Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Looking back at 10 years in Vanuatu

It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago (yesterday) a team of bright-eyed but very “green” missionaries, along with our team mascot, Kaela, left several feet of snow behind in Denver and touched down in Port Vila. I spent some time early this morning looking back through our monthly updates, reminiscing. It’s practically impossible to communicate all the experiences, all the lessons, all the mistakes, all the victories, all the tears, all the joys, all the hellos and all the goodbyes. Most notably, we’ve seen the gospel of Jesus change people’s lives, we see His Spirit bearing fruit, and we see God continuing to open doors and provide the means to walk through them.

Our family announced our mission:Vanuatu2025 initiative in early 2013, which was immediately followed by a significant hiccup in our sponsorship and support system. We had to back off that plan for a while, to get our bearings and reassess the situation, but God has met our needs and then some. We, along with the leadership of the Perkins Church of Christ, are excited to be able to re-announce our intentions, Lord willing, to commit to live and work in Vanuatu for another decade. We could not do a thing without the constant love and support from our world wide Christian family, and long for you all to continue lifting us up in prayer. We are excited to share more about our plans, which include some distinct targets and ministries, during our upcoming furlough visit to the States at the end of this year. We will be looking to add a few more congregations to our support base as we take another step of faith, and pray that God is already preparing hearts and minds towards that end. Thank you again for your love and encouragement through good and bad. Please know that we are eternally grateful, and honored to serve alongside you!

“Father God, please open our hearts, our eyes, and our path in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

*It was extremely difficult to limit ourselves to only a few (okay, 84) photos, but we’ve selected these to represent many of our most significant experiences over the past 10+ years. Enjoy…

Our first time in Vanuatu during our 2003 survey trip 
My first Vanuatu Bible study with Jesse (middle), during our survey trip in 2003. Morris (right) was a great role model. 
First team pic, still in Castle Rock, CO, just before moving to Vanuatu in early 2005

Our grand welcome at Eton Village in 2005 (wow, that's some bad red-eye reduction editing!)

Our first house (rental) just up from Vila Central Hospital. The Bakers were on the other side of the duplex and our team office was on the backside of our house.

Our first truck ... maintenance needs are what initially led us to meet Flexon (mechanic)

Our first overnight stay in the village (Epau) in mid-2005, where I presented my first lesson in Bislama (it wasn't pretty)

My first two Bible study partners and baptisms in Vila ... Daniel (middle) and Flexon (right), alongside Morris (left)

Ummmm ... there are no words ;)  #FirstIslandDress

Our first outer island trip (Ambae) in August 2005

Shawnda teaching the ladies in Duviara Village, Ambae (Aug 2005)

Cindy teaching kids Bible class in Vila (2005)

Our first contacts in Etas Village in late 2005 ... Sam, Leimawa, Meriam, Martino and Barbara. Aaron and Cindy met them following one of our "Preaching in the Park" sessions.

Welcoming Titus Taylor to the family 24 November 2006

A great day! Titus' adoption paperwork and passport in hand (May 2007)

Shocker! Alexis' ultrasound picture (Aug 2007)

Meeting Ms. Melia for the first time after her birth in the US (Dec 2007)

Completed (exterior) Vila building in January 2008

Alexis Lynae welcomed to the world on March 2008

Boys trip to Marou Village (Sep 2008)

The men in Epau Village, where Shawnda and I focused much of our attention in the early years (Dec 2008)

Aaron and Cindy's 10 year anniversary / vow renewal, Tanna-style (Jan 2009)

Shawnda and the ladies in Epau Village (Feb 2009)

One of our early Trutok Baebol Skul classes in Vila (Feb 2009)

BB, JJ, KK, and Coco (Eric's family) visited Vanuatu in April 2009

My first trip to Tulwei Village, NW Malekula in June 2009

With Flexon and Fiona on my first trip to Malekula (Jun 2009)

Mike during one of our monthly "Preaching in the Park" series (Sep 09)

