October and November!

It’s been a whirlwind of a two months! There have been some big changes and lots of busyness– it’s been a different sort of season over this way, with lots to update on. We’re going to go through and list some highlights of what’s been going on! (We tagteamed this post– forgive the switching back and forth of authors!!)

First, I went to America! I was there for ten days and did some work and it was SO SWEET. Lots of things not pictured, but it was so good to have a little time with family and friends, to get to go to our home church for two Sundays, and to photograph a beautiful wedding and a bunch of families and a couple of seniors. After a long break from doing sessions, it was really wonderful to get to be back at it. Truly- I love my job!!!2014-11-18_0006

The Week of Hatch

(from Jordan) One treat we had while Kristen was away was Hatch staying with us for around a week. We had a blast getting to know each other. By the end he was “Uncle Hatch” to the kids who really enjoyed him a lot. It was a real privilege to have a week of ministry and help with this guy around. Be praying for him as he seeks direction from the Lord as to what is next in his life concerning missions!

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Olivia was here!

The week prior to me (Kristen) leaving for America, Olivia came to stay with us! She stayed seven weeks with us and was a huge help– a huge blessing. She arrived at a time when I was feeling totally overwhelmed with homeschooling and keeping the house etc. etc. and the extra set of hands was just tremendous. It ended up being a pretty interesting season of transition, with us making the decision to put our kids in school (i’ll get to that in a second!), but with that change made, Nora got some really sweet time with her and came to love and now miss Olivia so much!! Olivia found out two days before arriving in St. Kitts that she got accepted into a program called the World Race. She will get to travel to 11 countries in 11 months to serve in communities, come alongside missionaries, help in whatever areas needed— a really amazing opportunity. Please pray for her as she prepares, fundraises, and takes this huge leap of faith to leave ‘home’ for the next year!! (You can read more about it here). We are so thankful for the time we had with her and her willingness to come serve alongside our family. IMG_0835

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Getting the New CCF Building Ready

On the same flight that Kristen took to the States, the Grayson’s flew out to make there yearly furlough trip! This left me (Jordan) in charge of some really exciting things. I’m not sure if we’d previously mentioned it or not, but we have a new building for our church to meet at! This is HUGE– as our heart is to be a church in the community, and this new building is located right smack dab in the middle of the community. With getting the building, though, came lots of work!!

For two solid weeks some serious construction took place of the new home for Caribbean Christian Fellowship. CCF was able to exchange monthly rent in the form of building upgrades like new windows and A/C units. The windows were quite an undertaking but thanks to the savvy of a hard working local named Kelsy Davis the windows are in and finished. Several members from CCF came to offer a hand in the process and worked so hard! Busting out concrete, tearing metal windows out, mixing and carrying 14 bags of cement and putting in some really good looking windows have changed the appearance of this once warehouse looking building into a sweet new home for a sweet church!

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A few weeks ago, we had a huge work day were we cleaned up all the mess from the weeks of work. As you can see we had a great turnout and lots of help to get this new building ready for service! Bathrooms, windows, walls, kitchens, the yard, closets; it all got cleaned. It’s been so sweet to see the church body get involved and take ownership in the new building!

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And then yesterday, we got to have our FIRST SERVICE in the new building. It was awesome. We had a room that was conducing for fellowship! There was coffee!!! Some people from the church baked some tasty treats and people stuck around after the service to talk! The service itself was a sweet reminder of all that God has done on this island since the Grayson’s started coming in 2007. God really is faithful! We praise the Lord for this place!

Teaching and Radio

I (Jordan) was able to teach seven Sundays while the Grayson’s got to have some much deserved time in the states! Teaching through Mark chapters 5-7 was a blast. I loved being  able to serve CCF in this way. Filling in for Brandon in this way offered a new look on how vital this fellowship is for the students and locals alike. To gather and worship the Lord Jesus with all these wonderful people is such a blessing! To see the fellowship and unity that comes because of the cross reminds us of the power of the Gospel and the need to share it. We are to be engaged in the ministry of reconciliation for our homes, community, village and nation! You can listen in to each teaching from Brandon or Jordan here.

