Well, that WAS different.

The summer is almost over and we’ve yet to post anything. There’s much to say, but it’s been hard to relive some of the situations to put them into words. So, we just didn’t and instead we have been dreading this post. Today I (Brandy) decided that maybe putting it all down “on paper” might just be the therapy I need (and then it’s taken another couple of weeks before I feel ready to post it).

We had so many reasons to believe that spending a few months in France was a great opportunity (see our previous post about this), but as it turned out, most of those expectations were based on misinformation. This post is long, but I feel many of you may be wondering about all the details (well, I’m a detail person).

The path and open area on the left were completely overgrown. I didn’t even know there was a path there.
Pictures from their website – not at all what it looked like.

House sitting at a small AirBnB in France sounded amazing! We were told to expect 1-2 hours of work per day – “Just check to see that the rooms are ready and greet the guests with the keys when they arrive.” It sounded pretty simple. We felt this was quite fair, and was going to fit well with our needs to finish this year’s homeschooling with the kids and allow Dennis the time he needed to finish his dissertation during hurricane season. However, as it turned out, we were working 8-12 hours per day. We arrived to rooms that were not ready to be occupied, unkept grounds with 3’ tall weeds everywhere, a partially finished fountain with water and mosquitoes that had apparently been sitting for weeks.

Nothing like the picture from the website. 
We needed to clear the driveway and paths to the rooms since the gardener wasn’t doing his job.
Guests had to walk around the cement blocks, pile of sand and tools.
The weeds were taller than Micah and Seth when we arrived.
Mosquito breeding ground. We drained it several times while we were there and treated the water with cinnamon (it kills mosquito larvae).
Second fountain. This was supposed to be finished in May and still looked like this when we left in July.

 

We were doing laundry around the clock, waking to put another load in the washer and hang up the sheets and towels that weren’t quite dry after 2 hrs in the dryer. With inadequate numbers of linens, it took hours to wash, dry and iron before we could finish preparing the rooms. The one residential European sized washing machine and dryer were severely inadequate for running an operation of that size.

And speaking of size, the property was quite a bit larger than we were led to believe. There were four 2 bedroom cottages with kitchen and bathrooms plus 3 other smaller rooms with 2 beds and a bathroom. There were a total of 17 beds plus 4 towels per bed. The rooms were almost always full, last minute reservations were common (11pm) and a few times she didn’t even let us know someone was coming (they’d just show up with an email reservation confirmation)! In 32 days, we cleaned the rooms 80 times. That’s about 200 bed changes and over 800 towels in a machine that would only hold one set of sheets at a time (and that was cramming them in)! They also insisted that we iron the sheets with a small ironing board and one iron (I’ve never seen anything come out of a dryer so wrinkled)! Apparently the owners lived in 4 of the rooms and only rented 3. We also found out that they have never been there in the summer months either since they purchased the property two years ago. They had someone watch the property last summer and he refused to return this year. They had no idea of what we were talking about when we tried to explain that it was physically impossible to wash the sheets and towels and get them back in the rooms in time for the next check in. There was certainly no time to take any day trips, much less an overnight trip to Paris as they suggested back in April. We even had to carefully time the trips to the grocery store so no one arrived to check in while we were gone.

Laundry on a Sunday morning
An hour per load in the washer and another 2 hours in the dryer. Still most of the towels were hung to finish drying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were told there would be minimum maintenance, possibly flipping a circuit breaker or two. The gardener would be around to handle anything more involved. We saw him only a handful of times during our 5 weeks and he never finished what he was supposed to, much less help with maintenance. In just the first few days, Dennis fixed two shower doors (one was leaning against the wall when we arrived), replaced 2 toilet seats, cleared multiple clogged drains, purchased and replaced a door knob, repaired multiple sink drains, pulled and sprayed weeds, trimmed a huge bush that was hanging into the pool, killed a poisonous snake, and replaced over a dozen light bulbs.

Additionally, they told us they would provide a detailed book of instructions, where to find circuit breakers, simple tools, contact information, and all supplies for 3 months. There was nothing left for us in the way of instructions. We continually asked for contact information for the gardener and only had enough supplies for the first week. We spent approximately $200 of our own money on things such as distilled water for ironing, small trash bags, light bulbs, toilet cleaner/deodorizer, parts for shower door, kitchen sponges, door knob, toilet seat, laundry detergent, toilet paper, coffee pods, and cleaning products.

Hope’s poor ankles. The fleas loved her.

