Monday, April 3, 2017

Island Time - March in St Kitts


  Waiting is hard.

  I feel like that could win some sort of understatement prize! I've been told that our generation in the USA is the least patient generation yet. We have access to so many things at the touch of a button! We can do things in seconds that used to take weeks or months. When we lived in the US, these convenient quick options did NOT mean that we got to have all kinds of extra free time. It simply meant that we could squeeze more in to our lives, and that felt like a cultural expectation. "Oh, you're not busy on that one night out of the week? Here are 5 different 'important' things for you to commit your time to." And let's be honest; having a full schedule, being asked to do MORE, being WANTED for a task or project or event, those things can make us FEEL important. So we keep up the pace no matter what.

  So, now we live on an island. An island we can drive around in about an hour. An island that is NOT on the US's time-driven schedule. A place where "later today" can mean in the next few days. Where "the end of next week" may mean exactly that, or it may mean by the end of the month. Rarely do we see people who seem rushed or in a hurry. And you know what? WE rarely feel rushed or in a hurry. We were told about the concept of "island time" and we read books about "hot climate cultures" and "event oriented vs time oriented cultures." We thought we would be prepared, but it felt like hitting the breaks while flying down the interstate. 

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control. 
Galatians 5:22-23a (emphasis added)

  Patience. Not my (Katelyn) favorite thing, and not something that comes naturally to me. My mom used to sing "Be patient, be patient, don't be in such a hurry!" when I was little. It's become church humor to warn against asking God for patience (He might just make you wait on something in order to learn it). Yet, without asking for patience at all, here we are anyway. We are having this fruit of the Holy Spirit being worked out and grown in our lives daily. We are waiting to hear back from pastors, waiting to receive materials, waiting to launch Celebrate Recovery, waiting on delivery men, on the food shipments to come in so we can grocery shop,  and on visits from family. 

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives. 
Galatians 5:24-25

  It's not fun to recognize our impatience as sin, yet that's exactly what it is. Impatience is ingrained in us, not just because of the culture we grew up in or the technology we have available, but because we have a sinful nature. As Christ followers, we have nailed our sinful nature to HIS cross, but it's so easy to try and pull parts of it back down. So, we do have some fun news from this month! And we got to participate in some wonderful things, but we would love prayers as we continue to learn patience when things move slower than we would like :)

March Happenings
Aaron met with an official at Her Majesty's Prison to work out what time we have available to come and what materials we can bring in. God definitely went before Aaron and we were offered the exact amount of time and days we need, all our materials were okayed, and the prison is completing work on new classrooms that we can use when we start 12 step studies!!

As Addalyn has continued to attend Good News Club, Aaron got the chance to play "Saul before he was Paul" during one of the lessons. He was hilarious and the kids LOVED it!

We had a sweet kid ask for a ride home after club one day. Never would I ever pick up a kid I didn't know in the states, but here it's not an odd request!

My wonderful friend Edikan making us delicious Nigerian Food!

We had Jollof Rice and it was amazingly good. We have also had the privilege of having UK and Trinidadian food made for us by our sweet friend Cassie! St Kitts has a HUGE international population and we can't get enough of the cultures represented. The bible study I attend often as many as 6 different countries represented each week!

 Aaron is coaching a men's basketball team in Bird Rock. Many villages here have a team and there will be a huge tournament in a few weeks!

The Christian Veterinary Mission club at Ross University of Veterinary Medicine puts on a health and clothing drive with the University of Medicine and Health Sciences (both universities are located here in St Kitts). Our church was able to participate in sorting donations and helping participants to find what they needed!
The kids got to play while the rest of worked :)

We visited Beacon of Hope and Aaron shared our story and shared about CR. This is one of the churches that will be helping us launch Celebrate Recovery!

I was brave and let Aaron clean up my undercut. He got creative and added a cross lol but I think he did a pretty good job! (We miss you Olivia, and we miss getting legit hair cuts!!!)

The kids tried football! (Don't "correct" me, lol, it's what the entire rest of the world calls this sport!)
They did not actually enjoy it, but I'm proud of them for trying something new :)

We had an outdoor church service at the beach and these two precious women declared their relationship with God through baptism!

Our sweet friend Audri had a school talent show. Her class sang "Kindness is a Muscle" and they handed out "Kindness Rocks" (pun intended) that they painted. Audri did great and we all had fun getting to watch!

One evening last week the kids were itching to get out of the house. We drove up to the top of Timothy Hill which overlooks the peninsula. It's a popular tourist spot, but at 6:30pm it was all ours! 

