Wednesday, 26 June 2013

with the strength God supplies

All has been quiet on the blog front lately.  That's due simply to the fact that the Buntings are serving in an "all hands on deck" kind of way these days.  Church life slows a bit over the summer as we close off care groups, youth meetings, and ladies' meetings for the summer vacation.  But due to the number of visitors we've personally been hosting lately, our pace has not slowed but rather increased.  Last week the girls and I (Kristin) were serving out at Adventure Learning Camp, making breakfast and dinner each day for the 40 or so mission team campers.  Tim Seeley, a new member of our church here, took over as director of the camp back in January.  When we had their family over for dinner some weeks ago, they mentioned that Mindy (Tim's wife) would be in the U.S. during the first official week of camp season.  I couldn't imagine Tim doing all that cooking, serving, and running the camp I volunteered our girls and myself to help!  What a blessing it was!  In fact, the girls have all been slightly down since Saturday when we ended our one week serving there.  They are begging to go back asap, and I will try to get us back in the kitchen there next week after our current guest, my brother Neal, is safely back home in Atlanta. 

Each morning, we were on the road by 6:15AM, eagerly anticipating the work of preparing and serving the new people we were meeting, as well as old friends.  My college bestie, roommate and maid of honor, Becca Deming, her husband (also our college friend) Kevin, and their church group from Holly Springs, NC made up 11 of our 40 or so campers last week.  I can't even say how wonderful it was to reconnect with these friends.  When we first saw them at the camp, Becca wrapped me up in a big hug and shed tears, telling her church group, "This is one of my favorite people in the whole world."  I cried along with her.  We enjoyed our week immensely, even though physically we were beat!  Cooking with gas in a hot Bahamian climate is nothing to laugh at, folks!  To cool off, we'd stick our heads in the freezer for a few minutes or joke about hopping into the industrial-sized refrigerator.  On Thursday, my prince on a white horse came as we were preparing dinner, announcing, "I come bearing electrolytes!"  Keith swept in to rescue the girls, Tim and I from dehydration.  I kissed him and said, "This is why I married you!" 

Other highlights to last week at camp were getting to connect with another new addition to the camp and our church here, Jen Rogers.  Jen recently moved back here from Denver, CO, where she was a member of a Sovereign Grace Church.  12 or more years ago, Jen was here in Nassau working in the same Adventure Learning Center, on a short term mission.  Now she's back, creating curriculum for the Adventure Learning Center, in accordance with their mission to educate Bahamian children about the wonders of God's Creation while presenting the gospel.  More info. on the Center can be found here:

I have some pictures I need to round up...then I will add them to this post.  If you are a young adult interested in a short-term mission project involving children and the outdoors, please consider coming to see us and serving at Adventure Learning Center.  It is such a unique place!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

family matters

This past week, from June 3rd-June 11th, Keith's sister Kim, and her three boys; Nathan, Philip, and Jack were here to visit!  It was fun getting to reconnect with this part of our family, whom we rarely get to see.  This was really the biggest chunk of time we've ever been able to spend together.  Nathan and Philip are twins, and we vividly remember Philip attending our wedding 18 1/2 years ago as a little baby with his mama.  Nathan and daddy Duane had to stay back home in Georgia at the time and hold down the fort.  Well here we are nearly 19 years later and these boys are all grown up and graduated from high school.  It was a blessing getting to see all God has worked in their lives over these years.  Seeing the young men they've turned into reminds me to keep chugging along with my own children, knowing God will be faithful to sharpen and hone their skills and abilities, but most importantly that HE will grow their love for Himself as they age and mature.

Our nephew Jack is quite a different boy from his twin big brothers.  While they are creative and intellectual, Jack needs to be moving, running, swimming, or have some kind of ball or bat in hand most of the day.  He is all athlete.  He reminds me a lot of my own brother at the ripe old age of 11.  Though I didn't spend as much time talking with Jack, I know my girls loved spending time with him out in the pool, playing the Wii together, and just being hilarious with him.  It will be fun watching him grow up and seeing what God does in his life.

