Rain, Rain, Go Away!
The entrance to Gospel School for the Deaf is a mud pit, after several weeks of continuous heavy rain! We’re hoping for the imminent return of Fiji’s tropical sunshine! Yes, a new driveway is sorely needed! But the first priority at the moment is replacing the school septic tank; a rather expensive project, for which funds are needed.
But the good news is that we have two new vehicles for the ministry! The Japanese Embassy donated a badly needed new bus, and the Chinese Embassy also donated a new yellow van. In August, a nice new bus port was built to house the vehicles.
Some other news is that we have three new volunteers this term. Olivia, pictured on the left with Class 3 student Peter, is from Australia. Her family is spending this year in Fiji, volunteering at Homes of Hope, a home for unwed mothers. Olivia and her parents are strong Christians, dedicated to serving those in need. Olivia is interested in becoming a teacher of the deaf in the future. She volunteers two days a week, tutoring students in math. Olivia has picked up Fijian sign language quickly, and communicates well with the kids. We also have two volunteers from England, Melissa (L) and Kirsty (R), who are deaf. Both attended the same oral deaf program in England. They are also both university graduates. Melissa is skilled in surface pattern design, working with ceramics, enamel and glass. She did a project with students in Tomasi’s class, studying Ancient Cultures. They made life size pictures of themselves wearing Roman clothing, as part of their unit of study on the Roman Empire. Kirsty is skilled at needlework, fashion, and textile art.) She will be teaching some embroidery to the students. Both women are helping out in the hostels as well as in the school.
We also had a visit second term from a group from Australia called Live and Learn, whose focus was teaching good health through hand washing. They also repaired many of our outside taps. Students enjoyed painting a mural about hand washing on the outside wall by the taps.
Joshua’s class this year studied different environments, and particularly enjoyed learning about the Polar Regions---- a ‘cool’ topic for kids living in the tropics! Students learned about icebergs, global warming, and caring for the environment, along with their study of Arctic animals. The adventures of Lars the Polar Bear were favorite stories for reading! Students had fun turning their classroom into a winter wonderland.
Jim and I were warmly welcomed back to Fiji a few weeks ago by students and staff in all three hostels. Students made a ‘welcome back’ banner with Teacher Tomasi, and the staff put on a wonderful Fijian feast for us. It was a special night! The deaf have a song that they like to sing often. (Yes, the deaf DO like to sing!!) The song begins with the words: “We are one big happy family---God’s family”. This wonderful community has certainly become a close family for us over the years!
As most of you probably know by now, Jim and I will be stepping down at the end of this year, after 18 years of directing the Fiji Deaf Ministry. We are excited to introduce the couple chosen by the Harland Trust Board to replace us! They are Russell and Sue Neate, from Christchurch, New Zealand.
The Board, at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) last April, unanimously
voted Russell in as the new Fiji Deaf Ministry Director. Actually, the Board was just affirming what Russell and Sue have already been doing. They both have been actively involved in the ministry since 2014, working tirelessly on a variety of committees and ministry projects, all while keeping up with a growing family and work at home in NZ. The Neates have two grown children, a son and a daughter, both living in Christchurch. They have five grandchildren (three boys and two girls), ranging in age from eight months to twelve years.
Russell and Sue’s home church is Bryndwr Chapel, where they first met Vivienne Harland, ministry founder, about thirty six years ago. Vivienne attended Bryndwr Chapel with her husband Geoff and their two daughters, Ruth and Pauline. It was
at that time that Russell and Sue got to know Vivienne and her family, and interest in the Fiji Deaf Ministry began to develop.
Russell and Sue have been involved at Bryndwr Chapel over many years, teaching Sunday School and leading other kids programs, as well as a young adults group.
Russell and Sue first visited Vivienne Harland in Fiji twelve years ago, to see the deaf ministry first hand. They have since visited twelve times, and Fiji has become their second home. Vivienne passed away in 2009. Russell was then appointed to The Harland Trust Board in 2014, where he has enjoyed reconnecting with Vivienne’s daughter Ruth, also a Board member.
Russell’s career of almost forty years was spent in New Zealand, working for the same power utility company in IT and related systems. He will be retiring at the end of this year. Sue has a background in office administration and accounts.
Words that come to mind when describing both Russell and Sue are humility and hard work. They are faithful and caring Christians, seeking to honor God in all that they do. They are already well known, well loved, and well respected in Fiji. Russell is an excellent Bible teacher, and often preaches at Suva St. Chapel on his visits to Fiji. He and Sue also lead devotions in the hostels while here.
Russell and his committee have worked diligently over the past couple of years, putting detailed plans together for the building of a new hostel. Russell met with each staff member to obtain his/her input for consideration in the final plans.
Russell and Sue also recently organized a mission trip for a large number of volunteers from their chapel, to visit Fiji this past July. The trip was a huge success, with much accomplished, and new relationships formed!
Russell is a ‘fix it’ man, and on every trip to Fiji can be seen with tools in hand, making needed repairs. Sue always brings along a variety of craft ideas and games for the children, plus some new recipes for the hostel staff to try out. Both Sue and Russell are currently taking sign language classes, in order to communicate effectively with the deaf. Please pray for them, as they take over the leadership of the Fiji Deaf Ministry in 2019. We are so grateful for their willingness to serve, and thank God for leading them to Fiji!
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