Tuesday, December 27, 2011

...Not a Creature Was Stirring

Tannenbaum bread baked in the big W&W pot on top of the stove!
By December 26th we were pretty tuckered out.  We planned for it to be a quiet day at home.  We each opened our one Christmas gift from each other and set to work at making the traditional Christmas Tannenbaum bread. Sylvia has been having trouble with the stove since we got back from the States, and she could not get it to light for anything!!  So, we set up the big Work and Witness pot on top of the stove and baked the Tannenbaum bread inside.  We think it was the best one we've ever had! 

This year all our kids were in different places - Joel and Bekah and the twins are in Papua New Guinea, Jeffrey spent a few days with his girl friend's family near Detroit, and Wesley was with Sylvia's parents and her little brother Phillip and family in Kalamazoo.  We are thankful for things like Skype and Facebook that make it possible for us to be connected with the ones we love even though we are all over the world.  

"...and they will call him Immanuel - God with us."
~ Matthew 1:23

...and All Through the House

We had planned to have a party for the pastors on Wednesday, but it rained cats and dogs all day and made it too difficult for people to come.  A tropical storm was brewing off to the west of Vanuatu which was looking like it would become a cyclone.  All the Nazarene churches in Port Vila were planning to join together on December 23, 24, and 25th, and rain would not make gathering very easy.

Pastor Morrison enjoying the swing with Abraham.
But, Thursday was a bright and beautiful day!  The storm to the west fizzled out and we had our pastors Christmas party with Pastor Morrison and Rehab with little Abraham from Tanna, Pastor Gideon and Aline with John from Prima, Pastor William with Peter and Nathan from Vila North, Pastor Meriam and David with Rona and Sam from Eluklom and a few other friends added in.  The house was full!  The PK's (pastor's kids) made some Christmas pictures with the Christmas cards that we had saved which became gifts for their parents.  We ate together, shared from God's Word, and then checked under the Christmas tree for presents!

The house was full of friends.  Sylvia shared a Christmas thought with everyone before we had our meal.
MK's and PK's are just the best!
Friday night we all met at Prima Church where Pastor William shared with us that wisemen still seek Jesus.  Saturday night we met at Black Sand Church for carols by candlelight and drama.  It was much too hot to have the candles burning the entire evening, so we lit them for the last few songs.  Sunday morning we met with the Black Sand congregation for Christmas worship, a meal together, and gift exchange.  Eight of us, then traveled on to Eluklom Church where David preached again and Pastor Peter led us in communion. 

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
~ 1 John 4:9

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Twas the Week Before Christmas...

Christmas week was very busy for us, as it probably was for everyone!  
We had a Christmas party with Peter and Jenny Isaac and their boys on Tuesday. 
We started with decorating Christmas cookies. ALL of them got eaten after dinner.

Jenny helped Sylvia get the meal on the table.  Even though we live in the same town, we don't always get much time to talk together.  It was nice to have a few minutes to catch up on what has been happening in our lives.

Peter played his guitar...

and Sylvia dusted off her violin and we all sang our favorite Christmas songs together.

 David helped the boys tell the story of Christmas just before we opened presents!
We love our missionary family and are so thankful for them!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Heart Issues in Vanuatu

In mid-November, David began to have mild, left-sided, chest pain, his heart beat was quite irregular, and his blood pressure dropped.  Being nurses, we were familiar with the signs of a heart attack and we knew that Vanuatu was NOT the place to have one.  We checked in with the doctor who did an EKG and recommended that David drop one of his blood pressure medicines that has been known to cause heart irregularities.  Even after a week, nothing seemed to change, so we were advised to get to a medical facility that could do a more thorough examination of his heart.  We had to decide which country would be the best place to go - Australia, New Zealand, or the USA.  Getting into Australia was a bit tricky and cumbersome, but it was the cheapest place to fly to.  

