Archives for 2015

Still Confused About Our New Role?

We’ve been back in the States for almost 2 1/2 months now, and back in Montgomery for just over 4 weeks! The process of settling in and adjusting to a new normal will take a while, we have begun to figure that out. Maddy is continuing to excel at Montgomery Christian School… she is having a blast in 1st grade! She recently lost her third tooth and looks absolutely adorable! Riley-Grace has really adjusted the most. She has been a trooper going from place to place, meeting so many new people, living in new homes, sleeping in different beds. However, I am sure we will ALL be happier once we get moved into our new place.

Maddy Lost Her 3rd Tooth

Speaking of that new place… we found a house we will be renting for at least 12 months, until we are ready to buy. It’s just about perfect for us… 3 bedrooms, a nice big backyard, plenty of storage space and it’s located in the same neighborhood we lived in before we moved to the Caribbean nearly four years ago! How about that?! We plan to move sometime in November.

As we have begun to settle back into Montgomery we have noticed there is some confusion about what we are actually doing now. So I’d like to answer a few of the questions we get the most to clear up any confusion you may have about our new role.

Are you still serving with Child Evangelism Fellowship? Yes! We did not change organizations.


Do you still need to raise support? Yes! We continue to be faith supported missionaries and we need individuals and churches to partner with us so we can continue serving.


Where are you living now? We are based in Montgomery, AL. We can easily travel to and from the Caribbean by flying from Montgomery to Charlotte, NC. Charlotte has MANY flights throughout most of the Caribbean.


Are you US missionaries or International missionaries? We are STILL international missionaries, we are not affiliated with CEF in the USA.


What are you doing exactly? Sean is the Area Director for the Northern Caribbean (Bahamas, Bermuda, Turks & Caicos, US Virgin Islands, Anguilla and St. Kitts & Nevis). He is also helping to carry out regional responsibilities in other parts of the Caribbean as needed. He serves the national workers of these countries and is responsible for their ministry development. For example, last week the Bahamas was hit by Hurricane Joaquin, several islands were obliterated. He was in contact with workers in Nassau immediately trying to figure out the extent of the damage and what we could do to assist as CEF.  He helped to coordinate a large shipment of Do You Wonder Why? booklets (these are for children experiencing huge issues like a natural disaster) for distribution. He will continue to follow up with the workers as they reach out to those devastated.Damage from Hurrican Joaquin in the Bahamas

Is this a long-term position? Yes and no. Our main goal is no different than what we have been doing in the Caribbean for the last four years… to work ourselves out of a job. CEF (and us too) want to have national workers from the Caribbean overseeing the work in 2 – 3 nearby islands as well as their own. The position would be similar to the US position of District Director. We must find that person and train him/her to become an Area Director. Because of this, the countries Sean is responsible for will continue to change over time as Area Directors are hired until there is no need for an American to serve in this capacity.


What will you do then? Only the Lord knows! He will show us when it is time.


If you are working with several countries in the Caribbean then why aren’t you living there? Believe it or not, although the islands are close together (sometimes we can SEE the neighboring islands) traveling around is difficult and expensive. You would think it would be easy and cheap but the vast majority of the time we have to fly to the States first to fly to another island. Plus, the cost of living in the Caribbean is so high, living in the States saves money on many levels.


Why Montgomery? Why not Miami or Charlotte or another hub? Why NOT Montgomery! It’s our home. Our church is here, our friends are here, most of our supporters are here, our doctors are here, our babies were born here and it’s the only place in the States we have ever lived as a family. It actually doesn’t cost much extra to fly from Montgomery to Charlotte and then onto the Caribbean.


How often will you travel? Sean will be in the Caribbean about once every 6 weeks or so. However, he will only be gone a few days at a time since we have young children. Once a year he will take a longer trip (2 weeks max), I will travel with him on short trips at least once a year and whenever we go back to St. Kitts we will take the girls with us. Hopefully we can all travel to Turks and Caicos as a family once a year as well.


How are you able to work with the Caribbean while living in Montgomery? Email, Skype, What’s App, Vonage (VOIP) and his travels all enable Sean to easily work with staff, board members and volunteers on a daily basis.


What kind of work are you doing with the local CEF office in Montgomery? We are available to help with things like teacher training when needed but our responsibility and full-time focus is serving with the Caribbean.


