Day 15 Weds. June 29, 2016 Fiji Relief

This morning involved a bit of last minute shopping. I bought a large fishing net and a spear gun to help one of our fishermen feed his family and possibly make a bit of money selling the fish he catches. This involved some comparison shopping since prices on such items vary quite a bit from shop to shop. I had already looked at spear guns on Vanua Levu Island. Prices there were outrageous. I felt I could do much better on the main island of Viti Levu. That turned out to be the case.

Many shop keepers don’t post their prices, but determine what they think they can sell an item for depending upon how much they feel their customer can pay. I must say my years of bargaining all over the world is a big help in negotiations.

I had hoped to meet Vuniani Nakauyaca sometime during my trip. Vuni is the founder of the Healing of the Land team I have written so much about in the past. I’ve known him since 2003 when I first came to Fiji. He’s an incredible man of prayer. I’d tried to call him Sunday when I got to Suva but couldn’t reach him. Finally I got a return call from him this afternoon and arranged to stop by the H of L Center located on the way to the airport. We had about 45 minutes to catch up with what God has been doing in our ministries before checking in for my flight.

It turned out to be a good thing that I arrived early at the Nausori Airport. I was told when I bought my ticket that I could check in for my international flight at that airport and go directly through customs when I arrived in Nadi. Not true. I had to collect my bags, wait in line and then clear customs. My original flight schedule would not have allowed enough time for my connection. Fortunately there was an earlier flight leaving within a few minutes of when I got to the counter in Nausori. By taking that flight, I had more than enough time for everything including sending this last report before I board my flight to LAX.

Thanks again for all of your prayers. You are an essential part of everything the Lord accomplished during this trip.

Blessings!

Day 14, Tuesday, June 28 Fiji Relief

This morning Aisake and I went into town and purchased the seeds the church men’s group need to begin planting their 100 acre farm plot in Savusavu. We also bought the screen and other materials needed to build a greenhouse. I am awaiting a call tomorrow morning from Chuck, the manager of our beekeeping project, to see how we can best leverage that program to position us to be able as quickly as possible to increase aid those who can benefit from help in that area.

Since we already have the quotes for necessary fencing to keep animals away from crops and trees, it will be possible to wrap up TUtP relief efforts before I leave for home tomorrow night.

I had lunch with John Samisoni, the Christian businessman who has been a close friend and partner with us in all our outreaches since 2003. It was good to touch bases and catch up in a number of areas. John will continue to play an important role together with us as we go into the future.

I Skyped my wife, Judy both in the morning and just before she went to bed. She’s been able to eat a limited amount of solid food today, which is encouraging. We both appreciate your prayers for her.

Thanks and Blessings!

Day 13 Monday June 27, 2016 Fiji Relief Project

Aisake and I spent most of the day going around Suva getting estimates and quotes for greenhouse and fencing materials for our efforts to rehab his garden area after Typhoon Winston. It is remarkable how widely prices can vary among vendors for the very same items. By mid-afternoon we had determined who to buy from and we made the purchase. He’ll be able to pick up the screening, etc. before the end of the week. He’ll have to leave the items with a friend in Suva until he can arrange for transport via ferry to Vanua Levu Island where he lives.

Once the greenhouse and fencing are in place, he can begin to grow veggies again. Now anything he tries to plant is eaten by goats, pigs and the few cows that his neighbors have. That is a great frustration when virtually every food crop was destroyed by the storm and it is really important to get new crops planted and growing.

I came into town by bus ahead of Aisake and had opportunity to walk through the central farmers market in this capitol city. There was not a single piece of tropical fruit to be seen anywhere in this usually thriving market. I mentioned previously that I had not seen any fruit on Vanua Levu or Kiou Island except for one small mangosteen. I had expected to see at least a few papayas and bananas in this major city. The stark extent of the loss to this storm could not have been more adequately displayed than by what I did not see today.

It will be several months before the surviving trees begin to produce again. A huge number of trees have been totally destroyed. Getting new planting stock is almost impossible. Tomorrow we will see what seeds we can find for Aisake to take back to Vanua Levu for the church men’s coop group to plant in their 100 acre plot.

My wife, Judy says she still can’t eat solid food, but she is beginning to at least feel hungry which we think is a good sign. She has been able to drink water, some juice and some broth. The pain in her hip was fairly severe last night because she didn’t take any pain medication in case that was contributing to her nausea. This evening she had already taken some Tylenol in hopes of being more comfortable. So appreciate your prayers. I’ll be home on Wednesday.

