Friday, 29 November 2013

beauty everywhere

About two months ago, our Kingdom Life friends the Deans took us on a little excursion to a family island, Andros.  A "family island" just means another island in the archipelago of Bahamian islands.  Andros is the largest of the Bahamian islands and is one of the largest land masses in the Caribbean.  Calvin, our host on this little retreat, was born and raised in Andros.  Now, before you think all exotic and begin to ooh and ahh over our "excursion" to another island, let me clarify.  Calvin and Keisha are trying to build a business; a car parts and hardware store, in Andros.  For them, this trip was mostly work.  They paid for our 15 minute flight (20 seat plane) and hotel.  Don't worry...I took plenty of pictures. 


This was not a functional buffet, but just some interesting décor
Let's start by showing you the hotel. Above you see the cute little walkway and gate that leads out to the office and parking space.  But this is just the beginning!  Check out what else this place had to offer:

Our room was the second door

this was such a desolate place...looks like winter
Two cranes just watching us...a pair of lovebirds?
At sea level, burial is done above ground...creepy...and beachfront!
Bahamian Bush...road to nowhere?
Uncle Charlie's Blue Hole...125 feet deep
Approaching a "settlement" on Andros

Termite nest...common but cool

    A beautiful old church, burnt but still standing


I could go on and on with the pictures, but this should give you a feel for Andros.  There was beauty, but it seemed harder to find in such a desolate island.  Austere.  Dark.  Wild.  Small settlements, suspicious of us.  Overcast conditions for the majority of our stay.  No developed beaches.  Convenience stores offering the only grocery shopping.  Keith kept saying how similar to his experience in Cote D' Ivoire, Africa this trip was.
We have to say that after seeing the landscape and lack of amenities in Andros, we felt much gratitude in returning to Nassau


When my husband and I were in college, the term "gratis" was used for the unreimbursed work you would render to the college if you broke a rule.  Examples of gratis would be: cleaning communal bathrooms, raking leaves, sweeping sidewalks, etc.  Of course, neither Keith nor I ever had to give "gratis" because we, ahem, never broke rules.

The funny thing is, I never really thought about the word "gratis" and what it meant.  I knew it had something to do with grace, but I couldn't figure out why the college administration would call punitive action "grace" when you were caught doing wrong.  You broke a rule, you would pay.  What's gracious about that?  Now I realize that it was really the student who would be offering "gratis" or free work to the college as a penalty for their crime.  But this actually defies the definition of gratis.  Wikipedia defines it thus: 
the quality of an action where the action is willingly provided without any requirement by the provider for compensation or monetary remuneration.

The students at our college were receiving something for the gratis work they did: forgiveness.  By doing the gratis, their record of law-breaking at the college would be wiped away for them. 

At this time of year where obvious blessings are being counted, written of and spoken into microphones at churches around America (or is that only at my parents' little Baptist Church in good 'ole Butler, PA?) the one I am most aware of is the gratis work of Christ.  Remember, gratis is the quality of an action where the action is willingly provided without any requirement by the provider for compensation or monetary remuneration.  Every other gratis work or gift ever given has been completed by someone who stands equally in need of true gospel gratis.  Gratis receivers can become gratis givers.  But Christ never needed gratis.  He defines it for us; in his his death.

Remember in this season, no matter what gifts you are given by friends or family, that though they are gratis to you, they do not ultimately compare to what Christ has given.  These earthly gifts have come to you by those who know what it is to need.  They may feel sorry for you, or identify with you in your need. They want to help alleviate your lack.  Ultimately, they want you to experience the good that they themselves have.  But Christ gave to us from a full cup that never grew dry.  He gives things that don't grow old, or stale, or evaporate.  He gives life and healing and hope and joy.  Eternal things.  He gives from his fullness and it never depletes him.  Gratis.  Unspeakable gratis. No payment required.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

it's actual, it's factual

Recently, an American friend made a comment on our facebook page asking, "Aren't there any Taco Bells there?"  Well the answer is "No."  So in this little lighter-side post, I thought we'd just give the run-down on what American things there are and are not in this new country of ours.  Today is our 17 month anniversary of living in Nassau, so in honor of those months, here we go!

American restaurants:

Burger King
Marco's Pizza
Domino's Pizza
Dairy Queen
Dunkin' Donuts
Johnny Rockets (Atlantis area, prices are of course NOT American prices!  But not astronomical)
Carmine's (Atlantis area.  Looked in, too expensive)
Subway (this one is back and forth, has been called "Bahamas Subs" and "Subway")
Outback (Woo-Hoo!  This is brand spankin' new.  Cheapest dinner is $19, but maybe for a special night like our upcoming anniversary?)

I think that's all.  Quite a few, actually.  As long as you like fast food!

Now as for stores, SORRY.  Nothing American here.  NO WALMART.  NO TARGET.  If those things existed here, Bahamians probably wouldn't leave the island nearly as much!