So, we began to jump through the hoops of securing a medical visa to Australia.  We had to get a chest x-ray and see a different doctor in Port Vila to fill out a paper saying we did not have tuberculosis.  That doctor would forward the x-rays and paperwork to the Australian High Commission who would in turn send it on to Australia.  Our doctor had told us that it usually takes 3 weeks to get a medical visa, but we didn't want to wait that long.  The folks at the Australian Hi Com said that they would expedite the papers and we could be assured of having the visa within a few days.  That sounded great!  

Downtown Brisbane, Australia
Next step, we made an appointment for the following week with a cardiologist that was recommended to us by one of our Aussie friends.  We were to fly out on November 28th with appointments scheduled for November 30th and December 1.  We heard nothing from the Australian Hi Com by the 25th which made us get nervous.  Early on the 28th we were in touch with someone who told us the paperwork was misplaced and would not be back in Vanuatu until the 29th.  But there were no flights out on the 29th, so our friend at the Hi Com kept trying different ways to get our visa secured.  She was finally successful just 1 1/2 hours before our plane departed from Vanuatu!

Gracious friends, Don and Ruth
Don and Ruth Howie, Nazarene friends who live in Brisbane, had graciously agreed to let us stay at their house during the week of David's appointments.  They had come to Vanuatu in 2007 and stayed in our apartment while we were away for a conference.  While they were in Vanuatu they installed the wiring in our house, but we never met each other face to face until General Assembly 2009!  We actually met up again at the beginning of November as we traveled through Brisbane on our way back from the regional conference.  It was such a delight to actually have time to get acquainted with each other.  They took us to David's appointments and then took us to see the places where they were raised as kids and where the first Nazarene Churches were located.  We even had a chance to drive to Tamborine to have a lovely visit with John and Vicki Moore, Field Strategy Coordinators for Australia and New Zealand.  

David had several tests done by the cardiologist - Holter monitor, stress test, and stress echocardiogram - which revealed the irregular heart beat, but also showed that his heart is strong and showed no signs of blocked arteries.  We were very thankful for that news, even though there are still no answers for the irregularity, low blood pressure, and chest pain.  So, we praise the Lord for health and strength!  We are doing what we can to live healthy lives by eating healthy food and getting exercise.  We would appreciate your prayers that God will continue to keep his hand of protection on our physical bodies so that we can serve Him as long as possible!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Annual Assembly 2011

Our Annual Assembly for the Church of the Nazarene in Vanuatu took place November 4-6 at Black Sand Nazarene Church in Port Vila.  This was the first time for our assembly to be held in one of our own churches.  It was also the first time for Raela to serve as the District Secretary and Pastor William to give the District Treasurer's report.  God is building a great team of missional leaders to spread the message of holiness in the islands of Vanuatu!

Picture to the right and above: Raela in training as the new District Secretary for Vanuatu.
Sylvia prepared for communion on Sunday and Paul helped her. 
Black Sand Nazarene Church was full to capacity by the time everyone arrived on Sunday morning.

Rev. Harmon Schmelzenbach and Rev. Peter Isaac sharing the message of being a Christlike disciple maker.
David sharing his SPNTC annual report.

Three of our district licensed ministers: Pastor Meriam, Pastor Gideon and Pastor William.
The Vanuatu missional leadership team for 2011-2012.

No Nazarene gathering is complete without some food and fellowship.

Nasim (L) and David (R) - both involved in the Ellouklom Nazarene Church.

The line for the food - notice the ladies colorful island dresses!

The men!

The women!
The young people!
And the cutest kids!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Asia-Pacific Missional Leaders' Conference 2011

World Mission Director Dr. Louie Bustle speaking with Rev. Michael Mann translating to PNG Tok Pisin.

"That the 'event' would become an 'encounter'…." This was our prayer for the Asia-Pacific Region's Missional Leaders' Conference held October 26-30 in Manila, Philippines.

