Update – 21 June 2017

And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
– Luke 18:29, 30
I cannot believe that we have been back in the US for almost two months. It has been even longer since we have updated all of you. We were just talking this morning about how it could be that we have so little time even though I don’t go to work for 8 or more hours each day. Theoretically, there should be an additional 40 man hours a week available. In any case, I have a couple of hours between meetings this morning and so here we are.
Probably the first question you might have is, what have we been doing. The short answer is moving the boat. Basically, we have to move the boat every three days, to anchor from a dock or vice versa. Each evolution consumes 2-3 hours, depending on the distance between them. Being without a “home” has its challenges. When we left San Diego last October, we gave up our slip at the Navy marina (Fiddler’s Cove) we had called home for two years. At that time, we didn’t intend to return for any significant time and figured iliving at anchor would be good practice for cruising. When we decided to bring the boat back a couple of months ago, we planned to use our reciprocal agreements through the Navy Yacht Club San Diego to stay at the dozens of yacht club marinas in the bay for next to nothing. As it happens, we practically exhausted those options in the first month. Long story short, we can anchor for free in San Diego Bay for 9 nights a month and have three complimentary nights a month at the Coronado Cays Yacht Club marina. The remaining 18 nights are paid stays at various places ranging from $0.50-$2.00 per foot per night. $19 a night at Fiddler’s Cove is not terrible, but contrary to what we were told in February, we can only stay 60 days per year (instead of 120) and $570 a month is significantly more than the $300 we were quoted. We have looked at other longer-term options, but being a catamaran (wide) means we need an end-tie or a side-tie (very limited) and living aboard incurs additional fees (to the tune of $150 per person per month). So, we remain vagrants.

va·grant

ˈvāɡrənt/

noun

  1. 1.

    a person without a settled home or regular work who wanders from place to place and lives by begging.

    synonyms:

    street person, homeless person, tramp, hobo, drifter, down-and-out, derelict, beggar;

We’ve decided that since we aren’t fully supported yet, that we have nothing to lose by being honest about the challenges we are facing, and to some degree, that missionaries share in general. We’ve decided that one of the ways God is working in our lives right now is to give us a sense of the struggles that missionaries face, especially when they are “home.” One of the things we are learning is that being a missionary in the field is challenging, but not being in the field is in some ways harder.
Sure, it is great to be back to the conveniences of fast food, department stores, super centers and movie theaters. It is great that everyone speaks English. It is nice to be “home.” What is home? For us, home is wherever we drop the anchor. When we left in October, we had to step away from groups and organizations that we had been involved with: First Baptist Church Coronado, AWANA, TrailLife USA, American Heritage Girls, Sisterhood Bible study, Fiddler’s Cove Marina community / family and others, not to mention the Navy. These groups were part of our identity and purpose. Our new identity and purpose is pastoral care to missionaries. Now that we are back, we don’t fit anywhere. Even though everyone is happy to see us, we are on the fringe at best and feel like outsiders. We are not “working” in the sense that we are not in a foreign country, but taking care of the administrative details that need to be done so that we can be free to serve elsewhere. We know that God has a purpose in our being back, but we are having an identity crisis that is amplified every time we have to explain why we are here and not there. We have a personal sense of not being where we belong in spite of our intellectual understanding of the delays. To some degree,  most missionaries struggle with this sense of being faithful to their calling. Coming back to the States is necessary, but is not necessarily relaxing, comfortable, or refreshing. The work is there and they are not. It is an opportunity, however, to be humbled as God reminds us that the work is his, not ours. So, as much as missionaries enjoy seeing friends and family and “taking a break,” many eagerly anticipate returning to the field, returning “home.” We are keenly aware that this world is not our home and that we will never truly be at peace until we arrive at our eternal home in God’s heavenly kingdom. Until then, may we find our purpose in whatever place we find ourselves.
So, in between boat relocations, I’ve been doing maintenance. The biggest accomplishment (and most expensive so far) has been the installation of a new solar controller. After talking to tech support, we determined that our nearly 15 year old controller was done. We went with the Victron Energy MPPT 150/70 TR Solar Charge Controller and the optional bluetooth dongle that allows us to see what the solar panels are doing on our iPad. Very nice feature and super helpful.
The first few days were disappointing, but we have seen better results the last couple of days. We have been hitting 100% charge by sunset purely on solar and wind. Speaking of wind, our wind generator has not worked since we got the boat. I’ve been troubleshooting off and on for a couple of years to no avail. A couple of weeks ago, I pulled the generator’s mounting tube down, removed the blades and hub, cracked the housing open and pulled the main circuit board. I saw some significant scoring on the slip rings and suspected the brushes were the cause. I resurfaced them and we were back in business. We had to change the wind generator’s name from Macbeth (“Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”) to Mace Windu (continuing with our Star Wars naming scheme – autopilot=R2, Princess stove=Leia, VHF radio=C3PO, solar panels=hyper drive – notoriously non-functional). I replaced the spun-out prop on our outboard (his name is Sue – short for Tohatsu). Sue also got new lower gear oil (seriously considering paying someone to do that next time) and a rebuilt carburetor. Changed the oil in both diesels and in the generator. Preserved and painted anchor chain. There is still much to do, but we don’t want anyone thinking we are just playing around on the boat.
I have the last of my VA disability claim appointments tomorrow. Based on my disability rating right now, I qualify for 100% of my healthcare to be paid for by the VA, so that is tremendously helpful. Hopefully, my claim will be processed quickly and we can be cleared to depart after hurricane season. We are continuing to work through other minor family medical issues while we are here.
Brandy and I completed a US Sailing – Safety at Sea Seminar. It was $200 each but is going to cost us much more in the end. We need to purchase new life jackets for everyone that are rated for offshore use ($360 x 4 and $200 x 3), two AIS MOB (Automatic Identification System Man Overboard) beacons that sound an alarm and establish an electronic beacon that can be tracked by any vessel in the vicinity ($270 x 2, the kids have Personal Locator Beacons already). Of course, that also requires a new VHF radio with AIS, GPS and DSC ($360). Safety isn’t cheap, but human life is priceless.
Other large expenditures we are waiting on funding for are new batteries ($5000) and a new water maker (very nice to have to be able to bathe a couple of times a week – $6000). We are having an electrician look over the boat to help us troubleshoot some odd quirks and give us a consult on our battery bank replacement.
Next week we get to fulfill one of Caleb’s lifelong dreams of being right under a fireworks show. We will be assisting the City of San Diego’s annual Big Bay Boom Independence Day fireworks show by acting as a picket boat to keep other boats from getting too close to the fireworks barges. It should be pretty amazing (hopefully not a repeat of this) and a great way to celebrate the birth of our nation.

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