Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Toilet Remodel: Village Edition

*See photos below for reference*

1.Note that the palm-tree-plank floor of your current "outhouse" is severely rotten (i.e. a wrong step could mean you take the "poo-plunge"
2. Note that your in-laws arrive in just under a month, (and you do not want them taking said poo-plunge!)
3. Dig a deep hole (enlist help as needed - will be a full day's work)
4. Call Mike in Santo to send you rebar, PVC, and roofing iron
5. If you don't have timber for boxing, dig out a rectangular form to size for concrete slab
6. Once you receive order from Santo (may take the ship 3 weeks to make the 12 hour voyage), lay plastic vapor shield and place rebar
7. Place round plastic dish (hole for toilet) and PVC (exhaust) in correct locations
8. Hand mix concrete in wheelbarrow (need five mixes for 7x150x200cm slab) and pour into ground form
9. Rinse slab 2-3 times per day for a few days while concrete sets
10. Early the next morning, round up all the helpers you can to move the slab over the hole (helpful hint: use coconuts as rollers if too heavy to carry - it works!)
11. Go coconut fishing: use a small-diameter piece of rebar to spear coconuts out of the hole that may have fallen in during rolling (this step is necessary because you'll need as much room in that hole as you can get)
12. Fill in gaps between slab and ground with crushed coral
13. Hunt around your house and your neighbors' houses for random pieces of timber (ask before taking neighbor's timber)
14. Cut and install posts, rafters, battens and roofing iron - duct tape seams ;)
15. Install treated plywood walls, hinged door
16. Install fiberglass toilet seat (cross your fingers that it fits the hole)
17. Celebrate your successful completion with a Coke

Monday, February 18, 2013

Off to school

In Vanuatu these days, most children leave home at around the age of 13 to further their education. The majority of village schools offer classes through 6th grade, but students must attend a boarding school beyond that. Of course, most of us can't imagine sending our kids away at such a tender age, but it has become quite commonplace here (and in many other parts of the world).

Our youth group was sad to see two of our best Bible students depart for boarding school this year (the school year here follows a calendar year schedule) in February. We are fortunate that the village school here in Tulwei goes through 8th grade, so kids are able to stay home two years longer than normal.

We had Wesley and Alsen over to our house a few nights before they were scheduled to depart, for a fajita dinner (Alsen's first such experience, Wesley's third). Kids don't traditionally talk much to adults when other adults are around, so it was great to get to visit with them some in that atmosphere. We encouraged them to always make decisions based on what God would have them do, rather than based on what their peers might have them do. We are proud of these two young men, and solicit your prayers on their behalf.

(Photos show Alsen and Wesley, and then family and friends putting Wesley on the ship bound for Southwest Bay, Malekula. Alsen is at Rensarie, Malekula.)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Olfala i ded

That’s Bislama for, “the elderly person died.”  Unfortunately, that’s the text message I received from Alsen the day before we were to travel on to Malekula.  His mother had been diagnosed with kidney cancer late last year, and she had really taken a turn for the worse in the first few weeks of the new year.  We were glad to be able to be in the village during the funeral events.  Deaths are a communal event in Vanuatu, and we were glad to be able to provide some support to the family.
Of course, there are no funeral homes in Vanuatu, which means that the body has to be prepared by the family.  The first order of business to cut down a tree, mill it into planks with a chainsaw, and build a casket (traditionally, they just wrapped the body in woven mats).  With no preservative agents, the body has to be buried as soon as possible.  The “grave-side” service is the main similarity Vanuatu shares with western cultures.  You may recall that Flexon and Alsen’s dad is buried beside our house (we live on Flexon’s land), and now their mother has also been laid to rest beside him.
Beginning on the first night, friends and family members begin coming to visit the family carrying a kilo of rice. The women begin wailing as soon as they see one of the immediate family members on their initial visit to the house.  It’s eerily emotional to be surrounded by 20-30 people wailing.
To express gratitude and facilitate continued togetherness, the family prepares lunch and dinner every day for 10 days (traditionally, 30), culminating in the largest meal on the 10th day.  During those 10 (30) days, the male members of the family do not shave their faces to show that they are in mourning.  At the 10-day meal, the men all shave, drink a shell of kava, and then eat a plate of food.  The family killed two cows (one on the first day and another on the tenth), and cooked at least 20 bags of rice (50lbs each) during the 10 days.  Extended family members donated vegetables from their gardens, as the immediate family is not allowed to work in the garden while in mourning.
I was continually amazed at how everything worked together so flawlessly.  No one in particular was given a specific job to do, but everyone knew what needed to be done and when to do it, especially as it pertained to cooking (which was the main activity).  
Sadly, “Abu Davit” (grandmother) went to her grave without ever obeying the gospel, but two of her sons have changed the tide in their family - living godly lives and training their young children to do the same.  Please keep the family in your prayers as they continue to grieve their loss.

The men visiting before the next meal

Butchering the cow, island-style

The women "scratching" bananas and yams for laplap

One of many wheelbarrows full of rice

Huge pot of soup

10 days of growth before shaving (as they included me as a son in the family)

Hand-carved spoon for stirring huge pots of rice and soup

Cooking over the open fire

Etas Christmas Youth Camp

Upon our return to Vila after Christmas, we were very pleased to hear news of an activity that the congregation in Etas Village had participated in over the school holiday.  Sam came up with the idea to have all the youth come to his land to “camp out” for a week.  The main purpose of being together was leadership training.  He and his brother, Andrew, worked with the youth in regard to Scripture reading, song leading, lesson preparation, and visitation.  Their wives, Leimawa and Iagan, cooked and cleaned for the students while they were in their homes.  The students also worked together on a service project - preparing natangora leaf panels to be used as thatch roofing for the church building.

Isn’t it awesome that brethren are actively thinking of ways to encourage and promote leadership amongst the younger generation?  And best of all, the week was purposed, planned, performed, and paid for entirely by local brethren - we only even heard about it after-the-fact.  Please keep the brethren in Etas in your prayers, as they continue to strive to serve the Lord and His church.

The Etas congregation with the Bakers at the end of 2011