Their insights were excellent, and the whole process was informative and very helpful. But mostly, everyone just enjoyed the opportunity to get to know these humble, gracious, and wise people! The hostel staff put on a great meal, which was well prayed for by four different students! (All wanted a turn!) I always love watching the kids pray their own thoughts in sign. The kids did some ‘items’ for entertainment, led by Kendra, our volunteer from America. Please keep John in your prayers, as he begins radiation treatment for prostate cancer when he returns to New Zealand.
The end of the year brought many challenges as well. Our Kiribati students became overstayers-----which means their visas would not be renewed, and they would not be allowed back into the country for the next school year. Also, food prices skyrocket after Hurricane Winston, and we had a significant cut in government funding. Thus, we finished the year with a lot of debt. We worried over how we would pay our teachers, and had a few sleepless nights. Jim’s favorite Bible verse is I Peter 5:7: “Cast all your worries on God, because He cares for you.” Sometimes we forget to do that, and attempt to work things out in our own strength. And even when we do remember, there are no guarantees that things will always work out as we wish. The circumstances may not change, but somehow WE are changed. And peace does come. These are lessons in trust.
The story does have a happy ending. Jim went to immigration, and managed to persuade the immigration officer to renew the visas, with a minimal penalty fee. Donations also began to come in, making it possible to meet the payroll, and pay off a portion of the debt.
We continue to grow, and recently signed on four new kindergarteners. We also have teams going out to Savusavu, on the next largest island, and to the island of Koro, to find deaf children and bring them to school. Most of these families are unable to pay school and hostel fees, but we never turn anyone away. We are grateful for those who support this ministry by sponsoring children, or giving to the general fund. We’re thankful too, for those who contribute in other ways, by volunteering time. An Indian family here in Suva volunteers by cooking the main meal for all of our hostels every Sunday---a wonderful gift! And farmers often donate produce, or fish. We are grateful to God for so many who have helped in so many ways throughout the year.
We also ask for prayer for the students as they go home to their villages. Many of the young deaf girls here are targets for abuse in their villages, because they do not speak. Please pray for their protection. We are also in need of one more teacher for next year, and someone to come alongside, and take over the ministry here in Fiji. Vinaka Vaka Levu!
Jim and Marilyn
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