This is my second day in Fiji. I’m still having difficulty with the internet but am temporarily on a very slow connection modem I bought today does not seem to work. Since it is Saturday night here I’ll have to wait until Monday to try to rectify the problem before the outreach starts and I’m in a rural area with no way to get onto the internet to send updates. Pray all works out.
Drove 2 hours from Savusavu to Labasa to buy supplies for the outreach and meet with some of the key participants in the program. Quite a hot, muggy day with rain during the 2 hour drive back. But we accomplished what was needed. All our supplies should be in place when we begin the medical and beekeeping programs on Tuesday morning.
I was also finally able to reach Joyce on the phone after repeated attempts over 2 days. Great to hear her voice. She’s also on the road visiting friends.o
End of 1st very long day in Fiji. 10 hr. 45 min. plane trip. Uneventful but virtually no sleep. Lots of preparatory shopping today in Savusavu town helped keep me awake so I should sleep quite well tonight. No access directly to the internet yet due to modem issues I plan to resolve tomorrow. In the morning will drive to Labasa town near where the outreach will happen. Already checked in with our dentist who arrives in Labasa tomorrow a.m. Am hit & peck 1 finger typing this on a very small phone screen. Appreciate your prayers. Greatest blessing.
We just completed a record breaking Huejotzingo, Mexico TUtP VBS. The fewest kids we had any of the 5 days was 41 on the 1st day. On Weds. we had 55. We could just barely fit them into the activity room and courtyard. We had a total of 62 different children who came over the entire week. Some of these kids hear very little of the Bible at any other time than when they are involved in one of our activities.
The crafts each day are geared to the Bible story. The kids are supposed to tell the story to their parents when they get home. We know some do. A record-breaking 13 parents attended the last day when we gave diplomas and gifts to the kids. They heard a total recap of the theme story as their children answered questions about the week. For many of these adults, this is the only Bible they will hear.
Each day there were lots of games, Bible memorization, crafts, eating and a dramatized Bible story. The theme for the week was about forgiveness as demonstrated by Joseph in the O.T. Despite how his brothers betrayed him, he knew God had had a plan to work out as a result of their actions, and he was more than willing to forgive them their past evil actions. God through Jesus similarly forgives us because He loves us and wants to have us as His children in a healthy relationship.
I was the taxi driver, driving the Dios es Amor Church van to three houses each morning to pick up various children and adults who lived too far away from the center to walk. At the 1st house, no one was ever home during the week. We kept going just in case as the parents had indicated their kids would come at least some of the days and they have previously been part of our activities. At the 2nd house I usually picked up one adult and two kids. The 3rd house usually yielded 4 youngsters.
We faced some technical challenges as our printer did not always want to print properly. We print out 1 copy of what we need and go to town each afternoon or evening to get all the copies we need for the various crafts. This is cheaper and faster than trying to print out everything at the TUtP office.
At the end of every day, we debriefed our helpers, all of whom were simply marvelous this year. There are a few wrinkles each day that need to be worked on for the next day so we can be constantly improving what we do. This is especially helpful in dealing with a few kids who are disciplinary challenges. Some come from very difficult home situations and thrive on attention. They just don’t always use appropriate ways of gaining that attention.
On the final day, everyone had cake and ice cream. The older girls all got a brand new, lovely doll. Each of the little kids got brand new Beanie Babies. The older boys got spinners and a pen. The dolls and the Beanie Babies I bought at estate sales around Long Beach CA. I can get them so very inexpensively that way. The kids and their parents were absolutely delighted.
Construction on the buildings Abraham and Rachel are building is going well. This will be our new TUtP center in Huejo. They hope to move within 8 weeks. Construction methods are different there than they are here, especially the pouring of the concrete roof which involves a continuous pour on a single day to avoid any leaks or other structural problems. Fascinating.
I leave for Fiji August 30, returning September 14. We will do a medical outreach. Then I head to Romania from September 28 through October 9 to do a seminar on prayer for Romanian pastors. Please pray for stamina and effectiveness. Thanks and blessings!
We have an update for the people on the prayer list. Luis does not have leukemia. He just has some anemia.
Irma passed away late last week.
Hortensia is much better, and we will return to Bible study with them again this week.
There is a new person to add to the list. Aron is a 7th grader at PCS. His mom is the secretary at the school, and three of his brothers graduated from PCS in the last few years. His mother was diagnosed with Lupus last year, and now he is undergoing many medical studies for a tumor that was found in his chest last week.