Then there's Kim, my dear sister in law.  She and I have a lot in common.  Like Keith and me, Kim and husband Duane were also involved in full-time ministry for many years, with Duane serving as a worship minister.  They've moved around LOTS!  In fact, we compared stories, and to be SURE...THEY WIN for the most moves.  Kim is a teacher, though she does her job in the public system while I am at home.  Kim loves recipes as do I.  Kim loves to do I!  And we have very similar tastes in clothing and jewelry.  But the most important thing we have in common is our love for God.  Nearly two years ago, Kim was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 44.  This was in the midst of her own mom already struggling in a 5 year battle with ovarian cancer at the time.  It would have been tempting to give in to self-pity or bitterness toward God in the days, weeks, and months when Kim was walking through her surgeries and chemo treatments.  But instead, she found Christ to be her all in all, her "closer than a brother" friend.  Today, Kim will say she wouldn't trade her experience with cancer for what she gained in that time.  As we talked, we shared our common experience of Christ being more than enough for the deepest trials we have walked through.  And conversely, how we often have more difficulty trusting Him in the little day-to-day things than in the life-altering moments.  Kim was kind enough to re-cover the throw pillows on my couch with some material I had been wanting to use.  THANKS KIM!!  She and the boys also brought us lots of goodies: coffee, chocolate chips, Doritos, Nutella, granola bars, fruit snacks, Dasani water flavoring drops, cake mixes, peanut butter...  We are SO GRATEFUL!!  And Duane, who was unable to join his family, was the one who did all the shopping for our numerous a hearty THANK YOU DUANE!! 

Since Mom B. died in December, we have to work a little harder to stay connected with family.  She was the heartbeat of the Bunting Family, to be sure.  We  are soooo grateful that Kim and her family took the time and money to invest in coming to see us.  It is no small thing!!  WE LOVE YOU!!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

what they see/ what we see

Recently the topic of our new country and its current rate of unemployment/homelessness/poverty came up again.  Usually when we have visitors or sometimes friends from the states who inquire, we are reminded that the world at large doesn't see the what The Bahamas looks like, once you get past West/East Bay Street or Paradise Island (Atlantis).  Yes there is a good-sized middle class here.  This is a sign of hope and stability for this nation.  But there is also a vast dichotomy between the rich and the poor here.  And unfortunately, many of "the rich" are white foreigners who buy up million dollar real estate, turn it into billion dollar resorts, and cycle the money back to their foreign countries.  The Bahamas doesn't get the benefit of massive enterprises like Atlantis or the up and coming Baha Mar.  Giving the locals "thousands of jobs" as housekeepers, maintenance men, and counter clerks at these resorts doesn't exactly repay the vast amount of wealth these foreign investors are making.  It's the Bahamian's land.  But they aren't pocketing the lion's share of what is being generated from it's beauty.  And more and more local beaches stand in danger of being bought up by out-of-country investors to be turned into money-making real estate.  Beaches that locals have fond childhood memories of no longer are accessible to them...unless they can come up with the million dollars to buy a condo that now stands upon it.

Well...for us as Americans it was quite eye-opening when we came for our first visit nearly 3 years ago.  At this point, our eyes have adjusted.  We no longer are shocked to see the heaps of garbage, stray mangy dogs, decrepit buildings, and homes that are nothing more than wooden shacks where the many poor live.  And when we leave "Paradise Island" and drive back to Nassau proper, we heave a sigh, feeling the distance...and I don't mean the literal short arched bridge that exists between the two.

 What most people think of when they hear "The Bahamas"  is Sun, Water, Beaches, Resorts, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.  And to be sure, these things exist.  And that is what the government wants you to see. This is what tourists want to see. What they want you to avoid begins about one block up from "Tourist Row," where real inner-city Nassau begins.  We have difficulty taking pictures of this side of Nassau because we don't want to offend people.  We look like tourists already with our white skin and sunglasses...if we whip out our cameras, we will look as though we're gawking, and we don't want to do that.  So I've pulled some accurate pictures from google images...both sides.  In our everyday lives, we are in the thick of it, the city streets, the backroads, all of the "real Nassau."  This is what we see, this is what we carry on our hearts.  Last night, Keith received a phone call from a lady who's been attending our job-placement help course, offered on Tuesday mornings.  She was desperate...out of money, nothing to eat, and a 5 year old depending on her.  That morning her roommate told her to get out by nightfall.  She was grief-stricken when she called.  Keith wisely counseled her that sometimes just curing one piece of the need helps the other needs not look so large...he asked her if she'd eaten that day.  Not really.  He said, "Alright.  I'm coming and bringing you a meal.  That's step one."  And so he did, with the help of another man in our church and my 19 year old nephew who was here visiting.  Step one.  Feed the Hungry.  Yeah, I can do something about that.  I can cook.  I can "drive thru" Wendy's.  I can pack a bag of food.  Step one.  And the other needs begin to fall in line.  Oh help us God.  Help us to feed the hungry, care for the poor, and shine your light where darkness wants to swallow all the brightness.  We know you will.

There is so much beauty here, but also so much disparity.  This post is dedicated to setting the record straight.  Next weekend, my college roommate (also my maid of honor), her husband (a youth pastor), and their youth group will be traveling here from Holly Springs, North Carolina to do a weeklong missions trip.  They chose the Bahamas because of the need, not because of the least, not the obvious beauty.  Jesus is here.  And the need that He can fill will be beautiful.