Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Meet the Seeleys

Back in the winter, we began praying that in growing Kingdom Life Church, God might send strong families to us.  What God did was so much more than that...He sent the Seeleys.  Tim and Mindy and their boys Zach (second from left) and Logan (far right) visited our church in their quest to find reformed, gospel-centered church with expository preaching.  They found Kingdom Life and haven't turned back.  "The best kept secret on the island" is what they call our church.   Tim and Mindy and two of their four sons moved here in January to take on the job of running Adventure Learning Camp.  Though technically this is Tim's position, such a job really pulls at every member of the family.  Hailing from the twin cities originally, Tim was a journeyman, then master plumber.  Mindy continued to work part time as a nurse at night while homeschooling their boys during the day.  They were fully involved in their church.  After reading Randy Alcorn's Money, Possessions, and Eternity, they began to consider full-time mission living.  And a few years later, here they are in Nassau, directing a camp that hosts missions teams from all over the world.  They've given up homes with double the bedrooms and baths for a small two-bedroom, one bath home on the camp property.  They've spent their own savings to move themselves a few thousand miles from home, never looking back. 

Last night we had the privilege of having the Seeleys here for dinner.  As we feasted, we discussed how each family found their way here to Nassau and to Kingdom Life.  It was such an easy connection to be with them, and the night sped by as we talked of God, His ways, and our experiences so far in the Bahamas.  Tomorrow the Seeleys head back to the U.S. to raise support, give reports on their ministry, visit family, and then head back to Nassau in early July.  We shall miss them, but look forward to the months ahead!  We will hopefully connect with them early in July as they bring one of their older sons, Garrett, back for a visit during his college break.  Then we head to the U.S. on July 8th.  You can follow the Seeleys and check out their work at Adventure Learning Camp here:

Flood 2013 Nassau, Bahamas 2

 One week ago last night, we received a very unexpected monsoon.  People simply weren't prepared.  The weather forecasted a 60% chance of rain, but in fact, the rains and winds were much worse than most hurricanes the Bahamas has sustained.  Several of our neighbors lost furniture, even cars.  Their homes are still being purged of flooring, mattresses, and everything the floodwaters damaged.  In this video, you'll see the neighborhood which received the worst of the flooding...Pinewood.  Here in the east we received the majority of rain...12 to 15 inches of rain, plus upsurges of springs from underneath the ground.

Please continue to pray for Nassau as we are expected to have another 72 hour period of monsoon-like rains today through Saturday morning.  So far it is not nearly as intense as last weeks' storm, but if even one day mirrors last Tuesday night, many will suffer.   We're so thankful we only saw light water flooding our bedroom and did not have any property damage.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

our packet of seeds

Of the two of us, Keith is the gardener.  And I am thankful.  Gardening (weeding) was a form of punishment when I was growing up and I still look at it that way!  But I appreciate the beauty of God's earth and all that comes from the careful stewardship of it.

This morning during my quiet time with the Lord tears began streaming down my face as I prayed about our work here in the Bahamas.  In just a few weeks we will mark our 1 year anniversary of moving to Nassau.  And yet, most of the time I look around at the landscape of our life and think, "Are we really doing any good here?"  The needs on this island are so great, and we are so small.  Just 5 people.  One small church in the midst of over a thousand on this island.  Is our being here really making any difference?  The tears were coming because I long to see God work through us in obvious, measurable ways, but reality seems far from that.  So much effort, so much investment has gone into our being here...all the giving of God's people, all the time spent training and preparing....I could go on and on.  Is it all really worth it?

"A packet of seeds Lord...that's all we are.  A packet of seeds in a Lancaster County-sized field here.  What we need is an industrial sized spreader and bushels of seed."  These were some of my thoughts and cries to the Lord.  And in that moment it seemed as if the Lord replied, "Yes, a packet of seeds.  Go out and see what a packet of seeds has turned into." 

About 4-6 weeks ago, Keith and the girls bought a packet of zinnia seeds and planted them on the edge of our little landscape in front of the house.  We've been watching them carefully over the last weeks, noting their growth with hopeful expectation.  On Sunday we noted that they looked almost ready to burst into blossom.  So when I felt the Lord remind me of what was growing just outside my front door....from a packet of seeds...I got right up and went outside.  Blooms! 

There they were.  And I would wager that later today, when the sun hits them, there will be dozens of blooms.  The Lord dealt gently with my heart, reminding me that although most of the people on this island will never see these zinnias in bloom, they are here, on the edge of my home's landscape, in one corner, making it beautiful and displaying God's glory in their zinnia-way.