The vision was cast and the planning began. Themes were discussed and speakers were invited; participants were registered and flights were booked; venues were scheduled and a myriad of details were attended to. 
And you began to pray with us.
David Naunga, Nazarene from Vanuatu
Vanuatu  leaders with Rev. Acy Lodja serving in East Timor
During the opening gathering on Wednesday evening, Oct. 26, the Parade of Nations entered the great hall where we were gathered and praise filled the hearts and mouths of everyone present as we encountered anew the hope of a Day -- that Day when all prophecy will be fulfilled and Every Nation will be called before the throne to lay down their crowns at the feet of Christ Jesus our Lord. The worship that followed in that evening and in all the gatherings throughout the week was filled with the vast varieties of color, sites and sounds that make up the Asia-Pacific 
 Region. If God inhabits the praise of His people - He was surely present in a mighty way in those meetings!

Throughout the 5 days we were together, it became evident that the Holy Spirit had been the Master Coordinator of the entire event. The keynote speakers, the plenary speakers and those that gave of themselves to serve in the many workshops all were woven together into His plan to speak His heart into the hearts of those that had come together. We were invited and even compelled to open our eyes in brand new ways to encounter God as He shared His ideas, His vision, His creative plan for reaching the unreached in our Region. We were inspired by fresh expressions of ancient truths about the Body of Christ, Incarnation, Becoming Missional, Redemption and Restoration, Empowerment of Every Believer. Workshops brought clarity and new insight to relevant topics such as attending to our spiritual health, our response to disaster and poverty, ministering to those with special needs, methods of ministry, spontaneous Christ-centered conversation, and more. We were blessed with just the right balance of theological foundation and practical tools to make this truly an inspirational and effective conference.

David and Sylvia with Rev. Peter Kui, dear friend from PNG days
 We also encountered one another. Aside from the planned sessions, the Spirit of God was so very obviously present in the many reunions, conversations, and gifts of relationship shared during our time together. As participants filtered out into the business community, we heard stories of people coming to Christ through the sharing testimony of conference participants. We were also blessed by the presence of the Manila congregations that were invited to join us for the evening and Sunday sessions. What a taste of glory we share in our fellowship with one another.

The prayer: "That the 'event' would become an 'encounter'".

The answer? "Now to Him who has done in these days immeasurably more than all we asked or imagined, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen"  

Thank you for praying for the Asia-Pacific Missional Leaders' Conference 2011
written by - Cindy Schmelzenbach
PhilippinesNazarene College choir

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Celebrating Life!

Thank you so much for praying along with us for God’s healing when Sylvia found out that she had breast cancer on July 21st. God has guarded our hearts with his peace during these last eight weeks of diagnosis and surgery and treatment. Please join us now in praising God for his miracle of healing! On September 8th, Sylvia's surgeon felt her incision was healing up just fine and informed us that the pathology report indicated NO need for chemotherapy. The tumor was smaller than they had thought it would be; all 7 lymph nodes that were removed from under her arm were all negative for cancer; and the tumor had plenty of hormone receptors and was negative for HER2. All of that is great news! She started taking a tiny little tablet called Arimidex which will block her body from making estrogen which will in turn block the cancer from returning. She will take this tablet everyday for the next 5 years. It has some side effects, but losing all her hair is not one of them! Yeah! 

We are thankful for the encouragement we have received from friends around the world through e-mail messages and get-well cards that assured us of their prayers!  We really appreciate the medical insurance supplied by the Church of the Nazarene that has provided for all the medical care.  We are SO blessed!

We will be returning to Vanuatu in mid-October to resume our ministries. This experience has been a learning experience for us, to say the least! The most important thing we’ve learned is to trust God more fully and completely with everything. He is always faithful!  Praise the LORD!

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!"