Blessings!

TUtP Mexico: Reconnecting

We recently reconnected with a lady that Abraham used to do Bible studies with. She lives Huejotzingo, but not particularly close to us. After being out of contact with her for quite some time, she showed up at our house one morning to tell me about the December murder of her 23 year-old granddaughter, the single mother of two small children. She said that the family was now living in poverty, although they had the help of a Christian lady near her home.

Abraham reinitiated Bible studies with her. Not long after that, our kids and I also began to go with him so that the lady´s grandkids could have some friends to play with during the study. Depending on the day, the lady is there. Her elderly brother is always home and listens to the study eagerly. Sometimes other family members also participate. The family has a great many chains to break as they learn what God´s best is for their lives. The mother and sister of the young lady declared their faith in Jesus just this past week, and we pray that their declaration is real.

We are gearing up for our annual vacation Bible school coming up the third week of July. We still have quite a bit to do to prepare.

This last week, after a year and a half hiatus, I started the cooking or craft class with teen and pre-teen girls. We stopped the classes because the participants moved away, and no new teens arrived. Last month, three of the girls moved back and asked for the class again. Our class last week was making cream cheese bites. Yum!

Please pray for us as we plan the VBS, continue previously established studies and English class, and reinitiate the study and teen class. Pray also for our church which is going through a difficult time.

Day 12 Fiji Relief Effort, Sunday, June26, 2016

I was able to meet with my pastor friend this morning after service and give him the Journey materials he requested. The men in his congregation approached him last year and asked if he would meet regularly with them and help them become better disciples of Jesus. They realize they need a stronger relationship with the Lord. They also know they need to live out their faith in better ways towards their wives and families. Wife beating and child abuse are big problems in Fiji. There are far too few good role models of Christian marriage and child-rearing.

The Journey materials provide a 9-month guide to address core issues. I pray we are able to see these materials used effectively all over the nation within the church.

I made phone contact with a key business associate, John Samisoni, who has been a close friend and ministry partner since 2003 when I first began to minister here. Aisake is on the overnight ferry from Vanua Levu Island to Viti Levu Island. He arrives in Suva about 5 a.m. Monday morning. Aisake and I will have lunch with John Tuesday afternoon to discuss a variety of ideas for future ministry.

Later tonight I’m supposed to meet with Pastor Reggie Kumar and his wife. Their son, Reggie Jr. is now a dentist. I’ve known him since he was a teenager. He’s indicated a desire to become more actively involved in our medical outreaches.

I Skyped Judy twice today to see how she’s doing. She still can’t keep solids down. She’s eating rehydration popsicles and drinking broth. She even has problems with the broth. She’s made an appointment with her PCP so we can hopefully determine what is going on. Thanks for holding her up before the Lord. I’m glad I’ll be home on Wednesday.

Blessings!

Fiji Relief Project Day 11

I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop in Nadi town after meeting with one of the three people I’d hope to meet with during my brief visit to this lovely town. One person I’d hoped to make contact with is in New Zealand and won’t return until tomorrow whey I will be in Suva. The other, a pastor friend, has moved and I don’t know his new location. Still, meeting with Gabe and Cuvu was worth the stop over. They are long-term ministry partners and fantastic friends. We discussed some things we hopefully will see develop over the next few months.

Tried to Skype Judy again, but the internet here wasn’t working right. When that was finally resolved, our home in the States was without electricity. I was able to phone, though. Judy is still not as healthy as we would like, but she did want me to proceed to Suva rather than coming home tonight. She has been able to eat a very little solid food. We definitely need to get to the bottom of what is causing this nausea.

Shortly I’ll eat my evening meal and make my way back to the Nadi airport for my 1/2 hour flight to Nausori and my 1/2 hour drive into Suva.

Appreciate your prayers. Blessings!

Fiji Relief Project Day 10

This morning Aisake and I drove over to Dreketi to meet with the pastor of the church where TUtP held our last medical outreach. It was a pleasant drive over the mountain spine of Vanua Levu Island. There are some incredible views, including a rain forest overlook.