The zinnias at the front of our landscape create a little border

Just a packet of seeds.  But one that until it was bought, ripped open, put into the ground, covered, watered, and nursed by the sun, would never have grown in this yard.  Which is more beautiful?  A a packet of seeds sitting on the shelf in the garden store, or one spilled down into the earth, planted and blooming?  That's easy, right?  And so we are here.  Our "packet of seeds" has been bought and torn open, and sewn into the ground here.  God will produce blossoms.  He promises.  "Truly, truly I tell you.  Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit."  John 12:24.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

death strikes again

I would be lying if I said the crime here was not affecting my fear factor.  Yesterday the story of an American tourist's murder here on East Bay Street, or "tourist row," where I walked with my kids the other day, reached the papers.  He was a 34 year old former teacher and current sailor, hailing from the Chicago area.  And how was he killed?  He was trying to fight off 3 men who were mugging a woman...attempting to steal the jewelry she was wearing.   He was a hero, falling victim to a crime while trying to prevent one.

Normally we do not hear of tourist's murders.  We've been told that most criminal activity is due to drugs and gang involvement or domestic squabbles.  But in this case, tourists were attacked and one was a place I drive by several times a week.  One of the identified murderers lives off of Kemp Road, the road we travel every day to get to church and back.  It is our church neighborhood, of which I've written on my family blog in a post entitled "oh think twice, it's just another day in paradise."  Here's a snippet of that post:
"Every time we drive to church, we must drive down Kemp Road. I've told you the name of it so that if you're praying for Nassau, you can pray quite specifically. Kemp Road has everything happening on it. Churches meeting, homeless people wandering, prostitutes sauntering, children running loose with no supervision, stray dogs decaying in the heat. At night, I'm afraid to drive it. So I've stopped. I go a different way at night, if at all possible. Kemp Road intersects with the street our church is on. By the time I arrive at church Sunday mornings, I've already been praying for the people I've passed. My heart is heavy. The need here seems so great. And literally, all these people, so lost, so empty, are just steps away from my church.".........that's what I wrote back in the fall.

As it turned out, I didn't stop driving that road at night.  It's just the fastest route by far.  But maybe I'll rethink that.  It is one thing to say "The need here seems so great.  And literally, all these people, so lost, so empty, are just steps away from my church."  But when you realize that the very people you're wanting to help could very likely kill you just because they wanted something you is hard to keep the same perspective.  By nature I am a trusting person.  I never locked my door back in Lancaster!  In fact, even here I am not as careful as I should be.  But lately, I'm seeing that wisdom would tell me to be much more guarded. 

Pray that we will not become shaken by the potential crime.  Pray that we will continue to have compassion on those who need the gospel.  Pray for protection for us and our church.  God has called us here and we know He will be faithful to complete all that He's going to do.  

Monday, 13 May 2013

not what you might think...

Most people don't realize how high the crime rates are in The Bahamas.  Because it is a VERY small country...only about 319,000 people total among the 8 or so inhabited islands.  The Bahamas' 2011 murder count was 127, with 110 of those murders taking place on our small 21x7 mile island of approx. 250,000 people.  That's about 1 murder for every square mile of this island or one murder for every 2200 people.   Three weeks ago, one of those murders hit home for one of our church members.  Patrice, a lovely single lady who has served us faithfully in the area of childcare, received a call on Tuesday, April 24th telling her that Don Newbold, her brother in law, was murdered around 1 pm that afternoon, shot several times and left dead in his vehicle on a road paralleling a major road here in Nassau.  He left behind some older children, a wife and 22 month old son.  We thank God that Don knew his Savior, but the loss is great.

 At the funeral, nobody seemed all that shocked that Don's death was a murderous one.  That's not because Don dealt with dangerous people, quite the contrary, but because murder has become so common here.  The Bahamas' death rate was 6.91 per 1,000 people in 2012, so based on the murder numbers, which are on the rise, one in 14 deaths here every year (and rising) is a murder.  Most of these murders are related to the drug trafficking.  Home invasions, petty theft, rape, human trafficking, drug trafficking, armed robbery, and murder are all on the rise here at an alarming rate.  Just in the 10 months we have been here, 2 women in our church had attempted home invasions, and 2 more woman had car break-ins in our church parking lot.  A few weeks ago at a playground on the beach, my purse was ransacked while it was out of my eyesight.  I only lost a camera and $30, but it was a disturbing occurence when I realized what had happened.

