Tuesday, September 19, 2017

July, August, September, Irma, and Maria (hurricane season) o th

Hey everybody! This summer was a whirlwind. So much happened and began. God has opened incredible doors and is moving in crazy awesome ways. I normally try to load up this blog with pictures, however most of my photos are safely on my laptop, which happens to be back in St Kitts. The kids and I are in TN, and we are currently waiting out hurricane Maria as it starts to pass over our beloved island. But I'm getting ahead of myself. More on September in a minute.

July! Every month so far has gotten hotter and hotter lol. Even so, July was a fun month. Aaron's parents finished up their visit and a wonderful intern name Hannah stayed with us for two weeks.  We spent the month finalizing plans to launch CR in the prison, showing our new home to our visitors, and enjoying summer break with our kids. By the end of July we had launched into our school year (kindergarten and 3rd grade, how is that even possible!?!?!). We also FINALLY got to start Celebrate Recovery at Her Majesty's Prison! I have the privilege to spend 2 hours each week doing a 12-step study with 7 women and Aaron is leading a 1 hour worship and teaching session in the men's courtyard. He has had around 30 guys intentionally participating, and most of the 200 men are within earshot during the service. Aaron is just a couple weeks away from beginning 12-steps with these men! July also including our sweet friends the Graysons being on furlough, and we really missed them. But we are glad they got that time to share about what the Lord is doing through the church and their ministries on the island. We also had some really wonderful friends move off the island, and we still miss their presence and friendship and wisdom! Lots of hellos and lots of goodbyes. We are learning just how often those two word get said on the mission field.

August kept going with all the momentum that had built up in July. We adjusted to the routine of school, and planning, and preparing for ministry times, and running CR, and CR trainings. At this point God had opened doors for CR at the juvenile detention center (New Horizons) as well as on the men's side of the prison and the women's side, PLUS we entered our last few weeks of training with Beacon of Hope church and CCF in preparation for a community CR! Do you remember when we used to post about being bored and how things were moving slowly? Well we definitely don't have that problem anymore lol. Over August we started to build more relationships with people involved in our ministries and our church. I am loving getting to know the women in the prison! To hear them honestly express their fears and desires and to recognize their hurting and broken places has been a blessing. We had 1 woman who felt ready to give her life to the Lord at our last 12 steps meeting! And oh how I celebrated having this new sister in Christ! The other women have expressed hesitation and been honest about not wanting to give up old habits, and hang outs, and people. Please join me in praying that they choose the Lord over those things, and that God knocks loudly on the doors of their hearts and that they become desperate for Him! Please pray against the cultural and religious lies that they have been told. Every week we discuss that God loves them right now, as they are, and that He will forgive them and continue to forgive them. Forever. No matter what. Aaron's group on the men side is also blowing us away. Even though it's not a small group format, they all stay at the end to ask questions and dive into the topics further. We can tell that people are hungry to hear the gospel and to learn about grace and sanctification.

Now it's September. Crazy, nutty, but still God-ordained September. Around the very end of August we began to hear talk of a potential hurricane called Irma. She was way out to sea, but somehow St Kitts was in her possible path. Locals and long-term residents casually discussed the storm and the possibilities. Some compared it to the massive storms from '89 and '94. Many seemed unconcerned as no major hurricane had been close in 23 year. By September 1st the reality of this gigantic system was starting to sink in. For the first time in over two decades a Category 4-5 was being predicted to hit our tiny island home. After prayer and discussion, our amazing parents footed the bill and the kids and I were on a plane all the way to Tennessee. Aaron chose to stay on our island, knowing God asked him to, and trusting that God would use him as He wanted. After we left, Aaron was able to attend a presentation that one of his youths from New Horizons was speaking at. While there, Aaron got to shake the hand of St Kitts's Prime Minister Harris! And he got connected with a new organization that is helping men become leaders again in their communities and homes. After that, Aaron was able to house a sweet family from our church, as well as a new intern, during the hurricane. God was making it clear to us that we could trust His plan and His purposes. The first 6 days of September still felt like one long horrible day with various naps to help break it up. We were trusting God, but we knew that meant trusting Him no matter what happened. We have seen miracles happen and tragedy happen, and we have seen God move in both and use both for His glory and to draw people to himself. As I laid in bed begging God not to allow me to go through life without my love, I could feel such crazy peace because I knew that hundreds of you were praying for us and our heart country. When I was too tired and overwhelmed to utter any words in prayer, I knew that you wonderful people were lifting us up!
    When we woke up Wednesday morning to a text from Aaron saying all was ok I felt like I could breath again for the first time in almost a week. Once we learned about the devastation on neighboring islands, we knew that what happened in St Kitts was nothing short of a miracle. There has been no other explanation. We want to sincerely thank you for all those prayers! With St Kitts having such little impact, our island quickly banded together to start sending aid to the islands around us. It has been incredible to hear of the generosity and genuine care and concern for the countries that surround us. In the middle of the crazy weather, Aaron and the team from Caribbean Christian Fellowship and Beacon of Hope Church had a soft launch of the community Celebrate Recovery program! It went really smoothly and several people showed up to check it out. We had such sweet feedback from our volunteers and we can't wait to see how God develops this ministry.
      Even though the hurricane left St Kitts alone, the Miami airport was our connection back to St Kitts. We have been praying for everyone in the path of Irma, but the kids and I were pretty disappointed that our flights home last Friday were canceled. As we found ourselves with an extra week to spend in our hometown, I began asking God to just make me content where he had me. Over the weekend we have been able to see so many more people and we've been loved on, AND God has allowed us to serve and share our story since we've been here. He just keeps showing us that we can trust Him and we can trust His plans.
    Now tonight I am wide awake, once again facing the fact that my love and my friends and my home are in the path of a second Category 5 hurricane. I wish I could say it's easier this time around, but it's really not. I'm still fighting the fear and the worry and the sleepless night. What I AM doing, though, is resting in the One who is in control and who will sustain us through this and who will continue to do the good work He began in us and in St Kitts.