While we were having lunch with Pastor Henry, we discussed a 240 acre plot of land the church trust owns. The property has a lake at the top of a small hill, has already been planted in pasture and has very good beekeeping and farming potential. It is possible that after the first of the year it will come up for long-term lease with an option to buy. This would be a fantastic place to base TUtP work on the island. Lease terms would only run about $550 U.S. per year. We will definitely keep an eye on this.

I gave the pastor copies of the materials Band of Brothers Journey Group uses in the States for discipling men over a nine-month period. I’ve asked him to review the manuals and books to see if he believes, as I do, that the church in Fiji can use them. I’ll give another two sets to one of my pastor contacts in Suva on Sunday with the same request. The pastor in Suva already has men pleading with him to disciple them. He has been meeting with groups from his church for the past year, but doesn’t yet have a well developed program to use. Journey Group materials have proved very effective around the States and in Tanzania and Uganda. I hope they will make a positive impact in Fiji.

We were planning our medical outreach for the first two weeks of December, when our beekeeper can most likely join us for the many training opportunities we have. Even the government is pleading with us to provide more training like we have done over the past few years. Looks like a go on all levels.

Early tomorrow morning, Saturday here, I fly to Nadi where I will spend the day making contact with a number of people we work with in Fiji. That evening I’ll continue on to Suva for meetings over the next four days prior to returning home.

Earlier today I sent out a request for prayer for my wife Judy. When I Skyped her this evening, she was doing better, so for now I will not revise my schedule for the next few days to return home earlier than planned. Will keep you updated. If things change, I will not hesitate to come home early.

Thanks and Blessings!

Fiji Relief Trip Day 9

Today Aisake and I drove over the mountain range that divides Vanua Levu Island. Savusavu where I’m staying is on the rainy side of the island and suffered worst from Typhoon Winston. Labasa where we drove to today is on the dry, northern side of the island in the rain shadow of the mountains. Although people in the Labasa area did suffer quite extensively from the storm, there are still some fruit trees standing, albeit without fruit, and some of their crops survived.

We made the two hour trip in order to visit the farm where Teach Us to Pray is now centering our bee project. All of our equipment for making hives was just delivered to the farm from Viti Levu Island where our project was previously located. Chuck hasn’t yet had time to set everything up, though he has completed a new shed to house bee box building activities. There’s enough room in the building to conduct training classes as well. There’s a huge demand right now for all the training we can provide.

I’d originally heard we didn’t lose any hives, though two had been blown off their stands during the high winds. As it turns out, one hive was destroyed. However the rest of our bees are doing fine. Chuck recently harvested honey. There was a group of university students from the States doing a project in the area. Chuck and his wife hosted these students during part of their stay. The kids left a couple of days ago and they bought all of the honey except for the one bottle Chuck saved for me. Really tasty honey, too.

We made plans for our next outreach tentatively scheduled for the first two weeks of December. By then Chuck should do another honey extraction and our hives should be ready to split. Our goal is to build our number of hives to 50. When we reach that number in three or four years, we should be able to begin to provide hives to those we train. We especially want to give hives to pastors and to churches as a source of income for ministry. Many pastors in Fiji have extremely minimal salaries and must earn income from other sources.

I also arranged for Chuck to come to Aisake’s place soon and build two mud ovens for Aisake’s wife, Lisa. Lisa just started baking bread which she will sell in nearby villages. Chuck’s wife will teach her to make wood-fired pizzas. Lisa can sell these at a fairly good profit, providing further income for their family. We are also doubling the size of Aisake’s chicken shed, which we built during our last outreach. Currently he has 16 laying hens and 25 meat birds. He sells eggs to neighbors and can’t keep up with the demand. These activities provide their only source of income at present. Like so many, they also lost all their crops during the Typhoon.

Just a few weeks before I arrived on this visit, Aisake and his family took in one of the orphan girls who attended our last camp. She’s turning 18 and can no longer stay at the home where she was raised. She had nowhere else to go.

Tomorrow we once more make our way across the island to visit the church where we held our last medical outreach in 2015. We’ll have lunch with the pastor and discuss our plans for December.

I Skyped with my wife Judy late this evening. Please be in prayer for her. She is experiencing nausea again. We don’t want a return of the illness that sent her to the hospital two weeks ago. She had been getting better, so this is a setback. I won’t be home until next Wednesday.

Thanks and Blessings!

