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).

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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!

 

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

 

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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!

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

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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!

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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.

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

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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!

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

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Watching the planes in Charlotte, NC.

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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!

 

Trip To The States & School News

January went by so fast! Sean started his LAST semester of college… the end is in sight! He plans to start Seminary this Fall! Ministry wise, Sean was super busy… meeting with pastors, Good News Club teams and even teaching a training with our church here, Harvest Bible Chapel. We did have plans to teach a teacher training conference in Grand Turk with several churches but it was pushed off until February 20 – 21. But we are very excited to see what God will do with this conference NEXT weekend!

Two Weeks In The States

At the end of January we were able to spend some time in America! The four of us flew to Miami where we split up… Sean flew to Tampa and the girls and I flew to Pensacola. For two weeks Sean attended an IOT 2 (Instructor of Teachers Level 2) course in Bradenton, FL with several other workers from the Caribbean. He had a great time getting to know the missionaries better… and he said they were all (including him) freezing in the 50 degree weather! This course will ultimately give Sean the credentials to teach TCE 2 (Teaching Children Effectively Level 2) which is a college level class that focuses on how to teach saved children… a more discipleship focused teaching. This will be a great asset for training workers here in Turks and Caicos but also in other islands too. The Caribbean workers frequently visit other islands to help with the courses.

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IOT 2 Caribbean

Sean was also able to meet up with several of our friends! (The Leutholds, Lawrys, Ryan and Darrin). PLUS, Sean got to attend the Moody Radio event with Laura Story and Dr. Erwin Lutzer… he even got to sit on the second row, lucky man.

Moody Radio Event

Meeting with Friends

Meeting with Friends

The girls and I spent one week with Sean’s family in Spanish Fort, AL and then flew to Texas for a week with my family. We had a blast! Maddy got to do LOTS of stuff! We went to the Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach where Maddy was picked from the crowd to participate in the dolphin show! She got to pet a dolphin named Lilly, make her do some tricks and even got to feed her a dead fish! She was awesome. The trainers said she was the best participant ever because afterwards she took a bow for the crowd! She told me that she was a celebrity now haha! We also went to the zoo in Gulf Breeze, FL and the Children’s Museum in Gulfport, MS. In Texas it was COLD, we spent most of the time relaxing but we did go to the mall one day and Maddy got her ears re-pierced. She was such a pro, I told her it was ok to cry but she wanted to be “brave” and she never shed a tear! She is so tough! We loved the chance to spend time with our families and for them to see Riley-Grace again. While we there she learned to crawl and has started trying to stand up! Slow down kid! And of course we made sure to eat at Chick-Fil-A, Pappasitos and shop a little at Target…

At The Zoo

At The Zoo

Children's Museum

Children's Museum

Ears Pierced

After two weeks apart, we met back up at the Miami airport and flew back home to Turks and Caicos. Once we got back into our home Riley-Grace was so giddy! While the rest of us aren’t quite completely settled here yet, it’s all Riley-Grace knows, so she was very happy to be back home!

Maddy Starts School at Precious Treasures!

As I type this Maddy is at school for her very first day of Kindergarten at Precious Treasures. She was very excited to go to school… she has been counting down the days for the last two weeks. In our last post, we said that our plan was for her to finish out the year homeschooling and start at Precious Treasures in the Fall for 1st grade. But when Sean spoke with the principal (who goes to our church here) she felt it was best for Maddy to start now. The Kindergarteners here are at a “higher level” than the typical American child… so while Maddy was where she needed to be for our standards in the States, she might not be here in TCI. By 1st grade they do not really teach children to read anymore, the kindergarten program is an intense “reading camp” to prepare for 1st grade. Since it so late in the year and we are leaving for a few weeks at the end of April (and consequently will not be able to finish the semester) Maddy will be going Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the next two and a half months. This should ensure sure she is on par with the rest of her peers and help her adjust from homeschool to traditional school. Although she has been in Kindergarten all year, dropping her off this morning was so different! I wanted to cry but I held myself back… these kids really do grow up so fast. How is she old enough for this already?! We know this is the best decision for her and for our family as we serve here in TCI but we definitely appreciate your prayers.

1st Day at Precious Treasures

As far as tuition goes, the Lord has provided for the rest of this school year, the tuition for next school year though is $5000. You can read more about this in our previous post here.

Upcoming Events

We have the conference next weekend in Grand Turk! In March we are hosting a mission team from South Dakota, we have a few Good News Club trainings happening, Sean’s brother is coming for a visit and then at the end of April we head back to the States for a few weeks!

Our Island Christmas and Decision About School

We had our first Christmas here in Turks and Caicos! (our second in the Caribbean). We sure miss our family during the holidays BUT it’s nice to be in our own home Christmas morning and know the only place we “need” to go is to the beach! Which is exactly what we did!

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This was the first year that Maddy really wanted anything in particular. She is so used to not living in America that she really didn’t expect to get the toys she wanted. We had to order and ship them in from the States but we were so happy to see how excited she was when she opened her gifts!

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Riley-Grace even got a couple of toys… although one of them was purchased here and talks with a British accent!

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We were invited to eat dinner with another family from our church but one of their children became ill that morning. So we grilled hamburgers instead! All in all, it was a very relaxing Christmas!

Our New Year’s was fairly low-key as well. New Year’s Eve is Sean’s and my anniversary! We celebrated seven years! All of the nice restaurants were booked solid and a lot of our babysitting volunteers were off island so we are postponing our night out for a couple of weeks. But we did get a nice evening anyway. Maddy played at a friend’s house while we ate Asian takeout and watched football. Quality time! We did much of the same New Year’s day… we watched football and grilled out!

