Back To St. Kitts Recap

In April we had the amazing opportunity to be in St. Kitts for a week! None of us had been back to our home since we left in January 2014. It was also Riley-Grace’s first time in St. Kitts, at least on the outside of my belly. We wondered how we would feel… would it feel different? Would it feel the same? Would we feel out of place? Or would we feel home? Maddy was really the most excited out of all of us… she couldn’t wait to see her best friend, Audri, again!

Audri and Maddy reunited!

Audri and Maddy reunited!

Maddy really struggled when we moved from St. Kitts. While we were in the States having Riley-Grace she would tell people that she wasn’t from Alabama, she was from St. Kitts. She had nights when she would cry because she missed her home so much. Even when we moved to Turks & Caicos she would tell use she wanted to go back “home” (St. Kitts). After a few months in Turks & Caicos she adjusted, and she definitely feels like Montgomery is her home now but she still really misses her life, her house and her friends in St. Kitts. Really, we all do.

Brandon and I back on radio!

Brandon and I back on radio!

Passion fruit juice at the Graysons!

Passion fruit juice at the Graysons!

So when Mavis asked Sean if we could help with her Good News Club training conference we started praying it would work out! Maddy would have to miss school and most importantly, we would need the finances to get all of us there. To be honest, we’ve had quite a bit of supporters stop giving since we came to Montgomery and we weren’t sure we would have the money to travel but the Lord provided the EXACT amount we needed!

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Ready to get on the plane in MGM!

From the moment we saw St. Kitts from the airplane window we felt “home”. It’s so hard to describe. But as we walked off the plane and went to customs, it was the most “at home” feeling we’ve had in over two years. We were greeted at the airport by our friends, The Graysons and Mavis. Maddy and Audri were VERY excited to see each other. We introduced Riley-Grace to everyone and she immediately reached for Brandon! We stayed with the Graysons for the week and it felt as if we had never left. The girls played constantly… we were in the house with them but hardly ever saw them! Riley-Grace lived on an island for a year in Turks & Caicos so she took to life in St. Kitts like she had always been there. The entire week was such a sweet time of reunions with so many people!

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(L-R) Got to drive our old van—Mavis and me—view from the CEF national office!

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St. Kitts humidity caused Riley-Grace’s hair to curl!

 

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Still having to do homework!

There were so many exciting things that happened during the week that I could write a small book… from the spiritual warfare we experienced to the great ways the Lord provided for the training conference… it’s hard to recall everything that happened. But that’s what it’s like in St. Kitts. The craziness (good and bad) is part of daily life… it’s normal to have highs and lows all in one days, every single day. We don’t miss the stress of it all but we do miss our life there, and we miss the community we had there. Everyone is always available, always… in a way we have never experienced anywhere else.

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Training local Bible teachers in Nevis!

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CEF National Director Mavis Huggins teaching in St. Kitts!

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Olivet Gospel Hall—a wonderful church in St. Kitts that many of our friends attend! They were gracious to host the CEF training conference!

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Mavis and Mandi teaching!

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The Lord provided for us to stay at the Marriott one night! What a huge and fun surprise that was!

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Riley-Grace loved her first time at the St. Kitts Marriott pool!

When it was time to leave it was like moving all over again… like we were saying goodbye to our home all over again. It was hard and we were sad. We would go back in a heartbeat!

 

 

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Our Last Week In St. Kitts

It happened. We left St. Kitts Monday morning… our plane took off at 9:30am. Our first two days in Turks and Caicos have been overwhelming and we plan on updating everyone in the next week or so.

Our last week in St. Kitts was emotional for all of us. It was extremely hard to say goodbye to our home for the last two years and to all of the wonderful friends we have made. We are excited to be in Turks and Caicos and are really looking forward to spending the next few months with our family and friends in America but we already deeply miss St. Kitts. Maddy wants to go back. It’s the first time she really understands what it means to “move” and that she won’t be able to see her best friend Audri for a long time. FaceTime and Skype are wonderful but just aren’t the same.

And saying goodbye to the people we’ve worked with? Very hard. When we first moved to St. Kitts we thought we might need to stay beyond our two-year commitment. But we’ve seen the Lord work in mighty ways. We knew after just one year we would make our goal. As difficult as it was to leave, it’s what we came to do. We came to leave so to speak. We truly were no longer needed and we know the future CEF Ministry in St. Kitts will do big things.

National Board Goodbye Part 1 – The Fire

Last Tuesday the National Board had a dinner in our honor at a restaurant/guest house/conference room downtown. It was a small gathering with a few pastors, board members, volunteers and other friends of CEF. It was a sweet time. As the dessert was being served we started to smell something burning… like when you turn the heater on for the first time of the season. It got stronger and stronger but most of us weren’t worried… and everyone really wanted to finish their dessert! A couple of people did go check on the smell and one person calmly told us the staff wanted us to evacuate the building. No big deal! We all assumed they were just taking the proper precautions. As we left the conference room and turned the corner, the hallway was filled with thick black smoke! We couldn’t really see where we were going but we just followed instructions that thankfully did lead us outside! Once we got outside we could see the smoke billowing out of the building! The place was truly on fire! I tried to snap a few pictures but it was hard to see the black smoke at night.

