Kaselehlie! Greetings from Pohnpei!
The last few months have been quite the “roller coaster” for our family with our housing situation and I know many of you have been anxious for an update. First though, I want to thank God for His faithfulness. I also want to thank all of you that have given to help us with this project financially and for the many prayers that have been lifted up on our behalf. You cannot even begin to know how much of an encouragement you all have been to us. In this letter we’ll try to summarize our current situation, but we also have created a video update that may help give a better perspective. That can be found at https://youtu.be/PEcGnhPB6wQ.
Since our last letter, we were finally able to find a company to do the digging, which is the first step of the project and has proven to be extremely difficult to get done. You may be asking, why the difficulty? We have run into every setback imaginable. The company was eager to get started and brought their equipment out right away and began the work. Within hours the government sent officials to stop the work, stating we had to have a permit. Both this company’s employees and I all explained that we are only digging out the mudslide but they insisted we could not do any more work until we applied for and received the permit. Knowing that could take weeks, possibly even months, I immediately began that process. Thankfully, they waived the court hearing and we were able to get the permit within days. However, we lost valuable clear weather days during that time. They were able to complete about a day of work before the heavy rains set in again, stopping all work once more. This went on for several weeks. Once they were able to resume work again, the equipment broke down, needing a new part. Approximately two weeks went by waiting for the new part to arrive. Finally they were able to start again, only to be stopped by more heavy rains after about a day or two of work. We’ve continued to have heavy rains the following two months, preventing any more work from being done until mid August when we saw one full day of dry weather, allowing them to make some remarkable progress during that brief time. The rains picked up again the following day so work was halted for nearly another month. We know God has a reason for these delays, and while frustrating for us, His timing is best. The digging was finally complete just a couple of weeks ago.
Meanwhile, we had to continue to adapt to a rather different way of life because of the house being buried. Every time it rained, the house would flood. If it rained extremely hard, as it has a tendency to do here at times, the house would flood extremely fast! It takes everyone in the family working together to get the water outside before it gets to the 3 rooms that we have cleaned out for us to live in. During all this time, our “kitchen” was still a camp stove and water hose with a makeshift sink on the front porch. We were able to get the septic tanks pumped and cleared of the mud and also restore running water to the house, so we could have working bathrooms again. We have air purifiers and dehumidifiers running round the clock to help with the mold and mildew. We are using these in the rooms that we have fixed for now. Now that the digging is finished, we no longer have the flooding issues and after 7 long months, we can finally start to make progress on clearing out the inside of dirt and debris. Currently, we are working on the next step of putting in a retaining wall. We are praying for little to no rain until that’s completed as we are highly at risk of another mudslide until that is done!
Though life is a bit different from normal for us at home, family and ministry life must go on. We have had quite a summer, another roller coaster for us all. Susan, Katrianne, and Kaylinn were able to fly to NC to be with her parents for a time and were able to be there for their family reunion. It was a fun time for the girls as they had not met the majority of Susan’s family. During the time they were gone, Kaleo and Kestra traveled with the FSM swim team to Papua, New Guinea for the Oceania Swimming Championships. They did very well with their swimming and we are very proud of them. During the month of June, we also had our annual youth camp at Black Coral Island. We had a great number of young people join this year and saw 23 young people come to know Christ. Our youth group nearly doubled in size and they came back with a strong desire to grow in the Lord and be a testimony for Him. They spent nearly 3 hours the Sunday night after camp sharing their testimonies and tears with our church family. One testimony in particular that stood out to many was from a young girl in our youth group, Sellyann Kustin as she shared how she wanted her life to be used for God. Sellyann is my first cousin’s daughter and is also one of Kestra’s closest friends. Little did the church and teens know at that time how our faith and testimony would be challenged in the coming days. That following Friday, Sellyann was walking on the road in front of our church and home, carrying her small niece, when a drunk driver spun out of control and hit her. She was able to throw the baby to safety just in time but she herself received fatal injuries. She entered the arms of Jesus a few hours later. Kaleo and Kyler were at the church when the accident happened and helped in the aftermath. Kestra was able to be at the hospital with Sellyann as she took her last breath on this earth. You can imagine how this has affected our church, youth group, and entire community. Many tears have been shed. It has been hard on everyone. And yet we’ve seen a closeness and sweetness among our youth that had been severely lacking. We ask that you please pray for these young people. Pray for their spiritual growth. Pray for them with the temptations and difficulties they face every day in their school and home life. Pray for those that witnessed the accident that will be testifying in court in the near future, having to relive that day all over again. Pray for them all as they’ve realized in such a tragic way the importance of being ready to face Christ at any moment.
We had our annual Vacation Bible School as well, just a couple of weeks after the accident. It was difficult to plan and prepare under the circumstances, but God worked through it all and it turned out to be a fantastic week. We had approximately 100 kids in attendance by the end of the week! We had quite a few decisions made throughout the week though I do not have a specific number. We are excited that we are still having so many of these children attend Sunday school and Bible Club at the church and have had some families begin to come as well.
Kaleo and Kestra had yet another swimming competition in July. The Micronesian Games is held every 4 years and includes all the countries and island states of the Micronesian region. They were able to represent Pohnpei in the open water swimming competition, held on the island of Yap. The state sports office decided at the last minute to send me along as an assistant coach, which was a huge answer to prayer as we were unsure of the safety of the athlete’s accommodations but did not have the funding available to purchase a ticket to Yap. With the state sending me, all expenses were covered for the trip. The three of us, along with some other athletes were able to stay in the home of one of the missionaries there on Yap and I had the opportunity to preach in two of the Baptist churches on the island while we were there. It was a great experience to visit an island I had never been to before, to visit and assist in the ministries there as well, and to be able to watch my children compete. I had the honor of presenting the medals for one event, allowing me to present a bronze medal to Kestra for her 3rd place win in the 2.5 kilometer swim.
On the day we were to return home from Yap, we received word that another church member had unexpectedly passed away. Ioanis Aron, who lives directly next to the church and has been faithful to our services for many years, suddenly collapsed and passed away shortly after. Unfortunately, we were not able to arrive on that flight as the flight was full and we were bumped to a flight two days later. Again, another difficult time for our church family and community. Please keep the Aron family in your prayers as well.
As you can see, our family, ministry, and community has faced some trials in these past months. Please continue to pray for the work here. Pray that God will continue to use these difficulties in people’s lives and that many would come to know him as a result.
We do thank each of you that have given to our house repair project. We are close to the amount needed for the project but still are short of the full amount. If you are able to give towards this project, any funds can be sent to our mission board, designated for Kihleng House Repair. The address is Global Vision Ministries, 7800 Northside Drive, North Charleston, SC 29420. If you have any questions about the project, the funding needed, or are interested in participating in the team coming, please contact Tom McGann at 843-514-2826.
Because of Calvary,
Rickson & Susan, Kaleo, Kestra, Kyler, Katrianne, & Kaylinn