Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mission Accomplished

It was our distinct pleasure to host a short-term mission team from Perkins, Oklahoma - our newest supporting congregation.  Monthly financial support is, obviously, an absolute necessity.  But we are especially grateful when Christians are able to come and visit the field, to gain first-hand knowledge of our work together.

Brady was my roommate for two years in college, and one of the best friends I have ever had and one of the most generous people I know.  He and his wife, Ashley, work closely with the youth in Perkins, and floated the idea of a summer mission trip to Vanuatu - they were all for it!  Travis, Cole, Rachel and Kalyn had never been out of the country, seen the ocean, or even been on a plane before, so this was sure to be quite an adventure.  Before I forget, let me also express my appreciation to the parents of these teens, as I know it would have been at least somewhat difficult to allow them to experience all those firsts without them.  Thank you for your sacrifice!

Each time a short-term mission team comes to visit us in Vanuatu, the goals are almost always the same.  The short-term workers will have their lives changed as a result of meeting their brethren from a developing nation.  We missionaries receive “a shot in the arm” of encouragement (and usually a few “goodies” from the US!).  The local Christians see the manifestation of brotherly love as Christians from half a world a way sacrifice time and money to get to know them - something that is highly respected in this culture.  And last but not least, non-Christians are positively affected by the love and good news of Christ.

In regard to these goals, I can confidently declare “mission accomplished.” 

From the moment these six Christians de-boarded the plane in Vanuatu, they were a great encouragement to our family.  Likewise, they almost immediately began being affected positively by the locals.  One such highlight was their opportunity to meet Eddie, one of the first Christians in the country, who invited us all to have tea and fruit, and sing hymns as we passed through his village of Eton.  After a whirl-wind day of buying supplies, we took to the skies once again (this time in a MUCH smaller plane than they were used to), destined for Malekula. 

Our two major activities for the 5 days in Malekula were the construction of a permanent meeting place for the church (during the day) and a gospel meeting (during the evening).  An underlying goal for both of these activities was to get to know and encourage the local Christians.  Together with the three local Christian men, we were able to complete the framing of the building and roof - no small task in less than three working days!  The teens used their talented singing voices each evening before and after the gospel meeting lessons to encourage and teach.  Travis led a great devotional during our regular Friday youth Bible study time.  Brady preached a very inspiring sermon on Sunday morning.  Everyone spent time getting know the local Christians and their customs, including a day of making laplap, Vanuatu’s national dish.  The mission team also enjoyed teaching a few American customs, including ultimate frisbee, the high-five, and flowered headbands.

I have no doubt that everyone involved in this experience, whether ni-Vanuatu or American (or those of us who are “somewhere in between”), will never forget our time together.  Most importantly, of course, I believe that God was glorified, and that His kingdom was positively impacted in a special and lasting way.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gud Nius

I have come to truly love proclaiming the good news, and so an opportunity to conduct a “Gud Nius Miting” in Tulwei Village was a welcomed task.  In preparation, the local brethren and I hung notices and a large banner, personally invited friends and family, doubled the size of our regular meeting place with an extra large tarp, and added a couple of lights (powered by a small 2-stroke generator).  The meetings took place June 9-12 at 6pm each evening.

The brethren chose Alsen to be the chairman during our meetings.  He welcomed everyone, introduced the four Christian teens from Perkins, OK (Travis, Cole, Rachel and Kalyn) and their leaders (Brady and Ashley).  These teens have been blessed with beautiful singing voices, and so we asked them to sing 3-4 songs each evening to open our meeting, and then the same 3-4 songs again following the lesson (which gave me a few minutes to quickly look over the Bible questions that had been submitted).  Alsen would give a synopsis of the song’s message in Bislama before each one was sung.  It was great to see the interest in the faces of the locals, as well as to hear them in later days walking along and singing these new songs.

The topic for our meetings was “?Jos Blong Masta Jisas Kraes I Olsem Wanem?” (i.e., “what is the church of our Master Jesus Christ like?”).  Thursday night’s lesson was entitled “Lukaot Long Giaman Doktrin” (“beware of false doctrines”), in which I taught from Matthew 7:13-27.  The thrust of the lesson was to note that when Jesus came to the earth to establish His church, He first took the time to give some very significant warnings: look out for the wrong road, the wrong teacher, the wrong practice and the wrong foundation.  In context, all of these “wrongs” are based on false doctrines.  So often in the religious world we tend to accept any and all teachers and their teachings as long as they sound good to us, without ever stopping to consider whether or not they are right or true.  Before we can really get into the truth regarding the Lord’s church, we have to acknowledge that there are pleasant-sounding errors out there (presented by wolves in sheep’s clothing).