Our Decision About School

Homeschooling is going very well for us. Maddy LOVES it and begs me to teach her. I enjoy it too. She is learning so much! She is reading, her handwriting is getting better and I moved her up to a 1st grade math curriculum! We came to Turks and Caicos planning to homeschool, mostly for schedule reasons. We did NOT want our life to revolve around a school schedule. If we needed to travel anywhere, we wanted the freedom to do so. It’s just easier to homeschool for us as missionaries. For socialization we planned on putting her in extra curricular activities like dance and soccer. She would be with us at Good News Club, make friends at church and I would get us involved in a mom’s group. With all of that, we figured she would eventually have friends she could see on a regular basis.

Over the last several months we realized, those things just aren’t happening. Her dance class was too full so she wasn’t going to be part of it until January. Soccer was fun, but there is no socialization with it. She shows up for practice, does her drills, shows up for the games, plays and leaves. There is zero interaction with the other kids. Good News Club is the same. She has fun, but isn’t making friends. In fact most all of the extra curricular activities are this way. The mom groups are filled with younger children – because the ones Maddy’s age go to school. She is absolutely making friends at church but she only sees them on Sunday. Every now and then she gets to play with a friend outside of church, but not often… because they are in school.

You see, no one really homeschools here. We knew that going in, we just figured her other activities would give her plenty of opportunities to play and make friends. But that isn’t the case. Everyone sends their kids to school during the week and of course, they have other things going on Saturday and Sunday. Family life revolves around school. It’s been hard for us to really make friends too, because we are not part of the school culture. And it’s not been good for Maddy. She gets so bored. She can go the entire week without really talking to another kid other than her baby sister. She gets so excited when she finally DOES get to play with a friend that she gets too clingy or ends up getting in trouble. It’s just not healthy.

Sean and I have talked it through and prayed about it. We know that if our family is struggling, then it will affect our ministry. Although homeschooling made the most sense in the beginning, it’s no longer best for our family… or for our time here. So starting next school year (September this year) we will be putting Maddy in a private Christian school here in Provo.

The public schools are overcrowded and aren’t accepting non-Belongers like us because of it. There are a lot of private schools… and they are NOT cheap. We have looked at several schools and have decided to go with Precious Treasures International School. This school is not the cheapest, but definitely not the most expensive either. It has a good mixture of local students and expatriates. It is a Christian school, the principal goes to our church along with some of Maddy’s church friends! We have even taught at the morning assembly and it is right around the corner from our house!

Our current budget does not include school tuition. We need $5,000 to pay for her entire school year. We truly believe this is the right decision for our family and the right school for Maddy. We are asking you to pray about sending a special gift for her tuition. The payment is due in June and we are praying for God to provide all of it by then. Please, look at their website and consider giving. We would not normally ask for such a large amount of money if we didn’t feel it was vital to our ministry here. If you would like to send a donation for her education, you can find giving instructions on our donate page, but please designate your gift for her tuition in someway… “Maddy’s tuition”, “School Tuition”, “Private School”… so that we KNOW where to apply it.

For the Spring semester we will be continuing to homeschool because we have a lot of traveling to do and will be coming back to the States in April for several weeks. However, we are going to try gymnastics for Maddy and get her involved in an after-school tutoring program to make sure she is “on par” in her studies… specifically her handwriting. Plus, it will give her the chance to learn from someone other than me.

We are confident that it is the right move and that God is in this. Even though it was a hard decision for us to make, we feel it is truly the best decision for our family and ministry.

Thank you very much!

Thanksgiving and Maddy’s Birthday

It’s a busy time of year!

Ministry

Sean taught at a morning assembly at Enid Capron Primary School… to 597 children! He shared a 25 minute Bible lesson about faith and taught the kids a song. This school is excited about starting off the new year with a Good News Club!

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Sean also had the opportunity to speak in the Sunday morning service at Paradise Baptist. They will be the church adopting Enid Capron. Their Good News Club will meet on Friday afternoons and the club starts in January! Sean spoke to the congregation about CEF, Good News Clubs and the need for volunteers. We are so happy to see the second after-school Good News Club take place here in Turks and Caicos! We would appreciate your prayer as the church volunteers get their team together and trained.

Thanksgiving

We had the lowest key Thanksgiving of our lives this year. We tried to invite people over but it’s really hard during such a busy tourist season. In the end, we had Thanksgiving with just our family… although we did share our meal with both of our neighbors, which was greatly appreciated by them. At first we were kind of sad about being on our own, but it turned out kind of nice… we were grateful for a relaxing day together as a family.

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Maddy’s 6th Birthday!

Other big news is that we now have a six year old! We weren’t able to pull off a party for her but Maddy still had a fabulous Frozen-themed birthday!

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She woke up to this “Frozen” kitchen table as a surprise.

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We had a Snow Glow Elsa shipped from the States… she REALLY wanted this and has not stopped playing with it!

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Another gift she really wanted, sent from Grandma!

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Her Elsa birthday cake, made by one of the moms here in Provo. This was another surprise for her! She literally jumped up and down when she saw it!

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Maddy wanted to go to the beach for her birthday… the infant bath tub is a MUST for babies at the beach! Riley-Grace loved it!

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She is SO adorable!

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Sean buried Maddy in the sand!

Maddy also got all of her favorite foods for each meal: French toast with Nutella and Cool Whip for breakfast, Pizza for lunch and then out to Big Al’s for chicken tenders, waffle fries (aka Chick-Fil-A fries to Maddy) and a coke for dinner. All in all, she had a wonderful birthday! We have some amazing girls, we are so incredibly blessed as a family!