Are you (Sean) going to become a pastor? No. Sean is starting seminary this year and as a missionary he does preach from time to time in the Caribbean as well as in the States but he is not interested in becoming a pastor. He loves being a missionary with the Caribbean and we love CEF. We feel no leading whatsoever from the Lord to quit being missionaries and go into pastoral ministry.


Hopefully this will help with any questions you had about our new role. But please feel free to ask if you have more! And, if you are local we would LOVE to get together and talk with you more! Most people have made a point not to call or invite us over until we get “settled in”. But if everyone does that then we start to feel lonely. We really would love to see you!


Our September – Moving and The Bahamas

We SO enjoyed our time in Spanish Fort. Although we did work, it was a really good transition opportunity for us… our month there allowed us to rest, adjust to this huge change a little bit and be around family. We even got to be there for the birth of our first niece, Ellie Rose!! We missed so many births, weddings, graduations and funerals while living overseas… we are extremely thankful we didn’t miss meeting Ellie Rose.

On September 7th (Labor Day) with the help of Sean’s family, we drove a U-Haul up to Montgomery… what possessions we have left went from one storage unit to another. We are staying in a missionary house, the same house we were in LAST year when I had Riley-Grace! We will be here until November-ish while we save money to furnish a house. We sold all of our furniture last year because “the plan” was to live in Turks and Caicos for about 4 years… I guess God had different plans! Maddy started 1st grade the next day at Montgomery Christian School and so far, she LOVES it. She loves her teacher, she is making friends and she seems to be flourishing… learning so much so quickly.

Maddy's first day at school

We were only in the house for a couple of days when Sean left on his first trip in his new role as Area Director of the North Caribbean… to Nassau, Bahamas. He had a very exciting and very fruitful trip. I couldn’t possibly relay it all from him so he wrote about it himself:

On September 10 I (Sean) traveled to Nassau, Bahamas to serve the CEF national board and staff through board training and ministry development. We saw God do amazing things! I traveled with Myron Tschetter (CEF Regional Director) and his wife Nita. The CEF national chapter has been established there over a 20+ year period, and they are blessed with numerous credentialed instructors and a great history of ministry led by CEF national director Dr. Willamae Miller. We spent some time with her at the CEF national office (pictured below).




This national board training was the first official CEF board training held there and we taught Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday morning. We trained 15 people (current and new board members). There are over 30,000 elementary-aged children in the Bahamas with over 200 elementary schools! With the open doors there in the Bahamas, this is a huge opportunity for Gospel-believing churches in those islands to invest in the lives of children and see an entire generation changed for eternity. As this vision was shared with the existing and new board members, you could see people get excited about seeing their nation changed!


IMG_2876 2


We also taught morning assembly to over 250 children in two primary schools!






We also met with key pastors and governmental officials, and they want to do their part to see the children changed. The people we came in contact with WANT to do something about the kids! This was also seen greatly as I had the privilege of preaching at the Temple Baptist Church on Sunday. I give God praise and glory that three older kids were counseled as they made a profession of faith!! In addition, many people came forward and also up to me afterward saying that certain parts of the message really spoke to them about reaching their kids…parts that I did not “plan” on saying!



Myron Tschetter preached Sunday night at the Abundant Life Bible Church, who graciously allowed us to stay in their missionary house next door.



All in all it was a complete success of a trip. We were able to train and equip the local leadership in the ministry to the children of their nation. On a personal note, Saturday afternoon I was able to spend time with Tim and Mindy Seeley, missionaries with the Adventure Learning Centre and Camp. They are being used of God to make a huge difference in the Bahamas! You can find their ministry page on facebook here and this is a link to their missions blog here. As you may remember, I have recently graduated from the Moody Bible Institute and I took many classes with Tim Seeley online. Isn’t it awesome how God connects people! One idea that we had was potentially for CEF Bahamas to have CYIA training there or a CEF national board retreat there at the camp!