Please continue to pray for the people that the Lord is bringing to and preparing for Celebrate Recovery!
Pray for safety of the entire Caribbean as Maria blows through.
Pray that God gets us reunited as a family soon! (We miss Aaron so crazy bad!)
But also pray that we are aware of how God may still want to use us here before we go.

If you want to help support our ministry and all God is doing through Celebrate Recovery St Kitts, please visit ssmfi.org/missionary/aaron-and-katelyn-comer

Love you all!
The Comers

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

June - Summer!

  It is HOT! As I sit here typing this, I'm sweating. We sweat when we cook, play, work, read, drive, and sleep. It has gotten hot enough to where the we sweat while the AC is running in our room. It's hot.

  June brought more than heat though. It brought lots of fun, and also lots of emotions and busyness as we traveled, welcomed family here, prepared for our first not-related-to-us house guest, and launched and continued ministry.

Early June we began training the wonderful CR volunteers from Beacon of Hope and Caribbean Christian Fellowship. We expect to launch Celebrate Recovery next month! These amazing men and women come faithfully each week to spend 1 hour learning about the ministry, how we do it, and why. Then most of them stay for the 2nd hour and are going through 12 step studies to learn how to be small group leaders. The 12 steps are not easy! Our second week in I was greeted with comments of "These questions are hard!" and "This takes a lot of time." and "These things are really personal." Even still, each one has risen to the occasion and decided to dive in deep and work each step. We already have volunteers seeing areas of their lives that they need to turn over to the Lord and experiencing His power to change them! CR is truly a ministry for everybody.

We also started a Marriage Small Group! It was something we have been missing from Knoxville, and we know how important it is for Christian couples to spend time together, encouraging one another and holding each other accountable. Right now its 5 couples from our church, but we would love to see it grow into a tool to reach out to other married couples in our communities. We decided to start with You & Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan. We HIGHLY recommend it!

We took our first trip off island to go on a family vacation with my side of the family! My sweet parents paid for us to fly in and be a part of celebrating my brother's 40th birthday and my sister's 27th birthday. It was a huge blessing to get to spend intentional time with all of them!

We ate all the fast food!

*Angels were singing, heavenly light was beaming down on us* Ok, maybe not, but getting some Chick-fil-a really was a highlight lol

These people who make up my family mean the world to me! I'm so grateful for time we got to spend together! Love you all!

Once we arrive back in St Kitts, Aaron's parents arrived to spend 2 whole weeks with us!

We had so much fun showing them all the sites and letting them experience our new home.

They brought us some much appreciated items, like new fan blades for our ceiling fan!

Saying goodbye is not something we enjoy. We still cry every time, and we still have a time of transition after. Saying goodbye twice in a couple of weeks, knowing it will be 8 months until we see most of these people again, was really really hard. We would never trade the goodbyes though, because goodbye means that we got to say "hello" and that makes it all worth it! We love you Chuck & Becky! Thank you for coming down!

CR bible study at New Horizons Juvenile Detention Center has continued, and Aaron continues to see growth in the students each week! Please pray that the students choose to seek the Lord as they transition out of New Horizons.
Bible studies, Tech ministry, prayer team, discipleship, and just being available to the people God asks us to serve are all going really well. We would love your prayers that we continue to balance things well and that we never forget to spend time at the feet of the One who enables us to do these things!
Launching in the Prison has continued to be pushed out as we navigate cultural differences in communication and values of time. We know God's timing is perfect, and we are trusting in that, but we do have another meeting this coming Monday so prayers that we set a 100% official day and time to start would be appreciated!

We love you all, and thank you for enabling us to do this ministry through your prayer and support and care!
The Comers

This is a mongoose. I get asked what a mongoose is pretty frequently by those of you from the US! They are EVERYWHERE and run around like squirrels :) They are also the reason we have no snakes (praise hands! my laptop doesn't have emjois, lol)!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

April Showers (Or the Beginning of Dry Season)

Recently I started reading through Revelation. It's the last book in my journey to read through the entire Bible. It MAY have taken a little more than a year lol. I'm not gonna lie, there were some books I was not excited to dive into (Leviticus? Numbers? Habakuk???). However, God has used each book in His precious word to speak to me in whatever season I have been walking through. I expected to learn a lot about Revelation, but not necessarily from Revelation. I had always viewed it as a way to understand what's coming, but maybe not what I'm dealing with now. But praise God for His LIVING word! It never fails to meet me where I am and speak life over me. 

