Transitioning between worlds is always...interesting. After 6 months in the US things started to feel normal, although hot showers and washers and dryers never got old. Tonight i am sitting in a guesthouse in Tonga. We have air conditioning (awesome!) and don't need to sleep with mosquito nets. And the bathroom is inside along with running water. Still far enough away from the normal that will be life for the next 6 and half months. We took a ride to our house today to assess the wear and tear from 6 months of island life. There is a lot to fix. Some water pipes need to be replaced, we need to find a water pump, new screens, new plastic roof , and a major part of our 3 wheeler was stolen. It was a little disheartening to return to have no water and bikes. Tomorrow the work begins and hopefully by nightfall we will have water before we spend the night. Please pray for us as simple repairs in Tonga are extremely difficult (especially since some of Chris's tools are gone) and expensive. On the other hand we are very happy to see everyone again. Many people didn't think we were coming back. We were welcomed immediately at the airport because most of the people had seen the Called to Tonga documentary and were excited to see us again. The documentary is now playing on the documentary channel here in Tonga and has been played several times! It makes me feel a little embarrassed!
Knowing so many of you are praying for us and standing alongside us has given us strength and courage. We are hopeful as we enter into this and curiously anticipating what God is doing.
Friday, October 24, 2014
As most of you already know, we have tickets to leave Boston November 20th. We will be in San Diego for a few days visiting our friends Doug and Miranda and then flying 13 hours on Air New Zealand to New Zealand and then 3 hours to our final destination: Tonga.
What is slightly different on this next trip is the duration and round trip ticket. I thought i was booking a 9 month trip but somehow (not on purpose) booked only 6 and half months out. SO this trip is much much shorter AND we know when we are leaving. What is similar is we will be staying in the same house we built and without 6 months of our expenses covered.
As we are readily learning, there are many miracles along the way that have brought us to this point. During our months here in the U.S. God has blessed us with people who have donated in various ways. And, we have been able to meet several people who's lives have been such an encouragement to us and we feel forever connected with. One blessing was the gift of tools for One Love Inc. And i mean tons of tools! What was crazy about the whole thing was Chris has been telling me for years about these tools and that he felt he should ask for them but never felt right about doing it. I had gotten tired hearing about it because it seemed impossible. When we came back the person who owned them unexpectedly pulled Chris aside and told Chris that God had told him to give them to Chris! We had never mentioned in the past couple of years that Chris had felt God wanted him to have them! This was such an encouragement to us as it reaffirmed we should keep moving forward with One Love Inc. plans. We now have the means of teaching carpentry, welding, and mechanics. We just will need teachers for welding and mechanics when the camp starts! A website for One Love is being made and will be ready soon.
One of the reasons why our trip is much shorter this time is to hopefully obtain land for the camp, apply for grants, and secure a safe place for the tools since we don't want to bring them this trip without that. We will ship a container from California on our next trip out. We will also be graced with the presence of Hayley from England for the first few months. Hayley will be a big help to us with managing applications and paperwork for grants as i spend most of my time losing my sanity with homeschooling.
Our friend Sam who came with us from Tonga will be staying in the US to train in the martial art of Wing Chun. One of the masters of Wing Chun is in California so Sam will be going in January for 6 months of intensive training so he can teach Wing Chun at One Love Inc. We will be opening a paypal account for anyone interested in helping sponsor Sam with the costs of schooling, food, and housing in California.
Please pray for us the next few months. Pray we have wisdom with the camp and flexibility. Pray we speak boldly when necessary and shut up when necessary. Pray we can love the people around us and be the people God has called us to be. Pray for our kids as they adjust again and that they will learn obedience to God and us.
We also want to thank everyone who's been beside us and those who haven't. There have been so many people we've met or been reacquainted with that been such an encouragement. Some financially, some of you with your words of hope, some with gifts. Some people have been faithful supporters from the very beginning. God has used you all and we are so happy to serve Jesus along side of you. We also want to say thank you to our families who are pretty awesome and help us even when they don't understand us all the time or don't want us to leave!
|unloading tools for One Love Inc.|
Saturday, September 13, 2014
This past month has been such an encouragement to Chris and I. Chris' brother Jonny made a great mini documentary explaining our life and how we lived in Tonga. It has been up on YouTube and the responses have been so amazing. It is humbling. It is humbling when you see yourself and know your faults and mistakes and yet GOD still uses you.
