Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dogs, Distractions, and the devil

A not so great picture of the Bible study taken at Prima a few weeks ago
This blog is long overdue for a bit of news!  I (Sylvia) have a mark from a red ink pen on my right forearm as a reminder of the interesting time I had this afternoon at one of our new preaching points here in Port Vila.  As I was driving to the other side of town after lunch to meet with the ladies at Prima, I heard someone yell from the other side of the road.  That's not uncommon and most of the time I ignore it, but today I glanced that way and caught a glimpse of Pastor Gideon.  I pulled over to the side of the road and saw him, his wife, Aline, and Baby John along with Pastor Gideon's disciple, George, making their way toward the truck. Prima is Gideon's first pastorate.  Everyone piled into the truck and we drove the short distance further to Prima. 

I was not surprised that no other ladies were ready or even in view since Pastor Gideon and Aline had not been there to remind them about the Bible study.  I had made the announcement on Sunday about the ladies' Bible study, but no one lives by a calendar or a clock here.  It was nice to sit and chat with Aline while we waited.  The congregation has built a small shelter in an area of the village that has been designated for the future church building.  It is basically some posts that support a framework that has some sheets of corrugated tin resting on it.  They have constructed some low benches using some large bamboo and planks of wood.  Aline and I chose the more comfortable woven mats on the ground.  As we were sitting and chatting together, a large German shepherd type dog named Blackie came and nestled up next to me, wanting me to pet him.  I was told that he is always quite aggressive toward strangers, which made me wonder what to expect.  He wanted to be as close to me as possible even putting his large head in my lap!  I am not generally afraid of dogs, but do have a healthy respect for them especially if they do not know me.  Pastor Gideon was able to coax him away and we decided to start our study with the few children that had gathered.

As we sang some songs, two young teenage girls joined us.  Then, just as we started reading the scripture for our Bible study, a couple mothers and their small children arrived.  I have been going through a study book that looks at the lives of 13 different women in the Bible.  Today, we were looking at Priscilla from Acts 18.  A man from Australia came several weeks ago to Prima, showed the Jesus Film, and then handed out several cartons of Bislama Bibles to anyone who wanted them.  We are very thankful for this man whoever he is!  As a result of his generosity, many of the people who came this afternoon had their Bibles, but only two ladies could read!  (Please join us in praying about this problem.)  While Mary was reading a portion of our text, her little child Alfin decided to wail very loudly.  About that same time, Blackie decided to return and cozy up next to me again.  Aline tried to lure him away and I began to hear some of the women whispering, "Satan."  It sure seemed like Satan was doing his best to distract and disturb our study, so we stopped and prayed for God to put a "fence" of his peace around us so that we could learn from his Word!  Even though there were still some children playing and wandering in and out of the shelter, after we prayed, we all sensed that God had brought his peace.

Two more dogs came to check me out before I was finished with our lesson and prayer time.  They didn't linger, but it made me wonder what made me so attractive to them!  The red ink mark on my right arm came during the prayer time.  The ladies all shared their prayer requests, and as I was making note of them in my little notepad I noticed that a little guy seated next to me was decorating his body with a red ink pen.  It surprised me a little that while I was praying, his ink pen wandered over to my arm!  Apparently, someone else noticed as I heard a quiet gasp!  What a privilege to be able to share the love of Jesus and God's Word with this group of mothers, young girls, children and pets! 

After we were all finished and ready to leave, one of the mothers named Eka, asked me if I remembered the young mother that we had prayed for about a month ago.  Her husband had left her, so we prayed for their relationship to be healed.  Eka proudly reported to me that God had answered our prayer and this young mother was with her husband again.  Then, who should come up but this very lady!  She was beaming and smiling so big!  God is doing some incredible things at Prima!  Please join us in praying for Pastor Gideon and Aline and this growing congregation that the light of Christ will shine brightly in Prima.

It was funny that when I got home and was relating the afternoon's events to David, he commented on the fact that I smelled a bit like a dog. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Second "Missionary" Journey to the Island of Tanna

Pastor Peter (left) and Pastor Gideon (right) in Lawangi
 The follow-up trip to Tanna on October 11-14 was a great encouragement to everyone involved!  Pastors Peter and Gideon arrived at Lawangi in the midst of a huge downpour.  We had been experiencing a drought for the last few months, so the rain was a blessing, but it made Peter and Gideon's arrival quite difficult!  The truck that had driven them from the airport at Lenakel to Lawangi was not able to traverse the steep road that would take them down to the village of Lawangi.