The night Sean was on his way back I had a scare at the missionary house. I forgot to lock the door after getting back from picking Maddy up from school. Later that night when I tried to lock the door I discovered my keys were missing. The cops came and a couple from our church came to sit with me until Sean came home. We barricaded the doors, made sure all of the windows were locked (only one was unlocked, in the girls’ room of all places!) and the police patrolled every 30 minutes throughout the night. At 2:30am someone tried to break into our bedroom window so the cops came to look around. Not 10 minutes after they left we could hear the window trying to be forced open again! The next day our locks were changed and all was quiet for about a week. At 9:30pm last Tuesday, I was getting Riley-Grace to sleep and could hear something going on outside… and the neighbor’s dog was barking. After a few moments someone tried to break through our window AGAIN. We have beefed up the security in the house since then and feel a lot safer but the whole experience has been unnerving to say the least. We are used to the threat of burglary in the Caribbean but we got a little too relaxed here. We are praying whoever it is has finally given up!

Other than that, we are enjoying our time in Montgomery, although we still feel like we are just visiting. It still doesn’t yet feel like this is our permanent home. Adjusting to life here hasn’t been a cinch either. We have changed, our friends have changed, our church has changed… everything is the same and yet different. We know it is a process and that it takes time. We are taking steps to settle in though… I started going to Bible Study Fellowship again and we enrolled Maddy in an Awana program. We may have found a house (we want to rent for now) and we are slowly getting our furnishings together. It’s exciting to see what the remainder of the year holds for our family!

Our July (One Crazy Month!)

We arrived back to Turks and Caicos on June 22nd knowing a few weeks later we would be moving back to the States. But at that point we were just focusing on hosting a mission team from South Carolina. This was an awesome group! They served with us from June 27th – July 4th and were a huge blessing to us personally and also for the ministry in TCI. The group taught 5 Day Clubs at three primary schools, reached 194 children and counseled 4 kids who made professions of faith in Christ! To God be the glory! On Wednesday evening they split up and attended a couple of churches and on Friday they taught the largest teacher training class TCI has ever had. 53 people from 11 different churches attended, how awesome is that?! We were shocked… especially considering it was graduation week… we were told not to expect much.


The Simpsons, Tyson, Sarah, Sarah and Ryan – The Team




clubs1They did a great job AND helped us replace the alternator on our vehicle when it broke down!

They left on July 4th… it was sad to say goodbye. That night we watched a video of fireworks… we’ll have to make up for it next year.

On Sunday, July 19th Sean and Maddy went to the TCE graduation at United Christian Baptist Church. The service started at 6am and we were still planning on making it to our own church’s service that morning… so… we let Riley-Grace stay home instead of waking her up so early. Sean taught a TCE for seven ladies at the church (this is a great Haitian church) before we left in April so we were very happy he was able to make the graduation. The service was in Creole… something Maddy won’t soon forget! And Sean had to speak through a translator!

Moving Back To The States

For most of July we were consumed with the whole moving process. EVERYTHING was up in the air. We had an idea of when and how things would happen but up until the last week we were still waiting on the Lord to make it all work out. We didn’t know when we were leaving, where we would live when we got back or what school Maddy would attend (or if I would homeschool her). We couldn’t purchase our tickets home until we sold our vehicle… but we told the owners of our house we would be out by July 31st. Our neighbors wanted to buy our vehicle but just a few days before they were ready, the wife had to get her appendix removed… there were complications and she stayed in the hospital for over a week. A lot of our stuff was packed up and we still hadn’t purchased our tickets home! But of course, the Lord was in control, everything happened in His time.

We tried to get together with friends in TCI, get things set up for the ministry to continue and enjoy living overseas for just a few more weeks… going to the beach, eating Caribbean food and spending time together as a family. Maddy rode her bike a lot (and without training wheels!), Riley-Grace fed the fish in the canal, Sean and I soaked it all in. And just like that, it was time to go.

Because we waited so long to purchase our tickets, our normal flight to Miami was crazy expensive so we had to fly to Charlotte, North Carolina instead. The whole process at the airport was a nightmare but we made it. And we were able to enjoy a couple of days to relax and transition a bit in Charlotte. We took the girls to an awesome science museum (Discovery Place) downtown… they LOVED it. The next day we took it easy, swam in the pool and went back downtown to a fun market (7th Street Market). We woke up the next morning and we flew to Pensacola (a much better experience!) and have been in Spanish Fort at a missionary house since then.