The living conditions we were given were quite lacking. The “fully furnished 2 bedroom apartment” contained a queen mattress on the floor, 3 twin beds, a futon, a desk, a table and 10 mismatched (some broken) chairs. No closets, no shelves, no drawers. The kitchen did have quite a lot of dishes, glasses, and pots and pans, however they were all broken, chipped, missing handles, etc. The pantry was left (3 weeks) before we arrived with dozens of open packages of cereal, flour, cornmeal, and the insects that hatched. We were constantly dealing with maggots and moths long after we threw everything away. The infestation of fleas (they had two indoor pets) made things quite uncomfortable. Without exaggeration, we had hundreds of flea bites. The toilets in all the rooms were full of tiny flies when we first arrived as well.

The small car in “good condition” that we rented from them (we were actually paying them!) turned out to be frustrating also, but a necessity to go purchase the needed supplies. They said it didn’t need any maintenance in the coming months, but we would be responsible should something break, “like a flat tire.” However, the tires were old and had very little tread. Add to that the window that didn’t roll down, key fob didn’t work, the only door lock mechanism didn’t turn, and it wouldn’t shift into second gear. Not exactly what we would call good condition.

We were in constant communication with the owners regarding the guests who would be arriving, however all of our concerns and questions were mostly ignored. We were never given the gardener’s contact information, they never acknowledged the fleas, the unfinished fountain and dangerous tools left out, car problems, or really anything. They failed to tell us that “our space” was the common area and kitchen that guests were allowed to use. That made more sense when we discovered that they lived in the 4 rooms upstairs and the downstairs (our space) was just the common area, extra kitchen and office. When I asked about extra linens or how she kept up with the laundry, her response was just that we’d figure it out. No options or even a thank you. When we asked for them to order more supplies and have them delivered (a few days after we arrived), they said to just go buy them at the store. We never were reimbursed for our gas for these trips. When we told them we couldn’t find the right parts for the broken shower track after 3 stores in 3 towns, she refused to order them. Instead their plan was that Dennis should just use the parts from another room that had the same type shower and move the pieces back and forth depending on which room was occupied. Besides being a horrible idea, the rooms were both almost constantly booked. She also wouldn’t block the room from new bookings until it could be fixed either.

After a week of this drama (yep, week 1), we let them know that we could not stay the entire summer in this type of situation. We agreed to stay a month because we knew it would be a hardship on them to find someone else (although practically 100 others responded to the same post I did). We told them we would continue to work hard to make sure the property was clean and the guests were comfortable and happy. We did our best to keep things cordial and polite since we knew we had another 3 weeks.

During the remaining weeks, Dennis reattached screens on every window, replaced another toilet seat, fixed outdoor chairs, defrosted refrigerators, fixed air conditioners, We had one night that the hot water was out on one room (with the rudest guest we had) and our kitchen sink. The 2 water heaters were working fine and the owners weren’t responding to our questions. Finally after almost 2 hours of trial and error and walking the property, Dennis found a gas water heater in the gardener’s tool shed that the pilot light was out. He relit it and half an hour later, at 11pm, we were back in business. Finally around midnight the owners responded that we should check the gas water heater. Dennis refused to take care of the roof leak and the owners still hadn’t addressed it when we left.

We also emailed them to discuss a payment for our work, reimbursement for the supplies we purchased, and especially no charge for the car. We found out through a guest that they charged a cleaning fee. They again completely ignored our email. Dennis did some research on the average minimum wage in France (for a 35 hr week and we were working more like 50-60 hrs/week). We also looked up the cost of a furnished apartment in the area. Just counting the two of us (not taking into consideration the work our children were putting in), we should have been paid about 6000 euro/month ($6970). The average rent was only 500 euros. We asked them for a payment of $1500 (the cleaning fees for the number of rooms we cleaned) to help cover our travel expenses, plus reimbursement for what purchased for their property. Nowhere near what they would pay actual workers (it worked out to about $1/hr) but still a bit to help us.

After a week, we sent another email, requesting acknowledgment that they received the first email. They had, and said they would get back to us soon. We continued to ask them every few days with the same response. We were also informed that they couldn’t have anyone arrive until Monday, the 9th, 3 days after we said we were leaving. That added another extremely difficult weekend. We agreed to stay if they would pay us what we were asking. On Saturday, the 7th, Dennis sent another email asking for a decision on the money or we weren’t cleaning any more rooms. We did clean the rooms though, and had them ready for the next round of guests, so I guess this was just a bit of an ultimatum to get them to give us an answer. I sent another message stating the rooms were clean and ready but we really needed an answer. Well, about 9:00 that night (the whole day passed!) the answer we got was that someone was coming to collect the keys, we had less than an hour to get out, and after the property was inspected for damages, he would reimburse us for the supplies we purchased!