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Everyone was fine but the kitchen was gone. One of the board member’s parents owns the building. She showed us pictures of the pipes with huge melted holes in them, a melted cash register and soot over everything. The entire kitchen will need to be replaced. Needless to say, we had to call it a night at that point!

National Board Goodbye Part 2

On Friday evening the Board got together again… and this time without any fires breaking out! After a few sweet words from several people the Board gave us a few gifts from shell works… a beautiful picture frame, a really awesome napkin holder and a huge shadow box with three beautiful shells displayed in it! These are gifts we will absolutely treasure for years to come! Even more special was simply getting to spend time with them one last time.

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We Are Having A Girl!!!

The next morning Sean and I went to my last doctor’s appointment in St. Kitts and I had an ultrasound. We saw our little one flexing her arms and legs and rolling over. We found out she is a girl, our little Riley-Grace, and that she looks healthy and right on track!

CCF Send Off

On Sunday we had to say goodbye to our church, Caribbean Christian Fellowship. This church has meant so much to us for the last two years. We were very involved… Sean preached a few times and led the Men’s Bible Study. I ran the children’s program for the last year and helped out with Ladies’ Bible Study too. Our time in St. Kitts just would not have been the same without this church family. After service we all went to a restaurant at one of the beaches to eat and hang out. It was extremely bittersweet.

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That evening we swam at the Marriott and ate dinner with the Graysons. Saying goodbye to them was the absolute hardest. They have been family to us for the last two years and are some of the best friends we’ve ever had. We cannot even express how much we will miss their family.

Monday morning we loaded up, went to the airport, flew to Miami and then made it to Turks and Caicos around 8pm.

It’s all still very surreal. It will take a long time for us to process the change. We are having a good time in Turks and Caicos but our hearts hurt. So please pray for us during this time of transition. We have so much to look forward to and we are trying to stay focused on all of that… being back home, seeing family and friends, having a sweet new little girl and eventually creating a new home here in Turks and Caicos. We know we are making the right decision and that this is where God wants us, but saying goodbye is difficult and we will need some time to heal.

Thank you so much for keeping us in your prayers and staying up to date with our time in St. Kitts. We truly appreciate the support from everyone. This experience has permanently changed our family (for the better) and we are grateful to God for giving us the opportunity to serve overseas.

It’s Christmas Time!

It’s hard to believe Christmas is in two days! December has flown by for our family. We will be out of our house in just nine days… next Tuesday. Needless to say, we have spent much of December sorting and packing… sorting and packing… sorting and packing. Plus, we are getting ready for our two week visit to Turks and Caicos! A lot of the paper work for our visas needed to be done before January (to be able to move in July) so Sean has been working on getting it all (and it is A LOT) in order. We are preparing to meet with pastors, churches, volunteers, real estate agents, a doctor (we have to get check ups for our visas) and time to simply see the country. It all happens in three weeks! On one hand we are excited to see where we are going next and then to finally be home for a while but on the other hand, we are sad to be leaving our friends and our home for the last two years. I’m sure the next three weeks in St. Kitts will go by quickly.

In December we celebrated the Fall TCE Graduation!

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Sean shared the Christmas story to classes in some of the schools.

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Earlier this month we celebrated Maddy’s 5th Birthday! She had a double party with her best friend Audri… they are only two days apart!

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Mavis returned from CMI in Missouri so Sean has been catching her up to speed. She is ready to take over… in fact, there are times Sean feels like a “lame duck” just keeping a seat warm! It’s a good thing not to be needed here anymore! We have complete confidence in leaving.

Baby #2 seems to be doing well. We had another appointment and got to hear the baby’s heartbeat! Also, our first visit had us waiting five hours but our second was down to three! I’ll never complain about waiting to see the doctor in America again. We have one more appointment two days before we leave… and I’ll be having an ultrasound (I’ll be two days shy of 18 weeks). We are hopeful this little one will give us a nice shot of whether we are having a boy or a girl. But more so, we ask for your prayers that we are having a very healthy baby.

Honestly, we only plan to update this blog once or twice before we leave St. Kitts. We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!!

Our Thanksgiving, Banquet and Last Good News Club

What a week!

For anyone who doesn’t yet know, we announced on Facebook last week that we are expecting Baby #2 due June 15th! We have been praying for another child for four years so we are beyond thrilled!

