Friday, December 6, 2013


Have you ever put on 3D glasses and looked around you?  After a while it kind of gives you a headache if you're not watching a 3D movie (it gives me a headache even then.)  Maybe even a little nauseous.

But then you take them off and your eyes thank you.
Ah, so much better.

It's no secret i have had a bit of a struggle here in Tonga-check out my last post.  So i decided to take off my glasses for a bit.  Look around and see what it looks like without headache inducing glasses.

This is what i see:

I see a funky little house constantly flowing with people and kids from morning till late at night.
I see hours spent listening to heavy hearts.
I see giving and taking; taking and giving
I see a smile from a man taking a fresh water shower for the first time in years and hear a quiet "thanks" for a home cooked meal.
I see little eyes and noses peeking in through the holes in the screens.
I see bushmen working hard in the fields.
I see my kids running with Tongan kids through dirt floor houses.
I see my husband giving every last drop of energy to loving others.
I see kindness, patience, compassion, sharing, and long suffering.
I see community.
I see the gospel of Jesus lived.

Of course at any moment those glasses come back on and it becomes overwhelming.  I see the bugs, the kids teasing, the lack of privacy.  Feel exhausted from hours spent,  weighed down by the burdens and heart ache of so many  people.

But those moments when you can see the beauty in the chaos and the joy in hardships it makes it worth it.  This is not for nothing.  People matter.  Don't give up.

A big THANK YOU to all the people who came together to buy us our tickets home to visit our families.  We feel your love from miles away. Keep on giving and sharing to those around you.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My human condition

I'm not going to sugarcoat this.

This is not for the people who are merely curious on life in the South Pacific, or interested in seeing Americans roughing it in Tonga.
Check my other posts out...they are more informative in that area.  This one is a bit more emotionally driven.

This is ME is pouring out my difficulties and struggles to the genuine few who have asked through the year and a half how we're doing, how i'm doing and have offered up your prayers, thoughts, and financial support to our family.

ahhhhh! let me just get this off my chest!  I don't like for people to see me this way.  I don't think people like the idea of a fairly emotionless, christian, missionary girl being an emotional wreck.  I know i'm not comfortable letting this all out.  I'd prefer to keep my emotions all tucked away nicely and neatly and throw on a brave, awkward smile.

You see, i didn't know what to expect when we packed up and moved out here with $2,000 US and zero financial support at the time.  It was exciting and courageous feeling at first.  I thought I was a stronger person.  I'm married to a man with outstanding faith.  He trusts in GOD with all his heart, soul, and strength. He inspires me.  My mistake was and is to hope this will carry me.  This isn't about my husband dragging me into hardships.  I went willingly.  This is about what these hardships revealed in me.

I found i'm weak, exhausted, and emotionally spent.

The first few months were fine.  The newness of it all was fresh and kept me motivated.  Within about 6 months i moved into a state of bitterness, anger, and depression.  But we made do, Chris spent that first year sharing the gospel with everyone.  And we have seen the fruit of living this unique lifestyle we have been called to.

But like i said.  I found how weak and wobbly my faith is.  My bitterness has been damaging to our family.  I'm seeing the toll it is putting on everyone.  Not to say their hasn't been great moments of joy, but theirs also been anger towards God and tears during worship songs.

Currently, I've moved past the bitterness, coldness, anger stage and am now an emotional, teary-eyed, physically exhausted ,disaster of a missionary.  The stress has started to effect me psychically and everyone has been picking up the slack with chores and clean up because I've become almost incapable of handling daily chores and sibling feuds. My husband takes these burdens on him and they weigh on him.  I hate to see him juggling between doing what God has told him to do and caring for the emotional and spiritual well-being of his wife.  But he does and he's doing a great job.  I find it hard to believe you could find a man more committed to his GOD and his wife and kids.

