Thursday, December 20, 2012

Out with a bang

Our last major activity for the year, the tent meeting in Lembinwen Village (Southwest Bay, Malekula), proved to be a fruitful endeavor.  We had 28 of us from Tulwei Village, Mike from Santo, and Aiel's family of five Christians together for a week of fellowship and Bible study.

Mike and I taught each evening for about 45 minutes, and then conducted a question and answer session.  For two of those nights, the latter was heavily monopolized by Sabbatarians asking questions in promotion of their core doctrine.  It became somewhat of an impromptu public debate.  While not the design of the Q&A session, the outcome was that both sides were able to communicate their beliefs and everyone was able to make their own conclusions in regard to the truth of the matter.  I appreciated the opportunity to defend the truth in such a scenario.

We had a morning devotional each day, and then everyone enjoyed visiting, eating and working together for the remainder of the day.  A major job was going to the bush to fetch five bushels of thatch to roof a house Aiel is building.  It took seven of us half a day to cut down three trees, remove and bundle the leaves, and carry them back to the house - probably would have taken Aiel and his son two or three days to complete by themselves.  We were happy to help out.

We were grateful to have several visitors for the nightly studies, two or three of whom were regular in attendance.  We look forward to following up with them early next year.

Mission accomplished!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tent meeting

The church was recently planted in Lembinwen Village (Southwest Bay, Malekula), and Aiel is keen on sharing the truth with others in the village.  He requested that we come and conduct a tent meeting (called an “open-air meeting” here) on his property, so that he could invite his friends and family to come and study the Bible.  He invited the entire Tulwei congregation to come and support the effort, and most of the Christians are planning to attend.

Each night of the five day meeting will consist of Bible teaching and a Q&A session.  Mike and I have chosen texts to study through each night.  Please be praying for the effectiveness of this effort, scheduled for December 10-15!

Nancy, Jansen and Aiel Massing in Lembinwen Village

Friday, December 7, 2012


After our first full year in Tulwei Village, it became apparent that we had saturated the segment of the population that were interested in attending public teaching sessions.  I began brainstorming for a way to reach those who were spiritually inclined, but for whatever reason were not attending our public studies (most simply assume that one church is as good as another, and they are content to be active only in their chosen religion without much thought to the possibility of change).  The Vanuatu culture is a very non-confrontational one, and people tend to shy away from anything that might make them uncomfortable or cause them to stand out (e.g. being a visitor).

I discussed some ideas with the local brethren and we decided that it would be most effective to install a notice board near the main road in the village, where we would post various materials in an effort to spark interest in Bible study.  I constructed a 2’ x 4’ sign with a tin roof, and Alsen and I installed it.  I would estimate that almost 100% of the village residents will pass by the sign in a week (most of them going to and from their garden), and hopefully it will grab their interest. 

There are several aspects to the notice board.  [1] I currently have an open letter to the community stating my intentions for coming to the village, and emphasizing that I have not come to “start yet another church” but instead have come to promote the spiritual unity for which Jesus prayed in John 17.  Denominationalism is a spiritual disease that has claimed the lives of the large majority throughout Vanuatu and the world, and our main goal as missionaries is to call people back to the truth of God’s word - no more and no less.  [2] We are offering an 8-lesson Bible correspondence course that is written in the local language of Bislama that I hope many will take part in.  [3] Each week, I plan to post a “question of the week” to deal with issues that locals are constantly inquiring about.  Hopefully we will have some submit their own questions for answer, but until then I will discuss questions that we’ve regularly received over the past 7+ years.  [4] We have attached a mailbox into which people can submit questions, request a Bible study, and deposit completed correspondence courses.  [5] I have written an overview of what Jesus says in the New Testament about His church - so many accept a traditional practice without ever considering the existence (or absence) of biblical authority.  I hope that this study will prompt some to consider Jesus’ plan for His church and to evaluate their own current practices and lifestyle.

After only a few hours, we’ve seen several stop in at the notice board to investigate.  I am really excited about this outreach effort, and pray that it will be fruitful.  Would you please join us in those prayers?

