The Last Two Days of VBS & Illness

VBS Day 4I wanted to get out the final report on the last two days of VBS today. I spent 8 hours preparing the multimedia presentation Abraham and Rachel need for their wrap up tomorrow afternoon and for their church. For the last hour of that time I was getting sicker and sicker. My stomach was mildly upset at first, but progressed to full-on food poisoning. Haven’t been this sick in quite some time. Let’s just say I’ve been keeping both outputs very busy over the last hour or so. I’m beginning to feel somewhat stable after most everything I’ve eaten over the past couple of days has made dramatic exit from my body.

Would very much appreciate your prayers as I need to be well enough to travel on Tuesday. I do have antibiotics which my doctor prescribed for just such a possibility. I hope I can begin to take them in the morning. No use trying while I couldn’t keep them down.

Would like very much to be able to get some sleep tonight.

Thanks and Blessings!

Day 3 of VBS

VBS Day 3Our third day of VBS is over. We are staying around the low 20’s in attendance, which is pretty good for the neighborhood. The kids are really into the stories and memory verses. Each day they learn a new verse and they go over the ones from prior days. They are asked to share the verses and stories with their parents at home.

The days have been quite pleasant. Glad to have the tarp over the courtyard, though, or it would be too hot. This evening it rained quite hard and the tarp pole collapsed. Will have to refasten it tomorrow morning before the kids arrive. About 6 of them come at least 1/2 hour early every day, sometimes even earlier. There is a lot of work for them to do at home, but not a lot of play time, so they are delighted to be with us.

Please keep us in prayer as we go into the home stretch.


Day 2 of VBS

VBS Day 2We have completed our second day of VBS in Huejotzingo. A few kids who were here yesterday were not here today, but a few came who weren’t here the first day, so things pretty much balanced out. The kids were very enthusiastic in their skits, games, projects and Scripture memorization. Today we focused on Adam and Eve and the creation of all the animals. Tomorrow we go to the fall.

One of the helpers from a local church where Abraham and Rachel serve is a professional clown. He was a great hit. He specializes in making balloon creations. Periodically we would be startled by an explosion as a balloon popped. Part of the fun.

We so appreciate your prayers.

Day One of VBS in Huejotzingo

VBS HeujoWe spent the weekend getting all of the supplies, handouts and crafts ready for the VBS. This included a walk into downtown Huejotzingo, where we are working, to go to the Saturday market. I absolutely love the outdoor markets I’ve been in all around the world–various African countries, Korea, Japan, etc. It is just plan fun to look at the variety of goods on sale and to bargain for purchases.

Today VBS in Huejo started. We actually had several kids come two hours early! Fortunately they live just across the street, so we could let them know to come back at noon. We were hanging a tarp over the courtyard where the kids would do some crafts and have their snacks. If the sun is out, the courtyard is very hot as there is no shade. And if it rains, as it did later in the day, the tarp provides protection. I had a metal ladder made that was delivered on Sunday, so we could get up onto the roof to hang the tarp. Everything worked out well.

We had 23 kids today, from age 4 to age 15. Everyone had a great time. Everyone learned the chosen verses. Abraham and Rachel put everything together rather than trying to buy a pre-made program. They’re doing the creation story. Lots of crafts, songs, skits and memory work.

The kids were all fully engaged in every aspect of what was going on. Most don’t get any Bible in their homes. Most don’t attend any church with any regularity. Most are “at risk” for various forms of abuse. So the love and attention they get here can be truly transforming.

Since I don’t speak Spanish, I’m the photographer, gopher and all-around handyman. I also talk with the students who are in Rachel’s English class.

We are trying to work out details that would allow a group (perhaps our youth) to come here from our church next year to help with VBS.

Rachel is our youngest daughter. She and her husband, Abraham, are parents to Judy and my only grandchild. So it has been an absolute delight to get to spend some quality time as a grandpa as well.

Appreciate your prayers that all will continue to go well. So far I’ve stayed fairly healthy–bit of stomach problems, but not as bad as has happened in the past. Also I’ve had a bit of a problem sleeping two of the nights since I arrived. There was a very loud party going on across the street one night until well after 1 a.m. Fireworks, a live brass band, etc.


Returning Home

Got home from Fiji yesterday. No sleep on the flight, which was quite full. Did get to be in the upper deck, which is much quieter. Slept well last night. To a graveside service today for the husband of my wife’s youngest sister. Great to see family, even though the occasion is sad. Will fly up to northern CA on Sunday for the memorial service.

The outreach in Fiji was one of the best yet. Thanks so much for your prayers.

Meeting Old Friends

I forgot to mention in my last post that we were unable to complete the delivery of the two wheelchairs to individuals on the island of Waya LeiLei because the wheelchair mission had not included the 8 seats in the shipment that we had transported to the landing for us to take over to the island. We thought everything was there because there was a very large carton that easily could have contained the chairs. That’s what the person who picked them up in Suva thought as well. I’ve already contacted the necessary individuals and they will send the missing seats down to Lautoka this week. The pastor we were working with will transport them to the island, assemble them and get them delivered. A bit of a disappointment in that we will not be present, but only a slight delay for those who have been waiting years for these wheelchairs.

The couple that was with our team, Mike and Amy, were not scheduled to leave Fiji until tonight. They came a day later than everyone else due to a prior commitment and decided to stay an extra day to have some time alone on the beach. I gave them the second local phone I bought so the team could maintain contact when we were in separate villages during the outreach. Mike called this morning before I left Nadi town for Suva to say that Amy got food poisoning and was sick during the night. I delayed my trip up to Suva and arranged transport for them to the hotel where Paramount Chief Osea and I were staying until after the rest of the team flew out last night. Ratu Osea and I were able to begin our debrief in Nadi as easily as doing it here in Suva. We had a lot to discuss regarding this outreach and plans for next December. By the time Mike and Amy arrived, Amy was already feeling much better. They should be on the homebound plane in just a few more hours.