Fiji Relief Project Day 8

This turned out to be one of the busiest days of the week. Aisake and I spent the night on Kiou Island after giving out the fishing gear. Yesterday the villagers were discussing their need for water. At present their water supply is available for ½ hour every morning. People must fill whatever buckets or tubs they have during that brief period. That’s all the fresh water they will have for a 24 hour period for any purpose.

The spring that previously supplied the village totally dried up over a year ago, so they are dependent upon rain runoff to fill their main reservoir tank. There has been a drought for the past several months, despite rain on the main island. There is a reliable spring on the side of the island opposite the village. That is the spring I walked over to see yesterday.

I mentioned it should not be too difficult to bring water by pipe from that spring to the reservoir tank. We need to know the distance of the water source from the tank and the height of the hill the pipes would have to come over. I said I would try to get funding for such a project since it is of such vital importance to the well-being of the villagers. My comments were taken to the chairman of the village committee who asked to meet with me this morning.

After breakfast, Aisake and I went to meet with this man. He surprised me by beginning his discussion saying, “Glory to God. He alone is worthy of all praise and honor.” He then went on to relay the story of the Good Samaritan in great detail, relating the plight of the Samaritan to the plight of Kiou. Their number one need is for water to reach the village. Any help we could provide would be extremely beneficial.

I replied with the tale of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. She had a desperate need and sought help from the one source who could provide for her. We need to seek that same source. That is what I will do when I get home.

This is definitely not the kind of discussion I would have with a government official in the States.

The village will measure the distance from the spring to the tank so we know the length of pipe we need. They will see if the government can tell them the elevation of the hill behind the village so we know how high the water must be pumped to begin an ongoing siphon effect to draw the water to the tank. Then we can determine the funds we need to raise. The villagers can lay the pipe and make all necessary connections.

We also discussed the medical outreach we plan to do in December. The village definitely wants to be included in that project as well. I hope we can bring an engineer with us who can help determine how best to do the water project, should we raise the necessary funds by then.

Immediately after that meeting, we had a very pleasant boat ride back to Vanua Levu Island. We drove to Aisake’s house and had a snack before heading into Savusavu to buy relief supplies for one more family. We delivered those supplies and picked up the remaining water filters which we then took to the two churches that had not yet received theirs. I put one together as a demonstration and we headed back to Aisake’s house for our evening meal.

Tomorrow we drive over to the north end of the Island where we will inspect our bee hives and meet with Chuck, the farmer who is taking care of them. We’ll discuss the December outreach and the training needs of the beekeepers around that area. This is where we did such extensive training last year.

Then we’ll drive over to Dreketi to meet with the pastor of the church where we did last year’s outreach. We’ll do some planning for next year and give out the very few lures which we kept back for the fishermen in that area.

Thanks again for your ongoing prayers. Jesus has been so present during these past days.

Fiji Relief Trip Day 7

This morning we were able to make contact with two pastors on Kioa Island to confirm that we could come over and distribute the fishing gear I brought to Fiji. They would pick us up in a skiff and take us on a 30 minute boat ride to the island. The rain stopped during the night and so the ocean would be calm. It was a wonderful trip.

There are 72 families with a total of 400 people living on this small island just off Vanua Levu Island where I’ve been staying. Every one of them depends upon the ocean for their livelihood. At least a dozen small boats with outboard motors were in the water near the beach as we landed. On shore were several handmade outrigger canoes.

Typhoon Winston hit the back side of Kioa particularly hard, with massive tidal swells. Virtually all crops were destroyed, though most animals were spared. They made their way into the forests above the village and so did not drown. Since there are no root crops, people are forced to buy rice, if they can afford it. And of course they fish.

Yesterday I was in a marina shop on Vanua Levu and had a chance to look at the lures for sale there. The prices were outrageous and the quality was not the best either. So what we brought was a real treasure. I looked into a couple of tackle boxes some of the men had on their boats. All their lures were homemade. They work, but not as well as the pricey manufactured lures.

You should have seen the eyes of these professional fishermen light up when they saw the excellent selection of lures I had arrayed on a table in the church. They were like kids in a candy shop as they picked up lures and discussed how well these lures would work for them. After they had taken everything I had, they were profuse in their thanks.

One fisherman is on the ruling council of Kioa. He said it was hard to explain how important this contribution was to the well-being of the families on the island, especially in light of recent losses.

Aisake and I are spending the night on the island and leaving in the morning. We had a lovely fish dinner. Fresh caught wahloo among other items.

Thanks again for all your prayers and support.