Thursday, February 19, 2015

Monthly Report Reminder

Hi all,

Just a quick reminder that you can access our monthly reports on our website. Any questions, just ask!

Oh my Vanuatu: Dinner on the grave

Now that we're stationed back in Port Vila, our short trips to Malekula Island usually include Bible teaching every evening that we're there. Furthermore, that means that dinner time is usually a bit chaotic as we are in various stages of showering, eating, getting ready for the studies/bed, etc.

One night, I walked out towards the church building and saw Titus happily sitting on one of two graves in our yard (Flexon's parents are both buried there), eating his dinner. Not really something you see everyday ;). #OhMyVanuatu

Monday, February 16, 2015

Anatomy of Holiday Youth Camp (Part 7): Aftermath

We were so pleased to learn about what took place at church in Etas on Sunday following our youth camp (we weren’t there and only heard second-hand, which makes it all the better because that means we had nothing to do with it - it was genuinely natural!). Jimmy was the morning’s main speaker (his first time to ever do so), and he talked about what he had learned from our study of the camp's "key verse" - 2 Timothy 2:22. Abu Iata (BTW “Abu” signifies grandparent) gave an overview of the camp from his perspective, emphasizing how important he felt that it was for the adults to continue the conversation. He then called some of the others up to talk about what they had learned regarding marriage, friendship, and fornication. Word is that some of the parents had tears in their eyes, being both convicted and, at the same time, pleased that the topic had been broached from a biblical perspective. May God’s Spirit continue to mold their hearts and minds, and influence their decisions, forever and always...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Anatomy of Holiday Youth Camp (Part 6): New brother in Christ

While baptisms aren’t really a goal of ours for Youth Camp, we were all glad to welcome a new brother in Christ during the week, as Michael made the decision to evidence his growing faith by being baptized into Christ. Atison has been leading the youth group in a series on “The Gospel Story” during our regular Sunday meetings, and he had the pleasure of immersing his friend, Michael. The Pacific Ocean once again proved to be a baptistry that is second-to-none. I am proud of the young man Michael is becoming, and believe that he will continue to grow in the Lord throughout his days. Please be praying for him in his new journey of faith.

To be continued…

Michael and Atison before church the following the Sunday

Monday, February 9, 2015

Anatomy of Holiday Youth Camp (Part 5): Daily activities

As we near the conclusion to this series of posts, I thought I would give a generic rundown of our camp schedule.

We broke our 12 campers into three workgroups, and assigned a group to breakfast, another to lunch, and a third to dinner each day. We had originally secured a camp cook, but he had to bow out the day before camp started (just another example of this post). It worked out well, and I was pleased with the way everyone pitched in to help. I didn’t hear a single complaint, and the kitchen duty went well every day.

After breakfast of hot tea, peanut butter crackers and fresh bread, we had our morning devotional. It consisted of singing some Bislama choruses, including several newly introduced ones, and a devotional thought. Our texts for the three mornings were 2 Timothy 2:22 (which was also our memory verse, and camp objective), Hebrews 13:4, and 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8. We went through the text in a discussion-based style, which prompted further questions and comments. We had a Question Box available to those who wanted to ask anonymously, and these were discussed during our morning devo time as well.

Next was sports. We divided the twelve campers and four adults into four four-man teams. The first day we started a volleyball tournament, the second day a soccer tournament, and the last day hosted the finals in both sports. There was a lot of fun and laughter, with Team 1 winning both events. They were awarded with two sleeves of cookies each.

Next up on the schedule was our group activities, which sought to apply the word study from the previous day. During these times the campers each wrote [a] a list of desired qualities they were going to be looking for in a potential spouse, [b] a list of activities they would/would not engage in during “friendship”, and lastly [c] we had a team trivia competition based on the concepts and texts we’d studied during the week.

Lunch and Dinner were prepared by the camp work groups as well, usually consisting primarily of rice and soup, with lots of fresh ingredients from local gardens. After lunch was our Word Study time, during which we discussed Marriage, Friendship (i.e. Dating), and Fornication. There was a significant amount of Q&A and discussion during each session. Following our marriage word study, I asked two two-man teams to prepare to debate the topic of modern marriage ceremonies, one being "for" and one being "against." I was so pleased with their preparation and delivery, as well as the lively discussion it prompted. They are really learning to think through things for themselves, rather than look to me for the "right answers" - refreshing!!