I’ve already arranged for some meetings tomorrow with partners here in Suva. It will be a very busy day, but it will be good to meet with friends again. These are individuals who have worked with us in Fiji from the very beginning in 2003.

Farewells and Plans for the Future

It is Monday, July 1 in Fiji. Early yesterday morning we left Nakorokula Village, the village that hosted our outreach, took a very crowded van to Lautoka and boarded a 21′ boat to the Yasawa Island of Waya Leilei to deliver 8 wheelchairs.

We were greeted in traditional Fijian fashion and welcomed to the village. Then we were feasted to one of the best meals I have ever eaten anywhere. Some of the team snorkeled while I went over to another location to buy drinking water and some snacks. Then we had evening church. Some of the most sublime, beautiful singing this side of heaven. Then I delivered a message. After I finished, the Fijian pastor preached another full message. Services are often longer overseas. Then another meal.

Early this morning we left the island to return to the mainland. It is about a 31 mile trip. About 45 minutes out, we stopped at an ocean lagoon to swim with the sharks during shark feeding. Folks come from all over the world to witness this beautiful coral marvel and pet the sharks. Truly a memorable experience.

Got to Nadi around noon, in time to swim in the hotel pool and get rid of a lot of gritty salt and sand. Then, oh bliss, the first hot shower since the beginning of the outreach. We met with a local artisan I’ve known for some years. She is the premiere crafts person in the nation. Jim Whitney talked with her about a line of cultural products she might produce with some of her top artisans. With Jim’s contacts this could become a great source of income for a number of women. We’ll have to see how this works out.

After those discussion, I took the team over to the airport for pizza and their flight out. They will be on the maiden voyage of the new Fiji Airways Airbus. They’re very excited about that.

Tomorrow I head to Suva to debrief this outreach and to make plans for the next trip. There are several people I need to meet, if briefly. Face-to-face contacts are so very important in this culture–much more so than in the States.

Everyone involved in this outreach agrees it has been one of the best ever in so many ways.

Thanks for your prayers!

A Day of Rest

Today, Saturday, we spent much of the day at a local beach, resting and swimming. This evening we had our farewell in the village. I gave a message on God’s love for the weak and those other people take little note of. Then I met with the village chief and elders to turn over the $1,000 of seeds we brought for them to plant. These seeds, when grown, will provide a much better diet as well as providing cash crops.

We leave at 8 a.m. to go to the Yasawa Islands to deliver eight wheelchairs to those who need them.

Thanks for your prayers!


The Final Day of the Outreach

Today, the last day of the outreach, we were in the village of Koroula, our host village. These people have been so incredible! But that’s the norm here in Fiji. We treated 90 patients, which does not include the 40 who got glasses from us two nights ago. Of those 90, 81 were dental patients from whom Tom extracted teeth. Our doctor saw 40 people. We gave away another 15 pairs of glasses. Twenty accepted Christ.

First thing in the morning our beekeepers extracted two buckets of honey from the supers (top hive boxes) they brought over the previous evening when they moved the first group of hives to the high school that is now the center of our beekeeping/agriculture component. So we have extracted a total of 7 buckets of honey. We don’t have a scale, so don’t know how many pounds that amounts to. But it is a tremendous harvest from hives that have not been adequately maintained over the last 12 months.

Tonight after supper our beekeepers went out to move the last of the hives from the villages to the school. One of the trucks broke down before the first village hives could be moved. So the team went to the second village to move the eight hives from there. We need an adequate plan to get the other hives moved over as soon as possible. Please be in prayer about that.

This was international anti-drug, anti-child abuse day. I was assigned to address the entire 350 members of the student body and the staff on those issues. I emphasized that it is not enough to say “No” to anything. You must be saying “Yes” to something you truly value–life. I told them my own life story dealing with an alcoholic father and poverty. I received a number of favorable comments regarding what I had to share.

In total, we treated 1079 individuals. Our dentist extracted teeth from 241 people, many with multiple extractions. Our doctor saw 248. We gave out 391 pairs of reading glasses. 216 individuals accepted Christ. This has been an awesome outreach.

Tomorrow we take a day of rest. Sunday we head to the Yasawa Islands to take 8 wheelchairs to folks that need them. That will be very rewarding.

Thanks for your ongoing prayers. We have had some relatively minor stomach problems after the first evening when you prayed for healihg for the three of us that were having significant stomach problems


Bee Keeping and Clinic Attendance Fiji 2013

Another great day. We saw 559 patients, possibly a record for all of our outreaches in a single day. 102 individuals accepted Christ. Our dentist extracted teeth from 50 people. We gave out 129 pairs of glasses, exhausting our supplies, and our doctor treated 96 patients.

Our memorandum of understanding with the various agencies and individuals working with us in the bee-keeping and agricultural projects is almost finished. This has been quite an undertaking to achieve unity among us all as regards a number of complicated issues regarding ownership of assets, training expectations, production requirements, etc. This is to build a healthy bee-keeping and agricultural base that will provide nutritional food choices to the people of the rural areas, jobs that will employ especially women and youth, and all within a structure that encourages discipleship and spiritual growth. All parties will sign the memorandum tomorrow afternoon.

Our beekeepers extracted honey from all of the hives in our project and moved almost half of the hives to their new location at the vocational school in Lome Wai village. The reconditioned sewing machines we bought will be delivered to the school tomorrow. There is a lot of excitement and anticipation for all these components to begin to come online soon.

Tomorrow we set up our clinic in Korokula Village where we are staying.

Please continue to pray for us as we finish up our outreach.

Thanks and Blessings!