Jan 30, 2009

Farewell to the Ravia Family

Pastor Eliki Ravia, his wife Aeyesha, and son "Nem" at the airport on their last day in Saipan, Wednesday, January 28, 2009.

Pastor presides over the baptism of five new members on his last Sabbath in Saipan, January 24, 2009. True to form, Pastor was busy with the Lord's work, literally right up to the day he left.

The Ravia family surrounded by church members and friends at the airport.

Many people come and go from Saipan,and all make their mark. But among the student missionaries, contract workers, and various others who make Saipan home for awhile, there are those for who leave a still larger, broader, deeper imprint. These people make more than a mark--their presence in our little Adventist community on Saipan and beyond defines an era. These people may range from institutional leaders (take the Era of the Ludders--that of Richard Ludders, the former dental clinic director, and his family) to everyday people (the Era of Malou, a dental assistant at the SDA Clinic for decades). What they all hold in common is a length of time in Saipan that is measured in years rather than months, during which they've become an integral part of daily life in Saipan. When they go, Saipan is irrevocably different. Their position may be filled, their jobs carried on, but their space in our hearts remains irreplacable.

One such family took their Long Walk this past Wednesday, January 28, 2009. With the departure of our beloved Pastor, his wife Ayesha, and their young son, the Era of Pastor Eliki Ravia on Saipan came to an end. At least for now anyway (for they promise to return). Pastor Eliki has gone to Fiji where he will be pursuing further education at Fulton College. We were sad to say good bye to our pastor, school board chair, and for Babs and me, our next-door neighbor and friend of four and a half years. But we are also happy and grateful for the inspiration, good memories, and love they've given us all over the years.

Pastor Eliki was one of my heroes in my Annual Heroes and Inspirations blog last year and with good reason. He and Ayesha are gentle, genuine souls. Their fervent faith and classic brand of Adventism are leavened by their sincere humility and embracing love. Even when he bid us farewell at his going away party this past Saturday night, January 24, he was asking us to forgive him if he'd hurt or offended any of us in his pastoral efforts. And instead of basking in his own glory he was,with tears in his eyes, paying tribute to other members who have worked tirelessly, and thanklessly doing the grunt work of the church. But pastor was just like those deacons he honored--ready to pitch in for the church at the drop of a hat, willing to work hard without expectation of thanks or reward. Whenever I've had the occasion to work with the Ravias, I've found myself "marveling and recognizing them as having been with Jesus."

I will miss that sturdy knock on our door and opening it to find Pastor grinning with a bunch of bananas or soursap fruit in hand. I'll miss his trade mark self-deprecating chuckle and his confident "No problem, no problem" in the midst of the latest church debacle. I'll miss Aeyesha's neighborly kindness and shy smile. I'll miss "Nem's" little visits to our house and his fascination with our dog Kimo. I will miss the Ravia's fellowship and friendship. But I know that they will be a blessing wherever they go--that Pastor's passion for people and for the Lord and for people and the Lord to come together will continue to burn brightly. Wherever they go, the Ravia's will be a light of God's love. And if God does, indeed lead them back to Saipan, as they hope He will, after their sojourn in Fiji, they will find a church family welcoming them back with open arms. And if not? Well, then we'll look forward all the more to that day when there will be no more goodbyes and an eternity of good times together.

God bless, and Godspeed, Pastor Eliki, Ayesha and "Nem".

Pastor and Ayesha with a young church member at their farewell party, Saturday night, January 24, 2009.

"M", "Little Sister", and "J" present "Nem" with a farewell gift from his schoolmates at the SDA School at the farewell party.

"Nem" checks out his memory book.

Angie, "Nem's" kindergarten teacher, with "Nem".

"Nem" with school friends who came to the airport to see him off.

"Nem" with his kindergarten classmates at the airport. "Nem" was pretty excited about leaving actually. He got lots of candy and gifts and was probably thinking, "Man, we should move more often!"

Pastor and Ayesha with some of our recently baptized church members from Kagman.

Ayesha with two women from the church.

linic CFO Ernie Lacorte and Carol with Ayesha.

Pastor handing over church keys to our head deacon at the airport.

Babs and I with our next door neighbors for the past four and a half years. It's awful quiet next door since they left.

The Ravias with some of our students who came to the airport to see them off.

The Ravia family takes their Long Walk.