The view on the other side is less photographed, but just as beautiful! Our house is way in the back of the photo tucked behind a hill :)
(We have really struggle with how to show the beauty here without making it seem like we are living a luxurious life in the Caribbean lol. The truth is, we do get to have some unique experiences because we live on an island! We see a different beauty here than the gorgeous Smokey Mountains, rolling green hills, and lakes that we were surrounded by in Knoxville. God's beauty is so evident in His creation all over the world! We hope that what you all see is just another way that God's creativity and majesty is on display here.)

  We have been in St Kitts for four months now! Four months of adjusting, learning, roller-coaster emotions, joy, pain, growth, and change. We want to thank you all for your interest, your support, and most of all your prayers! We need you prayers like we need water now that the heat has come back! 

  We love you all! Thanks for reading!

  The Comers

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

$600 Electric Bills and Other Blessings - February Update

I will praise you, lord, with all my heart;I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.I will be filled with joy because of you.I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.Psalms 9:1-2

  February has been an incredible month full of new things, opportunities in ministry, and growing closer to the Lord. God has opened doors in ways we could have never thought possible and so much faster than we expected!

Aaron preparing his lesson (above) for New Horizon's Juvenile Rehabilitation Center (below)

  Our first big news is that Aaron has been able to spend 1 hour every week with the teenagers at New Horizons Juvenile Rehabilitation Center. Along with our friend Success who serves with Aaron, they have been working through a bible study called Life's Healing Choices by John Baker. The book encompasses the steps and principals that Celebrate Recovery is based on. Each week the students ask more questions and are starting to show more interest in what they are learning. Even their adult counselors are asking Aaron questions during the lessons! This last Saturday we had the privilege of taking a brand new bible to each of the 6 students (and 1 of the counselors) thanks to Faith Promise North Knox, who sent us 50 bibles to give away! 

Her Majesty's Prison
Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself.
Hebrews 13:3a

  Next, after a couple of meetings and phone calls, we found out that we have been approved to start Celebrate Recovery Inside at Her Majesty's Prison! This is the only one on the island and the current administration is working hard to develop a rehabilitation program for the residents of this prison. They want to see these men leaving custody ready to be a part of a productive society, and they want to see them staying out of prison in the future. Please continue to pray for the ways that God will use CR to accomplish those goals, as well as pointing these men toward a relationship with Christ - which is the only way they will find true freedom anyway. 

Our Laundry Line!
And we know God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:28

  One of the bigger adjustments to life on the island is learning to reduce our electricity usage. It costs roughly triple to use electricity here than it did in Knoxville. February is the month that we finally got our first electric bill since we arrive. We were prepared for high numbers, but the bill we got about knocked us off our feet. According to the bill, our second month in St Kitts we used nearly $600 worth of electricity! Even our landlord was surprised with that number. After we got through the initial shock, we began discussing how we could limit our usage even more. We already had quit using our air conditioning at night, and we did a stint with a laundry line instead of our dryer. The laundry line had fallen off the wall, but this high bill spurred us to figure out how to get it repaired. After going to 2 hardware stores looking for what we need, a helpful employee directed us to a metal works shop to have new posts made. As we walked out the door a kind man stopped us to make sure we knew where we were going. He then asked if we were students (the assumption usually made about us). When we got to explain that we are missionaries and why we are here, the man got very excited! He introduced himself as Colin and explained that he recently retired after years of serving as the president of the Drug Counsel here in St Kitts. He began making phone calls and doing what he could to connect us with others that work with the counsel and the mental health field. We walked away in utter amazement that God had orchestrated that meeting so carefully and perfectly! It made our electricity bill seem insignificant and reminded us that God is in control. On top of that, we were able to determine that due to the way things are done here (meters aren't always physically checked), that bill was actually for 2 months of usage. Our next bill with be roughly a third of the cost AND we were able to repair our laundry line for all of $1's worth of screws and borrowing a drill!

Burger King arrived in St Kitts!

  One of the fun things this month has been the arrival of Burger King to the country. It's not my (Katelyn) most favorite fast food joint, but it tasted like home and was actually well-priced! We had an adventure getting it however. When we originally waited in line for an hour,  we discovered at the counter that they were only accepting cash. For some reason we decided to try again anyway. That night for dinner, armed with cash and mentally prepared for a wait, we headed back once more. This time the ladies in line behind me struck up a conversation. It turned out that they met Dean at the beach the first week we were here, and they recognized him (he had been singing "Me Love St Kitts" and these ladies were surprised a tiny American boy would know that song lol). Whats more, one of the women is a counselor at Her Majesty Prison and was in the meeting when Aaron presented Celebrate Recovery to the prison committee! I was able to chat with her and get to know her better during our 45 minute wait for burgers and fries :) God continues to show us over and over again that He is in complete control and that He is working in even the small things to get us where He wants us!