I feel i keep hammering this same point. But i can't get over it and keep being confronted with it. Being brought to a place where we see ourselves for who we really are is essential. Knowing the darkness we are capable of is important. When we are confronted with the evil within us we are then eventually able to have compassion on others who do evil things. But what is also amazing is that GOD takes us even in our failures and can use us wildly when we are willing and take steps of faith. We have been brought to tears from encouraging emails or texts from people who have seen the documentary and all i keep thinking is, "why? I messed up so bad, i was so angry at God, i wanted to quit. How is God doing this?" And yet it's confirming for me to see how God works in real life. He uses real people in there very real messes and failures. We have to be willing, we have to take that step of faith. It will be painful as some things are being stripped away but when goodness shines through you know and the world knows it's not you doing this but the beauty of the the grace of God.
I am well aware i may need to be reminded of this in the following months as we plan on leaving for Tonga soon. We have almost all of our ticket money and as soon as we do we will have a date of departure. We have some uncertainty of where to live and our kids are getting to heavy to be carried on bicycles so their are many things to pray about. We hope to spend this next year focusing on our non-profit One Love Inc. and getting land to get it going. Of course there are many needs (isn't there always?) pray we can trust God's faithfulness and be reminded of how He answered in the past.
Monday, July 28, 2014
2 months in the US after being 2 years in Tonga. Culture shock was really interesting those first few weeks back. It’s amazing how quickly we acclimate to our surroundings though. But there is something astounding about that first encounter with hot water on tap or in the shower. The excitement in the ordinary. My girls did their laundry in our hotel in the bathtub! I walked in to find they had stomped on their dirty clothes and then hung them up to dry all over the bathroom! My son Indy had to ask me how to turn on a kitchen faucet and you should have heard them exclaiming about how much food is in kitchen cabinets! The washing machine is still pretty cool to me. Six year old Alei looked outside at the dark clouds and said, “mom, not a good day to do laundry”! I was happy to tell her that didn’t matter!
That being said it’s really hard to do all this on our own strength. I tried in Tonga. I really wanted to be that awesome missionary wife showering blessings on everyone in my path. And i failed miserably. Those poor souls that had to live with me or came in contact with me (like my family!). Love is what makes the difference. I see how love motivates everything my husband Chris does. He has the same misgivings as me and shares the same frustrations, anxiety, and struggles. But he is motivated by love for God and the people God has called him to. So it doesn’t really matter what he faces. He sees every trial as an opportunity for something positive and way to minister to others. I am praying God gives me this same desire. It’s not there yet, not even close. I still feel that ache in my chest thinking about going back to it all. So much of me does not want to go back into the struggle. I’m so afraid of entering the place i experienced so much darkness and depression. I still battle the desire to have a nice house, a car, and washing machine. Everyone has their own difficulty in life that they must face almost everyday. We need God’s grace and the strength to give up what we want and to give in to what God wants. We could spend a whole lifetime learning what it means to lose our lives for Christ’s sake so we can find true life. People tell me all the time, “I couldn’t do what you do.” Yeah, me neither.
Strength in Weakness
Peace in Chaos
If anyone is interested in hearing about our experiences in Tonga we would love to get together and share our stories with you while we are in the U.S.
Thursday, May 8, 2014
|Photo credit goes to the talented Jonny Paquette|
A visa misunderstanding/complication ties us up for bit but then we are free to grab the rest of our earthly possessions that now sit alone in an almost empty baggage claim. We are greeted outside warmly by our now dear friend Saane who rushes us into a vehicle along with our belongings. The sun is setting as we drive the 30 minutes to our new shared home. As we gather to pray together that night with Kamu and Saane i feel the warmth of tears in my eyes, i don't cry much, so i hold them in. I have 2 years ahead of me. I have never been away from home so long, almost lived in one town my whole life. What is God going to do with us here?
Today marks our 2 years of surviving in Tonga. I say surviving because at times, that's what it was. Our family has learned so much in the past 2 years. We've all changed. I have been confronted with my shortcomings and weaknesses. I have come close to losing my faith and i probably would have if it wasn't for beauty of the milky way reminding me of my Creator. It is breathtaking here and often brings me to tears. Like i said, i don't cry much.
Here's somethings i've learned along the way of my epic journey.
1. I have loved stuff and God. This was a painful realization for me.. In the U.S. i liked to imagine that things didn't matter much to me. It's not like I was rich or anything. The verse where Jesus tells the rich guy to give away his possessions and come follow him could not apply to me then. I always smile when pastors preach this and then quickly reassure the congregation that they don't actually have to do this. America is filled with stuff! My woman heart jumps at the sight of a red tagged clearance item at Target! Tonga took away the things i thought didn't have any hold on me and I quickly realized how i fooled i was. Sad? Go on a shopping spree. Frustrated? grab a frappacinno from Starbucks. Feeling better now? It must be my joy from Jesus! Ugh. I wonder how often i've attributed my happiness being from God when really it came from STUFF.