Chief John with the Lawangi congregation

So, the two pastors accompanied by Chief John had to walk several kilometers without any umbrella or any other protection from the rain!  Needless to say, they and their backpacks were soaked through and through, but it did not dampen their spirits! 

This was Pastor Peter's first visit to Tanna, and he was warmly welcomed and quickly became acquainted with the Christians at Lawangi.

Pastor Peter with some of the Lawangi congregation

The two pastors wasted no time in getting organized to meet with Morrison and the new Christians.  Something they had not expected was that a newly formed cooperative between the villages of Lawangi, Enkateli, and Imarabu had planned to meet in the village to sell some food.  All the villagers attended this event.  In the afternoon, Pastor Peter was asked to preach for the entire group of over 50 people. 
Pastor Peter praying for Morrison and family

 He preached again in the evening and prayed a prayer of dedication over Morrison and Rehab and Baby Abraham as the new pastors for the three new congregations on Tanna.  Morrison's cousin brother, Sam and wife Ellen, expressed their desire to assist Morrison in leading the church!  Praise the Lord!

Imarbu community gathered to hear God's Word

 On October 13th, Pastors Peter and Gideon hiked to Imarabu where they were met by a group of 23 adults and children who were eager to hear the Good News.

Patrick is seated in the middle.
Inapoas Community

A young man named Patrick had expressed a strong desire to care for the congregation there, so Peter prayed for him and committed him to God's direction and guidance.  Please pray for Patrick that he will come to know Christ more and more.

The two pastors hiked on from there for three hours until they arrived at Inapoas.  They again received a warm welcome and were invited to preach to the villagers who had gathered (over 30).
Louise and Aleck - lay leaders at Inapoas

Preaching at Inapoas on Wednesday afternoon

 They worshipped again in the evening with even more people attending.  Pastor Gideon preached this time and 8 or 9 people responded to his challenge, coming forward to pray and repent of their sins.  Pastor Gideon's sister, Louise and her husband Aleck, were dedicated to the Lord to oversee the congregation at Inapoas.

Sam - lay leader from Lawangi
Thursday morning, Pastors Peter and Gideon, returned to the airport and headed back to Port Vila.  There was no doubt that God was building his church and establishing the believers in the Word of God.  We praise the Lord for the people that He has raised up to shepherd these new flocks of believers.  They meet each week with Morrison for training in God's Word, then every Saturday, Morrison travels to a different village to lead the worship and to share more from the Word.  All of these new believers and new leaders need our daily prayers to stand strong in their faith and to become Christlike disciples.  Will you join us in praying...

 "... and asking God to fill [these new believers] with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that [they] may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that [they] may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified [them] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light."
Colossians 1:9 - 12, NIV

Friday, October 15, 2010

Out of surgery

After surgery.

Praise God!  Little Sylvia’s surgery took about an hour, and the doctor was able to get the hip back in place.  She is wearing a cast from chest to ankles with her legs spread far apart to help keep the hip joint stable.  She will most likely be discharged from the hospital tomorrow.  Bekah’s parents, who are in the States on their home assignment, were able to drive up to Buffalo last night to be with Joel and Bekah and the girls.  What a blessing!  The next 4 months will be challenging for Sylvia and her parents.  Sylvia had just learned the joy of crawling, and now she will need help to just turn over.  Thank you so much for your prayers!  We praise God over and over for his goodness to us!

Go back and report…what you have seen and heard: 
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, 
and the good news is preached to the poor.” Luke 7:22 (emphasis added)

Heading to clinic in a special wagon

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pray for Sylvia Irena's Hip Surgery

Joel with Dora and Bekah with Sylvia

Dora (l) and Sylvia (
We have been wanting to post some new pictures of our granddaughters so you can see how God has been blessing them and helping them to grow!  They just turned 8 months old today and both of them showed us how they could crawl while we talked on Skype.  It was fun that they both seemed to notice us on the computer screen and even "talked" to us!  But, we found out that just today the doctor discovered that Sylvia has a dislocated left hip.  This is most likely a problem that she has had since birth, but was not detected by the normal screening exams that they do on babies.  An x-ray confirmed the diagnosis, and she is scheduled for surgery Thursday, October 14 at 9:30AM (Eastern).  She will be placed in a body cast for 4 months to make sure the hip, muscles, and ligaments surrounding her hip socket will heal properly.  Please pray for her safety during anesthesia, that God will guide the surgeon’s hands, and that she will have full recovery with no complications. This will be a challenge for her mommy and daddy.  Please keep Joel, Bekah, and sister Dora in your prayers too.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Play His Praise on a Grand Piano!