Alsen and I mixing concrete for the notice board posts

Notice board: Overview of the church, Bible correspondence
course offer, mailbox, question of the week, and an open letter

On the way home from the garden, this gentlemen
stopped to read and took an intro Bible course

Thursday, December 6, 2012

New meeting place

The congregation in Tulwei Village assembled for the first time in their new meeting place on Sunday, November 25.  The new location allows us to accommodate everyone inside, unlike our former structure were many were forced to sit outside in the sun.  We were happy to welcome three non-Christian visitors that morning as well. The brethren were honored to have Caleb O’Hara from Ripon, CA preach that morning.  In light of the occasion, we ate lunch together after our assembly, and the brethren decided to begin having a fellowship meal on the last Sunday of every month going forward.  We pray that the new meeting place will serve to honor God as He is worshiped and His word is studied inside.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Three more Christians

We are pleased to share news with you of two new sisters and one new brother in Christ.  During our most recent trip to Southwest Bay, Aiel’s son (Jansen) and daughter (Lorenzi) were baptized into Christ.  Jansen was a part of our original studies with Aiel and Nancy, and Lorenzi recently moved back to the village from Port Vila.  Her dad has been promoting the church to her for months, and she had a long study with Shawnda during our visit.  The next morning as we were getting ready to depart, Aiel tearfully said that he felt like a mother-hen, now having his entire family (wife, sister, daughter and son) safe in Christ. 

The following week, Eva (in Tulwei) announced her desire to be baptized.  She studied with Shawnda for several weeks during our last trip to Malekula, and has been counting the cost of becoming a disciple ever since.  She is married to Alsen and Flexon’s youngest brother, Sam Pierre.  We are hoping that he too will become interested in studying and obeying the gospel soon.  They have two young boys - Samuel and Sylon.

Shawnda studying with Lorenzi

New sister in Christ - Lorenzi

New brother in Christ - Jansen

Aiel, Jansen, Lorenzi and I just before they were immersed into Christ

Shawnda and Eva, with her son, Samuel

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Happy 6th Birthday, Titus

Hard to believe, but our little guy is 6 years old as of November 24.  Birthdays aren’t really celebrated culturally in Vanuatu, so we kept it pretty low key.  Titus enjoyed a decorated veranda, chocolate milk on his cereal and sprinkle-pancakes for breakfast, presents, a trip to swim in the river, two ice cream cones, a chocolate cake, and a water balloon fight.  Thank you, God, for blessing our lives with Titus!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Welcome, Caleb

We are always excited when an overseas Christian states his intention to come and visit.  This month we were happy to have Caleb O’Hara (from Ripon, CA) spend a couple of weeks with us in Malekula.  Much encouragement is realized from such short-term mission trips: resident missionaries, visiting missionaries, local Christians and non-Christians are almost always edified by the time together.

The theme of Caleb’s trip was definitely “delay”.  First his flight from Fiji to Vanuatu was delayed, which caused him to miss his domestic flight on to Malekula and meant he was delayed in Vila overnight.  On our way to Southwest Bay we were twice delayed - once for a couple of hours at high tide when the truck couldn’t cross the river, and again for almost seven hours while we waited at the wharf on the captain of our boat to return from town. Last but not least, his Fiji to Los Angeles flight was delayed which caused an unscheduled overnight stay in Nadi.  Despite all these delays (which in actuality gave him a very realistic view of life in the Pacific!), we still had a great time together.

Selfishly, my main goal for Caleb’s visit was visiting/studying together with him.  He and I were a year apart at the Bear Valley Bible Institute, and I have respected his spiritual wisdom since then.  I thoroughly enjoyed talking about various topics throughout the two weeks, and felt like I was sufficiently “sharpened” as a result of our numerous discussions (Proverbs 27:17).

We made a week-end visit to Southwest Bay to do some prep work for our upcoming “tent meeting” that is scheduled for December 10-15. The entire Tulwei congregation is planning to travel there for that weeklong study.  We built a place for washing dishes, dug a new outhouse toilet, mapped out post holes for the “tent” (tarp on bamboo posts), cut tree limbs to use as posts, and planted two gigantic posts (tree trunks) for a new sleeping room.  Caleb preached a lesson on “Evaluating Traditions” during our Sunday assembly.

Back in Tulwei, Caleb conducted a three day seminar on Church Growth, emphasizing God’s view of spiritual growth (primarily from Ephesians 4).  It was a very relevant study for the congregation, and hopefully it will serve as a spring board for the upcoming year’s events.  He preached a lesson from Nehemiah on “Overcoming Discouragement” during the Sunday assembly.

The remainder of our time together involved sharing meals with local Christians, various work projects, visiting, and sharing our village life.  Thanks for coming, Caleb!

Two weeks with the Brandells in Malekula!

Practicing patience as we wait on the boat at the wharf

"Do you see the boat anywhere? No? Me neither..."

Visiting with Aiel in Southwest Bay

Getting the notice board put together and painted

Meeting the native wildlife (spider)

Preaching in Tulwei Village