We (finally!) got our 5 year Honduran residency visas as religious workers. These are our temporary Honduran ID cards until the permanent ones come in 3 months. This has been a 10 month process but we know God’s timing is always perfect. Thankfully we never had to leave the country to make a “visa run” but we had to go to immigration every month, pay for monthly visa extensions (which are not cheap) and then go back to immigration 3 days later to pick up our stamped passports each month. It takes about an hour and a half (one way) for us to get to the immigration office so this was time consuming and expensive. So we give God all the praise & the glory for having this 5 year visa as it is not easy to get a 5 year visa for religious purposes.
The immigration office is not a super fun place to hang out but yesterday while we were doing our final residency papers, we met the sweetest couple who were in there also. Jordan & Desiree are sailing around the world and are currently here in Roatan. They were so much fun to talk with and get to hear about their life and experiences. They patiently answered all the kids questions and even were encouraging to them to follow their dreams and pursue their goals. We had a great time talking with them and getting to know one another. You can learn more about their adventures on their Facebook page Project Atticus and watch their videos on their YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/ProjectAtticus
We are praying for you Jordan & Desiree and look forward to following your adventures as you sail the world!
On January 26, we handed out school supplies to children in our area. A man in Corpus Christi, Texas had collected notebooks, paper, pens/pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers, crayons, glue and scissors for children here. We put these items together in bags to be given out to each child. We worked with Pastor Mundy, a local pastor at a church in this community, to do this distribution. Pastor Mundy translated my gospel presentation into Spanish so that both Spanish and English speakers could hear and understand the gospel. We first shared the gospel and then shared some encouragement to the children to do their best this year in school, reminded them what a gift getting an education is and also prayed over them and their school year.
After the gospel presentation and prayer, we handed out the bags of school supplies. We invited some of the youth from our youth group to come help us with this distribution so that they learn to serve others and get the opportunity to get out there and minister to others themselves. They did a wonderful job of working together to quickly distribute these supplies.
We were able to hand out almost 80 bags of school supplies to bless children as they prepare to begin school. These supplies were such a blessing to these students and their families as buying basic school supplies can be a financial challenge to many families here.
And Gretta got to get some “baby love” while the school supplies were being handed out. This sweet little boy is one of a set of twin boys that were there with their grandmother while their older siblings were receiving school supplies.
School here begins February 4 and goes through mid-November. Please be praying for these students and their families as they begin a new year. Gretta and I also begin another year teaching Bible classes at EPB school (the Christian school here in Oak Ridge). Gretta will be teaching 3 classes on Thursday mornings for 1st-5th graders and I will be teaching 2 classes on Tuesday mornings for 6th-9th graders. We thank God for the opportunity to teach God’s Word to these students and be able to reach them and their families with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our Wednesday night men’s Bible study has seen growth over the last few weeks with more men and young men faithfully attending. We finished our study on foundations and core doctrines and are about to begin a men’s DVD study called “Play the Man” by Mark Batterson.
On Sunday, January 27, one of the men in our church, Barry Gough (2nd on right) was ordained as a deacon in the church. He has faithfully attended the church here for many years and he leads the Thursday night prayer service at church each week also. He and his family also happen to be our next-door neighbors and we love them dearly too! We praise God for how He is beginning to raise up male leadership in the church and we are excited for what He has in store for the church here this year. Please continue to pray for all these men and young men as they learn, grow and become leaders of their homes, church and community.
One of the things I have been praying for is for their to be unity among the evangelical pastors and churches here in our community. On January 11, I invited the pastors from all the evangelical churches to come to a meeting at our church. The pastors came (praise God!) and we had a wonderful time of fellowship, Biblical discussions, talking about how we can work together in 2019 and spent time praying together. We committed to get together once a month and we look forward to working together to reach many people with the hope of Jesus Christ.