Friday night’s lesson was entitled “Denominationalism.”  Though utterly and totally foreign to the New Testament, the system of belief commonly referred to as denominationalism was introduced to Vanuatu long ago.  As such, much like in America, the vast majority of locals simply take the philosophy for granted.  This evening, we asked whether Jesus wants denominationalism or unity in His church.  Even a casual reading of passages like John 17:11,20,21; Acts 4:32; Ephesians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 1:10, 4:17, 7:17, 11:16, 14:33, 16:1; and Galatians 5:20 show overwhelmingly the error of the idea that the church is a conglomeration of denominated groups, each holding to its own set of practices and doctrines.  It breaks my heart to see the religious division that exists in Vanuatu, and it has been our goal from day one to promote religious unity - just as Jesus would have it.  Such unity will only come when we agree to stand firmly on His word - nothing more and nothing less.

Saturday night’s lesson was entitled “Stat Mo Fasin Blong Jos” (the church’s institution and characteristics).  Based on the conclusions of the previous two nights’ lessons, that there are pleasant-sounding false doctrines out there, and that Jesus died for His (one) church, we were then prepared to consider what Jesus tells us about that church in the New Testament.  It’s a simple concept really - find out what the Lord’s church looked like and acted like in the first century, and replicate it.  We noted from Scripture that the Lord’s church exclusively sang a cappella in worship, met each Sunday, partook of the Lord’s supper every week, honored God’s plan for male spiritual leadership, and had no earthly headquarters.  If we are going to be the Master’s church, we are going to have to do things His way.  To do otherwise is to establish a man-made church.

Sunday night’s lesson was designed to be the conclusion for the meeting, and asked “?Hu I Wantem Go Long Heven?” (who wants to go to heaven?).  The New Testament says that those who want to be with Jesus in heaven need to have their sins washed away, and God’s plan for said washing is Jesus’ blood.  We come into contact with that cleansing blood when we enter into Christ.  Ephesians 5:23 says that Jesus is the head of the body, His church, and that He will ultimately save that body.  I led those present in a study of the conversion stories in the book of Acts, to consider what those individuals did when they made the decision that they wanted to go to heaven.  It is glaring that each and every one was baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.  The conclusion practically goes without saying - we need to do as they did if we too want to go to heaven to be with our Master for eternity.

Overall, I felt the lessons went really well, and were well received.  I did my best to make them sound, simple and applicable. While I had hoped we would have more visitors, we did have a crowd of 20-30 local adults each evening.  We plan to conduct similar outreach efforts each time we are back in the village, and hope this constant exposure to the truth will result in many more obeying the gospel.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Two more added

[Note: I had considered writing just one overview of our week with the campaign group from Oklahoma, but instead decided I will write several entries over the next few weeks covering different aspects of our work together.  More to come!]

While we never want to take credit for the increase God gives, and we really aren’t aware of the ultimate fruitfulness of a mission effort, we are grateful to report that two more souls were added to the Lord’s kingdom in Tulwei Village this past weekend.

Lolit (“Low-leet”) is a 19 year old girl who has regularly attended studies and worship with her widowed Christian mother for several months.  In conversations with Shawnda she frequently expressed her concern for her sins, and her desire to have them forgiven.  Lotlit has also been a faithful part of our Friday teen studies, and has learned a lot of Bible basics from those lessons.  Following three of our evangelistic gospel meeting lessons, and a Bible study with Shawnda while preparing laplap together, Lotlit made the great decision to put her life into Jesus’ hands by being immersed for the forgiveness of her sins.  Please be praying for Lolit in her new walk, especially that she will be wise as she reaches the age of marriage.

Annette is the wife of the first convert in Malekula (Alsen), and has also attended numerous public studies, worship, and private studies with Shawnda.  Alsen is constantly (though gently) encouraging her to put her faith in Christ.  Who knows how many times she has been asked “are you ready?” and said “not yet.”  But on Sunday morning Shawnda asked her again and she said yes.  We rejoiced along with the angels in heaven at her decision, as we witnessed her being baptized into Christ.  Alsen and Annette have two young daughters, Silvi and Shawnda. 

Photos to come...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Prayer request

We are gearing up for a very exciting time here in Tulwei Village.  The congregation will be hosting her first ever gospel meeting beginning this Thursday through Sunday.  It will be held in conjunction with a visit by six Christians from Perkins, OK (one of our supporting congregations).  We will be working on a more permanent church building and visiting during the day, with the gospel meeting taking place in the evenings.  Our topic will be “The Church of the Master, Jesus Christ.”

Would you please be praying for these specifics this week?!? 
  • Safe travel for the group from Oklahoma.
  • That the local Christians will be encouraged and evangelistic.
  • That my lessons each evening with be truthful and effective.
  • That the lost will be reached through this effort.

Thanks!  And we look forward to giving you a report on these events next week.