Lamentations 3:22-23 

Monday, August 29, 2011

They are precious in His sight

Rona is in the middle of the front row, standing to Sylvia's left.  This was a picture of some of the Sunday School workers who had come for training in March just before we returned to the States for home assignment.  Janet is standing just to Rona's left; she lost her younger daughter just about 2 weeks ago.   She is pictured with Sanya her oldest.
Our hearts broke this week as we received the very sad news that one of our Christian ladies in Vanuatu passed away unexpectedly.  Rona lived directly behind our house when we first moved to Vanuatu in 2003 and got involved in our church early on.  She was our dear friend from the very start of our ministry there.  We rejoiced as we watched God bless her life and her marriage and her family.  She was like a lovely flower opening to the glory of God.  It breaks our heart to think about her husband William and their two little boys, Peter (5) and Nathaneal (3) and all the family who called her Mama and Abu and sister and friend.  She was my (Sylvia's) prayer partner and faithfully attended the Lydia Prayer Group meetings that met each week.  She was a faithful Christian woman who served God and her church with all her heart.  She traveled as a representative of the Vanuatu Church of the Nazarene - meeting other Nazarene's in Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.  How we wish we could be there to cry with all who like us are grieving her loss.  We are crying here but we are so far away.  As much as we want to come, we cannot get there quickly.  We pray that God, the God of all comfort, will be near as they gather together to cry and to remember our dear sister.  William is one of our Nazarene pastors.  Please pray that he will seek God for comfort and will focus his thoughts on the life God has promised for those who believe.

Please remember Pastor Peter and Pastor Jenny in your prayers as they care for Pastor William and his family and also another of our Nazarene families who just lost their sweet, little 3 year old girl, Maowe, two weeks ago.  Funerals and the customary week-long family gatherings can be exhausting.  Pray that Peter and Jenny will be strengthened and upheld by our Lord's strong hand as they carry on the work in our absence.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
John 14: 1-3

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones."  
Psalm 116:15

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

God's Healing and Other Reasons to Praise!

I am so thankful for the peace and joy that has kept my heart and mind at rest these last few weeks of waiting. On August 12th, I waited at the hospital for the nurse to call my name to go back to be prepared for a total mastectomy. David's sister, Beverly, from Colorado Springs had flown out to be with us. Three wonderful ladies from the Amherst Nazarene Church also joined us at the hospital. I was taken into surgery earlier than expected since my surgeon was ahead of schedule. After delivering me to the recovery room, Dr. Lindfield reported to David and the others who were waiting that the lymph node biopsy did not show any cancer cells! This was the best news we could have heard! I stayed the night in the hospital in a very comfy bed with an attentive nurse to make sure I was not in pain. David stayed with me in a very "un-comfy" bed that he made with 3 very straight chairs. L I was discharged the next morning and feel stronger every day! I will return to see the surgeon on Thursday to hear the results of the tumor pathology report and to possibly have my drain removed. As the pathology reports come in, we will be informed of the options regarding further treatment; please continue to pray for us as we make these decisions. We are so thankful for God's healing touch in my life and so very thankful for each of you who have held us up in prayer! 

"...yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 
The Sovereign LORD is my strength; 
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights." 
Habakkuk 3:18-19

The weekend before surgery, our family was able to gather together at my parents' farm in Michigan. We drove with Joel and Bekah and the girls from Buffalo; Jeffrey drove down from Ionia; and Wesley flew in from Montana. You can see some pictures of our time together on an earlier blog if you click here.

We were so excited to hear news from home in Vanuatu! Skype makes it possible for us to see and hear our partners! Peter and Jenny reported to us that their friend, Pastor Knox from PNG, flew to Vanuatu with his wife and visited our churches in Port Vila. The pastor from Bundaberg, Australia, was also visiting during that time. The two pastors preached to a special gathering of all the Nazarene Churches with an incredible response from all those who had come together. Then, the two pastors met with all the church leaders for a day of discipleship and holiness teaching. Pastor Peter said that everyone was challenged by what they heard and was praying and seeking God.

Jeffrey graduated from his aviation technology program the same day I had my surgery. Today, he completed the written portion of the second Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) exam that focuses on the engine of the plane. He has already passed the first exam which focused on repair of the structure of the plane. Tomorrow morning he will complete the oral and practical exam. Then he will be looking for a job where he can get experience as an airplane mechanic. Praise the Lord for his faithfulness to Jeffrey in completing the program and these important exams!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Surgery Day

In just a few hours, Sylvia will be admitted to the hospital for surgery to remove the cancer in her right breast.  We thank you all for your prayers for her and for the surgery team who will be doing the operation.  David and Sylvia are experiencing God's peace in an extra-ordinary way, just as He promised in Philippians 4:6-7.  We are trusting our loving Heavenly Father as we continue this journey.  Please keep our partners, Revs. Peter and Jenny Isaac, and all our pastors and churches in Vanuatu in your prayers as well.