But i need to unload it somewhere else.  So here it is.
I need a break!  I'm extremely human right now.  Living for this past year and a half on a hundred dollars hear and there, the strain of living with little encouragement, seeing my husband take so much undeserved crap from other people,  the difficulty of the most basic things in life, being so alone, being hungry, no running water, not having access to good clean water, living in unsanitary conditions, now living in an unfinished house with holes and the company of massive spiders, 9 inch centipedes, 3 inch cockroaches, and a floor swarming with ants, dealing with a son who is extremely hard to discipline, hyper, intense and trying to home school 3 unmotivated kids with some days no paper or pencils, feeling trapped on a tiny island.  Our goal is to reach 2 years before we come back and visit,  which would be the beginning of May.  I still feel that is the right timing.  But there is no plane ticket back.  It is hard to feel relieved that our two year mark is not to far away, when there is no way back.  Every day i wake up with a pit in my stomach, a headache, nausea, sadness, and fight back constant tears.  Please pray for me. I need this break. I'm hanging on by a thread.  I know I love God and theoretically know He will do something good in me from this.  Because somehow God is using us still despite me. I had a dream i returned April 26, so i looked up the plane tickets around that date and they actually are a good deal.  Around $4,200 for our family.  I hate the part about the money.  I'm not telling you my sob story so now you feel bad and give me money.  There are plenty of better sob stories out there.  I'm saying this so the people who love us and what to know what's going on can get a glimpse and pray for us.
  Lamentations 3:1-33

Thursday, September 5, 2013

We built a house

          My daughter Ariel motivated me to write when she wrote a post on here.  If you get a chance check out her thoughts on "travel with ariel".    We've moved since my last post.  Within about two weeks Chris and I built our house.  Not a finished product.  But finished enough to get visitors stopping to come in and take pictures.  I'm starting to notice this becoming a habit.  With our bikes first and now this.  I don't see being "normal" in our future.

Here's how we did it.  
Chris built the frame out of small local trees and the roof from bamboo.   For the walls we layered chicken wire and then mixed 3 parts cement to 1 part sand.  In my mind this seemed simple.  Just finding the right sand here took several trips (they call it dust, how was i supposed to know?). Water had to be brought about 250 ft. from a well in buckets.  Then I got the ratio wrong at first so chris had to mix and mix more and more cement and water than humanly possible.  Meanwhile there's about 12 kids grabbing our tools and cement while we're working.  And the cement didn't adhere as well it did in the pictures I saw online.  But we managed to perfect it a bit while getting our hands eaten and torn raw from the cement.  Then when it got dark we biked 2-3 miles home and started again in the morning.  I'm pretty sure i lost a few pounds in this process and Chris and I had more fights in the 2 weeks than our 10 years of marriage! 

 Our first night sleeping in our abode was interesting.  Only half the walls were built and the rest was either open or covered loosely with a thin plastic.  It was sooo windy those first few nights and the plastic roof and walls kept flapping in the wind, I kept waiting for the roof to lift off in the middle of the night!  We definitely had a good breeze going through.  At the time i found none of this humorous...
first night

My brother Mike arrived right after this and decided to stay until December.  It's been an adjustment for him but we are encouraged to have him here and have someone who understands us.  Part of the walls are still not finished but much more secured than our first night here.  During the cool season here it can get chilly at night and the moist cold air goes right through to your bones.  So we bundle up the best we can with blankets, sweatshirts, socks.. Normal chores require a lot of work.  Water has to be brought from the well for dishes, flushing the toilet, showering, and laundry when our rainwater runs out.  Plus, the rainwater is brown because of the palm leaves on the roof and is starting to smell funny so i prefer the well water.  Laundry means throwing clothes in a bucket and stomping on them and then squeezing and rinsing.  I do my fair share of complaining...haven't got that part down yet.

Chris has been able to put together some beds and bunk beds for our neighbors in the back yard which has been an encouragement for him.  They have been sleeping right on the ground for who knows how long and it make us happy to see them happier.  The funny thing about our house and homemade furniture is how happy it makes the Tongans.  They all say it reminds them of how it was growing up and they can't believe a couple of palangi's are living with so few comforts.  God has been using this for the Tongans to respect us and connect with us better.  I do not enjoy this way of living, but it won't be forever.  And right now Chris is tiling our bathroom floor, one more step towards it feeling a bit more sanitary and nicer.

