Monday, September 17, 2012


    A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to take a small boat with a few Fijians out to a small island off the main island of Tupungato.  It was beautiful.  Quiet, secluded, everything I imagine a tropical island to be.  Chris might be helping build a backpackers resort so we were checking it out and he was taking measurements.  The water is so blue it's almost hypnotizing.  On the boat ride back my seven-year old son Indy did something kind of funny.  We were probably 20 ft. from shore when he handed me his shirt and asked me how deep it was.  I said it was over his head, but not to deep.  I turned my head for a second and he jumped! Indy is just beginning to learn how to swim, but he was keeping up with the boat!  Thankfully, the guy driving the boat cut the engine and Chris pulled Indy back in.  It completely surprised everyone and we all were laughing about it for a while.

It made me think of the jump our family took 4 months ago.  It's scary, we're in over our heads, and we barely know how to swim.  But it gives our faith in Christ a chance to grow.  We make every attempt to "walk worthy of the calling you have received " (Eph. 4:1).  To "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and work out his good purpose." (Phil. 2:12,13)

I suppose it's harder than I thought.  Adjusting to a new culture, being stereotyped because of skin color, the kids constantly getting sick and having skin problems, not living a comfortable lifestyle, waiting for the skateboard and bike camp to begin...

And i realize the pictures can be misleading.  We're not sitting in some fancy or luxurious resort enjoying island life.  We live just like the Tongans do.  In a small fale, with holes and mold in the ceiling.  With buckets all over when it rains to catch the drips.  With spiders, massive centipedes, mosquitos, and streams of ants.  No screens on the windows, and some windows missing the glass panels.  We sometimes eat pretty good and sometimes not.  Some days i don't know what we'll eat or we skip a meal so we will be able to eat at dinner.      It's easy to trust God when our belly is full, it's harder when we're hungry. But God is good and providing for us.  One day at a time.

But we wouldn't have jumped if Christ wasn't worth it.  I see the trials we face because of the choice we made to follow Jesus and i have to constantly be reminded of what Jesus said, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever wants save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it.  What is a man benefited if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself?" (luke 9:23-25)  So we shouldn't surprised at difficulties...Jesus did offer a cross. "I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ[a]—the righteousness from God based on faith." (Phil 3:8-9) I forget this so much and so often want to just give up.  Nobody will think we're weird if we never jump, actually, we might even be thought wise and a good steward if we play it safe.

But there has been a lot joy.  Starting friendships and growing in Christ with our new friends Dennis and Ilima.  Being able to share homemade pizza, muffins, and cookies with our neighbors.  Chris building a coffee table and giving it to our neighbors (they didn't even want to use it because they said they've never had such nice furniture!)  Praying out at the wharf with Ron.  Talking and sharing Christ with murderers, thieves, and drug addicts.  We are so thankful for all these opportunities God has given us and allowing us to become a part it.  I guess we can jump knowing that our Dad's right there to grab a hold of us and say "wow, you did a good job swimming, you kept right up!"
Tonga Holiday spent at the beach with Dennis, Ilima, Agnes, and Nio
family singing and prayer

Our boat driver to and from Makaha'a Island

Our transportation

Chris and Dennis

Sammi is usually at our house before i get up in the morning

watch out for this kid

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

So we've been here in Tonga almost 2 months now and so much has changed since i last posted.  We've met many people and made many plans.
About a month ago we ran into an Australian girl who works for the Australian High Commission and she was interested in Chris's idea to build Tonga's first skateboard ramp.  I think it was Monday or Tuesday we ran into her and she said Australia gave out a grant every year for 10,000 to fund a Sports program or activity.  It was due that friday.  She said this year only 1 or 2 people had applied so we had a good chance. We rushed to fill out and get quotes.  And handed it in and of course found out about 15 people had also handed it in on Friday!  We won't know till about November....soooo stay tuned?
But i think doing all this work and preparation made it more clear what we really want to do here.  Build a skateboard ramp/park and generate interest...i believe the amount of skateboards here you could count on one hand...and we have two.
Then, if God wants, we build a camp for kids to learn skateboard, bmx, music, art, construction, plumbing, Discipleship training from Kamu, etc...create teachers from the students...and not with the attitude that we have all the knowledge...we learn from the Tongans as well.  Eventually having Tongans run the camp and us being able to start other camps on the other islands.  Enable the Tongan Youth to have SOMETHING to do and enjoy and also the ability to create small business's so they won't sell out their lands to big money making business.
OF COURSE...this all would take a miracle.  And if it seems our plans fail and shift it's ok because God creates and destroys for a better way.