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Another great opportunity I had during these last two months was some air time! 91.5 Dominion Radio hosts a talk show called, “Personally Experiencing God”, which is led by Brandon and Mavis Huggins. It turns out that both were gone the exact same time and I got the chance to fill in for them. I taught over the 7 Commands of Christ which is a Bible study for believers to get a quick understanding of what our King has asked of us in the Bible. The radio show is very well listened to here on the island. Brandon and Mavis have made it a habit of teaching through the Word verse by verse, chapter by chapter. It is a very refreshing and encouraging program to tune into! You can find out more info about this ministry here.

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other ministry:

We’ve been able to plug in a couple places within the community and it’s been so awesome. We had been going weekly to Bassetterre High school and leading a Bible study on Thursday’s. This has already lead way to some sweet relationships with some of the high schoolers. We were going through some discipleship training with them and were just getting ready to begin hour long meetings during their lunch break when the school got shut down due to some safety regulations!! We are so bummed that this time is paused for the time being, but hope to resume once the school situation is all squared away. I had been going weekly to the Children’s home, as well, and have really loved getting to REALLY know a handful of the older girls there, as well as just love on some of the elementary school aged kiddos.

Lastly, Jordan has been able to connect with a local lady named Denise. She is a believer who has a heart for her community of St. Peters and also helps run the radio station where Brandon and Mavis go. Jordan went on a prayer walk thru St. Peters and got to chat with her son. Long story short Jordan and Denise got to talk about how to reach out and share the gospel to the homes around there and have been going out on Saturdays. (also with a guy named Kebo) There have been some exciting things that have come from that. There is a wonderful man in the community who has a lot of favor and influence. He has invited them into his house to conduct a Bible study with him and some of his employees and friends. Please pray for this! Pray that God would open the hearts of the people to the Gospel and that those people would have compassion on their families and neighbors. Pray for houses and persons of peace! It has been neat to see them catch the vision to reach their communities. Pray also to the Lord of the harvest that laborers would be raised up and sent out!

SCHOOL:

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This is huge. As previously mentioned, we had been homeschooling. We’ve struggled back and forth with the decision on schooling this whole year. (We’ve always said we would take it child by child, year by year as far as what we would do with their schooling). We thought homeschooling would be the best initially, as we settled into a new home and culture. There was a really sweet season of it, but we all saw and felt that the further into the year we got, it was not the best thing and was not something we could sustain long term. There aren’t a ton of outside activities to plug our older kids into, not a ton of kids our kids age’ that we have met, no neighbors with kids, etc. A long story short: With how our kiddos work and function, they were just in desperate need of some outside interaction- especially Corban. Jordan and I had been doing a Bible study at the local high school on Thursday mornings. He had noticed a little Methodist school across the street, and asked some friends if they knew anything about it. We decided we would then check it out the following Thursday. We walked into the school office, and lo and behold, the secretary is the very lady who insisted on and helped us get the bible study started at the high school! Summing up a lot of hours jammed into two days- we enrolled the kids the next day and they started the next Monday!

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It’s been an experience. Somewhat of a rollercoaster. Can I just say that I am SO PROUD of Corban and Cate? And blown away and humbled and in awe or their resilience and braveness? You guys- it hasn’t been easy. Those first couple of days, it took all I had to not just sob as I was leaving. We had never been in a situation like that. Imagine a school of 250-300… watching your ever move. Watching you eat, watching you walk, watching you sit in your van. Oh, it was hard. And overwhelming. The first few days were full of lots of hair rubbing and skin touching and crowds of kids following them around. Intimidating! Cate, especially, really had a hard time. We had to leave her with the teacher crying, and then eventually- with the crossing guard crying. We’ve had some rough mornings with many tears, but man, is it sweet to watch them fight through and overcome. The kids at the school have been SO friendly and so welcoming. Cate would be standing by the gate crying with the crossing guard, and a group of the older girls would run up and help her in. She is doing MUCH better with it now (though she still has an occasional rough morning) and tells us every day about a new friend she’s made. Corban, from day one, has only thrived, only loved it. My heart just bursts watching him. He is doing excellently, and it’s so awesome to see. He had the hardest time initially with the move, and putting him in school is absolutely the best thing we could have done. Both kids basically skipped a grade and are doing very well academically. I am AMAZED at how quickly they’ve caught up and how they seem to be doing things lightyears ahead of where they were with homeschooling, and in a completely different environment, and so different from anything they’ve ever known of school. Change can be so hard… but there’s so much value in fighting through hard, not quitting when things get tough, you know?

