All About Our Trip to Turks & Caicos!

The last month has been a whirlwind! First moving out of our house, then saying bye to St. Kitts, spending two entire weeks in Turks & Caicos, going back to America, spending a few days at Disney World, then doctor appointments and now we are in Texas! Whew!

Our two weeks in Turks and Caicos were very productive. We were able to get a good sense of what it’s like to live there and we were able to make plenty of contacts.

Initial Reactions

We flew in at night so we really couldn’t see much. The island seemed fairly small (and it is) but much more developed than St. Kitts. There was even a four-lane highway (not like in the U.S. though). We saw a lot of nice cars on the roads and there weren’t very many potholes we had to avoid. We went to the grocery store to pick up a few things for breakfast and we experienced culture shock! There were so many more choices than what we were used to in St. Kitts… it really looked just like Publix! Maddy even thought that’s where we were!

Overall, we were surprised by how nice everything was… from the roads to the cars to the stores to the houses.

And then we saw the rest of the island. The divide between rich and poor is staggering in places. There are multimillion dollar homes just a mile away from shacks. There are large Dominican Republic and Haitian populations and most of them are there illegally. The cost of living is high and yet the minimum wage is only $5-$6 an hour. The public schools are overcrowded and the only high school has violence and drug issues.

Meeting People

One of our two main contacts was Pastor Tim and his wife Patty of Harvest Bible Chapel… the church we will be going to when we move. The church has a variety of different nations represented, about 75% Caribbean/local! They picked us up from the airport, helped us get a place to stay and a car to use, took us to lunch a few times, had us meet the elders and other members of the church, invited Sean to preach the last Sunday we were there, answered MANY of our questions, helped us get started on the process for our visas and gave us a tour of the island. They are such a nice couple and we will be very blessed to get to know them in the next four years!

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 A picture of Harvest Bible Chapel, TCI

The church was so welcoming! We were able to meet with all of the elders during our visit, one of the couples let us stay in their downstairs apartment (and made dinner for us one night) and another family let us use their vehicle! Maddy even made a local friend… one of the elders has a four year old daughter and the girls played as if they had always known each other!

Our second main contact was Pastor Pedro… the pastor of Jericho Baptist, a very prominent church. He is also a former leader of the Baptist Association for Turks and Caicos so he was able to get us connected with a whole LOT of people! He even took Sean on kind of “pastor tour” visiting with numerous prominent pastors. They also met with many education officials and potential National Board members. All of them are eager to get the ministry started! Pastor Pedro and his family had us over for dinner and their six year old daughter and Maddy really hit it off! They dressed up in princess dresses and even put a show on for us! They played so well together that we all got together the night before we left for ice cream!

Pastor Pedro also set Sean up with another pastor in North Caicos. Sean spent an entire day there and in Middle Caicos. He had a tour, met many local contacts and met with principals of the three primary schools there. Even though the population is small (1500-2500 people) the primary schools are having problems with drugs and violence! There is a large lack of outreach to children or even things for children to do after-school period. So sad.

DSC_0007Jericho Baptist Church

1DSC_0081One of the Primary Schools in North Caicos

1DSC_0094A church in Middle Caicos

Ministry Opportunities

There are only three public primary schools in Providenciales (the main island) and several private schools. In fact, we were told by many people that after we get Good News Clubs started in the public schools we must then target the private schools because there are so many students there.

Sean was able to do a Gospel presentation at Ianthe Pratt Public Primary to 497 students! We also both were able to teach at the Precious Treasures Primary (Private) School to 161 kids!

1DSC_0010Ianthe Pratt Primary

1DSC_0005Sean giving a Gospel presentation

1DSC_0015Teaching the memory verse at Precious Treasures

1DSC_0030Sean sharing the Gospel at Precious Treasures

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Housing

Way different than St. Kitts! The housing options are definitely pricier but the biggest shocker was the lack of availability. We were only able to see three properties because that was really all we could. We are praying for the Lord to provide a 3bed/2bath since we are having another child AND we will be hosting visitors (plus Sean will be working from home until the ministry has an office) but it seems that will definitely be a small miracle. There simply aren’t normal 3bed/2baths in our price range. Most all of them they are TOO good for us! They are way over our budget because they are so luxurious… with water views, pools and way too much square footage. Regular places are so hard to come by. We may have to settle for a 2bed/2bath (larger sized) if we still can’t find anything by the time we need to move. But there are a few real estate agents and many of our contacts keeping their eyes open for us in the mean time.

Lasting Observations

Everyone we spoke with is eager to get CEF started in Turks and Caicos. Through this trip, there are concrete plans in place for National Board training and beginning after-school Good News Clubs.