Here are some of the promises that have been an encouragement in these days leading up to surgery:

Psalm 23:1
The LORD is my Shepherd.  I have everything I need.

Deuteronomy 31:6 
Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of [this cancer], for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Habakkuk 3:18-19 
...yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

Family Time on the Farm

Potter family with Sylvia's parents who hosted our gathering at their farm in Michigan.
Blueberry picking
 We thank the Lord for the days our family had together in Michigan.  David and Sylvia drove with Joel and Bekah and girls from Buffalo, NY - a 10 hour trip.  Jeffrey only lives an hour north in Grand Rapids, but because he is still finishing up his classes at SMAT, he had to drive back and forth to school each day.  He was able to be with us on the weekend and in the evenings.  Wesley flew over from Laurel, MT, where he has been helping to build a house with James Johnson this summer.  Jeffrey's friend, Kristin, came for the weekend.  And, our niece, Lydia, from Denver, CO, was also with us! 

This is a picture story of our time together!
Sylvia and Dora were very keen at finding the bluest berries!

A trip to the "swamp" to see the pond and have a stroll through the woods.
Wild black raspberries we ate in the swamp.

Feeding Grandpa Great's chickens.

Sylvia petting Kristin's hedgehog, Sasha.

Dora's favorite way to travel around the farm.


Grandpa Great taking us for a ride in the cart behind the tractor.

The weather was very nice for our visit with Sylvia's brother, Phillip, and family.

The golden rod is in bloom.


Sylvia helping locate some squash.
Harvesting with Grandpa Great!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

20,000 miles later

David and Sylvia with Napa Valley in the background.
From April to the end of June, we were privileged to speak 28 times in 27 different churches as we traveled across the United States from New York to Idaho, Kansas to California!  We met many "old" friends along the way and made heaps of new friends.  We were blessed with a place to sleep every night, wonderful food, and a faithful car that became our home!  We met face-to-face those of you who are our strong and faithful supporters.  More than any previous home assignment, we noticed that God opened the door for us to connect with many friends and family - some that we had not seen in the last 30 years!  You provided gracious Christian hospitality that warmed our hearts and renewed relationships.   Sometimes we were treated like royalty and sometimes we were just part of the fam.  It was all SO good!  Your faces and words of encouragement are fresh in our minds and hearts!  We praise God for his protection and blessing and provision!

"Thank you" is such a feeble way of expressing our deep appreciation.  We hope in your generosity that you have known the joy and satisfaction of being channels of blessing because that is what you have been to us - channels of our prodigal God's abundant love!

Enjoyed Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice in Delaware Park with Jeff.
We've enjoyed our weeks of vacation here in Buffalo.  The highlights have been a weekend and an evening of Shakespeare in the park with Jeffrey and an entire weekend of caring for our grandgirls while Joel and Bekah celebrated their 5th anniversary with a 3 day bike trip.

Sylvia picking a tiny flower in the park.
 In this last week of our vacation, we were beginning the task of packing our suitcases, distributing all the stuff we had accumulated to take back with us so that each suitcase was under 50 pounds.  On Tuesday, Sylvia had a breast biopsy done.  We thought it was a case of her doctor requesting the latest available means to make sure that the usual suspicious things seen on her mammogram were simply cysts.  On Thursday, the radiologist called to confirm that Sylvia has breast cancer.

Dora among the daisies.

Our departure from the US, scheduled for tomorrow, was postponed and we started a journey on a new path that we've never walked before.  Sylvia will be anointed for healing this Sunday morning .  There are lots and lots and lots of questions to be answered and decisions to be made! 

In the midst of all this, we have both been experiencing tremendous peace and are encouraged by Moses' words to the Israelites in Deut. 31:6, "Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give [this news] a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you” (The Message).  We appreciate your support in prayer for our family!