan 1, 2020
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I started this years ago, when we were fundraising for support, but once the site continued to crash, and I constantly would lose all of the I'd put into it, I decided to just take a break and stop trying for a while. Well, I didn't intend for that while to turn into 2 years. So, I'm very sorry we've dropped off, but you can always send us a message and get put on our newsletter or reqest to follow us on facebook!
As we've wrapped up 2019 and are at the start of 2020, we can look back at 2019 and claim it as a pretty great year for the Lord's work in Micronesia. Our family has had some ups and downs. We lost my Aunt, whom we loved so dearly and were very close to, and being 7,500 miles away and not being there for the goodbyes and funeral was definitely the toughest part of the year for me. The older boys started online dual-enrollment college classes, and we learned how difficult it is to do that from a place where the internet is spotty and the text books won't get sent. Thankfully, most of the professors were kind and understanding, so overall, it was a pretty good decision. I do truly believe it will help with the transition into college life. Spencer raised money to go spend a few months in the US. He wanted to get to his Bible and preaching camps, and we felt it was important for him to do that at that time, plus it would give us all a practice for when he moves to college the following summer. It definitley had it's ups and downs, and boy did I miss him! But, I think it was a great experience for him and a good transition period for me. While he was away, we had a few very difficult consecutive weeks where we said goodbye to almost all of our American friends who lived here. There was a big change-over, which there always is every 2yrs, and they all left right at the same time. Thankfully, we followed them out, not permanently, but long enough to help with the transition of losing them and finding a new "personal life" in Pohnpei. We visited Kosrae, Chuuk, and Guam, but I'll get into more of that later. Since losing those friends, we've just become closer to the friends who are still. Piper Ruth has been a typical 12yr old girls, spending a lot of time with her closest friend here. Gavin saved up his money and spent it on surfing lessons in Guam, so he's been doing some surfing off and on with one of our friends who has lived here for over a decade. He's also been getting more and more into his music and is becoming quite a musician, in my opinion. Spencer learned to play the guitar while he was away and shocked us with his playing when he returned, and Connor has gotten into electronic music and has put out some pretty cool video-game background songs on Youtube. Wayne and I have found some new friends to have game nights with, and about once or twice a month, we're able to enjoy of night of boardgames with friends.
It's hard to believe how much has happened within this one year, and last January seems like years ago! We started the year off, fairly early, with the baptisms of 2 wonderful people who had been visiting since our previous vacation Bible school, which was the day before we left for reporting in the US in 2018. After several months of faithfully attending services, classes, and activities and after a lot of studying with Charley, they decided to put the Lord on in Baptism. Soon after that, we held our annual Carnival, where everyone receives game tickets by answering Bible questions that we'd been working on for months (visitors would usually get questions asking where books are located...50% chance, so they'd get tickets pretty quickly). We had morning classes and worship as usually with the carnival to follow. The Carnival is something we all look forward to every year - games, prizes...and especially the cake walk! Immediately after the carnival, Charley's niece, long time visitor, wanted to be baptized. And, while we were at the water for the baptism, 2 kids of the previously baptized couple decided to pass of their Kid Sing card. They'd memorized a sheet of Bible facts and where to find certain stories in the Bible. They both passed with flying colors and received a prize. This was hands down one of the best days we've had in Pohnpei!
Soon after the Carnival day, Charley moved to the US to join his wife and adult children who had already moved there. We knew he was leaving soon, and we wanted him to go and not worry about us and what we'd do without him (he was our van driver and the preacher in rotation with Wayne and the one who took over in W's absence). We told him to go be with his wife and family (it'd been a few years since they'd been together), and we knew that the lord would provide...somehow...not really sure how, but we knew He would, and He did. We took over the driving for a while, making sure everyone made it around the island to services, classes and activities. One man stepped up and took over the driving from the other side of the island, huge blessing, but there was no one left with a license or capability to drive...except for Jones, the man who had been baptized a few months prior. We spoke with him, and apparently, Charley had already been putting the idea in his head, and he was more than happy to step in and take over as the main driver. He didn't have his license, but he knew how to drive (very common here), so Wayne worked with him a little, got his permit and practiced legally, then got his license as soon as he could, a month later. What a blessing Jones has been! Their whole family! I taught his wife, Rosemary, how to teach the kids' class, so when we're gone or I'm sick, I leave her the lesson and activities, and she takes over teaching the classes for me.
We've had leadership training classes, Lads to Leaders training sessions for the kids (year-round, non-competitive), youth devotional nights (that Jones helps lead with Wayne), youth led singing and devotional times, Ladies' classes, Pacific Islands Bible College courses (and a visit from Stacy and Kathy Ferguson who visited for 3 weeks for daily classes for the adults and kids), a big community - invited Ladies' Day with Kathy Ferguson as the main speaker, and a local sister, Ledisher, who led the intro lesson. Singing was led by me, Piper, and a local sister, and we had various church members do scripture reading and prayers. We had several studies come from the event, as well as many other studies throughout the year (men and women), and I pray that they will take what they've learned and one day have the strength to make the changes they know they need to make.
We had a very large week long Vacation Bible School/Family Bible Week that involved every church member helping out in some capacity (skit, teaching, leading crews/stations) including a big work day where all members showed up to clean up inside and outside, and my boys did most of the set-up. We finished off the work day with a Parents' Night Out, sponsored by various generous people. We kept and fed the kids and played games and showed a movie and gave the adults money to go out and have a nice night out alone. We also sent them out with a devotional to do with each other. Everyone really loved and appreciated it, and one couple said how wonderful it was and that they'd never experienced anything like that in their lives. What a blessing it was for all! We had about 30 kids participate in the VBS, about 12 teens, and about 20 adults. We consider that a great turn-out!