We hope to visit the U.S. in 2014, until then we are working on finding and applying for grants to start bringing in skateboards and building a transportable skate park to reach the kids here.  Everything takes time and patience.  Especially here, nothing is done fast.  So we take one slow slug step at a time.  A few back.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

One Love Inc.

       5 years ago we lived in a beautiful 3,200 square foot home across from a lake in my hometown of Salem, New Hampshire.  Our house was always filled with people visiting or living with us who we still consider as our family.  Then, God called us to move to the tiny island of Tonga in the South Pacific.  We had never met a Tongan or even heard of the country before. And though Tonga is a Christian nation, 4 years later our ragamuffin family of 3 kids and 2 adults, moved to Tonga with approximately $2,000 US dollars.  We felt strongly it wasn't right for us to go from church to church trying to convince people to support us in what God told us to do.  If God said it, He would provide for our needs.

       From spending time observing and getting to know Tongans and their culture we began to see how it wasn't that crazy that God would call us to minister to "Christians" in a Christian nation.  I don't have statistics, but crime rate is getting higher and higher.  Countries such as the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia are cracking down on Tongan illegals and emptying their jails by deporting them back to Tonga.  New Zealand police and police dogs have been brought  to the airport in Tonga to search for drugs because almost all of the drugs coming into New Zealand come from Tonga.  We often see kids here huffing on a bug spray here called Mortein to get high.  And the church is no better.  Just recently 6 pastors from the biggest church here just got arrested for stealing $600,000 from the church.  And this is good news, just a few years ago it would have been hushed up.  Even I have to be careful about what i say in a blog post.  Most tourists would never see this or be aware of the secrets that these beautiful getaway islands hide.

       With all this in mind, we have started a nonprofit organisation called One Love Inc.  And although we love Bob Marley, we named it One Love because we believe One Love is in God alone.  The idea is simple. Provide people the freedom to serve and share with others without needing to take a course, have a degree, or meet a long list of exact qualifications.  God's calling and the gift of the Holy Spirit are enough.

             "Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus."-Acts 4:13.  

One Love Inc. would also provide people a way to serve without needing to spend years raising support and the ability to just go!  Our goals are to grow simple food and provide housing from local affordable materials giving people the freedom to come.  We also want to provide others who do not consider themselves Christ followers an opportunity to share their gifts along side us and hopefully experience Jesus. Chris will be starting out by teaching skateboarding and how to build affordable creative homes with raw, local materials.  We will be applying for grants to lease land for a base for One Love Inc. and bring on staff.  If God wishes to further it, we then plan on expanding this to other South Pacific islands.  One Love Inc.will be unlike anything offered in Tonga.  The kids here have nothing to do, so when kids have nothing to do they get in trouble.  Every Friday three christian schools meet at the bus stop for fights and overtake the main road with hundreds of fists flying.  Girls take poisons to have secret abortions.  Some are now becoming prostitutes to afford phones and trinkets. Stealing begins at a young age and continues into adulthood.   With the strongest influence now coming from mainstream t.v., music that glorifies a gangster lifestyle, and a stream of experienced criminals from L.A., Tongan youth are in desperate need of something positive to do!  The kids are naturally athletic and rough and LOVE watching extreme sports We hope to bring that with skateboarding,BMX, teaching building, and other talents from volunteers who can help bring other options to these kids.
       I wish i could say following God in faith is all gorgeous sunsets and rainbows.  We have faced and are facing many difficulties.  Very little income means sometimes being hungry, washing 5 peoples laundry without a machine,sickness, pedaling/skateboarding miles to run simple errands, and the loss of basic comforts.  A few weeks from now we will be moving from our Tongan house to a stick house until our "tree house" can be built.  Although regaining some privacy (we live with a Tongan family and Tongan culture gives little allowance for privacy) will be fantastic, the anxiety of living in even harsher conditions is very stressful to our running water, no bedrooms, no stove, etc....we don't even have mattresses yet! and we don't know how temporary this will be.  We are truly grateful for God providing us with this place given to us by our friend here,It is an example of God's kindness and mercy.   Our faith has truly been tested here. This journey of faith has been a cleansing experience for us as we get rid of our preconceived ideas of what faith is, to what kind of faith God has called us to.
          23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with[a] Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily,[b] and follow Me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it.-Luke 9:23-24

I want to thank everyone who gave or is giving to help our family have a place to live here.  We are always encouraged by it.  Chris has been able to do jobs here to help support us, but the pay is around $2.50 an hour.  Thank you for sharing in this with us.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I realize it's been a long time since I last posted.  A lot has happened, changed, and to be honest I was in a very dark place for months and I don't think it would have been a good idea to post anything.  As mom used to say, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all!"