MK piano duet at the Grand Hotel in Port Vila, Vanuatu

Jennifer performing with Iririki Island Resort in the background.
Tonight we had the privilege of attending the piano and flute recital for two high school MK's who live here in Port Vila. Tiffany and Jennifer moved to Port Vila from Australia about 2 years ago.  About that same time Galia, a talented Bulgarian woman who has a degree in classical music performance, also moved here.  For the past year Galia has been teaching these two MK's, and tonight they gave a recital at the Grand Hotel.  The Grand Hotel has a gorgeous grand piano situated in the main dining room with large glass windows all around that look out onto the harbor and Iririki Island Resort.  It was a most classy event!  Something that we don't get to enjoy very often!  They performed two piano duets - Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Franz Liszt and I Love a Piano by Irving Berlin.  Tiffany presented two flute pieces - the finale being Concertino for Flute and Piano Op. 107 by Cecile Chaminade.  Jennifer beautifully performed Allegro from Sonata K 333 by Mozart.  We enjoyed pieces by Debussy, Bach, Chopin, and several others.  As we sat and enjoyed the beauty, we gave praise to God for this rare musical treat!
Just behind Tiffany to the right you can see the cruise ship heading out of the harbor as she performed the final piece.
"Sing to Him a new song; Play his praise on a grand piano!"
Psalm 33:3, NIV and The Message

Anyone Want to Adopt a Puppy!

L to R: Brown Socks, Babe, Rex, Princess and Growly
Ginger with her pups at one month old

The little Princess
Two months ago our dog Ginger gave birth to 5 puppies.  This was our first time to take care of puppies since the only other dog that we've had was a male.  Four of the puppies grew real well, but we had one runt who struggled along for about 3-4 weeks and came to the place where if we didn't intervene, he would die.  Sylvia decided to try feeding him milk from a small saline nose spray bottle that had a tip on it about the right size.  Little Babe took to it quite well and gained strength enough to nurse from Ginger and then to start eating puppy food.  He's still half the size of the rest of his brothers and sister, but strong and healthy.

The puppies have provided us lots of laughs as we've watched them play and wrestle with each other.  Each of them has a unique personality just like kids.  Puppies have a way of making you feel like you're the most important person in the world.  When we open the back door, they all come running to meet us, squirming and wiggling hoping for a little scratch on the head or a bit of roughing up.  This is the week that they are to be adopted out.  We'd love to keep them all, but keeping them fed is a pretty expensive venture. 

Getting Ready for Assembly

On Thursday of this week Sylvia invited all four of the Port Vila Nazarene Church treasurers and their assistants to our house to get their offering and attendance statistics ready for assembly in November.  She used the day to teach about God's desire for his people to be generous and sacrificial toward others as they studied together 2 Corinthians 8:1-15.  Then she shared with them some thoughts about how they can fulfill their responsibility as treasurers with a high level of integrity.  After that, they started adding attendance figures and finding averages and determined total income for each local church and how the money was spent.  She also took time to share with them the incredible opportunity that our churches have to participate in the World Evangelism Fund Plus Challenge 2010 offering to support the work of missions around the world.  We are so thankful for our churches who have faithfully given to God and his work in Vanuatu and worldwide!

"God loves it when the giver delights in the giving." 
2 Corinthians 9:7, The Message

Monday, October 4, 2010

WEF Plus: Challenge 2010 - We Need You!

We wanted to alert you to an opportunity that is coming your way in November.  The Church of the Nazarene is asking all Nazarenes worldwide to participate in a very special missions offering.  Most of you know that every Church of the Nazarene contributes financially to support the work of missions around the world.  The name of this contribution is World Evangelism Fund (WEF).  Our mission leaders have advised us that the amount of money that has been contributed toward the WEF this year is 20% short of what we need in order to continue ministering at the current level.  This shortage comes at a time when the Church of the Nazarene is experiencing unprecedented growth around the world.  This is not a time to retreat by calling missionaries home from the harvest field!  Our general superintendents, with an unshakeable faith in the great generosity of our people, have issued a challenge to Nazarenes worldwide to raise the single largest offering for World Evangelism in the history of our church.  The goal is huge - $6 million!  We are asking each of you to personally participate in this offering and to make sure that your local church is participating too.  Please talk this over with your NMI president and pastor.  Each adult is encouraged to give $10 and each child is encouraged to give 40 coins.  Here in Vanuatu, we will be taking part in this worldwide offering as well. 

