Teaching in Transylvania, Romania[/caption]I was in Romania most of November, 2013 teaching pastors and other Church leaders on various prayer topics and addressing a number of other practical ministry concerns. Initially I was with the same pastors and churches I’d ministered to in 2011. They asked me to return to help them more fully implement what I had previously taught and to expand into other prayer areas. These pastors face unique challenges. Most have multiple congregations. Many work with gypsy churches in difficult situations. My traveling companion, Pastor Paul Muerson, and I ministered in over 20 churches and met one-on-one with a number of key leaders to strategize for the future. I’ve been asked to return and teach in two training schools that have been set up to prepare new pastors for ministry. There would be around 125 men in just one of these seminaries. A pastor who focuses on gypsy congregations says he can guarantee an equal number of men in his location. Paul and I are discussing when to return this year to take up this opportunity.
During the first week, I taught for 3 hours in the morning and 2 1/2 hours in the evening. My translator had hurt his back as a boy and had been in some degree of pain ever since. During a practicum on healing prayer, as the group prayed for another man, I was quietly praying for Lucian, with my hand on his lower back. God took away all of his pain immediately, though he did not tell me this at the time. He didn’t want to be premature in claiming healing of a problem he’d had for so many years. Four days later, after a day of chopping firewood, he finally told me what God had done. He has since emailed to say that he remains free of all pain. Praise the Lord! God is so very good.
In two weeks I will head to Fiji to review the progress in our beekeeping and agricultural initiatives and to plan for our summer outreach. I will travel to both of the main islands–Viti Levu and Vanua Levu–to meet with those with whom I work. In the past, we have not done any outreaches on Vanua Levu. However, Aisake Emmanuel, the general secretary of GIFT ministries, the Fijian doctors group under whose auspices we conduct the medical portion of our work, moved to that island to build a new home and to establish his own beekeeping activities. He believes there is a great opportunity for us to work among those where he now lives.
Most of the time, however, will be spent in the area of the Lomawai Trade School where we have moved all of our beekeeping activities. There are a number of Indian schools in the area that we want to make the focus of our medical and dental clinics. In the past we have seen many Hindus and Muslims accept Christ as a result of what God does as we work among them. Students from Azusa Pacific University will join us to conduct Vacation Bible School activities for the various students. Please be in prayer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
In the first two days we have already seen and treated 430 people. 94 have accepted Christ. Dr. Tom has done extractions for 110 individuals, many have been multiple extractions. In addition he has done oral inspections for an additional 249 primary students. We’ve given out 247 pairs of reading glasses. Dr. Joe has seen 112 patients.
Last night after we returned to the village where we are staying, one of the head men came and asked Dr. Joe if he could come and see his 81 year-old aunt who was having bad asthma. She had run out of her inhalers 2 weeks before and was getting worse each day. When Dr. Joe arrived, the woman was in very bad condition. He had located an inhaler and managed to give her a few puffs. This revived her somewhat. He began to talk to her about the Lord. She apparently had never become a Believer. As he talked with her, she indicated a willingness to accept Jesus. He led her in a prayer of acceptance. As she finished he asked her if she knew she would be with Jesus if she should die. She smiled and said “Yes.” That was the last word she said before her immediate death. They are held her memorial service in the village church a few minutes ago.
J.J., Jim Whitney’s grandson is a bit ill, so he has gone to bed early. Stomach problems again. The rest of us are still well, PTL!
As Jim was working at the High School in the shop, he discovered that the table saw, a commercial one, virtually brand new has a bad motor. Of course, though it has only been used about 2 months in the last 12 months, it is out of warranty. It is a Mikita, which is allegedly one of the best. This would leave Jim Whitney with nothing to do the last two days in terms of his goals. By God’s grace, I was working at the clinic and asked the headman if he knew a qualified electrician. He pointed down the patio to a man who had come to be seen by us. He agreed to go to the school immediately and inspect the motor. Seems the brushes may be bad. He promised to come over tomorrow and repair whatever needs to be repaired to get the saw working by Thursday. Again, PTL!
Mike and Alan finished the inspection of the hives in Emuri, Semo and Nabau. Though no one has been in the hives for the last 12 months, only 4 are totally dead. The live ones all have healthy queens, which is remarkable. We met with the village elders to come to a consensus as to what needs to be done. They agreed to allow all the hives to be harvested and then moved to the secondary school for rehabilitation over the next 6-12 months. During that time their beekeepers will receive more training at the school as they attend to their own hives. After the hives have been restored to full health, the villages that want them will have their hives restored to them. By concentrating the hives in the secondary school, where the equipment has been moved to, and where we will hopefully also have a commercial sewing machine, we will have a major training center for young people and adults. This will provide a strong base for our ongoing projects