It’s been great seeing family, shopping at grocery stores for 1/3 of the price, having central AC and NOT getting bit by mosquitoes constantly. But it’s all still a bit surreal for us. We don’t really “feel” like we live here yet. I look back at our life for the last 4 years and can’t believe it’s really over. We are still working in the Caribbean but we aren’t going to be living there. We have a lot of adjustment coming, that’s for sure. On one hand we are very excited to be home but on the other hand, we have all changed so much and we miss being in the Caribbean everyday. (Even with all of the issues!) It will take time…

We’ve been scouring the internet for furniture deals (since we have none) and a car. We wanted a SUV with 3rd row seating, under 10 years old and under 100K miles… let’s just say there hasn’t been much (nothing really) to chose from in our budget. But God provided once again and we purchased a 2008 Hyundai Veracruz last Saturday!

We plan to come to Montgomery around September 1st. We are praying for a missionary house to be open at the beginning of September, but it could be later before it is available. We get to stay there for 3 months so we can get everything ready for a house (finding one, furnishing it, etc.) and everything else that comes along with living in the States again. When we get to Montgomery though, it looks like Maddy will be attending Montgomery Christian School… she will be in 1st grade!

moving our stuff

Our stuff at the port in TCI waiting to be shipped. IT’S STILL THERE! Pray it comes soon!


Watching the planes in Charlotte, NC.

welcome home

Welcome home goodies at the missionary house from the WOW kids at Faith Family!

carOur “new to us” 2008 Hyundai! We really like it!


This August we celebrate Sean’s birthday, might welcome our niece (she is due Sept. 7th) and we have a Caribbean leadership conference at the end of the month in Orlando. We aren’t certain yet if Riley-Grace and I (Mandi) will be able to go yet, so please be in prayer. She isn’t weaned yet so needs to go with me but we aren’t sure how that will all work out. Sean officially begins his new position on September 1st!


Why We Are Moving Back Home

SO much has happened over the last few months! If you haven’t heard the news… we will be moving back to the States at the end of July / first of August… less than a month away. Sean will now be serving as the Regional Area Director for the Northeast Caribbean. His top priority will be continuing to develop the work here in Turks and Caicos but he will also help with the work in The Bahamas, US Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Bermuda. We are very excited about this opportunity but I know a lot of people have questions about this decision. So we would like to give a little bit of background information (personal and ministry related) about how this all came to be.

At the end of April we flew to Colorado Springs for a week-long missionary debriefing program. This is actually for missionaries returning from the field or in between assignments… we were supposed to attend this program last year but had to leave the first day because my (Mandi’s) grandmother passed away. CEF leadership felt the program would benefit us anyway even though it didn’t seem applicable to us anymore. Initially, we were frustrated with having to go but we are so grateful we ended up attending. Over the course of the week our eyes were opened to a lot the stress we were under and the effect discouragement had on us. We knew we were stressed, discouraged and burned out but we didn’t realize the extent of it until then.

You see, it’s been 4 years since we made the decision to move to St. Kitts & Nevis. Those 4 years have been amazing, life-changing and wonderful. But they have also been hard, discouraging, stressful and tiring. There is nothing abnormal about that… such is the life of missions! It’s a paradox… the same rewarding life of being a missionary can cause the greatest amount of stress. We learned that most all missionaries experience the same paradox. That’s why it is so important to take care of yourself and your family… spiritually, physically and emotionally. We learned that missionaries tend to push the line of “normal” out continuously until what is abnormal becomes normal everyday life and then wonder why we begin to have problems. Sean and I were blind to how far we pushed the normal line until we were forced to objectively look at it all in Colorado.

Our time in St. Kitts was awesome. We got to be part of a ministry overflowing with fruit. We made some of the best friends we will ever have. We were part of such an amazing community. We grew closer as a family, learned to live away from America and overall had an amazing time. We will NEVER be the same. We also lived with the constant reality of being robbed. Every time we left the house we knew everything could be gone when we returned. Every night we went to sleep knowing someone could break in. We all slept in the same room, not only to save on electricity, but for safety… we had 2 deadbolt locks on our bedroom door. We hid everything of value every time we left and every night before bed. Several of our friends were robbed, our first mission team was robbed across the street from our house, our upstairs neighbors were robbed, someone tried to break into our home, we kept nothing of value in our van and left the doors unlocked so they wouldn’t break a window (and it was regularly searched) and there was daily life of constant heat, a high cost of living, frequent power outages, centipedes, large spiders and being homesick. The “normal line” was pushed pretty far. But it’s that paradox again… we would do it all over because it was such an awesome experience!