Please continue to pray!
Puebla Christian School has begun the 2016-2017 school year. Once again Abraham and I are part-time teachers there. Abraham is the PE teacher for the whole school for the fourth year, and I am the elementary students´ art teacher for the second year. Like last year, I will alternate teaching drawing techniques with teaching art history and doing a project related to the artist or art movement. Around some holidays we will also craft gifts.
We just found out that Fani, one of the PCS teachers, a lady who also has three children attending there and who was on the board of directors, was diagnosed with a brain tumor that must be operated on as soon as possible. At this point, she and her family have no other information about the tumor.
The tumor adds her to a list of people Abraham and I are praying for and helping in any other way we can. My sister-in-law has a former co-worker Alan, a 25 year old man, who is in the hospital receiving chemo treatments for leukemia. His family is poor, and the treatments, while partially covered by public health insurance, are difficult for them to manage.
Another person recently diagnosed with leukemia is Irma, the grandmother of seven of the children we do Bible study with once a week. She believes she has the cancer because some one put a curse on her.
Our neighbor Luis, the teenage uncle of three of the kids who regularly attend Sunday kids´ club (and who used to attend himself), will be having tests done next week to determine the cause of his anemia. The thought is that he, too, may have leukemia.
Finally, we are also praying for Hortensia, a lady who lives with another of my sisters-in-law. She has been down with shingles for the last two and a half weeks. The family has been trying to find creams, lotions, and natural treatments to relieve her symptoms, but she is having a very rough time. So far nothing helps much. For this family also, the expenses of treatments are causing strain, since their budget is very limited
This is just too much serious illness! Please pray for these people and their families.
On a much brighter note, we were very blessed by one of the families that Abraham and Six regularly do a Bible study with. Ernesto and Marisol are new believers, and they still have many habits to change. However, they are taking the studies seriously, and two weeks ago decided to give Abraham an offering of money for two of the sick people mentioned above.
On Thursday evening, we heard a knock at the door, and Abraham went to answer. He returned with a box of groceries that these neighbors had bought for us. How wonderful to see them growing in their faith and willing to generously give! It is encouraging to see them grow. Pray for them as they grow, because they often face rejection and mocking from their relatives who live in the same compound.
We are checking to see if we can change a Bible study that we used to do on Fridays to Sundays. The Bible study sometimes involves three generations of women, all of whom have serious difficulties in their lives. Recently only one person, sometimes two, could be at the Bible study. Last Friday, one of the ladies asked us if we could change the Bible study to Sunday, because it is the only time she, and perhaps her four-year-old granddaughter, can attend. We will try going right when we arrive from church. Six will stay with the children who arrive for kids´ club as they play, and we will return for the other afternoon activities.
On July 13, my sister Joy and my dad arrived in Huejotzingo. We visited a few fun places together, and they also helped preparing for our VBS. On Sunday they attended church at Dios es Amor with us, and we had Leilani´s baby dedication.
July 18 – 23 we held VBS at our home, with the theme of John the beloved disciple. For the fourth year in a row, we developed our own curriculum, a process which requires many months of work scouring internet resources, writing, and planning.
As with last year, we woke up to a feverish Abishael on Monday. It was his first sickness in all 2016. Because he was in pain from achy joints, and because the fever was not going away even with the homeopathic medicine treatment, we chose to modify the first day of VBS. Volunteers from Dios es Amor and two neighbor friends took over games and snack while my dad drove us in our neighbors´ car to the kids´ doctor in Puebla. Our very social Abish cried disconsolately over not being able to play with his friends. Both Abish and Lani, it turned out, had throat infections, and the doctor gave them a new treatment which soon had them both feeling better.
On Tuesday Abish was no longer feeling bad, so we swung into full VBS mode. At noon the children began to sign in, and the day´s focus of Jesus calling John and James started out with songs. Once most children had signed in, we split the groups into ages 1 – 6 and 7 and up. The young kids went to the patio for snack of fishy crackers and for verse practice while the older group took to the street for games. The groups switched places, and then we all met together inside for a few more songs, announcements and welcome, and a visit from special guest Zebedee (played by Abraham). Again the young group went to the patio where they made a fish mobile with the day´s verse and then completed a page to help them remember the day´s story. Inside, the older group worked on slightly more complicated versions of the same. At the end of the work time, we all briefly returned indoors to review, and then it was time to go home at 3.