We had our first overseas meeting with Wes from our home church! It was so good to connect with him, and we so appreciate how Faith Promise is doing whatever they can to support our ministry!

I learned how to make bread! It's half the price and twice as tasty as buying bread at the store *yum*

We had our first date on the island, thanks to the Graysons (the other missionaries here, and our pastors) who offered to babysit :)

Our wonderful church, Christian Caribbean Fellowship, had a chili cook-off! We didn't win, but we had such a good time eating and getting to know our church family better.

After the cook-off, we attended a large gospel concert downtown. It featured both local and international artist and we had a BLAST! The kids danced and we worshiped and we really loved getting to participate in it. 

We had visitors! Shiona and Ashleigh have been my clients and friends for several years. 3 years ago they both joined our team and came to St Kitts for the Festival of Life. We have been looking forward to their cruise ship porting in St Kitts and we had such a wonderful day getting to host them for a few hours :)

Good News Club started up at Beach Allen Primary again, and our kids get to attend each week!

We got to go to our first CCF game night! This photo may have been staged, but the fun we had was not. We will look forward to this every season!

Addalyn goes to gymnastic now! It's an hour and a half every Saturday, and part of class is writing and learning definitions of the different gymnastics moves. She love the gymnastics, but not the writing lol

Faith Promise sent us Bibles to give away at New Horizons and Her Majesty's Prison!

Rock Point Church sent us CR materials! 

FP Kids sent Addalyn and Dean Valentine's Day cards!

Dean turned 5 last week!!!

He asked to go on a train ride, so we got to tour our new home by train. My mom got to go with us since she and my dad were visiting :)
The kids got to take a photo with the conductor!

  This month has brought so much more focus and direction, as well as a reminder of our purpose here and the fact that it is all 100% in God's control. Our prayer is that we continue to remember to seek Him first so that we only follow the paths He has prepared for us to walk!

Please pray:
- For ease in getting some needed CR materials to the island - shipping to here isn't simple.
- For all of us to continue to adjust to life away from the only hometown we knew before this.
- For the local churches and pastors who are considering allowing us to start Celebrate Recovery at their churches. Pray that God will give these pastors and their congregations wisdom in their decisions, and that He will only open the doors that He wants us to walk through.
- For St Kitts to have radical revival and that thousands of people will find a real relationship with Jesus, not just a religion to follow. 

Thank you all for reading these updates and for lifting us up in prayer! We LOVE getting your comments and replies to our updates, and we would also love to be praying for YOU! Please comment/message/e-mail us any time :) We love you all!

The Comers

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Mountains and Month Two

   My favorite birthday present is also an extremely accurate portrayal of the state of my heart two months in. Two places, two homes, two callings and purposes. Old and new. Two feelings about most things, every single day. If you read December's blog post you may have noticed that it was SUPER BORING. There were photos and a run down of the activities of the month, but not much else on the page. I still can't fully put into words where my heart was a month ago. Just a week after Christmas in a new country far from home and tradition and family and normal, I didn't know how I felt or should feel. I didn't have interesting things to say about what The Lord was teaching us. I was merely surviving as the realities of life here settled in. 

This second month has brought on the feelings. So so so many feelings. High and lows, joys and sorrows. It has also brought us closer to Jesus, because feeling your feelings is a good way to find yourself falling at His feet.

Not long after the beginning of this new year I lost one of my very best friends. 
Maggie Pickering, an amazing 29 year old mommy of 4, who loved her husband and her kids more than anything, expect for Jesus. Maggie had a heart condition that can develop during or after pregnancy. Just as she seemed to be getting better she passed away. This news tore me apart. Maggie and I have lived hundreds of miles away from each other for at least half of our friendship, but she was the kind of person that I never wanted to loose touch with. However, losing her anyway while so very far away on this island made me feel helpless. I wanted to go, or do, and try. I knew I couldn't fix it or make it better, I just felt so STUCK. It wasn't God's plan for me to go to her celebration of life, and thats ok. God has been mending my heart. He has brought me peace through watching Maggie's husband honor her and love her and cling to God. He has reminded me over and over again that because of the hope of salvation I WILL see Maggie again. And he has reminded me that salvation-hope is exactly why I'm on this island anyway. 