On January 25, these churches united for a men’s meeting and we all came together as one body of Christ (see picture above). Men from all over our area, from different walks with Christ, and from different churches came together and worshipped, prayed and fellowshipped. It was a blessing to see how God moves among us when we all come together. I was reminded of Psalm 133:1 “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”
We rejoice that our church had 2 salvations and baptisms in January! Jeff was baptized on January 6 and Thirsten was baptized on January 20. Jeff is one of the men who has been faithfully attending our men’s Bible study each week. He is passionately on fire for Jesus and ready to get out there and reach other men and young men in his community with the gospel. On Sunday, January 27, Jeff also shared a message at our Sunday evening service.
Thirsten is one of our college age young men. He has been studying and learning and growing also. He is excited to continue discipleship and is actively involved in our youth group as well. The Lord has burdened his heart for learning how to teach others so he is meeting with me weekly to learn how to teach the Bible and share the gospel also.
We praise the Lord for these guys and their hearts to serve Him and are excited for what the Lord has in store for their future.
January 2-8, we were blessed to have a 5 person mission team from Central Church in College Station, TX come serve alongside us. Pastor Randy, his wife Karla, Mark and his wife Katy and Pastor Steve came to spend a week here in Oak Ridge and y’all, they were a HUGE blessing to us and our community!
3 mornings, they handed out bags of food in 3 different areas in our community. They gave out 700 pounds of food in total and it was a huge blessing to those in our community as some of these areas are very poverty stricken. The bags of food contained rice, beans and maseca and was enough to provide a meal to each person who received one. Before giving out the bags of food, Mark, Katy & Pastor Steve led some worship songs and then I shared the gospel with all those who were there. We also prayed over them and then handed out the food.
L: Singing with the kids at one of the food distributions
R: One of the little boys that hung out with us one day
This is the end of one of the food distribution lines. Roatan is a beautiful place to live and if you were to Google it, you would see pictures of what appears to be a paradise, beautiful beaches, lots of tourists excursions, and the beautiful MesoAmerican barrier reef that borders the island. But that is only one part of Roatan…..the reality is that most islanders and people who live here can’t afford to enjoy those places. For most of them, this would not be “paradise” and they find themselves living very difficult lives. The average days income here for a full day (often of very hard work) is just 300 lempiras and at the current exchange rate that is just $12.33 a day! Jobs here are actually difficult to find and the cost of living here is extremely expensive since everything has to be imported (groceries, propane for cooking, clothes/shoes, etc.). So most people are extremely grateful to get one meal of food and that is one reason we love doing food distributions because we can meet physical needs while sharing the gospel to help meet spiritual needs too.
In the afternoons, the team hosted a vacation Bible school for kids at our church! They had over 40 kids attend this event and everyone seemed to love it. The theme was “Designed by God, Built for a Purpose” and each day they sang fun worship songs led by Katy, learned a Bible story, made a craft that went with the lesson, played some sports games and had a snack. This was a fun way to share the gospel with the kids and also show them that coming to church can be fun.
Pastor Randy preached at our Sunday morning service and Pastor Steve, Mark & Katy led worship for us. The congregation was truly blessed by them sharing their gifts with us and we look forward to having them back soon, Lord willing! We had an incredible week serving alongside all of them and thank God for the new friendships and ministry partnership that were formed. We thank Central Church for serving and investing in what God is doing here in Oak Ridge. (…Gig Em Aggies!)
On January 1, we celebrated our 19 year wedding anniversary! We are so thankful to the Lord for all He has done in our marriage. The first few years of marriage were so difficult for us and to be honest, at one point, we almost gave up on each other and got a divorce but thanks be to God, He placed some extremely Godly folks in our lives who helped us see that our marriage was worth fighting for and gave us amazing Godly counsel and kept us prayed up big time and here we are, celebrating 19 years together and still deeply in love with each other every day. Not to say every day is a bed of roses but we try to keep Christ at the center of all we do and it sure makes marriage sweeter, especially in the tough times. We are Christians and we are missionaries but we are still very much human and in need of grace, understanding, compassion and lots of forgiveness with each other!
