Guest Missionaries at Camp Victory!

June 5-10 we had the opportunity to be the guest missionaries at Camp Victory in Samson, Alabama! We have known Nate and Laura Smith for quite a long time (Nate is the Program Director) through an annual missions conference at a local church in Montgomery. I (Sean) have also known many who have gone to Camp Victory over the years. Mandi and I have had the chance to be guest missionaries there before a couple years before we originally left for St. Kitts & Nevis.

But first, we celebrated Riley-Grace’s birthday on June 4th! She is obsessed with the beach and with planes (that first year of life in Turks and Caicos must have made an impact on her). So we went to Gulf Shores and celebrated her birthday with my side of the family.

 

Mandi wrote on Riley-Grace’s birthday: “Happy 3rd Birthday to my sweet Riley-Grace! In 3 years this kid has lived in 2 countries and visited a third, been to 15 states and flown more than I can remember. She LOVES the beach, Peppa Pig, Dory, Nemo and Little Einsteins. RG is our daredevil and is VERY resourceful. I love how much she loves her family… she is always giving me hugs and saying “I wub you mommy!” She is extroverted like her Daddy and is his “go places buddy”. She copies everything her big sister does and absolutely adores her baby sister!”

Maddy also always loves the beach!

Maddy was a part of Cabin 4 at Camp Victory (4th from the right), with a fantastic Counselor and Counselor in Training. This was her first time at a camp and she loved it!

Riley-Grace loved the camp activities as well! She loved running around in the wide open spaces and loved picking blueberries to eat off the blueberry bush.

RG was a big fan of snack time also, and loved having her face painted.

She loved meal time as well!

Maddy absolutely loved being at Camp and wants to go back next year!

So what did you do all week you might ask? We were the guest missionaries, so our role was to share with the kids about overseas missions. Every morning we had a 30-minute session with the kids to share pictures, videos, curios, etc… and the kids were really engaged. We also met with individual cabins in the afternoons, led in devotions for the staff and challenged the Counselors in Training to possibly serve with Child Evangelism Fellowship in their local area (or overseas) one day. At the end of the week we gave each of the kids the “Things You Need To Know” booklet by CEF!

One of the challenges for the children that week was to write encouragement cards that I could take on my June 23-26 Nassau trip to Dr. Willamae Miller, the national director for CEF Bahamas. The kids of Camp Victory wrote very sweet cards to her!

Lastly, we were blown away by the generosity of the children, they raised a large offering (over $600!) to help with the costs of the August 14-17 trip to Antigua! Praise the Lord for His provision and the unique ways that God provides for the needs of the ministry.

We were grateful for the opportunity to come and share with the children about what we do as Child Evangelism Fellowship international missionaries! Our family had a great time!

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).

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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.

IOT 2 Caribbean

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!