What?! Damages?! We were shocked and angry. How many things had Dennis fixed?! Our reimbursement was long overdue and shouldn’t have been held ransom anyways. He said if we weren’t out that night he would charge us 225 euro (if I remember correctly) to stay at HIS AirBnB since we weren’t working. He completely ignored the fact that we were, in fact, still working! We hadn’t packed because we were cleaning all day, still doing laundry and awaiting another guest. I had made a reservation to pick up the rental car on the 8th so we couldn’t leave anyways. He said we could stay if we agreed to clean all the rooms on Sunday. We felt so bullied! But we did it. That property was cleaner the morning of the 9th than it had probably ever been! We were reimbursed for our purchases (not for gas) and given about 400 euros ($464, not even a third of what we asked). It didn’t even cover half of our flight to France.

The kids said they learned a lot from the summer, mostly that the world is a contrast of people. We met people from 6 continents while we were there. So many countries and languages came to our doorstep, including a young US missionary family serving in Africa. Some of our favorites were from Sweden and Russia. We had people stay 15 hours and use every possible towel, bed, bar of soap, steal toilet paper!, leave dirty dishes on the counter, trash everywhere but the trash can and expect someone to clean up after them. Others would stay 2-3 days, use one towel each, wash every dish they used and even take the trash out themselves. I know our kids will always be the latter because they know that behind the scenes is someone who does the cleaning. They certainly learned that their actions affect others.

We learned there are those that will bend the truth, take advantage, and bully to get their way. But there are many more who are kind, friendly, and love to share their lives with those they meet.

Thankfully, this was only the first part of our summer. Our God can and does make beauty from our ashes, and those stories are still to come.

King – the ranch cat and my favorite part of France.

It’s only been TWO WEEKS?!

It’s barely been two weeks since we left Mexico. Our sail north from La Paz to Puerto Peñasco was everything from calm and boring to rough with lots going wrong. In other words, a pretty normal sail for us. The 4 days we worked and put the boat to “bed” was some of the most physically demanding and exhausting work we’ve done in awhile. But she’s safe and secure and all cleaned up. We took the sails down, lines down and everything outside is now inside. She looks naked! We don’t look forward to putting all back in working order in the fall.

We spent 3 days in Phoenix with friends from our “Young Marrieds” days at College Ave Baptist Church in San Diego in the late 90s. We’re so thankful for their hospitality and friendship for so many years. Other friends loaned us their truck (while they’re off floating along the coast in Central America). We caught a cheap flight from Phoenix to New York, drove to McGuire AFB in New Jersey and then caught a military flight to Mildenhall, England. We’ve spent the last week in Scotland with another set of dear friends from our “Young Marrieds” class. The last time our three families were together was 2015 and our 12 kids always pick up as no time has passed at all, just like us adults. We are so blessed!!

It’s been so refreshing for us to spend time with our wonderful friends. It was exactly what we needed after some physically and emotionally tough months. And that’s good because tomorrow we start our 3 months in France. Dennis has already made a plan for finishing up his doctorate. The kids and I have some big plans for getting some major school work done too (ok, I do, they don’t quite know yet). We’ll enjoy the time to roam around 2 acres and meet many wonderful people who come through the ranch. It’ll be such a change for all of us and we’re excited to see what God has planned.

Oh, that reminds me, we were given information on two missionary couples from France while visiting our friends’ church in Phoenix. Also, we just reached out to a missionary couple looking for some R&R not too far from where we’ll be in France. We will probably also make it to Ireland in September where we’ll have the opportunity to visit missionaries from my childhood church. It’s pretty exciting!!!

The ugly side of our ministry

Life is full of many things, some pretty and some ugly. We want everyone to see the pretty stuff – the things we brag about, sharing every last detail. But there’s usually also stuff that’s ugly. This is the stuff we hide. We don’t like to think about it even ourselves.

So far we’ve shared the pretty stuff with our ministry, but there’s an ugly side, a hard side. Things that bring us to tears oftentimes.

Today we said “See ya later” to the missionary families we’ve been working with in La Paz. It was rough. There have been tears in our family tonight. We’ve been here one month. That’s all, but in some ways we feel like we’ve known these families forever. And leaving is hard.

Our family spent over 20 years in the Navy saying “See ya later” to more friends than we can count. We learned to never say goodbye. One, it’s just WAY too hard. And two, a lot of times we do see them again. But I’ll say this, it stinks. It didn’t get easier just because we had done it so many times. If anything, it got harder. But we continued to jump in immediately when we moved somewhere new. We made friends quickly. We found a new church, a new grocery store, a new friend to list on our kids’ emergency contact paperwork. We continued to cry and mourn when we left to go somewhere new, knowing the new place wouldn’t be like the old place. It would be different, but we would hold to the hope and knowledge that every time we moved before, we’d eventually make that new place home and it would one day be hard to leave too. I had no idea that the 20+ years in the Navy was part of our preparation for becoming missionaries.