Wednesday´s story was told by James (again played by Abraham). The children learned about Jesus´ transfiguration. The schedule followed the same order Tuesday through Friday, with the two groups sometimes together and sometimes divided, and everything from games to snacks, songs to crafts, and verses to work pages serving to emphasize the story of the day. On Thursday James and John´s mother (played by me) told the story of Jesus´ trial, death, and resurrection and of how John stayed faithfully with Jesus throughout Jesus´ trial and death.
Friday´s visitor was a lady from the church John wrote to in 2 John. She urged the children to obey God´s command to love each other.
Because of the change on Monday, our VBS ran through Saturday. In addition, we decided to hold the finale on Saturday rather than on Sunday afternoon as we had done in the past . Our last visitor, played by our neighbor, was John himself. He told about Jesus´ second coming and said that we should be vigilant as we wait for him.
Four parents arrived for the finale. There was some chaos as we shepherded the children inside, reviewed the week´s stories, and called the children and volunteers up for diplomas. Finally, each child received their gifts and filed outside for the cake and juice donated by two parents.
In total we had 42 children, ranging in age from not-yet-two (Leilani) to 18 years old. Our busiest day had 34 children. We were blessed with the help of several people from church and a Christian couple who live near us. Thank you for your prayers for us in the work of putting together and hosting this year´s VBS. Please pray that the messages of the Bible conveyed through the VBS would continue to impact the lives of the children and their families.
I was in Fiji for the last two weeks in June doing relief work among some of the victims of Typhoon Winston,
the strongest storm ever to hit land in the South Pacific. Winston had sustained winds of 186 mph with gusts up
to 230 mph. It was 200 miles across. Tidal surges reached up to 60’ with minimum surges of 10’. Almost all
inhabited islands of the nation were affected in some way, especially the three largest islands—Viti Levu,
Vanua Levu and Taveuni.
Folks on most islands lost virtually all of their staple food crops and many of their small livestock. All root crops were destroyed in most areas hit by the storm. Root crops take from 9 months to a year to grow to edible size. The problem is there are very few cuttings for farmers to plant. I was able to buy seed for a church men’s group. They will plant them in their 100 acre plot to grow food for consumption and sale. If all
goes well, they can begin harvest in about 3 months. Fruit trees like papayas, mangoes, bananas, guavas, noni and
coconuts were destroyed or severely damaged. There are tens of thousands of coconut trees that have no nuts. This affects the production of copra, coconut oil and milk, and the sale of raw coconuts, causing great financial loss to thousands of families. Many trees will never produce again. It will take from one to two years to see how many come back into production.
I saw no tropical fruits of any kind in any home, market or road side stall during my entire time on the three
islands I visited. The main farmers market in the capitol city of Suva which normally has hundreds of people
selling various items, had no tropical fruits of any kind on display. Incomes are significantly reduced by this
shortage and dietary needs are not met.
I focused our resources helping members of 5 small isolated rural churches on Vanua Levu and Taveuni Islands
that had been overlooked by prior aid efforts. We were able to provide significant food relief to 37 families,
consisting of about 475 individuals. I provided 63 water purification filter systems to these families so they can
have clean drinking water. In some areas typhoid has become a problem. Dirty water kills more infants and
children around the world than any other factor, including malaria.
TUtP also assisted fishermen on the small island of Kiou just off Vanua Levu. Provision of fishing gear helps the
400 people who live there. Fishing is their main source of food and funds, though they do some farming as
Kiou Island has a severe potable water shortage. Their main spring, source of all water for the village has dried
up. They open their water taps for ½ hour every morning. That’s all the supply of fresh water available for all
needs during the remainder of the day.
There is a spring on the opposite side of the island away from the village that has an abundant, constant supply
of fresh water. I am now trying to raise money to provide pipes that can connect that spring to the main village
distribution tank. The villagers will soon provide me details regarding the distance from the spring to the tank
so we know how much pipe to purchase. We also must know the height of the hill the water must traverse so
we know what kind of pump we need to buy. Villagers can do all the work required to set up the system. Once
the pipe is in place and the water begins to flow, gravity will siphon water continuously, so the pump only
needs to be available to fill the pipes again should they ever break.
Thanks to all of you who provided the funds necessary for this project. Thanks for all of you who prayed that
we would be able to reach these folks with this help. They thank you for what you have done for them.
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.
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.
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.