2. I can eat pasta with bugs in it. It's true, i've done it. We all survived. Just cook up the pasta, catch as many of them as you can and go for it!
3. Being bitter and angry is bad for me and everyone around me. I have been very mean and nasty a lot of the time i've been in Tonga. Complained a lot. My poor husband. and kids. My negativity has been toxic. I can feel the weight of it. No, Tonga is not what i would have chosen. I'm not into sand, humidity, bugs, unsanitary conditions, and living in a stick house without modern anything. (ok, i have an extension cord for power). And although i can appreciate the culture....it's not my thing. But. It doesn't help my family when i tell them this every single day. I'm still working on this. It's hard when it seems so enjoyable to sink into my pit of despair and wallow.
4. Stick bugs can spray your eyes and blind you. I still can't figure out why this isn't in brochures on Tonga. Because i would assume it's fine to hold a stick bug or look closely at it. Who would know it has the power to blind the innocent with it's poisonous spewing? I wouldn't know because know one makes this information public like in a brochure or tourism website.
5. Hard things aren't bad, It can be good even though we're not having fun. We've experienced a lot of challenges. Like washing laundry by hand, biking to get everything (lumber, groceries, water..), no running water, lack of privacy and ownership of anything because someone will take it or ask for it, squatting by a bucket of water in the rain to wash dishes, sickness, building a house out of cement and sticks in 2 weeks, homeschooling, loneliness, and exhaustion. What good has come of this? We are widely known because of biking our family around and building a more Tongan style house. These two greatest thorns in my flesh have been used to bring God glory. We have many opportunities to speak with people who otherwise would blow us off. And despite the fact that i hate having a plethora of eyes on us wherever we go, God is using it hopefully to turn eyes toward him. Do i like these hard things? No, not at all. But, if look hard enough and stop complaining i can see the good it is producing.
I'm sure there's a lot of other things that could be added to this list. But this would be a long blog post and i'm ready to sleep. Thanks to all of you who have remembered us these past two year in your thoughts, giving, and prayers.
Here are a few photos from our trip to Ha'apai where we went to help after the category 5 cyclone hit the island of Ha'apai. Thank you everyone who helped send the kids and I to go with Chris.
|Island off of Ha'apai where Chris delivered tarps for roofs after Cyclone Ian hit in January.|
Monday, January 27, 2014
A few weeks ago we had warnings of category 5 Cyclone Ian hitting Tonga. So we did all the prepping and praying we could and then stayed up all night waiting for it to hit us. Thankfully, it never did hit the biggest and most populated island of Tonga. But it slammed Tonga in the Ha'apai group leveling 900 homes and damaging more. Of the 8,000 residents, most are still without power. The Cyclone tore up crops, coconuts, and damaged water tanks leaving most Tongans with polluted or no water. Cows and horses dropped dead from the heat as all the shade is gone with the trees. The decaying corpses lay every where as the Tongan's scrambled to preserve the meat. Desperate people began looting Chinese shops and young children could be seen running off with food.
Our hearts broke when we heard the news and we began praying that we could go up and help. Within a day our prayers were answered with a call from Samaritan's Purse, an organization that responds and brings relief to disaster areas. They desperately wanted to assess the damage so they could send assistance with tarps. They paid all expenses (plus more!) to send Chris and our friend Sam to take pictures of the damage and meet with the pastors and leaders in Ha'apai. They then sent Chris up a second time with volunteers from Australia to meet with the Church of Tonga and make arrangements for sending tarps. When the tarps arrive Chris will be assisting a pastor with distributing the tarps to those who need it most and helping put the tarps up.
Chris had made arrangements with a resort for us to stay in exchange for him helping with clean up and fixing up the place. They called yesterday and said no, they've changed their minds. They would allow him, but not his family. Sooo, we're kind of frustrated because our desire is for our family to go up with Chris and help him deliver the tarps from Samaritan's Purse and then stay for the next 3 months helping people rebuild their homes. I'm looking now for a place to stay that has clean water, a roof, and a toilet! But as of right now our other option is to find a place to camp. We will need assistance with a place to stay, and food and water as they are very limited and expensive now. Most people in Ha'apai have no means or skills to rebuild and as Chris has had experience building our house out of local materials he will be very helpful. Seeing the devastation it is almost impossible to NOT do something. How can we live this close and NOT help the Tongan people? Which is why we will do whatever we can to get our family to Ha'apai regardless of whether we have a decent place to stay or not. We have been called to these people and we can't turn away when they need it most.
If you want to help us help them please donate on our paypal account. We do not have an exact amount as we're still trying to find a place ( remember this is Tonga, things move a bit slower) but our needs will be for three months (food, water, roof) and for the ferry which would be around $300 US round trip.