I've been studying 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 and would like to ask you to humbly read through these precious words of encouragement from the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth.  Paul begins this passage by bragging on the church at Macedonia that even though they were being severely tested and faced extreme poverty, they overflowed with joy and begged for the privilege of sharing in a particular ministry to the saints in Jerusalem.  Paul records that they gave "as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability" (verse 3), and totally surprised everyone!  How and why would Macedonians give so liberally to someone in Jerusalem that they had never met before? The Message Bible says it like this, " was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us.  The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives." 

Please prayerfully consider how the Lord would want you to participate in this historical offering.  As always, we are trusting God that He will provide the means for us to continue in ministry here in Vanuatu.

For those in the USA/Canada region, a special website has been established to make resources readily available to the local churches.  WEF Plus: Challenge 2010 Web Resources

Pastor Peter Isaac to Visit New Believers on Tanna

Pastor Peter Isaac and Pastor Gideon will be returning to Tanna Island on Monday, October 11 to meet with the new believers who came to Christ during our mission trip in June.  He will be flying from Port Vila to Tanna Island and then will travel by truck to the different villages where we showed the Jesus Film and held Kid's Clubs.  Please be in prayer that God will anoint their ministry with the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pray that the believers will be encouraged to move forward in their faith in Christ and that more people from their villages will believe in Jesus.  Pray also for Pastor Peter's time with Morrison, Gideon's brother who is leading these new Christians each week in a time of Bible study and worship.

Record Attendance at Recent SPNTC Classes

Metas studies a passage from the Bible with her small group.
Our SPNTC students love doing group projects

We praise the Lord that for the two SPNTC classes that were offered in August and September, we had more students attend than in the history of the school.  Pastor Peter Isaac taught Christian Music and Worship with 18 students completing the course.  We were thankful for the "old" hymnals that someone had sent to us several years ago. There were enough for each student!  They had a great time learning several of the hymns and presented "Blessed Assurance" at an all-Nazarene Church gathering after the class was completed.  One of the students commented that he had learned that worship wasn't something that just happens on Sunday, but is something that we should be doing every day of our lives!

Sylvia's class on Christian Morals and Ethics was a challenge for both teacher and students.  Twelve students completed the two week course where each day the students engaged in dialogue about various ethical issues such as marriage and divorce, traditional medicine and witchcraft, capital punishment and other topics that were current issues in Vanuatu.  One of the assignments was for each student to memorize and meditate upon Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect"  (NASB).  The class learned the hymn, "Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee" in English and Bislama and presented it at the monthly gathering of all the churches at the end of September.

William and his group present their project to the class.
Thank you to everyone who was praying for the teachers and students of these two classes.

Pastor Jenny Isaac will be teaching the next SPNTC course, Interpersonal Communications, October 25 - November 5.  Each of our courses is 35 contact hours, meeting 3 1/2 hours nightly for 2 weeks.  This is a very demanding schedule for both teacher and students.  Pray that God will give health and strength, and that the Holy Spirit will continue to complete the good work that God has begun in each one.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Outreach to Tanna Part 3 of 3: Jehovah Jireh - The Lord Provides!

As Robert ran back to Lawangi, the rest of us who were not occupied with Kid’s Club or sports evangelism, prayed that God would give him strength and would help him find the missing equipment.  Robert is the father of the little baby that we prayed for during the first few days of our arrival on Tanna.  He had taken us to Karimasanga where his mother lived.  He had become a vital part of our team as he helped us carry the generator, speakers and other equipment to share the JESUS Film.  About an hour later, he returned, bathed in perspiration, with exactly what we were missing so that now we could show the JESUS Film!  We praised God that he had enabled Robert “to run and not grow weary” and had helped him to find just what was needed!

Jesus Film at Imarabu

Over 100 people sat beneath the banyan tree with their eyes fixed on Chief John’s TV screen seeing and hearing for the first time the message of Jesus Christ.  The film went past the 5 PM limit, but only 2 men left.  After the film two members of our team shared how Jesus had changed their lives, and many raised their hands indicating their desire to receive Jesus too. 