The closest thing we have to Walmart is a place called Solomon's.  It actually looks like the old blue Walmarts, with the little red star under the word "Supercenter."  Unfortunately it doesn't have the Walmart prices or variety!  We also have a CostRite, which is like a Costco, but obviously much smaller and with much less variety.  The prices are of course, not American either, but there are some deals to be found.   Some simple price comparisons for you are as follows:

gallon of Milk: $7 and up
loaf of bread: $3.40 and up
doz. eggs (on sale) $1.87
Coffee, small can of Folgers Classic Roast $7
Starbucks small bag of coffee: $12
5 lb. bag sugar: $2.49 and up
8 oz. bag choc. chips: $6
10 oz. bag of chopped walnuts: $9
1/2 gallon Breyers Ice Cream: $11 and up
Small jar of Peter Pan Peanut Butter: $4.79 and up
6 oz. bag of Doritos: $5
Pack of Oreos: $7
individual cup of yogurt: $1.21 (.89 on sale!)
Pack of Andy Boy Romaine lettuce: $4.89 ($3.69 on sale)
Apples: .89 a piece
Grapes: 3.99 a lb., $2.99 on sale
12 pack of soda: $13.49
Spaghetti sauce: 2.79 for Can of Hunt's

All in all, not terrible for most things.  You can see that snack foods (or junk food) is where they really get you, as well as certain produce like apples.  The only time I buy apples is if I see them on clearance, packaged together.  The only time we buy things like Doritos is for Birthdays or if they go on major discount.  We never buy anything like Breyers ice cream.  Chocolate chips are only bought if it's someone's Birthday or a special holiday.

We so appreciate all of our friends who willingly bring us treats from the states!  We would feel much more "cut off" from normalcy if there weren't some occasional times where we get to have the treats we once took for granted back in the U.S.  God is good.

Monday, 18 November 2013

thankful theorem

Today was one of those days...the kind where one sees mostly good things for which to be thankful.   A perfect day, not too hot, very low humidity, blue skies.  We lit candles, put some premature Christmas music on, and felt a little skip in our step.  This came at a very opportune time, I assure you.  In my flesh, there is much I could point to as discouraging right now, but God has been working in my heart, quite unexplainably.  Or maybe not so unexplainably?  Lately I've felt the call to pray more and more, unceasingly.  Living overseas has many more challenges than I ever imagined.  Is it possible that we are under specific enemy attack by seeking to promote the gospel in this place?  We think it's quite likely.   And quite honestly, we have grown pretty weary of comments about us living in paradise.  Sinfully, I often bristle at such comments and wish for a moment that the "paradise" experience of having a tarantula run up their leg or a cockroach run across their neck in bed would happen to the person making said comments.  I assure you that if you were to live here for about a month, your ideas of "paradise" would be shattered.  Perhaps that sounds corrective, but surely we should all realize that any tourist spot we've been to has two sides: reality and fantasy.  The fantasy side is what sells.  The beauty, the charm, the fun, the entertainment.  But once that wears off, reality is all that's left. 
And that is when the work of being thankful for the hard realities begins.  Here are some of the realities for which I have really just begun to learn to be thankful:
  • no family to support us, but a church family that truly cares
  • friends who still don't know us well, but are trying to understand us, just as we are trying to understand them 
  • scary experiences (snakes, tarantulas, criminal activity) that cause me to run to God for peace and protection
  • financial difficulties which cause me to press into God further, trusting Him to provide for bills we cannot pay
  • crazy hot weather that reminds me this world is truly the closest I'll ever get to hell, since my hope is in Christ.
Recently we have seen God provide for us in amazing ways.  It's often the little things that "wow" us the most, because we know nobody could have known our need in a certain area but our Heavenly Father.  So when he prompts another child of His to give to us in a specific way, we are amazed!  Just a few days ago, we were praying that God would financially help Kristin's parents to secure plane tickets for her and the girls to visit over the upcoming holidays.  Within a few hours, a friend, somewhat "out of the blue" communicated that they felt led to help us in a particular way that day.  We knew immediately that God was using them to help offset the cost of the plane tickets.  That day also happened to be Kristin's dad's birthday.  How fun it was to Skype with her parents that day and let them know how God had supplied financial resources to help with the plane tickets!
Another moment of provision recently occurred when Keith was in Florida visiting family before and after the Sovereign Grace Pastor's Conference.  One family member happily passed on to us not only a laptop computer they no longer needed, but also an ipad!  Keith was so excited to show these surprises to the girls when he arrived home.  A few years ago when we first saw how an ipad worked and the opportunities for assisting in church music it could provide, we prayed that God would someday make it possible for us to acquire one.  Now God has generously supplied us with one, free of charge!! 
Another blessing by God through his people came recently when our guest Elisa Pawson came bearing gifts her family had sent.  Chocolate chips, nuts, and coffee are high-ticket items here, due to the rates of duty imposed on them, so when Elisa unpacked her bag and handed us these gifts, we were so grateful!  God cares for us in the most specific ways.
So my thankful theorem is this, usually in the midst of the hardest of times, there is a threshold we will cross. We will either give thanks in the midst of hardship and hold on to hope, or begin to complain, tired of the suffering.   So many times, I fail to express thanks to God in these difficult times and just after I "give up" on ever seeing and end to the difficulty, God supplies an answer or a provision.  I then wish I had held out in faith, believing God without doubting in that last moment.  I shared this recently with our Care Group here, and my faithful friend Keva said, "that's because you have to come to the end of yourself before you're ready to receive what God has for you."  Hmm.  Maybe she's right?  But perhaps there's a way to come to the end of myself without losing patience?  Without doubting?  Without giving up on God?  Still working on this "thankful theorem."  Consider these verses from the Hebrews "Hall of Fame" passage:
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