The day of our actual anniversary, we hadn’t planned anything because because we had a weekend getaway trip planned 2 weeks after our anniversary. But….some of our youth decided to have a “movie night” for us at our house. They brought over the movie “Bird Box” (which was funny because Gretta doesn’t like scary movies) and they pulled the “love seat” up to the front of the TV for us to have a front row view and then they sat all around us and we ate dinner together and watched a movie. These youth are so sweet and thoughtful y’all and we had a great time celebrating our anniversary with them!
Back in the States, we used to go on a monthly “date night” just the two of us but since we moved to Honduras we haven’t done that (for multiple reasons) but a local resort hosted an Instagram contest for a 3 day, 2 night giveaway and we entered it. When Gretta entered it, she said “Why not? We have just as much good a chance as anyone else!” Then lo and behold, WE WON!! A sweet couple from church (who are about to be first time grandparents themselves) kept our 3 kids so we could enjoy a “much needed” weekend away together. Our kids had SO much fun that at one point in the weekend, we told them we would be home the next day and they texted back “But we are having so much fun here!” We thank God for wonderful friends who will spoil and love on your kids so much that they don’t even miss you being gone!
We got to spend a Saturday-Monday at Paradise Beach Resort in West Bay. We had an awesome room with a king size bed & a shower that actually had great water pressure (unlike ours at home!). We enjoyed some delicious meals, walks along the beach, and just relaxing and soaking up the sun.
One morning we woke up and went snorkeling (one of our favorite things to do) at Black Rock in West Bay. We both agreed that it was one of the most spectacular places we had snorkeled since moving here. The reef was just so alive there, tons of different fish in every direction you looked, fun little swim throughs and even a small cave to see. Then it opened up into open water on the other side of the reef and that water was so crystal clear blue and deep that it was almost surreal to just float in it. We really enjoyed our morning of snorkeling and want to go back one day and take the kids out to snorkel there too.
Sunday morning we woke up to rain and we were kind of bummed because we had planned to walk to a nearby church that meets at Infinity Bay on Sunday mornings. But after a nice, hard rain, the skies cleared and God gave us the most vibrant, full rainbow to enjoy! When we saw it in the sky, we hurried down to the beach to get a better picture and it did not disappoint. It was incredible!! Then we went to breakfast and then walked to church and enjoyed a wonderful worship service with brothers and sisters in Christ at R Church Roatan.
We thank God for allowing us to have this time away together. It was refreshing, encouraging, and such a treat. Healthy couples invest in each other and in their marriage and after 15 months of life overseas, we knew it was time to invest in “us” for a few days. We pray the Lord will bless us with many, many more years together and thank God for how He has worked in our marriage and our family the last 19 years.
Friday evening before Christmas we had an awesome experience for Santa & Mrs. Claus to get on a “sleigh-boat” and go spread more Christmas cheer to our local community. We had an awesome sleigh driver, Matthew, who is one of our youth. We loaded up his boat with the leftover “blessing bags” from our previous outreach along with some hygiene kits of toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and combs and took the leftover ornaments with us to pass out as well.
We got to go out to hand out goodies here in Oak Ridge, then in the Bight and Punta Caliente and then over in Pandy Town.
Acts 20:35 says “It is more blessed to give than to receive” and y’all, we wish there were words to describe the joy that comes from blessing others and giving back. As a family, we all agreed this Christmas was so special and so much fun because we got to get out in the community and give to others in such fun and unique ways. We want to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you who sacrificially purchased items for our blessing bags. They were such a huge part of our Christmas ministry outreaches and everyone loved them!
On Saturday afternoon, the Pandy Town patronado (like a town council) asked us to be Santa & Mrs. Claus in their Christmas parade. We rode on the back of a flatbed truck from Madeyso (which is like a Honduran Home Depot) and had a great time waving to everyone and sharing the joy of Christmas.
We hope you and your family enjoyed a blessed and very special Christmas. We certainly missed being home with our family and friends but we are thankful to the Lord for the new ways He allows us to celebrate here, the new traditions we’ve started here and the new friends we get to share the holiday season with too.