It was such blessing that one week later my family came to visit! I needed something to focus on and I love spending time with them! They came because that week I turned *coughcough* 30! I was actually pretty stoked about it. I feel like I'm in the grown up club now! It was fun celebrating here and with them. I missed my brother (he couldn't make it down), and having him and his wife would have been the only thing that could have made my birthday better. 
Saying good-bye at the airport was REALLY hard (why is it so much harder when you are not the one leaving? Ok, leaving is hard too. Good-byes are just hard.) so afterwards we took the kids to the playground to wave at the plane as it took off! What, most playgrounds aren't right beside an airport tarmac? Oh yeah, I guess thats just here lol. It may make it harder to hear each other, but it's actually really fun to see the planes come and go!

While my family was here, Aaron had the opportunity to preach and share his story at our church!
He did such a great job! I was a very proud wife :) Afterwards one man came up and told Aaron that he really related to his story. He told Aaron that because of Aaron's story he wants to keep coming to our church! God does awesome things when we obey Him.

We have begun making new friends and connections, particularly within our church. I'm loving these sweet people! 
Making good friends is very important to us. Many of the people at our church (including the family on the right) are students and will eventually be leaving the island. We are trying to love well anyway, to keep our hearts open and not guarded, so we can make the most of the time we have together! Please continue to pray for strong relationships to develop for each of us!

This month has been an adjustment to new roles and identities. God answered my 8 year prayer to be at stay-at-home mom! But now we don't have jobs that require getting dressed up or being on time. We have no small groups to lead or host, no youth group to serve at, no small groups to visit and share plans with. We have wide-open schedules! We are never in a hurry. And I think we may be going a little bit crazy lol. 

However, any time we thought about starting ministry we felt both excited and completely overwhelmed (there's the two feelings thing again,  some major "pair of ducks" paradoxes for all our fellow MTI alum). We have connections here from previous trips, and the wonderful Graysons who have been so helpful! But starting a ministry from scratch is still a daunting task. So we prayed. We avoided, we tried things, felt discouraged, felt hopeful and then we prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more. We asked for courage and boldness and direction. We asked for open doors and clarity. 

We have shared our heart for ministry here with any person that will listen. Cashiers at the grocery store, artisans at the craft shops, even people we start conversations with while eating or playing. Blonde hair and fair skin does not scream "locals" lol Most Kittitians assume we are students at the Vet or Medical school. When we get to say "No, we are missionaries" its a great way for conversations to get started. So far these conversations have not opened any doors, but they have showed us once again the interest in and need for Celebrate Recovery here. 
(Aaron talked to this guy while we waited on our food at the food court. They bonded over a basketball t-shirt and before we left this man had shared with Aaron about his time in prison and his own struggle with addiction)

Today Aaron and I sat down together to map out a plan. 
We asked our friends to keep the kids, we drove to a coffee shop, pulled out our notebook and pens and started jotting things down. Before we knew it God started opening up doors! Aaron found out that he has permission to go to the Juvenile Detention Center every Saturday for an hour to do ministry with the teenagers! We started planning how to integrate Celebrate Recovery into our time there. We had a meeting set up for us with the superintendent of the prison for this coming Monday! We had a friend volunteer to ask about how we can connect at the psych ward at the hospital (where addicts go to detox). 

When we were trying to think about ministry in our own strength we were completely overwhelmed. When we asked God to do it is His strength He began to hand us opportunities. 

I lift my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. 
Psalm 121:1-2
God has brought this verse to my mind several times over the last few days. When I was in high school we sang a song at youth group that was based on these verses. As the melody floats through my mind it brings me peace to be reminded that our help is coming from the Lord. The God who made these mountains that we see from our porch, who made the oceans we swim in and the creatures that we see crawling or swinging around. The Lord who made each of you, and us, and the people of St Kitts. HE is the one helping us with every feeling, every obstacle, and every opportunity. 
Praise God for all HE has planned in this incredible country, our new home!

If you would like to financially be a part of what God is doing in St. Kitts please Click Here and sign up for a reoccurring donation! We have not reached 100% of our monthly support and we will be updating our budget next month now that we know what our actual financial needs are. We are so blessed by one-time givers so that we are covered for our monthly shortage for a time, however we would like to reserve those funds for ministry cost and large or unexpected needs. To reach our goal we still need $300 in monthly support! Any amount that you can contribute on a monthly basis will make a huge impact in our ability to stay in St Kitts and do ministry here!! 

Thank you and blessings,
The Comers