On our way back to Vila earlier this month, we scheduled a three day stopover in Santo to visit Mike. After being together for almost 10 years (2 years at Bear Valley, 1 year of raising support stateside, and 6+ years in Vanuatu), we really appreciate opportunities to spend time with our teammates. Mike took us to meet the “Shark Bay” Christians, who live on a plantation on the east side of the island. We had heard many things about these four brethren (two couples - Toara and Hannah in their 30s and Seule and Miriam in their 60s), but had not had the opportunity to meet them. It was a pleasure indeed! It’s always neat to walk back into the bush and find people with whom we share our faith. We visited, ate, and sang hymns together. Hopefully our visit was as encouraging to them as it was to us.
Back in town, we were able to visit with Christians we’ve known for several years. Meriam stopped by with her youngest daughter. She and her husband were converted back in the early 90s while living in Ambae. They are currently stationed in Santo where her husband teaches in a technical college. I was also happy to get reacquainted with Jessie, who is actually the first ni-Vanuatu I ever studied with and baptized (way back in 2003 during our first visit to the country). He is worshiping and studying with Mike, and is trying to encourage his wife to become a part of the Lord’s church.
I also took advantage of Mike’s internet connection to begin booking tickets for our furlough trip back to the States early next year, which is always exciting (and a bit overwhelming - price-wise and scheduling-wise). We then returned to Vila for a week. Our major focus while in Vila this month will be to pack up our house. We have to be out of our Vila house by December 31, which sounds like a long way off, but since we’ll be in Malekula most of that time, we have lots to do. This is compounded by the fact that we are having a massive garage sale the Friday after we return from Malekula on Monday (in December). We really need to have everything ready for that by the time we leave Vila on November 1, and since we are basically selling everything that won’t fit in our suitcase or Malekula house, it’s a big undertaking! It’s amazing how much “stuff” you accumulate in 6 years.
We worshiped with the brethren in Vila that Sunday, and were encouraged by their continued spiritual growth and maturity. They really are trying their best and have come such a long way in a relatively short period of time. We also enjoyed a family pizza and movie night on Friday, a friend’s 4th birthday party, and hosting some friends from Australia for dinner.
Once our week in Vila was complete, we boarded a plane for Tanna Island. Though our departure was delayed by three hours (the “large” plane we were scheduled to fly on was out of commission, which meant the airline had to make four trips on the small plane - since we weren’t tourists, we weren’t high-priority and were thus placed on the third flight out), the Bakers were waiting excitedly for us at the airport. We all jumped in the truck and headed to their place up the mountain. We all had fun catching up and seeing where the Bakers have been living and serving this year. The next morning, Aaron, Kaela, Titus and I caught a truck to the south part of the island (1.5hrs), so that I could meet some Christians that were baptized this past August. The Bakers will be moving back to the States early next year, and Aaron wanted to make sure that I knew these brethren and how to find them. It was again very refreshing to meet these new members of my Christian family. Tom’s wife, Margaret, was selling produce at the market back in April 2009, when Aaron and Mike Green preached there. She brought that message back to her husband, who was a disgruntled “pastor” of a local religious group. He was interested and contacted Aaron. When Aaron moved to Tanna, he and Tom began studying together every Friday afternoon in Lenakel - a four hour walk one way for Tom! The Baker family and a large group from Etas Village went to Yatukun (Tom’s village) in August, at which time he, his wife, and his sister-in-law (Meriam) were baptized. Tom’s older brother (Meriam’s husband, Antoine) and parents are also very close to obeying the gospel, and attend worship each Sunday with this young Yatukun congregation. Tom is 32 years old and very sharp. I look forward to all that the Lord will be able to accomplish through him in south Tanna.
We were only able to spend one night in Yatukun, but we talked and studied with Tom and Antoine for the entire time - definitely the longest Bible study I have ever been involved in! Aaron will visit them again in November and December, and then I will begin visiting them in mid-2012.
Our team of four returned to Lorakau Village on Saturday, where we were honored to share in a laplap supper with a Christian family, Harry and Tess (and their six kids). Harry was the first convert in Tanna back in 2009, and is the chairman of the Rural Training Center where the Bakers live. Sunday morning was another treat, as we were able to worship with the brethren in Loun Village. The churches in Lorakau and Loun rotate worshiping in each other’s village every other Sunday. The 45 minute walk downhill to Loun wasn’t too bad, but the uphill walk back in the afternoon sun meant we were all ready for a Sunday afternoon nap! I was overwhelmed by the experience of getting reacquainted with Christians I’ve known for years (in Vila, who subsequently moved back to Tanna to help the start the church in their home village), and meeting new Christians. There are now 12 Christians in Lorakau/Loun, but they enjoy 12-15 visitors (most of them regulars) every Sunday. Aaron, Cindy and the local Christians are involved in personal Bible studies with most of these, which means the church is on the verge of doubling in size! One such prospect is the village chief.
Monday was (purposefully) a slow day in which the kids played outside and we adults visited, played cards, and rested. We made it back to Vila safely on Tuesday, and once again hit the ground running buying supplies for Malekula, packing up the house, and preparing for a week long gospel meeting in Epau Village next week. I will be teaching five lessons on “The Church of the Master, Jesus Christ.” That effort will end on Friday, and Lord willing, we depart for Malekula the following Tuesday. Yeehaw!
|Mike and Alexis with the Shark Bay (Santo) Christians|
|Loun Village (Tanna) church meets here|
|Tom (Yatukun, South Tanna) has to climb a tree to get cell phone reception|
|The ground in Tanna has lots of volcanic ash mixed in - a lot like black sand|
|Alexis and Kaela enjoyed their time together|
|Shawnda and Cindy washing dishes at the Baker's house|
|Teaching the Tanna ladies how to make laplap Malekula-style|
|Aaron, Harry and Eric talking about the church in Lorakau|
|Reunited and having fun|
|On the road to Loun for worship Sunday AM|
|Cindy studies with the youth girls about moral issues every Sunday AM|
|A Tanna-welcome before worship|
|Preaching in Loun to a full (overflowing) house|
|Shaking hands as we depart the assembly|
|The Loun/Lorakau Christians|
|Jessie and his family in Santo (he was baptized back in 2003)|
|Enjoying time with Uncle Mike in the park (Santo)|