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One of that hardest things in being here has been with our kids— the hard days, the homesickness, the fears of ‘are we ruining their lives?”, them not growing up with their families, etc. etc. This part of their childhood looks little like ours did. They’re not playing tball and their grandparents aren’t able to drive to their Christmas program this year. They don’t have aunts and uncles babysitting them and aren’t going to summer camps or Awana or McDonalds. There’s a huge part of my heart that aches at all of the aforementioned and those things can be overwhelming. But you guys, they ARE getting to experience things that many never will in their life. How many 7 year olds have hiked a volcano? How many little American girls get to do a Caribbean dance in the Caribbean with Caribbean’s at their school’s Christmas program? Our kids have become friends with children from all over the world this year: Scotland, South Africa, St. Kitts, etc. They’ve gotten an education in local dialect, and can tell you more uses for coconuts than I could. They can identify tropical fruit, have learned how to convert currency, and are no strangers to buying fresh-made juice from a roadside stand. They’ve swam with squid, caught many crabs, and have seen most of Finding Nemo’s friends while snorkeling. On a deeper level- they’ve been exposed to poverty and need and heartache like nothing they’ve ever previously seen. We’ve watched them grow in compassion and kindness and seen them sacrificially give on their own just because they know there’s a need. There’s a boldness and strength that I see as they’ve been forced into new situations and hard situations. We have had no choice but to pray that the Lord provide and then to watch Him do so… They’ve seen our God’s faithfulness in a way that’s been new to me as an almost thirty year old. They’ve got a bigger worldview and a knowledge that this life isn’t just about them that I don’t think we were offering them in America. Not that it can’t be done—we know many who do it well!- but we weren’t there yet. There’ve been lots, many many many hard things about this year… but these things? You can’t put a value on that. These are things that will shape who they are forever.

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I just wanted to be real about the difficulty and the wrestling that’s been involved, but also the sweetness, too.  I found this quote awhile back and have revisited it several times on those hard days of questioning what we’re doing as parents and the hardships our kids have faced:

(this was written by a missionary mom to a missionary mom)

 “It was months later, after many restless nights of counting the cost, He (God) convinced me that anywhere else in the world – with all its “advantages and opportunities”- could only be second best for my kids. Because here is where He called us. All of us. 
I know there are times you are weary and unconvinced of the validity of raising your family in a cross-cultural context. It can seem easier to be there than here. No doubt your situation is not ideal by any commonly held “standards”. The grass looks – and maybe is – greener on the other side of the world. 
But if God has called you here, He’s called your children as well for this season of their lives. He’s chosen the sorrows, as well as the joys, of this lifestyle for your children. Rest in knowing He has assigned your child’s portion and cup. The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places. Surely your children have a delightful inheritance.”

Isn’t that such a sweet reminder?! It doesn’t apply to just us here, outside of America.  Ultimately- there’s no better place to be than smack dab in the middle of where God has you, whether that’s next door to the house you grew up in or an island across the ocean.

With all that said- we’ve got almost eleven months of island life under our belts and are three weeks out from our return to the States!!! Would you pray for us as we iron out details and prepare for that time? We are SO EXCITED to be with our families, enjoy Christmas at home, travel around to churches and share, drink Starbucks… :) We are so thankful for the encouragement and support we’ve had this year and look forward to what’s to come. Also, we are just thrilled to have the Grayson’s back on island and are really looking forward to all that these last few weeks have before our trip- settling into the new church, Thanksgiving with our church family here, and enjoying time with friends before they leave the island.

Comments

  1. Jacqueline utterback says:

    Love reading your posts, and how you keep it so real. Thanks for sharing the good and the tough times! Your pictures are priceless! I pray for your often! Safe travels, be well and may God continue to shower you with His blessings!

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