The very nature of our ministry, reaching out to serve those who serve, means we’re constantly on the move. We’re only in a place a short time. We connect quickly. Our kids connect even faster. (I have to say, it’s amazing how fast our kids connect. I am SO proud of them.) And then we leave. It’s hard on us and it’s hard on the missionaries. These families have left their homes to make a new home in the place God called them to serve. For some it’s a lifetime and others, it’s a season, and it’s just hard. They’re in a new place, finding a new grocery store, making new friends, and many times even in a new language. (Tangent – Missionary kids are remarkable. They’re called Third Culture Kids. They are usually from one culture, live in a second, but become a blend of the two – creating a unique third culture. It’s sometimes difficult for them to feel like they ever fit in. Next time you meet a missionary kid, tell them you think they’re awesome, because they are.)

We know we’ll stay in touch and we hope to see these families again. But we know that even if our paths don’t cross again on this earth, we will see each other one day in Heaven.

Jesus makes even the ugly stuff beautiful.

 

 

A little bit about Mexico and the ministry here (in a video)

We’re winding down our time here in La Paz. The marina is officially kicking us out this week (well, our month is up). The last few weeks have been a blur but in a good way. This past week we were able to take one of the missionary families into our world for a day. We took a daysail up to Isla Espiritu Santo (which is Spanish for “Holy Spirit Island”).

 

It’s a beautiful lagoon and small coral reef. We pulled out the snorkel gear, paddle boards, and boys’ kayaks. It was a pretty fun and relaxing day!

 

Here’s a video we made for the kids at my parents’ church in Alabama as they are learning about Mexico. We thought many of you might like it as well. We aren’t great at this video thing, but we gave it a shot. We’ll keep working on it and maybe put Hope in charge of video production next time 😉

 

 

 

And Now for Something Completely Different

“The wind (pneuma) blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (pneuma).” – John 3:8

We’re going to France for 3-6 months!

 

Did we lose you there? Here’s the situation:

Once again, the name of the game is flexibility. When we chose the name for our website, we had little idea how true it would be. Our willingness to be led by the Spirit (pneuma / wind) has meant that Brandy has had to grow in the area of letting go of control. Her ability to plan and organize has been a strength for the decades of our married life, but lately it seems that the Lord is working to teach us to trust Him more than ourselves or even our God-given strengths.

In the latest unveiling, we are feeling strongly led to France – and not sailing there. We have an invitation to house sit in the South of France.

There are several reasons that this is a reasonable and viable option. First of all, it is a direct answer to prayer. Our trip north to La Paz was not in our original sailing plan (though apparently it was in God’s). We had intended to be half way to El Salvador by this point. Hurricanes get a (majority) vote in this part of the world. Officially, hurricane season starts in June, but the first one last year was May 9. El Salvador is still technically in the hurricane zone (the very southern edge), but historically speaking, isn’t known for having problems. We were a little anxious about getting there because it meant we would be in a hurry and on a schedule. The saying goes that the most dangerous thing to have on a sailboat is a schedule. Not that laid back is a requirement (though it helps), but when you have to be somewhere by a certain time, you are more inclined to do things you might not otherwise.
 So, we would be hurrying south for several weeks, pushing ourselves and the boat, racing against the clock with no truly safe locations to hide if a hurricane does form early this year.

As we saw it, we had three options for this hurricane season (officially June 1 – October 31).

1. Stay in La Paz longer and then sail north into the Sea of Cortez as hurricanes get further north. The hurricanes in the western Pacific usually start in southern Mexico/Guatemala and move gradually north throughout the season. Space for a sailboat in La Paz is considered premium and they charge based on that. This is by far the most expensive marina we have stayed in. It’s not something we can afford for an extended period of time. And, it’s still in the hurricane zone.

2. Sail north into the Sea of Cortez. This isn’t such a bad option. There’s plenty of amazing things to see and beautiful places to visit in the Sea of Cortez. The missionaries we spent time with last spring are still in Loreto. Again, it’s super expensive there too, and not somewhere we could afford for more than a month. And, well, Loreto is still in the hurricane zone too.

3. Sail to the top of the Sea of Cortez (hey, our insurance company finally says this is out of the hurricane zone!) and haul the boat out for the hurricane season. Many boaters choose this option, so it is quite common and safe. We’ve spoken to several dry storage places and found one that can haul our boat (really, our friends left their boat there last year and they have a bigger boat than ours, so no issues like last year when we tried to haul the boat in Loreto). The haul out and storage fees are quite cheap and it’s in a very secure location. But, if we go with this option, we need to find somewhere to live for 3-6 months.

During all these discussions of what to do and where to go, Brandy spontaneously responded to a post on World School House Swap looking for a house sitter for a bed and breakfast in the South of France. A few hundred other people did also. I mean, what are the chances?