There's a little shanty town on the edge of Nuku'alofa that is extremely poor and trash is piled up everywhere!  I think from flooding?  We biked down there the other day and it was hard to see.  Seeing poverty is not fun. chris and i are trying to come up with ways, ideas to bring food and get to know these people.  We want to become friends with them.  Maybe pass out icecream cones? Come by every week and sit by the water and share food?  I'm not sure what we're going to do.  But we need to do something.

We also have had the opportunity to share with our neighbors and so have others in the United States!  We heard that our neighbor was just eating cassava (a root vegetable) and was feeding their 6 month old  baby Milo (similar to carnation breakfast) because they had nothing else.  I freaked out a little thinking of the baby.  We bought them bags of groceries and diapers and very nervously brought them over...later finding out we were the first white people to go to their door!  The women was very shy probably because a whole herd of us came loudly over and probably overwhelmed her! Her husband hid in the other room! We posted this need of theirs on Facebook and someone donated money to give.  I went over by myself  this time and she was much more open and talked.  I explained this money wasn't ours but from someone else.  She was very grateful but embarrassed , and i had to reassure her i knew what it was like to be in need to!  She said they respected us Palangis (white people) because we live here the way we do.
To give to her in this way and talk made all the crappiness i had felt earlier worth it.
Some moments i feel homesick. lonely.
Sick of bugs and never ending stream of ants.
Lice..they are despicable
living in a house with holes in walls, ceiling, doors.
doing laundry 50's style
sleeping on a thin piece of foam that makes you feel like you got beat up in the morning
Sometimes it can get to me but this moment with our neighbor made it worth it.  And i'm thankful.  Chris reminded me the other day how we don't want to go through the hard times and just want to skip to the end. To benefit and grow we have to go through them.
Tonga has made me realize how selfish, prideful, and coveting i am.  It has dug up all the ugliness i could easily hide from myself and others before.
I see really it's all about Jesus.  Just Jesus.  Falling in love with Him. I read the Scriptures and reading about Jesus can bring me to tears. Sometimes i go through the day praying that God will give me grace to do what i don't want to do.
I realize i can't love all of Tonga and that used to bother me.  But.  I can love Kamu and Saane. Soteria, Latu...I can love crazy little Sami next door...I can love the women at the market i buy vegetables from.  It can start small.

singing with everyone
15 mile bike ride one way to the West Side
Run or Die!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The land where time begins...

During the past week and a half our family has traveled through multiple time zones, eaten to much plane food, carried massive amounts of luggage, chased crabs and frogs in Fiji and finally arrived in the Kingdom of Tonga.  We share a ranch-style fale (house) with our friends Kamu and Saane.  The gate on the side is our entrance to our side of the house.  Being almost a week now since we've been here we're starting to settle in and adapt.  Gradually we've been picking up some essential items that we couldn't bring with us.  We're living with a lot less which i like, but can be frustrating when i want to do basic cooking and chris is trying to fix up the house.
Everything is expensive here!  We are helping out to pay the electric, water, internet, and trash bill.  The price of food and simple appliances is crazy high since almost everything is imported.  We will be planting a garden to use the vegetables and also sell in the store out front.  We also bought a truckful of coconuts so we can make coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut water, and cups.  In December all the fruit trees around the house produce fruit so we will be overflowing with papaya, orange, watermelon, mango, avocado, lemon...

chris has his hands full with husking the huge mound of coconuts..

We are in the cooler, rainy season so it feels similar to a New England summer.  Some nights it can get a bit chilly even.  Most days are humid, but not all of them.  Their are bugs, cockroaches, spiders, and ants everywhere.  I'm surprised at how well everyone is handling it!  Twice i've seen spiders so big it's taken me about an hour or so to recover.  I'm very thankful for a cold shower and mosquito net at night to get rid of the sweat and the constant flow of critters!  We love the geckos that crawl around though, they eat all the bad bugs!

