Prayer items are highlighted like this. It’s been just over a month since I came to Bonaire, and I think I’m starting to get settled. Everything I shipped from Nashville arrived, though not all in one piece, but no serious damage. The books remained in their boxes while bookcases were constructed by hand. These are some very sturdy bookcases. Here’s a shot of my office, with books now happily situated.
It took a while, but I eventually was able to get internet service in both my home and my office. Doing business here in Bonaire is somewhat more bureaucratized than it is in the states. Ordering internet service in a place of business requires papers authenticating the place of business and the person doing the ordering. This required that someone go by the Chamber of Commerce and get a certified copy of our “Uittreksel Uit Het Handelsregister” (that’s Dutch for “Uittreksel Uit Het Handelsregister”—something like evidence that you’re legitimately in business in Bonaire). After you tell them you want one, you go back a couple of days later to pick up the copy and pay the $11 fee. In the end, it took about two and a half weeks, but there’s now an internet connection in my office.
My other contact with Dutch bureaucracy was my first visit to the Immigration Office to apply for a work permit residency. That went off pretty much without a hitch, thanks to the expert assistance of Brandon Neal. Brandon’s the business administrator for TWR in Bonaire, and has completed this process for several of their folks. When got to the appointment, we did discover that we had one form that was incorrect (Americans complete a different form), but we were able to complete the correct one while we were there. We left the office with a six month extension stamp in my passport, and we should get the residency sometime in the next six weeks (this is something you could pray for, by the way).
Lots of people here have helped me with the transition. When I first arrived, I had planned to rent a car, but Francisco, a church member at IBC, generously provided me with a vehicle to use while I looked for one of my own—this little red Suzuki Samurai. This car is an adventure. One morning, when I sat down on the driver’s seat, I was rewarded with a splash of about a quart of refreshing rainwater from the canvas top. No big deal; things dry quickly in Bonaire.
As it turned out, I didn’t really do much of the looking for the new car. Amado, who is something like the facilitator of all things in Bonaire, started keeping an eye out for the right truck. After a couple of weeks, we found a very nice Toyota Tacoma. It’s a 2005 model, and hasn’t been driven much since it came to Bonaire—just over 7,100 miles. And it’s easier to buy a car in Bonaire than to buy internet service. NO TITLE, just a bill of sale. You do have to take the bill of sale to buy insurance (and don’t forget your passport), and then you have to take your insurance paper to the tax office to transfer the registration. But since the registration has already been paid for this year, transferring the registration cost me nothing.
Of course, I’ve had nothing but interesting experiences since I’ve been here. I’m taking the class they give to people who give guided tours (mostly to cruise ship passengers). The class is taught by Sue Felix (Amado’s wife), and covers everything from architecture to flamingos. Did you know that flamingos sit on their eggs to keep them cool?
The list of people who have been extremely helpful is a long list. Of course Walt & Lynne Bentsen are renting me my new house, have taken me diving, and fed me a number of times. Walt also supervised the installation of the AC and the bookcases in my office, among other things. The guys at TWR (Joe, Brad, Brandon, Dave, Dick, Kevin, and Donna) let me use their internet connection while I was waiting for my own. Dave and his wife, Mari, have had me over for supper twice. Michael Gaynor (he’s the Chat n’ Browse guy) has been introducing me to everyone on the island. The church’s elders, Bob Lassiter—who is Bob Johnston’s brother from another mother—and Brad Swanson, are providing me with good friendship and counsel. I’m sure they’ve kept me from stepping in it on more than one occasion already. And, of course, both Pastor Baran and Felicia have been extremely helpful.
Another highlight has been the opportunity to attend a monthly meeting for prayer with the Governor, Lydia Emerencia. A small group of pastors meet at her home, one of them gives a bit of a devotional message, and then she shares what’s on her mind and what she’d like us to pray for. Each time this has led to conversation about the current state of life on Bonaire, including the spiritual condition of the people. At last Friday’s meeting, the previous Governor, Herbert Domacasse, was also present. He is a believer, and I had met him on previous visits to the island (he actually attended a significant part of the Bible study methods seminar we gave here a few years ago). I can’t tell you what an educational privilege it is to get to spend time with these people.
Ministry-wise, things are going very well so far. I’m preaching a series called My Six Essential Convictions as a Pastor. Here they are:
- The Gospel of God’s grace in Christ is always at the center of the Christian life and of everything we do in the Church.
- The Bible is the written word of God about the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ. It is the story of God’s grace toward sinners, not a personal life manual.
- The Church is first and foremost a mission organization. It exists to advance the Gospel among all sinners, not simply to serve the spiritual development of its members.
- Worship is not a service we attend on Sundays or a warm feeling we have toward God; rather, worship is the offering of our entire lives to God in response to His grace toward us in Christ.
- The Fellowship of the Body of Christ is discovered when each one sees himself as a member of a family, adopts the status of servant of all, and takes up the role of fellow laborer for the gospel.
- The Mission of the local Church is to advance the Gospel in our community as we demonstrate the love of God in Christ indiscriminately by all available means, and to partner with other Christians around the world as they do the same.
If you’re at CBC in Nashville, you’ll recognize these as a rewrite of the CORE series Byron recently completed. In fact, in some cases, there’s no rewrite.
We are also in the middle of the important process of selecting men to serve as elders. We are seeking to add several men to the board, and this week, they are considering whether they will be willing to serve. Please pray for us that the Lord will give us the men we need in this role.
Another item for prayer is our ministry to children on Sunday mornings. We have come to the conclusion that we need to serve children in their native language as much as possible. At the moment, we have a significant population of Dutch kids, and their lack of understanding of English makes participating in church a challenge. So we are working to organize parallel programs so that we can effectively serve our children. I’ll be meeting with Felicia and Brad this Friday to begin putting our basic strategy in place.
Finally, we’ve scheduled my official installation as Pastor here at IBC for Sunday, December 8, by which time my residency should have been approved. December is actually a great time to visit Bonaire. Allow me to illustrate: Average high and low temp in Nashville in December: 51 and 31. Seattle? 46 and 36. Denver? 46 and 16. Brrrr. Bonaire? 85 and 77. The “coldest” temperature ever recorded in December in Bonaire was 68 degrees.
In any case, if you’re reading this, consider yourself officially invited to attend my installation. Give me a call if I can answer any questions about travel and lodging in Bonaire (my Skype number in the U.S. is 615-649-4452. Calling this number is like calling any number in Nashville). Of course, you can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks, everyone for your prayers. The Lord has been gracious in providing a smooth transition so far here in Bonaire. As always, however, I am more conscious than ever that I am attempting to do a job that is beyond my capabilities. Please pray for me and for the church and community here in Bonaire. Only God himself can make our ministry fruitful by generating faith in Christ in the hearts of sinners by the power of the Holy Spirit. What a blessing to be a beggar at the king’s table.