Jan 16, 2009

Family Photo Album

Babs and Elijah with her parents at the airport on the day we flew back to Saipan, Monday, January 5, 2009.

My family at my Uncle Sy's wedding. December 28, 2008. (From L to R, my brother Vince, me, Babs, my sister Dawn, Elijah, my soon-to-be brother-in-law Jim, and my mom).

Elijah with his Nona, my mom. I really love this picture of the two of them.

My sister sent me more pictures from our time in Florida this past December, and as promised I'ved added them here, along with some photos we took on our last day in Ohio with Barbara's parents, to make a family photo album. Enjoy!

Elijah with his grandparents at the airport.

Grandpa Leen with Elijah

Elijah and Dawn

The Wedding

Jim and Elijah

Cousin Yvette and Dawn

Babs and Yvette

Dawn & Babs

Me and my boy

Grandma and her great-grandsons (her oldest great-grandson, above, the son of my cousin Nabih, and her youngest great-grandson, Elijah, below)

Yvette with her dad, Uncle Slimen Saliba at his wedding.

My family

Aren't they lovely?

Jan 4, 2009

Family in Florida

My brother Vince, Me, my sister Dawn, my grandma, Mom, and Elijah at my Uncle Roland and Aunt Colleen's house, Saturday night, December 27.

Our original plan had been to go only to Ohio for the holidays. We only had about two and a half weeks and we weren't sure how Elijah would handle all that flying. But my family just couldn't wait to see Elijah, not when we'd be so close. They asked us to fly down to Florida for a few days, and offered to pick up the cost of the airfare. We agreed, and I'm so glad we did. Elijah turned out to be a very agreeable traveler and we had some really nice time with my mom, siblings, and extended family from December 27 to December 30, 2008.

Unfortunately, I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked because our camera batteries died and we didn't have a chance to buy more while we were there. However, my sister took a lot of photos and when she sends them to me, I'll add them to this blog and to the Elijah blog.

Nona and Elijah. (My mom is going to by "Nona" which is Italian for grandma so that Elijah will be able to differentiate between his two grandmothers. We're not Italain, but what the heck. . .)

Both of my uncles came up with games to play for our little family gathering Saturday night. Uncle Roland had us do list Christmas related items beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Whoever matched what he had on his list earned a point for each match. He seemed to take a great deal of pleasure in informing us that "NOBODY had what was on my list!" Uncle Robert had has play a game (pictured above and below) where a blindfolded person had to guess the identity of a person by feeling them with wooden spoons. Above, my sister's fiance Jim got stuck with my grandmother. I'm not sure who I felt more sorry for! Awk-ward!

My cousin Nicole tries to guess her dad, my Uncle Roland.

Hanging out at the Thomsons: Vince, Elijah, Babs, and Mom

On Sunday, December 28, Veronyka Perez, our kindergarten teacher from last year drove up from Miami with her mom to visit Elijah (and also us). Vero was arguably Elijah's biggest fan (I know Amy will dispute that one) from well before he was born and it was so sweet of her to drive all that way just to see him. We had a nice breakfast at the Cheesecake Factory and then hung out at Dawn's house for a bit before taking some pictures before they headed back to Miami.

It was so nice to see you again, Vero. Thanks for being a great "Auntie" to Elijah!

Vero & Elijah

Elijah's smiles are plentiful but hard to catch on camera. Vero managed to draw a few out.

Vero's mom joins us for a photo.

On Sunday evening, December 28, my Uncle Slimen Saliba got remarried. (My aunt passed away about four years ago). We all went to the wedding, which was a simple, lovely affair at a restuarant, Hot Olives, in Winter Park, FL. Uncle Sy's new wife, Caroline seems like a wonderful woman and I hope we'll get to know her better in years to come.

Picture-wise, once again, there's not much. We left the camera in the van during the ceremony and later on when we got it, the battery was on it's last legs and died after only a few pictures. Again, hopefully Dawn can help me supplement these photos later.

Elijah, Nona, and "Granny" at Uncle Sy and Caroline's wedding. We will have Elijah call my grandmother Granny, which is what we used to call her mother, our great-grandmother. Since she's passed away, we figured it was appropriate that Grandma inherit the mantle.

Dawn and my cousin (Sy's daughter) Yvette taking photos at the wedding reception. You see her taking photos folks, so hopefully some of those pictures will end up here!