Alei loves doing dishes here

We are the pālangi(white people) here, and though the tongans are hospitable and friendly, unfortunately, being a pālangi is not usually a good association.  The tongan's go out of their way to honk, wave, stare, and say hello to us.  They are generally kind, but it will take time for them to trust us and take us seriously.  We are excited because soon we will be presenting an idea to the minister here to build a skatepark so we can get to know the kids here, build relationships, and make a good name for us here.  If this all works out we feel strongly God wants us to later move up to the island of Vava'u once we have established ourselves here in the big city.  For now we will be working on opening up the small shop in front of the house, taking shifts in the store, fixing up the house,and getting to know the neighbors.

so are we happy here?  i feel we are, it's a different lifestyle, less entertainment and more work.  But the Tongans take everything at a more relaxed pace.  We believe we are where God wants us to be and doing what He wants us to do. We will be living more day by day for our needs to provided but that makes it so much easier to depend on Yahweh.  Thank you all so much for your words of encouragement, prayers, thoughts, and giving.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Chris and I love this song by Kendall Payne called Pray and it has been constantly going through our heads. It has changed they way we pray and see situations, and reminds me of the type of person I want to be.

I will pray for you now, for you have been my faithful friends
While the road we walk is difficult indeed
I couldn't not ask for more than what you've already been
Only that you would say these prayers for me

May your heart break enough that compassion enters in
May your strength all be spent upon the weak
All the castles and crowns you build and place upon your head
May they all fall, come crashing down around your feet
May you find every step to be harder than the last
So your character grows greater every stride
May your company be of humble insignificance
May your weakness be your only source of pride

What you do unto others may it all be done to you
May you meet the One who made us
And see Him smile when life is through

May your blessings be many but not what you hoped they'd be
And when you look upon the broken
May mercy show you what you could not see
May you never be sure of any plans you desire
But you'd learn to trust the plan He has for you
May your passions be tried and tested in the holy fire
May you fight with all your life for what is true

I have prayed for you now all my dear and faithful friends
But what I wish is more than I could ever speak
As the way wanders on I'll long to see you once again
Until then, would you pray these prayers for me?
Oh, that you would pray for me

Sunday, March 25, 2012

May 3

I've been hesitant to post.
How do you express 532 emotions in one blog post?
So here are the facts:
our visas were approved
bought tickets (with the help of carving sales, donation, chris working, and tax refund)
flight out of Boston May 3


crazy.   There's so much to do it almost paralyzes me.  All my years of making fun of list-makers is biting me, i'm forced to make lists of things we need, thing to do.  We have to get rid of a lot of junk, figure out what's essential to take, what we can get in Tonga...there's a limited amount of information so i'm running off a peace corp list.  My sister-in-law suggested i put up a list of things we need, it hadn't even crossed my mind.    So i'll be putting it up shortly.

Knowing we'll be leaving in May has made every day living surreal.  Ever since we found out i've been debating what to post.  I wanted to be honest with my thoughts and portrayal of the situation.  I'm excited, but i have fears.  Especially concerning my kids.  What kind of faith (in Jesus) do i have?  If it's been all talk, well, i'll soon find out.  I can be fearless if  i fully believe God is real and good.  I won't cling to save my life so much but fearlessly give it to others even in dangerous situations.   But, honestly, what holds me back at times are these two questions:  Is God real?  and is He as good as He says He is?  Because if it's a yes, then when He says:

27 “Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 28 If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will He do for you—you of little faith? 29 Don’t keep striving for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. 30 For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.
   31 “But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. 32 Don’t be afraid,little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

then...i literally should not worry about holding on to my possessions or if we'll have money for food in Tonga.  Chris and I are constantly struggling to not be manipulative.  I constantly have to check myself and why i'm saying something.  It would be easy to manipulate or say things people like to hear so they will help fund our trip.  I want to look back and see how God brought us to where we are, how He provided for us.   Not how i guilted them or used the Bible to get what i want.

Last thought, here's what we decided to do about the Fiji guy.  On our way to Tonga we don't have a lot of extra time, so we decided to stay in Fiji for 3 days and hope to stay at his hotel and talk with him.  We have to come back to Fiji in a year when our visa's run out so that we can renew them.  If we meet up with Fiji guy on our way out we'll plan to go to his village in a year.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fiji guy

Hey everybody!  thanks so much for all your support this past week through donations and sales of carvings!  Chris's carvings have been selling like hotcakes!  It has been very encouraging to us!  We'll give you all the amount we've raised when we have a good idea.  But, it has been great.  We are such silly/crazy people and it is totally humbling for us to see the support and love from people.

The guy in the picture above lives in Fiji, if we zoom in on his name tag we'll know his name.  While in Fiji, before flying to Tonga, Chris met him at the hotel he was staying at.  Chris explained to him why he was moving with his family to Tonga.  He had never heard of a white person moving to Tonga or Fiji to help people and not make money off the people or land.  He asked Chris to come to his village in the mountains on our way out to Tonga to explain to his village why we would do that.  He told Chris to take a picture of him so we could find him.

beautifully colored Hindu temple in Fiji

So we're debating what we should do right now.  Should we stay a month in Fiji before flying to Tonga?  I checked ticket prices and our cost of flight would increase by about $2,000.  And what if we go and can't find him?