In fact, we WANTED to do it all over again so we made the decision to move to Turks and Caicos (after seeking the Lord’s direction of course). So we left St. Kitts when our time there was over and went back to America for our furlough… but it wasn’t much of a furlough. I was 18 weeks pregnant and our time was spent traveling, meeting with people, raising support and having a baby. During the 7 months after St. Kitts we traveled to Turks and Caicos, Orlando, Spanish Fort Alabama, Montgomery Alabama, Houston (area) Texas, Colorado Springs, back to Houston, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Dallas, back to Houston, Spanish Fort, Indianapolis, Warrenton Missouri, Knoxville Tennessee, Montgomery, Spanish Fort, then moved into a missionary house back in Montgomery, gave birth 6 weeks later and 6 weeks after that moved into a missionary house in Spanish Fort for 3 weeks. Sean moved to Turks & Caicos, I left the missionary house and stayed with his family for 2 weeks and then we followed him to TCI. Oh, and when I was about 36 weeks pregnant Sean flew to North Carolina to speak at the CEF International Conference.

And that felt normal to us… the line kept getting pushed.

Turks and Caicos has been vastly different than St. Kitts. Life here is so much easier. Crime exists but it’s nowhere near as bad. The infrastructure is better, the power hardly ever goes out, the grocery stores are nicer, we can get more things on the island and it’s about an hour plane ride from Miami. It’s very “western”. That being said, we have faced much more discouragement here than in St. Kitts. The ministry has so much potential. Efforts have been made to get things started here since 2011. All everyone thought (including us) was that we just needed someone on the ground. Once a missionary was placed here things would take off as it has in every other target country in the Caribbean. The more western culture may offer us a familiar lifestyle but it comes with western apathy. One of our friends, a leader in the church we attend here, compared Turks and Caicos to a beautiful apple tree that bears no apples. When we talk to people about the ministry they are genuinely excited to be part of it but it has been difficult getting them to put feet to their words. What little development we had when moving here has slowly unraveled over the last year. It is difficult to work so hard and see so little fruit. There is so much potential here and we can see God moving but it will not be so easily done as it has been in the rest of the Caribbean.

At the same time we were facing discouragement with the ministry we were also experiencing stress within our family. We were so grateful to have Riley-Grace but she wasn’t an easy baby. She didn’t start sleeping through the night until she was 10 months old. We were sleep deprived for most of our time here…. which really got to us after a while. Maddy was having her own issues too. She had very few friends and never really got to play with kids because she was homeschooled… nobody really homeschools here. She was struggling socially. So we placed her in a private school and that came with it’s own challenges. She had to go by a different name, she had some problems with other kids at her school, struggled with her handwriting and we were realizing she might have ADHD. She wanted to go to school but often came home sad. (While in the States her doctor confirmed she probably does have ADD or ADHD and he has also recommended she have occupational therapy for her fine motor skills.) I (Mandi) was struggling myself to make close friends that I could be with on a regular basis. I would often go weeks without speaking to an adult other than Sean except for the “Hey how are you doing? Good to see you” at church. It is much hotter here, our house regularly reaches almost 100 during the day for most of the year. Riley-Grace does not like the heat and often crawls (and now walks) around crying. I’m not trying to complain, so please don’t take it that way… I simply want to let you know where we were at when left for Colorado Springs in April.

We knew we were struggling. We just didn’t realize how much.

And the guilt……..

The guilt weighed heavily on us. “Why were we having such a hard time? It’s Turks and Caicos for crying out loud! It’s the #1 island in the WORLD. Why are we miserable? Why can’t we make it here? What’s wrong with us? Other missionaries deal with far worse”. On the rare chance we voiced some of our struggles to people back home we risked being told “You live in paradise!” “I’ll gladly trade places with you!” We felt like such failures.

And this was still all normal for us.

But God is SO GOOD.