Up next was Group Game time. A favorite was the team scavenger hunt, wherein team members worked together to answer questions from a specified Bible verse, and then scavenged the area to ascertain the answer-item. There were 15 items, with 1st and 2nd place being decided with less than a minute between them. Other games included tug-o-war, water balloon volleyball, water balloon toss, water war, sorry kitty, and telephone, among others. We then had free time until dinner.

After dinner we had Movie Night, Game Night, and Island Night, respectively. We watched “Son of God” for Movie Night, which was a hit because as visual learners, they love seeing the Bible text come alive (oh, and for our pre-show, I showed an “Elf-Yourself” video using some of their faces… they LOVED it, having never seen anything like it before - fun!). During Game Night night we played win-lose-or-draw and balloon tag. Our final night was Island Night, which is their way of saying Talent Show. Funny story: Shawnda and I thought we’d steal the show by drawing eyes on chins, putting some baby clothes over our faces, hanging our heads upside down off the end of a table, and lip-syncing a funny song. We figured they’d laugh hysterically, but we completed the whole 3+ minute song without hearing a peep. Come to find out, they were so perplexed (they didn’t realize until we were almost through what in the world they were looking at) that they just sat there staring and asking each other what was going on. Fail! The youth, on the other hand, truly stole the show. There were meaningful skits and original songs (including a really cute one the boys wrote about Adam seeing Eve for the first time, following our marriage study). I was so impressed, and can view several of these on our YouTube channel. We concluded our island by introducing the kids to roasting marshmallows :).

During our closing, I praised the youth for their behavior and participation … they are such a good group of kids. We went around the circle with everyone telling their favorite part of the week, and any suggestions for next time. I was so encouraged that six or seven of them said the studies were their favorite part - music to this missionary’s ears. Everyone agreed that next time we need to invite youth from other congregations. We also presented Atison (cooking pot), Leimawa (tea kettle, material and cups) and Abu Iata (machete) with thank you gifts. After a deep clean and packing, we said goodbye to the campsite and headed for home. Everyone was worn out from lots of activity and heat, and not a lot of sleep, but I do believe we can chalk the effort up as a SUCCESS!

To be continued...

Leimawa and Abu helping prep for dinner

Work Group 3 hard at work in the camp kitchen

I lost this water war, and Abu didn't hold back! #aimforthehead

Perhaps the pic of the week?!? Photo credit to Shawnda

The boys perform a skit emphasizing the importance of working together to overcome challenges

The youth sing an original song written by Atison, during Island Night

The rich man (Jimmy) throws bones to his dog (Barbara), while poor Lazurus (Abu Iata) looks on #abuwinstheacademyaward

Leimawa and Alexis sing "God Hemi Gud" with actions, during Island Night

#totalflop #itisalittlescary

Volleyball champs: Mark, Aita, Michael and Tino

Action shot from the field

This year's youngest (and cutest!) camper, Grayson

Thursday, February 5, 2015

You've obviously never been to Vanuatu...

So, I read a couple of things today that "struck my funny" and inspired me to start a new category on the blog. We'll call it "You've obviously never been to Vanuatu" or "YONBTV" for short ;). Consider it a cousin to our "Oh my Vanuatu" category (aka "OMV").

For our inaugural submission, consider this info-box that popped up on the computer screen today...

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a loooooooooong way from complaining about internet speed. I mean, when we got here in 2005, the five of us were sharing a dial-up connection (for over US$200/month!!!). Nowadays we can sometimes bump up against 1Mbps download speeds, but to say "it will just take a minute" doesn't quite cut it. In fact... it took 42 minutes, for the record :p.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Anatomy of Holiday Youth Camp (Part 4): This year’s theme

It becomes evident fairly quickly that a primary problem facing the ni-Vanuatu is in relation to male/female relationships. Spousal and child abuse abound, more unwed mothers give birth in any given month than wedded, dating has come to include sexual promiscuity, and adultery and divorce have become commonplace. It can be dizzying to even think about how to tackle these cultural issues, as they have become quite deeply lodged into the social fabric.