 Now one church member has a murder in her family.  Kingdom Life Church is just a small piece of the Nassau pie, representing about 100 total people.  The people of The Bahamas are in general, a peaceful, hospitable, friendly people.  They are not violent.  But now they are concerned for their country.  Many church members can recall the days when nobody locked their doors, when young people answered with "yes ma'am, no ma'am" and The Bahamas was a welcoming place to live.  Today people stay behind their gated walls, bars over their windows and security alarms turned on, even when it is daytime and they are inside the house.   It has slowly occurred to us that the reason you will never find a "24-hour" store here is because the crime at night would keep people from shopping anyway and most people won't venture out at night unnecessarily.  Such are the realities here in "paradise."  We are reminded that for all the beauty of the beaches and palm trees most people love and enjoy, there is an equally formidable darkness at work.  We pray that God will begin to mightily save the souls of men here in this country.  We pray He will protect His church from violence.  We pray the children here will grow up knowing the love of Christ and will become a generation of change for this country.  Our times are in His hands.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Mother's Day Brunch

Just back from our Ladies' event, a Mother's Day Brunch which was held from 11am-1pm today.  Grace and I were handling the decorating for the event...which according to Grace turned out WAY simpler than usual.  I, however, thought it was more decorated than most ladies' events I've been to!  Lots of work and love went into this day, so I thought I'd give you a peek into our church life.
our lovely ceiling focal point

we used teapots for each centerpiece
Grace (who is also our church secretary) and I started decorating on Wednesday.  Lots of hours went into trying to string these lights, tulle, and balloons!  Next year, we will be using what we learned from the process to make things run more smoothly.
a view into our room
A few ladies in the church willingly loaned their teapots for us to fill with flowers and use as our centerpieces.  I think they turned out beautifully, don't you?

the girls rehearsing a "tribute
to mother"

Keva, in the black and white, was our guest of honor
 To add many dimensions to our program, Alexine, Cedric's wife (affectionately called "Sister Alexine" by our children) had the young ladies prepare a M-O-T-H-E-R acrostic tribute where each one spoke a word of honor to our mothers.  We also had a musical piece, "You Raise Me Up," sung by our young ladies in two-part harmony, a short devotional by Alexine, a reading of a poem (written by yours truly) and a time of paying honor to our own Keva Poitier.  In another post I've written of Keva, who has been an exemplary sister in Christ, daughter, and mother despite the very difficult trials God has brought her through.  She has spent about two months of this new year in the hospital so far, yet continues to praise God and relish every moment she gets to be with God's people.

Kendall and her friends Darnell and Jada
We had about 60 ladies in attendance, a good portion of which were family of members or recent attendees at our new "Alternatives" class on Tuesday mornings.  Hopefully gospel connections were made amidst the food and socializing of this event.  We are beginning to see God answer our prayer to "bring the lost to our doorstep."  Please continue to pray that we will impact this community for Christ.  There is an estimate of 1,200 churches on this 21x7 mile island, but many of them are preaching "another gospel."  Health, wealth, and prosperity is not the good news.  Being set free from our sin and God's wrath is.  Pray that our little church will be faithful to make it known.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

when answers come

I know God has always been answering our prayers in some form.  However, it would seem in the months we've lived here in Nassau, God has answered in faster and bigger ways than we have previously experienced.  Or perhaps, as we grow in the area of gratitude, we are simply more aware?

Yesterday the fruition of prayers both simple and complex seemed to surface.  The simple? Friends who stayed a few days with us told us they were "leaving the ipod touch...5th generation" for us to keep.  Shocked, stunned, overwhelmed were we.  Just a month ago, Kristin had her purse ransacked and lost her camera.  Not a great camera, but it was all she had.  So she prayed for a replacement of some kind.  She's also been praying for some way to video some of the church happenings here so that we could share them on facebook or the blog...  And how does God answer?  By bringing these generous friends to us and putting it on their hearts to leave their nearly-new ipod with us.  We are blessed beyond words!  Thank you Anthony and Yvette Rood!!

Secondly, on Sunday, our lead pastor was away and Keith was preaching.  During our worship time, Eduardo, the security guard who often watches over our parking lot at Kingdom life, walks in and joins us.  We have gotten to know this young man, given him a book on the gospel to read, taken him food while he's on duty, given him rides home, and prayed for him.  Eduardo is a Jehovah's Witness.  But he came to our church on Sunday where he heard the gospel very clearly preached.  Last night at monthly prayer, it struck me that for months we've been praying for God to help us evangelize.  One particular prayer I remember praying was, "Lord, we don't have any fancy strategies for how to do this evangelism well, but you can simply bring people to our doors to hear the gospel.  Would you do that Lord?"  Just as I was sharing this with another friend, Eduardo walked in again to let us know he was heading home from being on guard.  We all waved goodbye to him.  I turned to my friend and said, "God brought Eduardo to our door."

We never know what God is planning.  But prayer is the key that unlocks our hearts to be conformed to God's ways.  As we pray in His will, to His ends, He delights to answer as he sees fit.  We are learning so much about prayer.  And we are challenged to pray more, pray endlessly, pray big.  God help us to have enlarged vision as we pray for Your kindgom to come on this earth!