 The sun had gone down and it had become very dark, but one of the new believers, Sofie, opened her house for us to lead the new believers in understanding what it meant to have “new life” and how to grow as a Christian.  Her house was filled to capacity as we rejoiced and sang "Tok blong God i Gat Paoa" (God's Word Has Power).  Andrea, one of the YIM team shared that, “Even in the darkness of her house, I could tell they were all hungry and eager to hear God’s Word.  The Lord truly provided and opened doors when others kept trying to close them.  The Lord showed himself to us that day as Jehovah Jireh, the Lord provides!”

Sylvia with Elisabeth as she holds her new Bible and MegaVoice
Elisabeth was one of the women who gathered that night at Sofie’s house.  We had brought with us several copies of the recently published New Testament in the language of north Tanna along with some MegaVoices (a hand-held, solar-powered, audio Bible) supplied by our friends at SIL.  Elisabeth, who was from North Tanna, clutched the new MegaVoice in her hands and practiced touching the buttons to make sure she knew just how to make it work.  Can you imagine the joy of a new believer hearing the Bible spoken in her own native language for the first time?

Andrea, Louise, Lisa, and Sam (Louise's father) at Inapoas
The last village we visited was also a “custom village” and was closed to Christianity.  Pastor Gideon’s mother, Rehab, was from this village called Inapoas, and her daughter, Louise, was living there with her new husband.  Rehab is a dear Christian who lives in Port Vila.  She had been praying for a long time that we would be able to take the Gospel to her people.  Prayer was the key that opened the door to this village. 

David and Jimmy, one of Rehab's cousins

We saw the same eager response at Inapoas to the message of Jesus as we had witnessed at Imarabu and the other villages.  Many prayed to receive forgiveness and new life.  We saw visible changes in their faces; fear and apprehension was replaced by the peace and joy of knowing the Savior. 
Kids showing their salvation bracelets

 Who would care for all these precious new believers after we left Tanna?  Two of the villages had no church or pastor.  We had prayed that many would come to Christ through this outreach, and we also prayed and believed that God would raise up people to shepherd them after we returned to Port Vila.  Our God is faithful!

We praise God for Pastor Gideon’s brother Morrison from Lawangi who had been feeling led to gather the new Christians from his village and lead them in worship.  He is also visiting the new Christians in the other villages on a weekly basis to lead them in Bible study and to encourage them in their walk with Christ!

George, also from Lawangi, was another young man who had traveled with us to every village and had become a special part of our team.  After hearing about the pastoral training classes offered through South Pacific Nazarene Theological College, he asked if he could come to Port Vila for training.  We thank the Lord for his call in George's life; he arrived 2 weeks ago to take part in the next three SPNTC classes.
George on the far left riding in the truck

Please continue to pray for the new believers in Lawangi, Enkateli, Karimasanga, Imarabu, and Inapoas.  Pray that Isaiah's prophesy would be true for them as they learn to hope in the Lord and are strengthened by his Spirit.  Pray that they will be eager to tell others about the new life that they have received.  Pray that God will open the doors for us to return to Tanna as soon as possible to encourage and strengthen these followers.

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary, 
they will walk and not faint.” 
Isaiah 40:30-31

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Outreach to Tanna Part 2: Answered Prayer, TV Screens, and Open Doors

We've not had too many times where we didn't encounter a problem when showing the JESUS Film.  We stopped everything and prayed and asked the Lord to “heal” the projector.  The Lord must have had another plan because the machine would not work!  The chief of Lawangi, John, offered the use of his son’s TV screen.  It was small, but it worked beautifully, allowing over a hundred people in the Lawangi community to witness Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Many asked the Lord to forgive them and come into their lives that night!  Praise God!
Eileen teaching one of the discipleship groups

The new believers and others that were interested came the next morning to learn how to continue to grow and mature as a Christian.  We broke into five small groups, each lead by a member of our team, and each emphasizing an important aspect of growth.  Sylvia shared our excitement about the “new life” many had experienced.  Usoma taught that God’s Word is our vital food.  Eileen shared that prayer was like breathing spiritual air.  Austin made the need for regular Christian friendship clear. Edward related obedience to Christ to our need for exercise. Pastor Gideon helped the new believers think about their need to spend quiet time with the Lord.  These concepts that were organized in a small booklet from Scripture Union became our wonderful means for follow up of new believers at each village.

Hiking to Enkateli - notice Chief John at the back, TV in hand
We left Lawangi on Sunday afternoon and planned to return before dark.  Enkateli was our destination; a village reached by a one hour hike down to the river and back up the steep path on the other side. All the equipment had to be carried up the steep mountainside:  the generator, speakers, the amplifier, and even the 50-pound rice bag!  Chief John encouraged us to use his TV screen to show the JESUS Film again, so he came with us to ensure its arrival. 