We were connected to a wonderful organization “Roatan Because We Care (RBWC)” that does amazing work all across the island year round. They contacted us asking if we could be Santa & Mrs. Claus for their Christmas outreach and we were thrilled to get to partner with them in this way.
On Thursday, we went to small communities behind the garbage dump and handed out apples, Santa hats, candy canes and a toy to each child.
It was such a blessing to get to love on so many kids and families and share the love of Jesus with them. Each area of the island that we served at was a poverty ridden community so it was so special to be able to bring smiles and happiness to these children and families the week of Christmas.
On Saturday, we served in a community on our end of the island and our kids went with us and helped serve by doing face painting for children. Their line for face painting was SO long and the kids loved the hearts, soccer balls, seahorses, iguanas and princess crowns the kids were painting on their cheeks for them.
We were so blessed to get to help RBWC with this amazing Christmas outreach to communities from east to west. It was such a blessing to get to spend hours seeing children’s faces light up when they saw Santa, watching kids hungrily eat their apples (some of them even ate the entire core!) and seeing the joy and excitement when they were given a small gift from Santa too.
For many of these children, this was their Christmas. Santa won’t come on Christmas Day, their list of things they rattled off to Santa that they want won’t be under the tree, most of them don’t even have a Christmas tree in their house. To know that we could be a small part of bringing joy to these children and help them have a merry Christmas was the sweetest gift. I think we had as much fun loving on the kids as the kids did getting their goodies. We look forward to partnering with Roatan Because We Care (RBWC) in the future for other mission opportunities.
On December 13, we hosted “Christmas for Kids” at the church from 5:00-7:00pm. This night was an evangelistic outreach to our community to show them that our church loves kids and families, a unique way for us to share the gospel with them and a way to bless them with a “blessing bag”.
Amazing folks back in the States, had generously donated various items so that we could make 100 “blessing bags” to be handed out at this event. Each bag contained a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, soap, Bible activity book, 8 ct. Crayola crayons, comb, girls hairbow, bouncy ball, bubbles, glider airplanes, sticker sets, flashlight and batteries and a washcloth.
When the families arrived at the church, they went into see Santa and got to get their picture made with him & Mrs. Claus. Santa asked the kids what they wanted for Christmas and then he asked them if they knew what Christmas was really all about. He reminded each child that Christmas isn’t about Santa or the presents but Christmas is all about Jesus. He reminded them that Jesus is the reason for the season. One of the cutest responses from a child that night when Santa asked them if they had been good this year was “Well Santa, since you already know, I’ve been 10% bad but 90% good.” This boy was in the 5th grade and we all got a good laugh out of his honesty!
After Santa, they went into the classroom area to enjoy “Santa’s Workshop”. The first area in the workshop was for kids to enjoy a 3 minute video sharing the nativity story. Then they went to another area and got to make their own nativity Christmas ornament.
We were blessed to have 70 children come to this event and even more people if you counted the adults. It was a great way to love on our community and remind them of the true reason for the season.
This year, we hosted an Ugly Christmas sweater party with our youth group. Thankfully there is an awesome thrift store here on the island and so it wasn’t too hard to find some cheap, ugly sweaters. We gave away 6 small trophies (from Oriental Trading) as prizes for the best sweaters in several different categories.
We played several fun Christmas games including making a snowman, seeing who could create the best reindeer antlers from panty hose and balloons, having a snowball fight (with wadded up toilet paper) and showing their creative skills with a drawing game by drawing a Christmas scene on a paper plate on top of your head. These games brought lots of fun and laughs!
“Santa” also had left a few gifts for some of the youth. There were presents like “pet dust bunnies”, “the original selfie stick”, “new set of weights for beginners” (q-tips) and the all time favorite “new maxipad houseshoes” that had even been personalized. These gag gifts gave everyone a good laugh and lots of fun memories.
We ended the night eating an “ugly sweater cake” and chips and dip. It was so much fun being with the youth celebrating Christmas in a fun, festive way together. We love these youth so much and have had a wonderful year with them as we have all grown closer together both as friends and grown together spiritually as well. Please continue to pray for our youth.