Well, I guess they are pretty high when God is directing our path.

We were their first choice! We will be at Zocalo Ranch near Oppede, France, in June, July and August, with the possibility (depending on whether or not we are granted extended visas) of staying through September and October. The kids are ecstatic! A 2-acre ranch surrounded by lavender fields (there’s even a lavender museum). Land to roam around. Cherry, fig and olive trees. A pâtisserie just a short walk away. What a change this will be for all of us!

We’ve already reached out to a missionary agency in the nearby town and are waiting to see what God wants to show us this summer.

There are more reasons that this is a huge answered prayer. It solves our hurricane season problem mentioned above. It also allows us to save some money. The storage fee will be less than $300 per month. Since we will not be using the boat, maintenance and upkeep costs will be reduced. What about plane tickets, you ask? Well, one of the benefits we paid for over the past 20 years is free space-available military flights – including to Europe. The money we are able to save will pay for things like new solar panels, a new solar arch, a new dinghy (or major overhaul of our current), cockpit enclosure, and possibly a higher output watermaker (=everyone gets at least one shower/week and maybe some laundry).

In addition, the deadline for Dennis’ Doctor of Ministry project in support of our ministry model is approaching. The plan of working while sailing to exotic locations hasn’t worked out as most of his time in these exotic locations is occupied with fixing the boat. France will provide 90 or more days of a desk and good WiFi (both unavailable out here) to research and write. Brandy will take advantage of this time to gain additional training and preparation for the work ahead.

As flexible and available as we are, there are still bureaucracies to deal with. We are running into some challenges with long-term (greater than 3 months) visas for France. We have been in contact with several French consulates and are gettting the run-around. We haven’t been able to get an appointment and it appears that there will be none until the beginning of June.
 So, at this point, we will likely only stay the three months, then have to leave Europe. September is still hurricane season, so we’ll possibly spend time with our friends in Scotland before crossing the pond again. We will make our way back to the boat, take care of those big projects, splash the boat and start south again. We have contacts in Guatemala, Honduras and Panama that we will plan to support next year.

We appreciate your prayers as we do all the stuff that is involved in hauling the boat, getting visas (or not), working out details and moving overseas. We are especially excited about what the ministry will look like there. We look forward to sharing the new thing that God is doing.

One week down in La Paz…

Since we arrived in La Paz last Monday, we’ve been busy! Our first night here we went to Applebee’s for dinner. Mmm, those were some delicious burgers and just what the doctor ordered for our American stomachs.

We have a few boat projects (and other stuff) that we decided to jump on while we’re dockside (way easier than at anchor).

-Solar…our old panels just aren’t keeping up. We’ve been limiting our power use as much as possible (refrigeration only and solar lights at night) and still having to run the generator every day. So, we’ve been doing a bit of shopping, networking and finding stainless steel guys who could help set up a new solar system (Caleb just pointed out that I’m not talking about a new galaxy).

-repaired (well, almost finished) our dinghy…it went flat just a couple of days before we left La Cruz. It blew a hole along the forward seam. We’re hoping this repair will hold. That’s our only way in from anchor (which is another reason we’re actually in a marina right now).

-filed our taxes…boy, that was different and much more challenging after all our years on active duty!

-made several LONG walks around La Paz to find grocery stores, electronic stores, solar panels, and people

-cleaned our fish tank…we can actually see our two cute little fresh water fish again

-kids are catching up with and spending time with their other boat friends who came here from La Cruz also

-I went to a “What my boat did during summer vacation” seminar, which could also be known as “It’s almost hurricane season, what do I do with my boat?!” This has been a constant topic around here lately and the more we discuss it, the less confident we have become that we can sail south before the first hurricane of the season. That’s not exactly something we want to get stuck in on our way to El Salvador (where we intended to spend hurricane season). The first one last year was May 9. If we leave La Paz (planning around May 7ish) and go as fast as possible south, it would still probably take a month (did I mention that sailboats aren’t known for their speed?). That timeline isn’t looking good, so we’re exploring other possibilities for the summer/early fall.

-and we cut Caleb’s hair for the first time in almost two years!

What’s going on ministry-wise…

We arrived a few days early (what?! And on a sailboat even!) so our new missionary friends were still spending time with their family visiting from Canada. We thought we’d make ourselves at home in La Paz and get started on those boat jobs.