Enkateli was home to a Catholic Mission school and the John Frum cult.  In the past, this cult significantly reduced access of people in this village to the gospel message.  Children in the village often did not even know Bible stories.   Some of our team members played soccer and volleyball with the village young people after their arrival, which helped to break the ice.  Then the heavy bag of rice was presented to the chief and the village gave pandanus mats to our team before the showing of the JESUS Film.
Headmaster Oliver giving mat to David

Over a 100 people crammed into the classroom to watch the JESUS Film.  Edward and Eileen, both with personal experience regarding the John Frum cult, gave powerful testimonies of God’s grace in their lives.  And many gave their hearts to the Lord again!  Wonderful!  Praise God!  We were thrilled!
Showing JF at Enkateli - Chief John's TV is on the right

The sun goes down around 6PM and our attempts to return in the daylight had failed.  It was pitch dark outside!  How could we possibly navigate the steep, narrow path while carrying the JF equipment in the dark?  The chief of Enkateli offered the use of his pickup truck to drive the equipment and a good portion of the team around the mountain ridge, back to Lawangi.  We prayed for Austin, Lawrence, and other members of the team who volunteered to that treacherous trip back in the dark.  Soon, we joined back together again at Lawangi.  We had to sleep fast.  Tomorrow there would be a another hike followed by a ride in a pickup truck to the next village of Karimasanga in southwest Tanna.

We were reminded often of the spiritual battle going on in the heavenly realms that became part of our own personal experience as we traveled from village to village.  Our team was tempted with discouragement during our ministry in Karimasanga.  During the drive south we got rained on and were thoroughly soaked by the time we reached the village.  This time of year in Tanna feels cool to us, and after getting soaked to the skin, we were very appreciative of the warm fire that was burning in the house of the local pastor.  We took turns huddling near the fire trying to get ourselves dry and warm.  The afternoon dragged on and there seemed no momentum on the part of the village to gather the children for a Kid’s Club.

Things seemed disorganized, as if they had not been expecting us to come.  There were several churches in this village and we began to wonder why the Lord had brought us to Karimasanga.  We had spent more money for the transportation to get to the village than we had planned.  The number of people was much less than the previous two villages.  So, we began to ask God to help us see what his plan was.

By the way, Chief John came with us to Karimasanga and, yes, he brought his TV screen!  This was the third time that we had shown it and the third time that Chief John watched it from beginning to end!

Discipleship study at Karimasanga
 After we showed the JF, Pastor Jenny Isaac, shared with us that a widow had asked her many questions after the video and they had prayed together.  Another lady who had lived the life of a prostitute was also very interested; so the two, Mary and May, were planning to attend the discipleship class the next morning.  The next day after class, our pickup truck was late in returning to take us back up north.  This gave Pastor Jenny more time to go over the discipleship booklet a second time with these two women and to encourage them in their new faith.  Sometimes we see a plentiful harvest of souls, and sometimes we witness the passionate love that God has for a few very needy souls.  No price tag can ever be placed on the value of one lost sheep that is found. 

Gospel of John in Bislama
As soon as we arrived back in Lawangi, we began the hike to Enkateli.  We had made a plan with Oliver the headmaster of the school that we would come to share the discipleship study.  We gathered in the same classroom that we had watched the JESUS film.  Lots of children and many adults.  Oliver seemed genuinely appreciative of the small discipleship booklets that we gave and indicated that they would use them in the school.  Alongside these small booklets, people were holding the colorful Gospel of John books that we were giving to everyone that came to watch the JESUS film.  These Bislama resources were treasured possessions in all the villages.

Going on the heights!
As we hurried back to Lawangi on the steep paths, I was reminded of the verse that prompted Hannah Hurnard’s well-known book, Hinds Feet on High Places, Habakkuk 3:19, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”   David and I were finding that the paths were getting easier and that we did not feel as winded as before.  In a spiritual sense, it was exciting to see our team members gaining strength and climbing to new heights as well.  Most of our ni-Vanuatu team members who were teaching the discipleship study had never done anything like that before.  Many had never shared their personal testimonies in a public setting.   We are so thankful for this opportunity that we have been challenged to “go on the heights.”  The Sovereign Lord is our strength!

