Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New sister - Becky

Becky [red shirt, center of photo] has been a part of public Bible studies, Sunday morning assemblies and ladies fellowships for several months now. She began attending right before we headed back to the States in January of this year. She is about 22 years old, not married and lives with her parents.
Unfortunately over a year ago when she expressed her desire to start following Williamson and Massi (Christian neighbors) to worship and Bible study, but her parents did not approve. She obeyed them at first by not going, but still had the desire and prayed that God would open the door and give her strength to stand up to them and do what she felt was right. So after talking with Williamson and Massi over the next several months and asking the church to pray for her, she finally told her mother & father that even though they were “in charge” of her physically, they weren’t the “boss” of her soul. She said, “I really want to go with them and study the Bible. Will you please let me do this?” They reluctantly agreed, so she started coming. She rarely missed an opportunity to gather with the church.

 When we arrived in Malekula in June, Eric encouraged me to ask her if she wanted to have a “private” study to have a chance to hear and obey the gospel. She agreed, and we actually had another young lady (Eva) join the study as well (she has also visited Bible studies/worship off and on). After several weeks of studying, Becky decided she was ready to obey the gospel and was baptized into Christ. We all walked down to the river and listened as she made the good confession, declaring Jesus as the Son of God and naming Him the Master of her life. It was a precious moment seeing this young lady, whom we had already come to love, put on Christ and be added to His body.

Please pray for Becky and for Eva as we will continue to study with them in the coming months.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

New sister - Lius

[Note: this is a reprint of an article from our August e-Scrapbook]

Since establishing a new congregation in Lembinwen Village (Southwest Bay, Malekula) last month, it has become a priority to return each month to encourage and strengthen the young Christians there.
Our family made another trip at the end of August to visit Aiel and Nancy.  They continue to be very excited about their newfound faith and eager to share the truth with others. We spent the majority of our time together answering their questions, visiting about the Christian life, and enjoying some genuine Christian fellowship.  Though we have only known them for a short amount of time, we feel an amazing connection with this family.

A highlight of this month’s trip was studying with and baptizing Aiel’s sister, Lius (pronounced “lee-oos”).  She has a very unique story.  When Lius was about 13 years old, she had a severe boil on the inside of her upper leg that required lancing.  As the boil healed, her entire leg slowly began to lose feeling and progressively got worse.  At first she merely had a slight limp, then a very pronounced limp, and ultimately required the use of a walking stick (unable to put any weight on the leg).  After several years of the walking stick’s assistance, she began sitting more and walking less, to the point that she quit walking altogether.  It appears that this entire process took about 30 years.  After several years of dragging herself around (no longer standing up at all), she began laying down more and sitting up less.  About three years ago she became totally bed-ridden and has lost control of her entire body except for her right hand, neck and head.  Aiel, Nancy and their son, Jansen, have become her full-time care givers. 

I must admit that I have had an uneasy feeling since I heard about her during our first trip - Aiel had asked us to go in and pray with her, but other than that I had no interaction with her at all.  Can you imagine laying in bed all day everyday in a 5’ x 10’ bamboo cottage with basically nothing to help pass the time?  Though it was obvious that Aiel was not comfortable talking about her situation, I felt obligated to begin pressing the issue with him during our second trip.  He assured me that she still had full mental capabilities, and I inquired as to her possible interest in studying the Bible.  Aiel said that he would talk to her about it, but she basically remained a mystery to us.  We knew that they took a plate of food to her each time we ate, and we could occasionally hear her sing or cough, but that was the extent of it.  I began praying for the situation, as I was at a loss as to what I should do.  The story of Lazarus (Luke 16) kept running through my mind, and I really wanted to help her both physically and spiritually (not to mention emotionally and mentally).  I did not want to be “the rich man” who did nothing.

A few weeks later Aiel called me and as we visited he said that she was interested in studying, and I put it in my mind then that I was going to do whatever I had to do to talk to her during our next visit.  Thursday of our August visit passed with no mention of Lius, and so I made it a point on Friday night to talk to Aiel.  It was obviously difficult for him to talk about, but he shared with me her story (as above).  He was teary-eyed as he spoke of his love for her and his hurt for her condition.  He and his family have indeed sacrificed a lot to care for her.  I told him that I would like to visit with her, and offer to study the Bible with her as well.  We decided that we would make the visit on Saturday morning.

I thought and prayed a lot Friday night and Saturday morning about what to say/do.  I must confess that I was really unsure as to how to approach the situation, because it was indeed a unique one and I knew I would be outside my comfort zone.  Aiel and Nancy got Lius ready and put a chair in the small house for me to sit on.  She only lays on her right side, facing the wall, so my chair was placed at the head of her bed and she looked up at me as I talked.  I introduced myself, apologized for not coming to visit during an earlier trip, and told her why we had come to Vanuatu.  Aiel had already visited with her about the reasons for his conversion, and so I started out by visiting with her about heaven.  I encouraged her to put her faith and trust in Jesus, as the One who has power to forgive sins and reconcile man to God.  I have no doubt that Lius wants to go to heaven even more than the average person, because her life here on earth is so full of hardship.  She gladly received the gospel message and stated her desire to obey.  Aiel and Jansen carried her down to the ocean where she was immersed into Christ.  In spite of all the difficulty she faces, you’ve never seen a bigger smile.

The following morning, the family put an island dress on her (probably the first time she’s worn “real clothes” in years) and carried her over to our meeting place for worship.  She laid on the ground on her pillow and tried her best to sing with us.  She listened intently as Aiel described the purpose of the Lord’s supper, and for the first time ever was a part of that wonderful memorial.  Having left her house two times in two days, her excitement was evident (and I am sure that amount of activity really exhausted her as well).  I can only imagine that Sunday will be a day that she looks forward to with great anticipation each week, which is a good lesson for us all.

I would encourage you take a moment and thank God for your physical abilities, and reevaluate how you might be able to better serve Him each day.  If only we all felt a sense of discomfort here on earth, as a daily reminder that this world is not my home!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I scream, you scream...

Our family tries to be as involved in the community as we can, in an effort to get to know the locals and initiate relationships that might turn into opportunities for spiritual conversations.  Of course, being in the village has also reminded us of the importance and necessity of helping people when you can.

One of the ways I have been able to help out in the community is with the installation of solar-powered electrical systems.  With cash crops like copra and cacao being prevalent in our region, many people are able to save up enough money to buy a system that allows them to power lights, DVD players, and recharge cell phones (the average cost is between $800-$1000, so it is a MAJOR investment for them).  A few weeks ago I helped a family by installing their “solar system”, which included a 12v deep-freezer.  For the first time ever, you now buy ice cream in the village - $1 a scoop.

As you can tell from the pictures below (and you may recall from my previous discussions), people really enjoy watching other people do something they haven’t experienced before (and the interest seems to be multiplied if the worker has white skin?).  We have actually sort of gotten used to it, as it at least provides more opportunity for interaction.

Best of all, we’ve established a good relationship with Betwel and his family as a result of this particular effort.  Customarily, when you work with/for someone, they provide you with lunch and dinner that day to say thank you (we did the same thing when we were building our house here in the village).  While they are “religious/believing” folks, they are not active with any church.  We are tentatively scheduled to study with them during our next trip to the village, and pray that this opportunity will prove fruitful.  

In the meantime, all the kids in the village will be enjoying ice cream and popsicles!