We flew off island the Monday following our VBS. Spencer was in the US, so it was just the 5 of us. I was able to get us an amazing deal at the airport, that took us to Kosrae, Chuuk, and Guam for less than a ticket just to go to Guam alone! What a blessing! We spent 7 wonderful days in Kosrae, which was a lot of work as well as a lot of great rejouvenation and play....and a much needed retreat for our family (especially coming right out of a giant VBS/Family Bible Week). We did some door knocking and held a Vacation Bible School, where we had 24 very smart and fun boys! After Kosrae, we spent 8 days in Chuuk. Wayne and Spencer had been able to go to Chuuk before, but I'd not been since 2015, and it was so great to reconnect with our brothers and sisters there and see how much the kids had grown. We did the Vacation Bible School there, and we had some private studies with members and visitors. We also took some time during the mornings to be tourists and enjoy our family time. We had contacted the resort directly, as well as all of the other hotels/resorts, and because we were considered local (and not working for a US government agency), they were very kind and gave us an amazing rate which ended up being well below everyone else. This stay included free paddle boarding and kayaking, which we took advantage of, as well as the pavillions by the water, where our family would have our morning devotionals and play games. While we were in Chuuk, we taught some of the members how to use a set of Back to the Bible booklets, and Hermes went through all of them with one of his friends, in one night. They studied together for 6hrs. This man had been working hard to change his life and had been sober for weeks, and after the studies, he wanted a study with Wayne then said he wanted to put Christ on in baptism. What a joyful day!
After Chuuk, we took a couple of weeks to go to Guam. The Treats were reporting in the US and graciously offered their house to us. We worked with the local congregations there. The congregations there are pretty self-sufficient, as one is mainly US military, and one was established decades ago (they actually were the ones who sponsored and built the building for the first church of Christ in Pohnpei in the 80's). They do, however, need and appreciate assistance with outreach and help with their services, which the Treats do when they're on island, so we wanted to step in and assist in their absence. We weren't able to work out the Vacation Bible School to happen while we were there, it ended up being bad timing for each of them once we got there, so we left behind the materials to use on their own time. We set up a Lads to Leaders program while we were there and did an information and training session for the kids and parents, so they can begin the year round program and training. We'll stop by there on our flight to the US and have an awards program for everyone who participated.
As soon as we returned, we noticed one of the girls was very sick. The parents said she had been most of the time we were gone, so we worked with them and the hospitals to try to get her fixed up, since they were being very difficult with the family and not giving them the proper attention needed. We took her to the private hospital and received a diagnosis that needed to her her off island asap, unfortunately, when we took her back to the public hospital for a specialist appointment a friend set up for us, they said she was too bad to fly. We didn't even know if she was going to make it at all, but we had such a great support system of prayer warriors, and she started doing so much better. Her heart is still really bad, but she functional and able to fly. We're currently waiting for word that she can go to Honolulu through a special program that will send kids from here to there for treatment of this unfortunately common disease (Rheumatoid Heart Disease) here.
After dealing with this, and having some special church bonding times, we had a week-long visit from a man and his son. They joined us in the National Door Knocking Day campaign that we extended to here in Pohnpei. All of the church members were excited to be involved, and we went and passed out Pohnpeian tracts and visited everyone in the neighborhoods surrounding the land where we'll soon start building our next church building. About a month later, Spencer and I went to Fiji to pack up and bring back our brother, Asher, who was at the preaching school in Suva. We had a great visit with the Pierces, a little trouble with visas and a bit of an extended stay, but we got it all cleared away and were able to bring brother Asher home! He's been in rotation since he returend and will be moving into the upcoming church building in Kitti, where he will be the full-time preacher.
Before we left, we began rehearsals for the Island version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol that we'd created to perform with and for the community. We had an amazing turn-out for auditions, and we really got into the community even moreso with this show. One lady allowed us to use her women's ministry building for rehearsal space, for free, and the local high school opened their cafeteria and stage for us to use, free of charge, for the week of the shows. The church members stepped in and helped with the show's car wash fundraiser as well as move-in/set-up and tear-down/clean-up. The week before the dress rehearsal, we had two young ladies from Freed Hardeman come for a 5 1/2wk internship. They were a hug help with the kids and the show, and they've worked hard this holiday season with filling and delivering Christmas boxes for our members (food and hygiene products), holding the kids' Christmas party while we ran the teen/adult one, bringin gifts for the kids' gift exchange, running a Ladies' Tea and a teen girls' youth night, and currently they're working on our upcoming ladies' retreat, where they, along with Ledisher, with present lessons, and they're helping me get Bible class materials together for the ladies to take over the classes while we're away reporting in a few months. They also went caroling with us around town and to the hospitals with the theatre group as well as the hospital visitation with the church - we sang hymns in all of the wards and held a devotional service in the waiting room. The kids at the hospital and around town excitedly received children's books to bring them some Christmas cheer.
They spent Christmas with us and joined our family in all of our traditions, as well as joining us for gatherings and holiday festivites with friends. Last night, we rang in the new year with each other and a few friends who came to the house, and as I read this, I'm exhausted but overjoyed to see what all the Lord has blessed us with in 2019!