As a team and individually, we spent lots of time in prayer throughout our 2 weeks on Tanna.  We knew that the last two villages were going to be especially difficult as they had been closed to the Christian message and all churches.  In the morning prior to our hike to Imarabu our team gathered for prayer and, as we hiked along the path, we continued to call out to God to go before us and open closed doors.

We arrived at the village gathering place (nakamal) with signs that they were expecting us.  Pots of food were set out on a mat.  The village leaders were seated on the ground around the edge of the nakamal.
Pastor Gideon (L) and David (R) with village leaders seated.
After some informal greetings, Pastor Gideon and David stood to greet the leaders, to thank them for the opportunity to share, and to present a 50-pound rice bag.  An old, white-haired chief stood and spoke in his vernacular language.  It sounded like he was angry.  We found out that he understood we would be arriving in the morning and now we would have only until 3:00PM to do whatever we wanted.  That meant only 2 hours for Kid’s Club, sports evangelism, and showing the JESUS Film!  Pastor Gideon in his kind and gentle voice graciously thanked him and in response, the old chief extended the time to 5PM.

Kid's Club at Imarabu
Thankful for a few more hours, the team immediately began the Kid’s Club while David began to set up the JESUS Film equipment.  As he was getting organized, David realized that a vital piece of the equipment had been left behind at Lawangi!  We wished for wings to fly so that the missing equipment could be retrieved.  How would God intervene this time to enable the story of Jesus to be shown?

More pictures of Tanna Outreach

Outreach to Tanna Part 1

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Outreach to Tanna Part 1: Getting there

Team departs from Port Vila

On board the MV Malekula
After 25 hours on-board the MV Malekula, our team of eleven finally arrived to the western seaport of Lenakel on the island of Tanna.  It had been a harrowing trip with rough seas and high winds.  Our little cargo ship had pitched and reeled all night and much of the day as well.  Even after we were safely on land, it seemed like the concrete wharf was rocking and rolling!

Sam Iakabas

We were met at the wharf by Pastor Gideon’s father, Sam, who had become a member of the Nazarene Church when he lived in the Black Sand area of Port Vila.  Pastor Gideon’s wife, Eileen, and Baby John arrived by plane soon after our ship docked.  By dusk we had located a pick-up truck that was willing to deliver our team with all our belongings (food, 25 kg. rice bags, Jesus Film equipment, bedding and backpacks) to the village of Lawangi.  I (Sylvia) rode up front with the driver and Eileen and John while the rest of the team clung to truck and gear in the back. 

David was riding in the back and noticed that the clear night sky and brilliant stars were often obscured by dark, murky clouds.  He enquired of Pastor Gideon who laughed and informed him that those clouds were ash from the nearby volcano, Mt. Yasur.  We began to notice the soon to be familiar feeling of “dust” in our eyes.

We left the main road after about 30 minutes and slowly began to descend a precarious stretch of road.  It was dark and one side of the edge of the road fell away, being a steep precipice!  A young man ran in front of the truck indicating to the driver the deep ruts and dangerous holes that he should avoid.  This went on for what seemed like hours (although it was really only 3 miles) before we finally came to stop in a village. 
Our meeting house at Lawangi

We all tumbled out of the truck and discovered in the dark that a welcoming party of children and young people were eager and ready to help carry our belongings to our destination.  Sam began to lead us, exhausted as we were by the sleepless night on-board the ship, up a dirt path that became increasingly steep.  At one point my heart was pounding so hard, I thought I might have a heart attack.  I discovered after just a few more yards, that we had arrived at the village of Lawangi, where Pastor Gideon’s family lived.  Sam led us to a meeting house where we were encouraged to sit down and catch our breath!  A meal had been prepared for us after which we headed toward our assigned homes to get some much-needed rest.

The next morning we woke to what sounded like Swiss alphorns.  We could tell that the beautiful, haunting melodies were coming from a distance and from various directions.  I thoroughly enjoyed this music that I learned was made by blowing into the end of very large Triton shells (called a bubu) as a part of their custom of circumcision.  May to August is the time when young boys are taken by their mother’s brothers (called uncles) to a separate place where the circumcision is performed and then the boys are cared for by their uncles for about a month.  The mothers and other women are not allowed to enter this place.  Every morning as the sun comes up, the shells are blown, as well as throughout the day.  The only time that we did not hear the shells being blown was the 24 hours when we drove to the south of the island.
Sunrise from Lawangi village
In the daylight we realized that the village of Lawangi had a lovely view of the ocean with the northern part of Tanna stretching to the northwest.  We weren’t near the ocean as the YIM team soon found out.  They asked if Morrison, Pastor Gideon’s oldest brother, could take them to the ocean.  It didn’t look that far away, but took most of the morning for them to hike down to it and then hike back up.  Every place we went required either a hike down or up.  We soon learned that to bathe, we would need to hike down to the river and waterfall.  I think everyone enjoyed the cool water of the two rivers that flowed on either side of our village.  Getting back to Lawangi without getting dirty and sweaty was another challenge.  All of our water had to be carried from a distance, so we learned to really appreciate the water that we drank or used for washing hands and brushing teeth.

