Saturday, July 21, 2012

New brother in Christ

We returned from Southwest Bay (SWB) with great news: we have a new brother in Christ (Aiel Massing) and thus the church has now been planted in a new location (Lembinwen Village). We have had correspondence with Aiel for almost five years, after he responded to our newspaper ad offering Bible courses. 

Mike has had the most direct contact with Aiel, so he flew in from Santo to take part in this trip. We were also joined by local Christians Alsen and Williamson. The five of us (including Titus) jumped on a truck early Monday morning and headed for Lampupu Wharf. That trip took about 45 minutes. We were told that a boat coming up from the south would arrive about 9am and be ready to head back about 10am. As "Vanuatu time" would have it, we finally left the wharf about 1:15pm. It was a long wait (over 5 hours), but it was somewhat expected. I was just glad to have transportation. There were three others on our 7m fiberglass boat, besides the captain and his assistant. The boat had come up to Lampupu to sell an ice chest full of fresh fish. 

The voyage started out great, but the seas soon became quite rough. Occasionally the swells were so large that all you could see were waves higher than our heads totally surrounding the boat. I was comforted by the fact that the shoreline was only a few hundred meters away, and that Titus had a lifejacket. Plus, the captain didn't seem a bit nervous. Due to the sea spray and waves, we were all soaked to the bone by the time we arrived in Lembinwen 4 hours later (the trip can take as little as 2 hours in good conditions). 

Aiel excitedly greeted us and showed us our house. We all changed out of our wet clothes. It was a 4m x 8m local house with bamboo walls and a concrete floor. It was an old house, but they had put on a new thatch roof for our stay. During dinner, we discussed our plan of action for the week. We would study with Aiel and his family (wife Nancy and 24-yr-old son Sansen) in the morning at the house, and conduct public studies at 2pm. After a cup of hot tea, we all went to bed (four of us were supplied with a 2" foam mattress, and Titus slept on my Therm-a-rest). 

We all woke up with the sun and the chickens. Nancy made some pancake-like bread and tea for breakfast. We studied with Aiel and family for over 3 hours, mostly about what it means to be committed to Christ and answering their questions. After lunch, we all headed to another part of the village for our public study. When Aiel mentioned the week before that we were coming to study the Bible, several friends of his from the Revival Fellowship Church (where Aiel had been serving as an "elder") expressed an interest in studying, including their "pastor." The main reason Aiel wanted us to come teach was that he read things in the New Testament that were not being done by this group. We were happy to accept their invitation to conduct studies in their building. Tuesday thru Friday Mike and I rotated teaching for about 45 minutes, and then answered questions from the floor for 1-2 hours. We had 8-20 local adults present each afternoon. There are some good prospects from that group with whom I look forward to further study.  

After our second morning study, Aiel decided that he was ready to put on Christ in baptism, making the good confession that he wanted make Jesus the Master of his life. Alsen baptized him out in the Pacific Ocean. The remainder of our daily family studies focused on things Aiel needed to do in the coming weeks as a new Christian, especially as it relates to New Testament worship. We also spent time on the role of the Holy Spirit. It was wonderful to have Alsen and Williamson with us, as they provided him with a lot encouragement and practical advice. Nancy and Sansen both decided that they were not ready to make the commitment just yet, but we anticipate their obeying the gospel soon. 

Sunday morning was one of the most uplifting worship services I have ever been a part of. The five of us joined Aiel and family, Katrina (a Christian from Tulwei Village who is in boarding school in a nearby village) brought two friends, and one of Aiel's neighbors joined us with her two young children. We all sat in a circle on the floor of our house and worshiped God together. In those settings, I am always reminded of God's wisdom as manifested in the simplicity of true worship. Alsen shared a great lesson on the faithfulness of Stephen in Acts 7, and Williamson led our thoughts as we partook of the Lord's supper. Aiel was practically glowing after the experience, because he was so glad to have obeyed the gospel and to be a part of the Lord's body. 

Our return trip saw smooth seas, and even a large group of dolphins. I am planning to return to SWB in a few days, accompanied this time by the entire family and Jean Claude and Leisande. It will be really beneficial to have Shawnda and these older Christians to teach and encourage the folks there. Please be praying for Aiel, his family, and his community. 

*For those who are interested, I will begin working on a more detailed report of this trip to Lembinwen, since it was our first. It will be many pages and more of a play-by-play of the entire week, and will thus contain many more details of the village and our experiences. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mission trip to SWB

Malekula is Vanuatu’s second largest island, and is basically divided into three areas - north, central and south.  We are located in the northern part of the island.  Back in 2006, we received a request for a Bible Correspondence Course from Aiel Massing in Southwest Bay, Malekula (he had seen our ad for courses in the Daily Post newspaper, which technically doesn’t even circulate in SWB).  Back then there was no cellular phone coverage at all in the area, and even getting mail was quite a chore.  We would hear something from Aiel every 4-6 months or so, but he was sort of lost amongst our hundreds of BCC students.  A couple of years ago, when we rewrote our English courses, we sent several of our former students a copy, and he began contacting us again (this time with cell phone reception near his village).  Alsen and I were scheduled to go and visit him back in 2010, but had to cancel at the last minute because the airport was closed (and, in a very-Vanuatu way, still is!). 

Aiel and Mike happened to both be in Vila at the same time for about a week later in 2010, but Aiel’s commitments made it difficult for them to cover much ground in Bible study.  Aiel completed our BCCs late in 2011, and recently called announcing his desire to be baptized as a result of his studies (along with some other family members).  So, Mike, Titus and I are going to SWB next Monday.  We will be accompanied by two local Christians from Tulwei, Williamson and Alsen.  Mike is scheduled to fly into Malekula this afternoon and spend the weekend with us.  We will ride a truck about 45 minutes on Monday morning to the central part of the island, and then board a small boat (outboard motor) for the 3-4 hour voyage down to the southern part of the island.

Aiel seems quite excited about our coming, and we are very grateful for the opportunity to go and study with them.  We will be there for a week, and hope that we will witness the church being planted in this new region of the country.  Please be praying for our safety as we travel, and for receptive hearts in SWB.  It sounds like we could have a good number of souls who are interested in studying the Bible.

And be sure to check back for an update on the trip!