The missionaries we worked with last year in Loreto told us about a Christian couple here in La Paz that runs a bed and breakfast called CasaBuena. They told us to go see them if we ever made it here. So they were on our list. We were also given the name of an English speaking church and a horse therapy program for disabled kids from another cruiser. Our first morning here we were asking some other boaters about solar panels and were told we must go meet Milton. He apparently had a “solar farm” on the roof of his B&B. And maybe you can guess this, but the B&B was CasaBuena! Let me tell you, this is the most impressive solar setup I have ever seen! He even has it wired into the city grid and pumps power to them all day! So as we’re spending an afternoon getting to know them, we mention the church we were told about and the horse therapy program. Well, the church is right there on their property, and Milton’s wife, Susu, runs the horse program!! They also know all the missionary families that we’re here to see! Hope has been joining Susu with her horse ministry to disabled children and definitely in her happy place. Horses are Hope’s love language 🙂

 

We also spent a few afternoons with the Thiessen family last week getting to know them. The kids hit it off too. We spent Saturday evening at their youth ministry which had 25-30 kids (I didn’t count, but it was a lot). The kids had a blast playing gaga ball and even Micah and Seth jumped right in with these teenagers. I loved how everyone was accepted and cheered on no matter their skin color or the language they spoke. Mine may have been a little lost though when it came time for their lesson (ok, I was too). We’ll keep working on our Spanish skills. Everyone enjoyed April birthday cake at the end!

Sunday morning we drug our tired selves out of bed (everything is late here in Mexico and we’re still on a sailor’s schedule) and made it to church just a few minutes late. It was another packed house! We stayed after for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon with Milton and Susu while our kids enjoyed their pool.
Tomorrow Dennis and Hope are traveling a couple of hours by car to renew her passport and then she’ll head out to the horse ranch for the evening. We’re going to lunch with 2 missionary families tomorrow and then going over to the Thiessens in the evening. As they run a sports ministry here, we may be joining them at their basketball practice Thursday evening and their tournament Friday evening. Thursday morning Dennis will be going to a men’s breakfast with the local church. During the day on Friday we’ll be joining the Thiessens and several other missionary families for lunch at their missionary prayer day. Saturday…well, we haven’t planned that far yet but I’m sure it’ll be busy!

Thank you for your prayers for us and we ask that you also pray for the many missionary families here in La Paz!

 

 

HE IS RISEN!

Since we started this ministry a little over a year ago, there have been many moments (weeks, months 🙄) where we were preparing ourselves (and our boat). We’re still in a constant state of keeping things working, but so excited to see the ministry opportunities that God is providing. The Sunday worship services have grown from our 7 to 14 last couple of weeks (13 different people plus our family). We’re leaving this next week to sail to La Paz to spend the rest of April with a couple of missionary families. We have a new contact with a family in Guatemala, another in Honduras (we’ve been talking to them for a few months) and a new agency contact in Panama!! Our preparations are finally turning into active ministry!!
BUT it’s wonderful to know that God is pleased with all phases of ministry!!

 

Tomorrow morning we’ll be holding an Easter Sunrise Service on our boat, Ankyrios, in the La Cruz anchorage at 8am. We’ll have some muffins or something similar, but BYOB (like coffee or tea, not that kind of BYOB 😜)
We’ll also have an Easter worship service at 5pm in the VIP Lounge at Marina La Cruz. It’s a come as you are, no need to dress up or bring anything special, other than yourself.
If you’re in the La Cruz area, please join us! If you aren’t, please pray for us and all those that may attend.

Where in the world are the Kellys?!

You’d know if we’d update our blog, huh? Is our last post really from December of last year?! Oh my!!

We’ve been busy and have kept up with posting, at least a little more frequently, on our facebook group. There’s a link on our main page that will take you there and you can ask to join the group. Limited wifi here in Mexico allows easy posting on facebook, but not so easy on here.

We are in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, in Bahia de Banderas, near Puerto Vallarta. We’ve been here since the beginning of February. We are hosting weekly non-denominational Christian services at one of the marinas for the “cruising” community (ie. all the other boaters).
There are a lot of kids here and a great group, La Cruz Kids Club, that provides so many different opportunities for the kids – from arts and crafts, games, movie nights, working in local restaurants, helping at a spray and neuter clinic, running the kids’ net on the VHF radio each morning, just to name a few. Our kids are thriving!

Hope and I (Brandy) went back to San Diego, tied up some loose ends, drove across the country to my parents in Alabama and spent another week helping them with their upcoming move to CO (to be near my sister). Forty plus years of stuff and memories to sort, pack and prepare the house for sale. We may make another trip back to help again before they actually move.

We’re praying for direction for some possible opportunities, and the timing for all. Please pray with us.

So that’s the VERY SHORT version of what’s been going on around here.

