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.

Fiji Relief Project Day 6 Monday 2016

We had quite a bit of wind and rain throughout the night. A bit of a squall. I had to close all the louvered windows in my room and move stuff away from the outside walls to keep everything dry. The sound of the surf was pleasant, though, eventually lulling me to sleep.

This morning we drove into Savusavu to buy the last of the relief food supplies we need for the churches in this area. We left half of the food at the home of the local pastor to distribute to the families closest to the main church. Then we hired a 4-wheel drive vehicle with driver to enable us to take the rest of the food to the most remote of the highland congregations.

The trip up reminded me of so many other off-road adventures over my years of ministry in various countries. This road was really quite nice compared to some I’ve driven on.

There are 8 families in that church. Like so many, they lost all of their crops and sustained significant damage to their homes. We met the pastor and his wife at the store in town where we were loading up the food. These two do not draw any guaranteed salary from their ministry in their remote location.

This afternoon we will head back to town to buy fuel for the boat that will take us to the fishing villages on two islands where we will distribute the fishing gear I brought with me. If it’s still raining, we’ll most likely have to postpone that trip to another day. If that is so, we will drive to the Dreketi area on the other side of the island. That’s where we will check out our bee projects and plan for our December medical outreach.

Thanks for your prayers. Blessings!

Fiji Day 5–Sunday June 19 2016

Up early again this morning to eat breakfast and head to the church in Savusavu where I delivered the message. There had been a wedding at the church the day before, and a number of folks who were family and friends had travelled from Taveuni Island to be at that event. Several stayed over to attend church, which meant there was a fairly good sized group filling the pews.

There were four individuals who had just sailed into the harbor on a round-the-world tour who also joined us. One couple was from Virginia, a retired naval officer and his wife who will be staying in Fiji for about 3 months. Interesting people.

This is a day to relax before we begin relief efforts again in the morning. It’s a lovely Fiji day with a fantastic sky and a brilliant, multi-colored ocean.

Thanks again for your continued prayers. Blessings!

Day 4, Fiji, Saturday, June 18, 2016

Aisake and I began the day early as we needed to catch the 7 a.m. ferry from Taveuni Island to Vanua Levu Island where I am based during this mission. We were staying at Aisake’s daughter’s house at the Taveuni Hospital. She and her husband are both doctors and they basically run the hospital. We had arranged for a cab to pick us up early enough for our boarding time. The cab did not come, so at the last minute, we caught another cab that had delivered someone to the hospital. By then it was after 7 a.m. No worries. The ferry didn’t leave until around 8:30 a.m. Fiji time.

The crossing can be nasty, I’m told. There is an extremely strong current running through the coconut strait and often there are high winds. But we had another very smooth crossing. There was a bit of chop but nothing worth mentioning.

The hour bus ride from the landing to Aisake’s house was also unremarkable. Though the road is unpaved for over half the trip, the suspension is excellent on the express bus and the seating is comfortable and fairly wide. My seat mate was a farmer from Taveuni who farms about 300 acres. Like so many others, he lost his entire crop and his house was more than 50% destroyed. He says it is like starting all over after so many years of farming.

We got to Aisake’s house in good time, had some tea and then headed into town to buy iron roofing material for the house of one of the pastors we work with. His house was badly damaged during Typhoon Winston. This pastor does not receive any guaranteed income from his congregation, so he definitely benefits from this help. I say we bought the roofing material. To be more accurate we ordered it. The hardware store is completely out but we are told a supply is expected this coming Thursday.

I have often wondered why there were so few deaths as a result of this storm, the most powerful ever to hit land in the South Pacific and the 2nd most powerful to hit land anywhere in the world. The sustained winds were clocked at 186 mph with gusts up to 235 mph. The tidal surge was routinely 10 ft and up to 60 ft in some locations. It was over 200 miles across. Yet there were fewer than 75 deaths from across the nation on all the multiple islands that were hit by the storm. I firmly believe it is only by God’s grace that hundreds more people did not die in this storm. There can be no other rational explanation.

I told you yesterday about the village of Navakawau and the 5 waves that were flattened by winds just before they could destroy the village and kill most of the inhabitants. Let me tell you another story that drew national attention right after the storm.

In another coastal village, Nakodu, there was one small, fairly well constructed house that was on a slight rise within the village. Everyone from the village crammed into that structure in order to be safe. Once everyone was inside, people were packed so tightly they couldn’t open the doors.

However, as they fled in panic to take refuge in this house, they forgot about a crippled man who lived in the village. They accidentally left him in his house down by the beach. As the storm began to rage and grow stronger, this man crawled out of his house on his stomach and made his way inch by painful inch to the place of supposed sanctuary. Someone inside saw him through a window. Everyone was too fearful to try to go out and get him and they couldn’t open the doors even if they had wanted to.

Then they saw a massive tidal surge rushing toward the village. It swept through, destroying everything in its path. The house was not on high enough ground to survive the onslaught. The man meanwhile had reached the door, could not get in and was beginning to crawl back down toward whatever shelter he might find.

When the wall of water reached the spot where he was crawling, it split and went on both sides of the man and of the house which was now immediately behind him. The wave wrecked havoc to the entire village as it surged around the man and the house. Destruction was everywhere. As the wall of water receded, it again parted around the house and the man, leaving them untouched.

How many stories like this must there be that we will never hear? Stories like these provide some evidence to the truth of my belief that God intervened to spare lives.

Thanks for your continued prayers. Blessings!