So here we are today still faced with many challenges but thankfully i have a better attitude.  This May will mark our one year being in Tonga!  Pretty crazy for a girl who basically lived in one town her whole life!  Since moving we've doubted God more, trusted  God more, gone hungry, made friends, cried more, learned how to home school, biked our butts off, and seen God do amazing things.

So i figured i'd break it all down where we're at financially, physically, mentally, spiritually...

Somehow we managed to go almost a whole year paying electricity, water, and gas (and even having internet  most of the time) on our only consistent income of $200 a month.  Of course we couldn't have done it without the random giving  from   family, friends, and Chris's income from work, but i can't tell you how many times we've been down to our last dollar, out of food, bills due, and somehow pull it off.  It is exhausting, but sure keeps us praying! I have been pushed to my limits in this area and been frustrated at God.   A few months ago we were hungry, but couldn't eat because we were saving our food for dinner time.  We were down at the wharf and praying that God would provide.  Ariel was playing with some trash (don't ask me why) and ran up to us yelling because she found $15 in a crumpled up piece of tin foil!  We were able to go to the bakery with that money and fill up!  A few weeks ago i was at the ATM to see if  some money had come through and had $1 left in my wallet.  My friend Lela called to me from a bus and asked if i had a dollar i could give her.  The bus driver made eye contact with me and shook his head slightly as if saying, "don't worry about it, ignore her".  I hesitated and then pulled out my dollar for her.  I said goodbye, then checked my account and sure enough the money had gone through plus another unexpected $100!   But i can't tell you how often i am just filled with doubt and fears for these things. Tomorrow our electricity will be shut off.  We have big expenses due in the next month, our visas are up for renewal (we'll be coming in under our new non profit) and they are about $400-$500 to renew.  And our medical insurance which is $1600 for the year.  We have no way of paying this and i admit we are getting anxious.  We are praying.

Physically, things are considerably better than when we first moved here!  The kids were sick off and on almost for almost the first 6 months getting used to new bacteria and a new environment.  Chris had a partial tear in his Achilles tendon from skateboarding, but he's recovered now.  Indy had a slight fracture on his elbow also because of skateboarding, but because our neighbor is a nurse we were able to get it looked at for free!  The kids get weird skin things because of the humidity and I have white spots all over my shoulders, but nothing that will kill us!  Biking in the hot summer sun is difficult and keeps us covered in a nice layer of sweat, but our bikes provide the greatest opportunity for us and earns us respect because we're not like other white people who come and are known for having the nicest of everything.

Mentally, we are tired.  It is hard. Living out of suitcases, washing and squeezing out 5 people's laundry without a washer is not glorious.  We are in contact with a lot of people who are mentally draining.  It is challenging to understand some people's accents and it takes it a lot of mental focus to understand them and answer correctly! I'm also learning to not get hung up on culture differences.  There's the way everyone else does something and then there's "the Tongan Way".

Spiritually,  we are changing, And in some ways it's easier, because there's not as much distraction.  i'm not here because i personally want to be, but because God has called us here.  So my thoughts are forced into focus.  Why am here-to share what God has done for me, share the gospel.  Every day i have to be reminded or else i wouldn't survive.

So please pray for us if you can, Chris has had some interesting opportunities doing some photography for a newspaper and helping promote our friends island and building stools and bar tops. Our friend Ron here is also funding the building of our "tree house".  Which is awesome but may take a while for him to do it by himself.  Please pray God provides our basic needs, we are usually lacking.  Pray for all the people we are building friendships with : My friend who is a prostitute, Chris friend who asked him for help from the demons and vodoo, pray for our Indian friend lucky and his Tongan wife Luse, pray as our non-profit organization will be starting.