Merry Christmas from San Diego

Hello friends and family! First, let me start with an apology to all of you for our lack of updates. The Kellys have been busy lately with our anticipated departure date of 10 December to head back south to Mexico. Our thought has been, “We’ll have time for long updates once we’re sailing.” And, we will eventually post long boring stories of our adventures of the last few months.
We’ve been working on more boat projects, ordering parts and supplies for other projects, and still trying to finish up our medical craziness (why can’t doctors just fill out forms and turn them in!). While some things have been going well, other things are requiring more time and attention. Additional things have been breaking (like our fresh water pump) and requiring our immediate attention. We’ve finally sourced a part for our holding tank (at least we think it will fit) after 6 months, but it’s in Florida and it needs to be shipped. A few other parts aren’t due to arrive until the 8th, which means we could leave with the parts, but the repairs would have to be done while we sail or not until we reach Mexico. We can’t delay even a few days after the 10th or we would not make our Christmas destination in La Cruz (near Puerto Vallarta) by Christmas. Some people say the most dangerous thing to have on a sailboat is a schedule. Trying to make it to La Cruz before Christmas could possibly have us doing things and dealing with weather we normally wouldn’t sail in. There just wouldn’t be any extra time to sit and wait out the rough seas like we did on our sail north from Mexico last spring.
So after lots of discussion and prayer, we’ve decided to remain in California until after Christmas. We feel peace about the decision, although part of me thinks we are just delaying the stress and chaos a few weeks because it’s always crazy the last few days/weeks before a major move. And this is certainly a major move. We have no plans to come back for at least a year.
Please pray for us physically and emotionally as we work through these last few weeks, sell the remaining stuff and vehicles, coordinate with our missionary contacts in Mexico, and fix the must-dos on the boat. Thank you all for your support and prayers!

Preparations

The sluggard does not plow in the autumn;
he will seek at harvest and have nothing.

 Proverbs 20:4

    One of the big things I learned from one of my first mentors was “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.” God, in his grace, brought us back to the States before we experienced much poor performance. Doing the hard work up front enables us to perform at a higher level later. Two-a-days in the heat of Summer pays off in wins for the football team in the Fall. Hundreds of miles of training runs equals a successful marathon and probably a PR. Hours spent studying vocabulary means a smoother trip overseas. A pattern of obedience in small things helps us choose the right thing in the face of difficulty or temptation.