The poor/rich divide is huge.

Many people are “Christian” but do not know the Gospel.

Moral decay… it is simply accepted, even within many churches (and at times celebrated).

And yet, there are many doctrinally sound and healthy churches… far more than in many other Caribbean islands.

The belonger/non-belonger divide is real… (we are not belongers).

The islands are beautiful.

There is a huge expatriate (other Caribbean islands and places across the world) population. The nations are coming to TCI!

If the church does not reach out to this generation then crime and moral decay will only increase all the more. The country is fairly safe (very safe for tourists) but they are losing this generation. The schools are already having serious problems.

The potential for a strong and long-lasting CEF ministry is huge!

The healthcare is fairly modern.

Life is still laid back just like in any other Caribbean island!

The people are very relational.

1DSC_0119One of the beaches in Providenciales, TCI… it’s absolutely breath taking!

I could write so much more about our time in Turks and Caicos but I’ll end this since it’s already so long. Making another commitment to live overseas is hard because we dearly miss our family and friends but we are excited to see what God is going to do in TCI. We still miss St. Kitts but a part of heart is truly already in Turks and Caicos. We knew before going there that we were making the right decision but our trip only confirmed it to us more.

We know that although July seems so far away, it will be here before we know it and we will be moving our family once again to an island in the Caribbean (and this time with a new baby)!

Where We are Going Next…

After much prayer and conversation we are ready to announce where we are going after our time in St. Kitts is over!

From the start, our plan was to work ourselves out of a job in St. Kitts and our goal was to serve for two years with the intention of staying longer if necessary. Well we are super pleased to say that we have full confidence to step out of our position in St. Kitts by January… exactly two years since moving!

We had four goals when coming to St. Kitts… to have a local office, ministry taking place in all parts of the island, a National Board trained and raising funds for the ministry and to have a National Director hired and trained to take over the work.

All four of these goals have been met! Well… almost.

Mavis Huggins was hired as the National Coordinator at the beginning of this year and has been working with Sean extensively. In a little under one month, she will travel to Warrenton, Missouri for the three month Children’s Ministries Institute training with CEF. When she returns in November she will officially have completed every benchmark needed and will be ready to take over the ministry completely. We, of course, will remain here until mid-January to help with the transition.

So…

When we first felt led to move to St. Kitts, around 20 countries in the Caribbean were considered unreached by CEF. That number has gone down to just five!

Turks and Caicos is one of the countries left and we are so excited to let everyone know we will be moving there next year!

turks and caicos map

map_of_turks-and-caicos

Lord willing, we will leave St. Kitts mid-January 2014 and will travel to Turks and Caicos for about a week and half to meet some pastors, make connections, look at housing and get a brief glimpse of life on the islands. Afterwards we will return to the States for a five month furlough and plan on moving to Turks and Caicos in July.

There are many similarities between St. Kitts & Nevis and Turks & Caicos… the population, number of children and way of life are around the same.

But there are differences, the biggest is our time commitment. Instead of serving two years like we have in St. Kitts and Nevis, we are committing to four years in Turks and Caicos. We inherited a year’s worth of initial work in St. Kitts but we will basically be starting from scratch in Turks and Caicos… which requires a longer time commitment. However our goal is the same… to work ourselves out of a job… so if all of the benchmarks are reached early then we will be ready to step out of our position if necessary.

 

As of now, we definitely are not experts about Turks and Caicos, our knowledge is fairly limited. But we do know a few things…

– Turks and Caicos is about 600 miles southeast from Miami and 130 miles north of Haiti.

– Turks and Caicos is made up of MANY islands but only eight are inhabited.

– It is a British Overseas Territory.

– The capital is Cockburn Town and the most populous town is Providenciales.

– They speak English but 15% of the population is Haitian which speak mainly Creole.

– There is little children’s ministry.

– According to a local pastor Sean spoke with, the Gospel is simply assumed.

– Their currency is the U.S. Dollar.

– Tourism and off-shore banking make up most of the economy.

– I’m not going to lie… it’s beautiful!

– The country is in a direct path for many tropical storms and hurricanes.

– They still have large bugs and centipedes.

– No monkeys… but they do have iguanas.

– The islands are mostly arid and flat… it only rains 30 days out of the year.

– There is no fresh water. Their water comes from rain and a salt-filtration system… basically water is a precious commodity and expensive.

 

There is still work to be done in St. Kitts for the remainder of our time. Mavis will be gone for three months, we have another mission team coming soon and we are starting After-school Good News Clubs this Fall with church partnerships… plus training classes, ministry to kids and everything else that comes along.

But we are excited about Turks and Caicos and wanted to let everyone know where the Lord is leading us!