April was not much different than March. Phone calls, reaching out, being told "next week", "next month", waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting on our visas, waiting on churches, waiting on materials, waiting on a start date at the prison. It can get a little maddening. One of those mornings where it felt like NOTHING was happening, I read Revelation 3, and verse 8 jumped off the page. Jesus is addressing seven churches and tells each one that He knows that what they do. Sometimes it's bad, sometimes it's good. In verse 8 He is praising the church of Philadelphia for serving Him well and He is declaring that they will have an open door to evangelize to the many people who traveled through the city. Because of all they had done, God was opening a door that NO ONE CAN CLOSE that allowed them to share the gospel! God reminded me that this is HIS ministry and that He is the one opening the door for it to happen. His timing is always better than our timing! 

I was reminded of the saying "April showers bring May Flowers." It's a saying that doesn't make sense everywhere in the world. Instead of the typical winter, spring, summer, and fall, the Caribbean experiences just two seasons: Wet (Fall/Winter) and Dry (Spring/Summer). So here, April isn;t typically very rainy. Well, we may be in the Caribbean, but our prayer is that all our April "showers" or work, and prayer, and waiting will become beautiful "flowers" of new ministry starting up in May and June. 

Next week Aaron and I have a meeting with the assistant superintendent of the prison to set a date to start! God willing, Aaron will be going twice a week to do a large group worship and lesson and then a 12-step small group with the men, and I will be going once a week to do a 12-step small group with the women! There are roughly 200 men and about 5 or 6 women, so Aaron may have a SLIGHTLY bigger job ahead of him ;) We have a church on board to start Celebrate Recovery! We just need to nail down a date to start meeting with potential volunteers.

In addition to CR, I'm getting the opportunity to do discipleship training with 3 other women from our church! Our pastor's wife is taking us through a study over the summer so that we can be equipped to start discipling young women in the fall! I miss small group leading/coaching and I'm excited to move into a similar role here :) 

Aaron has continued to go once a week to New Horizons Juvenile Center.
Aaron and Success Imoke

Our friend Success goes with Aaron to help lead the group at New Horizons. He has been such a blessing to Aaron, helping to bear the load of pouring into these teenagers. The young men and women are starting to open up more and more as Aaron and Success earn their trust. One of the guys asked how we know that Jesus is the son of God, another asked about insight into Revelations 12. These teens are not taking it easy on Aaron and Success, but I know Aaron is loving coming home and going back prepared to really answer their questions. This is a group of kids who have not been made to feel important, who have not been told of their worth. Who are dismissed and overlooked until they are in enough trouble to land at New Horizons, or enough of a hassle that their own parents send them there. It's wonderful to hear how they are learning that Aaron and Success (and ultimately God) love them, care for them, and will take each question seriously and treat it as worthwhile. 

We took a spontaneous family hike to Sofa Stone last month.

We spent some time at the top praying for this country that we love so much.

Aaron made me a real laundry line! Almost 60 feet of clothes hanging beauty! 

We had to say goodbye to students who were leaving the island :( 

I hate goodbyes, I cried a lot!

Our church has a Good Friday service on the beach every year! 

It was a beautiful time of worship and reflection on what Christ has done for us! We also took communion together as a church family.

Afterwards, our friend Grant decided that he wanted to get baptized before he and his wife, Kelsey, moved off the island!

It was a wonderful evening!

Easter was really neat in our new home!

We had a church egg hunt for the kids that come.

We found out that Easter in the Caribbean is not a family-get-together holiday. However we were missing our traditional family-filled Easter, so we had 4 families from church over for dinner and to celebrate with us! I managed not to take any pictures, but it was a blessing to have our island family around us.

The kids and I got to love on these two cuties while their parents shipped off some of their belongings to their new home.

Their mom, Carrie, quickly became one of my best friends and was a huge blessing to me on this rock. We miss you Mills family, so so much!!!

Aaron is guest co-hosting a radio show on Monday mornings this month called Personally Experiencing God! Look for it on Facebook live from 9:30-10am!

He is also coaching two additional basketball teams, the youth and junior teams, while the head coach is out of town.

And part of his role at our church includes filming and editing our church service to upload online! #techteam

Mia (my mom) came to visit! It will be her last time here for several months, so we tried to soak up all the fun and laughter we could.

Our friend Edikan was able to return to her home country of Nigeria this past week. It was bittersweet to say goodbye! We know it's a good step towards taking her medical boards, but we will miss her sweet presence at church and bible study and get togethers! 

We had Nigerian food to celebrate and say goodbye!

Most of our Nigerian church family! We love this group and learning more about their home culture!! They had me cracking up all night :)

So that's the last month-ish in our crazy little island lives. We have so much to look forward to in the coming weeks and seasons! We would love your prayers for our family as we do begin new ministries and go through (yet another) transition with our schedule and time management. We would love your prayers for our visas to get approved asap! Thank you for being on this journey with us.

We love you all!
The Comers