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Also, last week was our first ever island Thanksgiving! Last year we were home for Thanksgiving but this year we stayed. It wasn’t the same as being home with our families but it was still nice. Our church threw a big dinner so we had everything we normally would and we got to spend the evening with all of the friends we have made here in the last two years.

On Saturday we had the 2nd Annual CEF of St. Kitts & Nevis banquet! The evening turned out nicely and everyone had a great time. It’s so awesome to see all of the people in this nation who support and love the CEF ministry here. I am still in the trenches of first trimester nausea and wasn’t able to attend. But Sean said everything went great. Of course, here are some pictures from the evening.

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On Monday night we had our last Good News Club in Fig Tree. 🙁 We started this club in April 2012 and now we had to say goodbye. We will miss the kids so much! We had a Christmas party… we watched a movie about Jesus’ birth and then we made “Christmas trees”. We decorated upside down ice cream cones with green icing and then stuck candy on them as ornaments. All the kids loved it… from the little preschoolers to the teenagers!

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They were so proud of their trees!

This week is also the last week of school. Exams were last week so many of the kids are in class with nothing to do. So Sean has been showing the same Christmas movie we showed at Good News Club to classes in several schools.

And… Maddy’s birthday is Friday! How is she about to be 5?!

We started selling our stuff and our plan is to pack 1 box per day. Sean is out right now paying our last month of rent. We move out of our apartment in 28 days… and we leave St. Kitts in just five weeks… we’ll be in America in seven weeks.

The time is going by so quickly…

October Happenings (With a Bunch of Pictures!)

It’s been over a month since we last updated our blog! Sorry! We’ve had a lot of things going on in October.

Last TCE Class in St. Kitts

We finished up our very last TCE class here. It’s hard to believe! There were seven people who completed the class. Mr. Fitzgerald Semper, the National Director of Antigua, came to St. Kitts to help with our last class session.

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6DSC_0016Group shot!

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Good News Clubs

Our church partnership After-School Good News Clubs are in full swing! It’s so exciting to see churches reaching out to the local primary schools in their area! Sean has been to several of these clubs. It was awesome to find out the club at William Connor Primary has also included Wonder Time in their ministry. CEF distributes the Wonder Devotional Book, a daily quiet time devotional for kids. Every week these kids bring their books to club, divide into groups with a leader and talk about the devotions they completed in the past week. It’s a great opportunity for continued discipleship!

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3DSC_0029Wonder Time

4DSC_0028They broke up into groups to discuss the Wonder Devotional Book

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I (Mandi) Turned the Big “3-0”

We didn’t do a whole lot for my birthday but had our closest friends on the island over for dinner. We grilled hamburgers and hot dogs and let all of the kids play together while we hung out. Just the kind of party I like! We also got to watch the Texas A&M vs. Auburn game… which has made us a house divided ever since A&M joined the SEC. Unfortunately, the Aggies did not pull through for me and we lost… much to Sean’s delight. We are so thankful for the friends we have made here… it makes it that much harder to say goodbye in just two months!

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The CEF Caribbean Leadership Conference in Antigua

So this technically happened the first week of November. We left St. Kitts on November 2nd and flew an entire 10 minutes to the island of Antigua. The conference was awesome! Missionaries from just about every island in the Caribbean were there along with staff from America and Canada! It was such a blessing to spend the week with these people and to learn from them. Sean taught one of the main sessions about starting church partnership school-based Good News Clubs.

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I also had the opportunity to teach a break out session about using the internet to update supporters and partners with your ministry.

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Antigua is bigger than St. Kitts but the “look” is much the same. Although we will say, the nice parts of Antigua are VERY nice… Sean went to the grocery store and said it looked just like Publix back home! Talk about culture shock!

4DSC_0053View of Montserrat from the South side of Antigua

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We were able to honor the Assistant Regional Directors of the Caribbean who have served many years with CEF. They are a wonderful couple and a huge support to all of the missionaries who serve in the Caribbean.

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Other Big News!

We have a couple of big things happening, one we can talk about now and something else that will have to wait a few more weeks… but…

Our tickets home have been purchased!!!

We will officially be leaving St. Kitts January 13th. We will fly to Turks and Caicos the same day and will be there for two weeks. On January 27th we will fly from Turks and Caicos back home to the good ole USA where we will be until July!

So our goals for November are to begin going through our stuff figuring out what to keep, what to sell or what to give away. We literally only have two more months until we leave. It is so bittersweet. We are excited to be no longer needed in St. Kitts but it’s hard to say goodbye to friends and our home for the last two years.

It will go by fast. In two weeks we have Thanksgiving (with our church), the second annual CEF of St. Kitts banquet on the 30th, Maddy’s birthday is December 6th, Mavis returns from her training, then Christmas, we must be out of our house by December 31st (we will stay at the office until we leave) and then we are gone.

Life always seems to move on doesn’t it?