PIBC class in Eton Village along with Epau (Oct 09)

Alsen, our first baptism in Malekula (Oct 2009) 
One of our early monthly ministries in Vila and Etas Village was "Pikinini Baebol Klab" (Nov 2009)

One of the Twin Otters in Air Vanuatu's fleet, that have taken us all over the country and back again

A glorious day ... reconciliation Sunday in Port Vila (Jan 2010)

Efate Island combined assembly (Feb 2010)

Posing with our only TBS graduate, Patrick (Feb 2010)

Ready to face the day in Malekula, as we were considering the possibility of moving there full time

Ladies fellowship and lunch in Etas Village (Apr 2010)

Titus' US citizenship process completed! (Jun 2010)

The strongest of many, many earthquakes here on the ring of fire (Aug 2010)

Shawnda (and kids) on their first ever visit to Malekula (we'd already decided to move there) in August 2010

Building materials and other supplies ready for the ship to Malekula as we prepared to build our village house (Sep 2010)

Under construction in Tulwei Village (Oct 2010) ... I was there five weeks initially and got most of it completed

Home Sweet Home in Tulwei Village (Mar 2011)

One of Titus' many asthma attacks, this one meant a few hours in the hospital for a nebulizer treatment (Apr 2011)

Headed home from the garden in NW Malekula (mid 2011)

Perkins Church of Christ youth visited Vanuatu in June 2011 ... the continuation and beginning of a great relationship

We had youth group meetings at our house every Friday at our house in Tulwei Village (Jul 2011)

Visit to see Mike in Santo (Oct 2011)

Visit to see the Bakers in Tanna (Oct 2011)

Shawnda volunteered at Alexis' kindy in Tulwei Village (Dec 2011)

Shawnda teaching the ladies in Tulwei Village (Nov 2011)

Our last official "missionVanuatu" team outing to Kakula Island, just before the Baker's return to the States (Dec 2011)

Visiting the Christians in Iatukun Village, Tanna (Oct 2012)

Teaching in Loun Village, Tanna (Oct 2012)

A village elder stopped to read items on our "notice board" on his way home from the garden (Jan 2013)

Christians in Tulwei Village, Malekula (Nov 2012)

Shawnda and the ladies in Tulwei weaving a mat for a gift (Dec 2012)

Visiting Christians in Lembinwen Village, Malekula (Mar 2013)

Silly fun with Mema and Papa during one of their many trips to Vanuatu

Patrick and Ruth, with Mary and Naoka, in central Efate (Mar 2013)

No Vanuatu picture reel would be complete without a pic of a flat tire!

Taking Alsen from Malekula to Tanna in an effort to foster inter-island relationships (Apr 2013)

Teaching on the seashore in NW Malekula (May 2013)

Church camp in Tulwei Village, Malekula (May 2013)

Visiting Christians in Shark Bay, Santo (Jun 2013)

"Have tools, will install solar, just pay me with a live fowl" in NW Malekula (Jul 2013)

The close to our first year of homeschooling (Jul 2013)

We served as the Visiting Missionaries during the Fall 2013 semester at Oklahoma Christian University ... a wonderful experience 

Conducted my first wedding ceremony for Flexon and Fiona (Feb 2014)

Harding University campaign group with the Etas youth group in June 2014

Tanna ladies custom dance (late-2014)

Wednesday night youth fellowship at our place (early 2015)

I have spent lots of time studying and mentoring Atison, beginning in mid-2014

Welcoming Grayson Brady to the family on 17 July 2014

Began conducting youth group meetings in Etas in early 2014

Our first youth camp in January 2015 ... our best week ever!

I studied with Jack 3-5 days per week for most of 2014. He and his family have now returned to their home in South Tanna and doing really well.

We hosted interns from Oklahoma Christian University in mid-2014 ... Zeth and Jessica McNeal, and Luke Simmons

Visit from James, one of our Perkins, OK elders during his three week visit in April 2015