I'm not sure we ever realized the number of visitors we'd be receiving here in Nassau when we transplanted ourselves!  A few of these globe-trotters did not stay in our home while visiting, but we had them over for visits, overnights, or meals during their stay on the island.  Here's a list of all the visitors we've hosted in the 17 months we've been here:

  • July 2012: Tom  and Cindy Ryan (Gaithersburg, MD)
  • August 2012: Paul and Jackie Bunting and Jesse Ramsdell (Keith's parents and nephew from Florida)
  • Sept. 2012: Aron and Ellie Osborne (Orlando, FL)
  • Feb. 2013: Alyssa Waite (Terre Hill, PA)
  • Feb. 2013: The Privitera Family (Lancaster, PA)
  • March 2013: Chris Jessee (Orlando, FL)
  • April 2013: Anthony and Yvette Rood (Frederick, MD)
  • June 2013: Kim, Nathan, Philip and Jack Fernandez (Keith's sister and Family Warner-Robbins, GA)
  • June 2013: Neal Cypher (Kristin's brother, Atlanta, GA)
  • June 2013: Kevin and Becca Deming (Holly Springs, NC)
  • August 2013: Gracie Brown (Niceville, FL)
  • August 2013: Chris and Stephanie Jessee (Orlando, FL)
  • Nov. 2013: Elisa Pawson (Lancaster, PA)
  • Nov. 2013: Next Week: Randy, Tina, and Phoebe Wenger (Lititz, PA)
  • Nov. 2013: Week of Thanksgiving: Kevin and Diana Bunting and Matthew Ramsdell (Keith's brother, sis-in-law, and nephew from Orlando)

Ticket-holding visitors so far for 2014

  • Feb. 2014: Addison, Dana, Alyssa, Zane, and Mikaya Waite (Terre Hill, PA)
  • Feb. 2014: Doug and Brenda Plank (Millersville, PA)
Hospitality has become something we long to do better.  Currently, the home we rent is fairly well laid out for hosting visitors.  Starting early spring, we will begin looking for a new home to rent.  Our current landlords want to move back into this home. While trying to keep costs as low as possible, we still want to be able to offer beds to sleep in and bathrooms to use for our many guests.  A pool is a nice bonus, but not a necessity.  And along with our house-guests, we also show weekly hospitality through care group, youth group events, meals with church families and friends, and friends outside the church.   Will you pray along with us that God will provide something in budget that will bless those who come to visit? 

Just as God, through Christ, welcomes those both near and far into his kingdom, we want to reflect his character in the way we welcome others.  This is a work in the making, I assure you.  As you pray for us to find another rental home here, pray also that God will continue to equip us with skill and open hearts to receive all the dear ones He brings our way.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

though godless men conspire

Early in the morning of November 6, one of our dear church members lost his 34 year old sister and 14 year old niece to violence here in Nassau.  The news is devastating.  Allegedly, the person whom the suspects were attempting to kill was also in the home, but survived with only a gunshot to the leg.  The perpetrators opened fire on the home, leaving bullet holes everywhere.

As time progresses, more information will reveal the truth of what took place in those early morning hours, but the fact remains that murder was attempted and the innocent were killed in the wake.   

Years ago, when we travelled with a college singing group, Keith and I used to sing the song "God is in Control."  Here are the words I remember most right now:

God is in control
Though godless men conspire
His will unfolds
Though some are left to doubt
His ways are higher than our ways
So even through the fire,
Take heart and know...
God is in control

Does it seem, like the world
Is chaotically turning?
Sin and shame, un-arraigned
While godly men are adjourning?
Well our fathers warned that it would come to this
But just "hold your hat" and know that the final truth is...

God is in control

When life seems to make anything but sense, this is what we cling to....God Is In Control.  Nothing is outside his power to control. 

Please be in prayer for our dear friends at Kingdom Life...the Ingrahams (in-grams), as they grieve this terrible loss.  And also, please pray for our church as a whole...that God will bring good from this to stir our hearts for the lost, unite our hearts in compassion and brotherly affection, and cause us to examine our own response to the Savior.   We know there are many in our church who do not profess to be saved.  They come week in and out, sing the songs, yet do not want to commit their lives to God.  Pray that in moments like these, they will consider the life they are leading and see that "today is the day of salvation."