    As I have said before, what we are doing now does not feel like it is fulfilling our missionary calling. After all, we are “suffering for Jesus” in Coronado, CA.
But, we are building a foundation from which we can more effectively serve in the coming years. When we left last year, we weren’t nearly as ready as we needed to be. Work obligations kept us from doing all that needed to be done in order for us to leave the country for 3-5 years. We really have benefitted from this unplanned return. Of course, God knew what it would take to convince us to bring the boat all the way back here for six months.
    The primary purpose of our return was my VA disability claim. My pre-discharge claim was cancelled (rather than the VA being delinquent on their 90-day requirement). So, I re-initiated everything in May. This month I had appointments for my sleep apnea, hearing loss and tinnitus, had some pre-cancerous spots taken care of and began physical therapy for my hips, neck and back. Just this week, I received my disability rating of 80%. I had no idea how broken I was. It is a little encouraging in that I don’t have to feel so guilty when I just can’t make myself play with the kids because I don’t feel well. At the same time, 80% disability sounds like I am 80% disabled! That is humbling. The VA concurs that my bad knees, hips, ankle, neck, migraines, TBI, hearing loss, etc. are the result of more than two decades of military service. In any case, that’s a big check in the box. Technically, I am now officially a disabled veteran. :-/
    Speaking of medical issues, another reason for us to return was the probability of Brandy needing a hysterectomy. After consultation with her doctor, we opted for a hysteroscopy, a procedure that would take a closer look and help determine if a hysterectomy was really indicated. She had the procedure in the beginning of the month. The doctor found an area of interest and biopsied it. Results came back and Brandy was given the green light. No hysterectomy needed, follow up with a regular exam in a year. Praise the Lord!
    After medical issues, we have been focused on developing our support network. Even though we are not “in the field,”our financial needs are probably greatest right now. Once we leave, most of our expenses will be things like insurance, fuel, rental cars to get to missionaries, the occasional marina and saving for repairs. A common conservative estimate is that you should plan for 10-20% of the boat’s value for annual maintenance. For us, that is about $15,000-$30,000 a year. Right now, we are knocking out some pretty major (expensive) projects that will allow us to leave behind the conveniences of half a dozen West Marine‘s within 25 miles and more real chandleries and highly skilled marine craftsmen that we can shake a stick at. We know that we have a $10,000 standing rigging job waiting for us in New Zealand, so we need to plan for that. We are currently about 25% funded of our $3000 monthly goal. Right now we have $430.41 in our ministry account with $1715.35 of ministry expenses sitting on a credit card. (If you would like to help, you can give online here: – select “Dennis Kelly Ankyrios Mission” from the dropdown. Also, we have an Amazon wish list if you wanted to purchase something for us.)
    Many issues surfaced while we were in Mexico. First and foremost, our battery bank is severely deficient. We had a consultation by an electrician this week. As nice as it would be, LiFePO4 batteries are not in our future (unless a generous donor wanted to help out with a $15,000 donation). So, for about a third of the price, we will be installing 765 Ah of AGM batteries as well as larger alternators and a regulator to ensure that we don’t kill the new batteries. He also looked at our solar array and will be coming back to help us investigate why we are only getting about 50% out of our panels.
    In a couple of weeks we are going to have to haul the boat out of the water for new bottom paint ($2200), all new through-hulls ($400 / through-hull x 9) and repairs of the port sail drive ($900). We would do the through hulls, but the yards around here won’t let you do any work below the waterline in their yards (probably some union thing). On the “cheaper” side, we were able to do much work ourselves this month. Our shift cable broke (while trying to anchor – not a great time, but at least the anchor was ready to let go and the anchorage wasn’t too crowded) and I was able to jury-rig a solution (temporary). I climbed the mast to fix a shorted out anchor light (at anchor in a busy anchorage – probably as much fun as any amusement park ride I’ve done).  
I’ve troubleshot and repaired a water leak and a water pump issue. I have been investigating a number of electrical issues (thus the electrician visit). Both vehicles were in the shop this month ($900 on the truck for suspension and A/C work!) and I ended up doing about $1200 dollars of work myself (brake booster on truck went out, brake job on the car). There is always something to fix around here.
    It isn’t all about working on the boat, we have been busy with ministry as well. Brandy is actively involved in two ladies’ Bible studies. I have gotten plugged in to the Coronado Men’s Connection. We have both been mentoring and discipling some younger brothers and sisters. I have been handyman-on-call for the church as we have been sprucing up the place and most of the men in the church have like jobs or something. The kids attended Vacation Bible School last week and this week as well as youth for the older three. Hope has gotten some one-on-one time with an older girl she looks up to. Just today she headed off for high school youth camp for a week thanks to a generous scholarship from the church.
    I have been doing quite a bit of research for my doctoral project. I had intended to spend this year writing it, but we have been a little busy. I am developing a program to help reinvigorate missionaries and pastors, or really any believer, who are on the verge of burnout and losing their passion and love for the Lord. Rather than the tired “try harder,” “fake it till you make it,” “just pray more” kind of Sunday school answers, I am looking outside the walls of the church for scientific support for spiritual disciplines. I am not saying that the Bible is insufficient, by any means, but I am saying that science supports biblical truth. People who know the Bible sometimes have a hard time hearing what it says to them. Things like neuroplasticity and neurogenesis (Romans 12:2 – renewing the mind), epigenetics and gene activation (Exodus 20:5 – generational curses), and collaborative intelligence and learning (Acts 2:42 – devoted to teaching, spiritual gifts and fellowship). I’ve been listening to tons of TedTalks and MetaLearn.net podcasts while I work on the boat (multi-tasking).
    We’ve also had some fun. We won tickets to Comic-Con and Hope and I both dressed as Captain America.
The other four got in free and they all dressed as Yu-Gi-Oh characters.  
Because we acted as a picket boat to keep other boats at least 900 feet from the fireworks barge, we had front-row seats to the Big Bay Boom.
Brandy and the kids thoroughly enjoyed cat-sitting for our friends with 2 cats and 3 little kittens.  
We had a great visit with some friends, Rodolphe and Stephanie Jourdan from 20 years ago who used to live on a boat.
We had our friends Robert and Cheryl Bradshaw out for a sail. We forget that this life isn’t routine for most people. We were just moving the boat like we always do, but the Bradshaw’s had a good time.
    Next month we will no longer have Fiddler’s Cove Marina as an option. We were just informed that there will be no vacancy for us after 01 August. We have a good lead on a place we can take the boat that should be cheap to possibly free! It should also allow us to leave the boat for extended periods, allowing for a trip East before we head south again in November. We are looking forward to some more fun and practical training. The middle two weeks of August, we will be dog-sitting, which will give us time to pull the boat out. After that, we are planning a 10-12 day trip around the Channel Islands. We have to be back by the beginning of September because I have been invited to preach the whole month of September. We are also looking into the feasibility of my taking a wilderness EMT course. The course is pretty expensive and takes a month, but it would be nice to have the training for our missionary work.
    This has been a lengthy post, but a month is a long time. If you’ve read this far, thank you for your dedication. Once again, I will try to do better about posting more frequently. God bless you all. If you don’t mind, comment on the post so we can get a sense of who’s seeing this and so we can pray for you. Blessings and peace!