Easter Joy and Transformation
Easter egg hunts, cookie decorating, and learning about Jesus is always fun for Easter.
Seeing God's creation in sea shells is pretty cool, but we are here for much more important reasons than beautiful beaches and sea shells.
We want to help redeem the culture, help others to know and follow the Lord, teach the local kids to read, and do fractions better; hopefully this will enable them to better their situation and improve their lives. These kids need love, acceptance, encouragement, and Jesus. One boy's father is from Haiti, and there are customs done at birth in that culture that may negatively impact his life. We pray that they would all know God's love and joy, and that God would cover them in the blood of Jesus.
Merle is continuing to do many projects to improve the Youth With a Mission (YWAM) base: cleaning out and repairing the septic line that was clogged, replacing tile in the kitchen in one of the apartments, replacing a door at a different apartment, completely replacing the roof that was leaking on part of the Cotton House, repairing the fiberglass engine cover of the front loader, fixing the gate, and rebuilding the chicken coop so the chickens don't get out or be attacked by the watch dogs, cleaning all the windows and screens in the sun room, among many other projects. Merle is also keeping his seafaring skills advancing as he has been able to work on Nick's boat, which Merle crewed on to sail it here last April and May, replacing the toilet line, which is not very glamorous work, but provided invaluable experience. He helped another local friend put in tile. He loves to serve.
For Easter morning, we went to the sunrise service at the Lighthouse Mission in Christiansted, and then went to St. Croix Christian where the worship was led by our teammates. Easter afternoon we enjoyed outside activities and a wonderful dinner. Easter Monday, we brought the kids we work with over to the base for cookie decorating, an Easter story, egg hunts, and lunch. Fun times with a chocolate bunny, but remembering the Lamb!
It was very busy when we had the Discipleship Training School here the first seven weeks, as well as when other couples came the following several weeks to serve in various capacities - on VWAP, Vacation with a Purpose. Check it out online https://www.ywamstcroix.org/vacation-with-a-purpose, so you can come and serve, too! I have had more time to work on my book, which I appreciate. We do get weekends off, which has provided a huge blessing to be able to explore this little island and enjoy God's creation above and under the sea. The weather has been fabulous so far on St. Croix. We didn't really know what to expect coming here, except that we wanted to help and be a blessing to the YWAM ministry.
We have attended four different churches here on St. Croix. Several are pictured above. We also went to a virtual event by the Voice of the Martyrs, with interviews of several men who were imprisoned for their faith and Natalie Grant leading worship. It was long but very inspiring. We also went to a film presentation Tortured for Christ on Good Friday. If you have never considered those persecuted for our faith, read or listen to this online. Our brothers and sisters in the faith are suffering in many places in the world. It was very powerful. I read this book about the persecuted underground church in communist Russia and Romania. There are still many places where believers are persecuted, including China, Sudan, Northern Africa, and North Korea. They ask the western church to give Bibles, funds for families of those imprisoned, and pray for communists and oppressive overseers to become believers. Everyone needs to forgiveness.
According to the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands KIDS COUNT Data Center (www.cfvi.net), Black and Hispanic students are at least 58% "Below Standard" on assessment levels, in English Language Arts/Literacy, and at least 74% below on Math by third grade. Third grade is a critical marker to determine if a student will be able to grasp the contents of reading materials in future grades. "Students who are not proficient readers in third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than students who are proficient" (www.cfvi.net, p. 20). Needless to say, there are educational needs across the country.
We have a tutoring program for a handful of students that we are able to work with one-on-one from one of the government-funded housing areas. I was so disappointed to see a second grader who can not read, and a discouraged child trying to learn online. I am helping one eight year old boy sound out letters and put words together phonetically. I taught a fifth grader how to change fractions with different denominators, so that he could add or subtract fractions. I hope they remember. There is such a contrast between the two year old child on base and these Cruzan kids. The two year old knows all his letter sounds and can read by sounding them out, and even spell some words. What future will these precious Cruzan children have if the single mother with a string of kids doesn't have the time to invest in their learning? This is true in the States, as well. They all need love, acceptance, and encouragement. Pray that we can impact the lives of these few.
Our friends, Sean and his son Erik, who also served in Bosnia, came to visit for a few days.
Terrible news - Sarajevo has many new graves from Covid-19, next to graves from the war. Sarajevo is completely shut down, with everyone required to stay home with everything closed. Groceries must be ordered and delivered. They are eighth in Covid deaths in the world, and lead in their region. No vaccines are available.
Also, I saw a FB post that my chiropractor, Dr. Duncan, passed away unexpectedly after a stroke, but I was able to attend his funeral via online broadcast. It was so sad to hear this news as he has kept my crooked spine "in line" for many years, while in the States. He was a strong Christian, very kind and generous to me, a missionary, and will be greatly missed.
Hannah and Allan are looking for a house in Columbia, SC, Lydia is about to finish her Junior year in nursing sporting her new glasses, and Luke is out near Tulsa, OK living with a friend.
Photo descriptions: These crashing waves are on a very treacherous coastline, but this beautiful beach is filled with sea urchins, very painful to step on, so they must be avoided. Jenny tries our friend's SNUBA, but prefers snorkeling. We celebrated our 28th wedding Anniversary. God has been good to us. Debbie did it again and sent spices and the sunglasses that fit over my glasses. Delores continues to do well, but misses us and is anxious for us to come home. I was given the blue hat, above, a pair of sandals I needed, and Merle was blessed with two high quality camp chairs, just what we were looking for. I think the K-Mart bag in the photo should add "with the Lord!" :-)
We joyfully serve St.Croix through the encouragement of scripture: "All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son,and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I will be with you wherever you go." Matthew 28:18-20