Obviously there's a lot to think about.  But how can we say no? Chris asked the kids and they said they wouldn't mind staying in Fiji for month.  We are definitely going to pray about it.  I have an intense imagination and of course have some fears about the whole situation.  But i wanted to let everyone know what was going on.  We're going to take it one step at a time.

What would you do?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Visa applications have arrived!

Tonga time is not like our time here in the U.S.  The last time i posted we were just sending out our visa application. In January.  And now, in the last few days of February they have arrived!  I actually sent out  copies of the forms in the beginning of February in case our original forms got lost.  They didn't.  Both packages arrived at the same time (not sure the logic there).
According to Kamu they will bring the papers to the consulate within the week and give us a call and we'll find out when we need to leave here.  Yikes.  I'm getting a wee bit scared.

So what have we been up to this past month?  Carvings! Lot's of them.  The plan is to sell them to fund our move!  Plane tickets one-way will cost around $4,000 for all of us.  And there's repatriation and medical evacuation insurance, living expenses, and utility costs.  We'll be putting them all up on facebook for whoever is interested!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In the Mail

Yeehaw!  I put the visa application in the mail today!  From here it will take 6-10 business days to reach Tonga.  Once it gets there we will wire $805 to Kamu.  Then Kamu will  fill out a paper and bring it all to the immigration office.   From there we WAIT.
And we're used to that.
It took 3-4 years to even get to this point.  But we've learned a lot in the mean time.  About ourselves, about each other. About Yahweh.  Feels like we've come up with a lot of questions and not many answers.
But a few truths are becoming more solid.  (they're very basic, but difficult to master)

  •  faith that God is good, and His goodness might look a little different than what i consider good.
  •  do I even have it?  Because most of my life i've just talked.  That's part of the reason we're going to               Tonga.  We're so weak.  Faith needs to be tested in the fire.  I don't want to live my whole life thinking i have faith and find out i never did .  I'm also scared to find out.
  • faith that we'll even have $805 to send for the visa application fee!
  • If we don't have it we are nothing.  And i mean Jesus's love.  Some days i can barely muster up the motivation to show love to my family.  How do i plan on loving and serving people i don't even know?  It has to be supernatural.  I'm not naturally sweet.
  • Because Jesus commanded it.  Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself.  Because Jesus showed the greatest love.  Any amount of love we show is just a drop compared to the ocean of Yahweh's love.
  • When we give we're so much like Jesus.  Giving is so essential.  And it definitely reveals a lot in our hearts.  I feel the battle a lot.  Putting the needs of others before myself does not come -once again-naturally.  Chris sometimes drives me crazy with how much he gives! 
  • I want to be a giving person, i like stuff to.  And the way I see it is my love of stuff sure can get in the way of giving.  Jesus gave up His rights, His stuff, His glory.  His followers in the book of Acts didn't see their property as their own.  They sold it to give to others who needed it.  It's hard get that through my head.  
  • "You want to go to Tonga because God told you?  That's so irresponsible. You have kids."  "You're not going through a mission board and going from church to church to raise support? Why would you  do that?"  "Sounds like you're having childhood fantasies."  Everybody gets criticized, i know that.  But it's still painful.  To keep saying every year, "hopefully we'll be going this spring!" It stinks to look like a fool.  To feel like everyone thinks you're a joke.  That no one takes you seriously.  We've heard it straight from people and behind our backs.  We've questioned ourselves, "are we doing the right thing?  Did God really tell us to do this?  Are we following through just so we can throw it in all the doubter's faces?"  But, this IS what God wants from us, serving others is right, and even if this process takes years longer we have to keep pursuing it.  And if at anytime God says "no", we'll stop and be frustrated, but happy we learned so much.
  • I'm so thankful for God's grace covering my non-missionary qualities.  I'm not a good person. Don't have a bubbly personality. Selfish to the core.  Filled with anger, resentment, bitterness, and criticism.   Oh, and i yell at my kids to.  I fear even writing this people will see my hypocrisy.  It's their, trust me. I'm extremely faulty and i'm so sorry i'm not more like Jesus.   But God is full of so much grace and he's changing me slowly. Slowly finding out grace is enough.