While we haven’t given up on curing the problem (Jesus and His good news are the answer), we’re trying to make a concerted effort to promote preventative measures as well. And in this instance that means getting to the minds and hearts of people before they reach the point of forming those types of relationships. It’s been said many times, many ways, but a powerful way to affect the future is to engage the youth. God’s way is the wise way, and His narrative must be given a fighting chance to be heard in the midst of the world’s ideals and norms, especially in those whose world view is still being shaped.

As I observed the culture, especially in regard to the marriage relationship, I noted what had become the normal means of finding and taking a wife. The key words that I saw/heard time and again included “steal” and “hide” and “pay a fine” - all of which obviously point towards a broken system. Regardless, this had become the accepted procedure, and there are reasons for it, including the shift away from arranged marriages (as demanded by today’s young adults), and the awkward mix of old cultural norms (such as dowry) and newly introduced ways (such as rings and certificates). It all becomes so confusing to the young couple, that it becomes easiest to just sneak around until they become pregnant (whether intentional or unintentional), and then they often feel forced to remain together thereafter, never really making a commitment to each other.

My goal for this year’s camp was to offer up another way, readily conceding that the old ways have passed (namely arranged marriages), but that the new ways are not healthy or God-honoring (again cf. "steal" and "hide" and "fines"). I lead the group in a word study each day, focusing on the biblical meaning of “marriage” and “friendship” and “fornication.” The first two are regular parts of ni-Vanuatu vocabulary (with friendship meaning “dating”), but have become very muddied and often acceptably-sinful. And then I continue to be amazed that people are genuinely surprised when presented with a simple definition of the Bible word “fornication” - you mean its sinful to have sex outside of the marriage relationship?!?

I engaged my new discussion based format, and it once again proved beneficial. I was pleasantly surprised by the participation of the youth in a rather taboo topic, but they were definitely interested and keen to learn, and with a little prompting really took to the task at hand. We coupled the word study sessions with practical application sessions each afternoon, including each camper compiling (and subsequently sharing) a list of characteristics and qualities they wanted in a potential spouse, as well as a list of acceptable/unacceptable (i.e. wise/unwise) “friendship” practices. 

In our “closing” on the last day of camp I was so encouraged when a number of the youth stated that their favorite part of camp was the studies, expressing their gratitude. Likewise, a mother and a grandfather (camp counselors) conveyed their appreciation for broaching the difficult but important topic. It was truly a most-fulfilling experience, and arguably the best “work week” we’ve had in our ten years here.

To be continued…

Monday, February 2, 2015

Oh my Vanuatu: Hope that wasn't important

During a recent flight from Malekula to Vila, Titus and I were sitting in the front row of a Twin Otter 18-seater aircraft. I noticed that, though the luggage had been loaded and the doors had been closed, the ground crew member called the pilot to the back of the plane. A few minutes later, the pilot threw a long metal pipe (obviously broken off at the weld on the end) into the cockpit, shut the door, and off we went. Hope that wasn't important! #OhMyVanuatu

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Anatomy of Holiday Youth Camp (Part 3): Choosing an objective

The concept for the camp objective comes from 2 Timothy 2:22, and the idea of fleeing youthful lusts in pursuit of righteousness, faith, love and peace, and doing so in community with fellow believers. The older I get the more realize what an important phase of life “youth” is, not to mention its level of difficulty. You aren’t allowed to act like a child anymore, but have not yet earned the respect and maturity of an adult. You have enough freedom to make decisions that will impact the rest of your life, but often lack the wisdom to do so with proper insight and forethought. You are being introduced to many things, good and bad, for the very first time, and have to think fast in many instances.

My dream is for our Holiday Youth Camps to be a time to bless the youth with an opportunity to retreat into a safe environment, where they can take inventory and ask questions, and where they can be presented with wisdom from God’s word as it relates to their everyday lives. May God bear fruit in our efforts, and bless us with wisdom as we proceed!

To be continued…

The back of this year's camp t-shirt (with thanks to the Edmond COC "YMCA" Bible class!!)