Aside from our personal struggles, we knew something needed to change with the ministry. Whatever we were doing wasn’t working.  At the same time, our regional director was making plans to create new positions for people to oversee a group of islands. Now that all of the Caribbean islands have been reached there is a huge need to make sure these infant works continue to grow… and he couldn’t do it by himself. So after speaking to our leadership about our personal struggles and the struggles with the ministry we took a step back to see what God was doing. We had our plan for how things were going to go in Turks and Caicos… and God has His. It became clear to us that it would be better for our family to be back in the States and for Sean to travel to Turks and Caicos regularly. We have a heart for the Caribbean and felt no peace about walking away. This new role Sean will be serving in gives us the opportunity to continue working in Turks and Caicos, continue developing the work in the Caribbean but doing it while we live in the States taking care of our family.

We are sure the Lord wanted us to go to Turks and Caicos… he made that clear. And yet, we are sure He has made it clear that we are to move now. We have learned so much through this. None of us knew the challenges of doing ministry in Turks and Caicos until we moved here. We can now re-think things and hopefully get on board with God’s plans for this country. For our family, we will return to the States placing a much higher priority on REST. We were taught a lesson in humility… the work in Montgomery and St. Kitts are both very successful. This is really the first time we have experienced this level of discouragement and lack of growth. We also believe that we may not have been as willing to move or be open to different ways of developing the ministry here if God hadn’t allowed us to struggle.

Through all of the changes, our vision and our work in the Caribbean have not changed. Turks and Caicos will continue to be our top priority.

We are still faith-supported missionaries. We still seek to work ourselves out of a job by training local people to take over the ministry. Even in Sean’s new role this vision remains… eventually he will be replaced by someone from the Caribbean!

This wasn’t an easy decision and we know transitioning back to the States will have its challenges too. So we appreciate your prayers for us during this time. You all have been so encouraging to us through this and we are more thankful than we could possibly express!




Turks and Caicos Mission Trip by CEF of South Dakota!

March 13-21 we had the privilege of hosting our first TCI short-term ministry team! A team of four from Child Evangelism Fellowship in South Dakota flew down on their Spring Break to teach children the Gospel.


View from the plane!

This team went to five public and private primary schools right here in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.


(L-R Kendra Baltzer, Hannah Cleveland, Savanah Gross, Shelby Reid)

They would teach in the morning assembly,

Morning assembly at Oseta Jolly Primary School

Teach a short object lesson classroom by classroom,


 Shelby and Savanah teaching at Precious Treasures—do you see Maddy?

Give away a CEF “Meet the King” booklet for kids to read with their parents,


Then come back in the afternoon to teach an after-school “Party Club”!



They taught the CEF lesson entitled “The Secret of the Watermelon”, therefore the kids (and us!) ate a lot of watermelon that week! The watermelon often seemingly multiplied in a “loaves and fishes” kind of way to be the exact amount needed per party club.


They also taught a teacher training class at Harvest Bible Chapel here in Turks and Caicos!


They worked really hard to teach children in the heat, but they also got to have a little bit of fun in Provo!


south dakota trip



Thankfully, other than a case of sun poisoning and also Mandi badly burning her hand (she quickly recovered), there were no major issues that happened…we really could see God protecting the team as they were here! Also, everything they did was with a long-term focus and with the right attitude. Mandi and I have a passion for effective short-term ministry teams. The team from CEF of South Dakota (and the teams we hosted in St. Kitts) was and has been the epitome of excellent short-term ministry teams.


Children being counseled!

In all:

1,818 children were reached across five primary schools

Each of those 1,818 children received their very own “Meet the King” booklet.

370 children attended the after-school party clubs

12 of those 370 children were counseled as they made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ

8 teachers were trained

100+ primary school teachers were publicly thanked in each classroom and given a “What is the Gospel?” nice hardback book courtesy of “Packing Hope”, a theological resource ministry by The Gospel Coalition. They also received a copy of an “Impact” magazine by CEF.


It was such a joy to recognize the teachers of the children at each school and give them gifts; they consistently were so surprised that we thought about them!

Additionally, we now have plenty of CEF “High Octane” club supplies on island now, laminated song visuals, and a plethora of other teaching resources they brought down! We are so thankful for the team coming and everyone who prayed and supported the team so that they could come and assist us in the new CEF ministry here.


This trip will continue to (and has already!) yield much fruit for eternity from this Turks and Caicos mission trip!