Pastor Jenny, Andrea and Lisa's home in Lawangi


 Lawangi became our “homebase”.  The people of the village had vacated 4 of their homes so that we could use them while we were there.  All their homes were built off the ground on stilts and some were actually built in the trees.  We were often aware that a pig or some chickens were resting beneath the floor of our house.  Throughout the night, we were awakened by the roosters and once the sun came up, the chickens had a clucking convention right outside our house.
Lawangi's chickens

Mt. Yasur, the volcano, in the distance
Another sound we never became accustomed to was the ominous sound of the volcano erupting.  It resembled the noise that thunder makes when a storm is still a long distance away.  One day, David was able to hike up to a point above Lawangi where he could see Mt. Yasur across the valley with the smoke ascending from the cinder cone.  The ash coming from the volcano is having a devastating effect on the gardens of the people of Lawangi and other nearby villages.  We were grateful that Nazarene Compassionate Ministries made it possible for us to contribute several 50 pound rice bags to the villages that we visited.

Stones being heated to cook laplap

All our meals were prepared by the women of the village.  Although we brought rice, tinned meat and other food for our own meals, they also generously contributed to our meals from their own gardens.  Food preparation in the village is an all day affair and requires lots of energy.  They gathered firewood to cook with and the water was carried from a pipe located a distance away.  One of their traditional foods called laplap required that stones be heated over a fire, cassava or cooking bananas had to be grated, and coconuts were “scraped” so the coconut milk could be squeezed over the laplap.  Lots of work!  We owe these ladies a huge debt for their incredible effort on our behalf!
Siyabwa carrying firewood

I had not anticipated how many people would be in need of medical care.  Lenakel is the provincial capital and has a hospital located there.  There are smaller clinics located around the island in many of the small villages, but they are not always staffed and don’t always have medicines available.  Our first morning in Lawangi, I met a young mother who was holding her infant girl all bundled in a thick blanket.  She was hesitant to speak to me since she usually only spoke her vernacular language and was not as familiar with Bislama, the national pidgin language, that I knew.  With some effort, she was able to communicate to me that her baby had been sick for the past 2 months with fever and cough.  She had recently gotten some medicine from the local clinic that she was giving to her baby, but she was not seeing any improvement.  The baby was listless and wasn’t breastfeeding.  I had brought a bag with some basic medicines, but had failed to bring any antibiotics for babies and children.  I joined several people together and we prayed for the baby’s health and the mother’s peace.

The next day, this young mother came to our house early in the morning.  She was carrying her baby who was now sucking on a “lolly” (candy).  Her and her husband were planning to take the baby to the hospital.  I was amazed at the difference in the baby’s countenance.  She was now very alert and mother reported that she had slept well during the night.  It seemed obvious to me that God was healing this baby.  I encouraged the parents to do what they felt was best, but commented that it seemed the baby was doing much better.  We prayed again, this time thanking God for the improvement.  One of our last nights in Lawangi village, during a worship service this mother stood and shared how God had healed her baby! 

The children loved the puppets!

Our team’s first ministry effort was a Kid’s Club on Friday afternoon in Lawangi.  The three members of the Youth in Mission team plus the six ni-Vanuatu young people did a great job of leading this part of our outreach.  Puppets, songs, stories, and learning the simple story of the Gospel through the colors on the Evange-Ball and colored bracelets were effective in communicating the love of God.  It seemed that the Lord used the joyful, happy interaction with children to break down the walls that previously closed doors to the message of Jesus especially in two of the villages. 
The adults had as much fun as the kids

As soon as the Kid’s Club was finished, the guys started setting up equipment to show the JESUS film as soon as it got dark.  We were really thankful for Jacob’s help with this.  Unfortunately, the video projector kept automatically shutting itself off.  Would all the Jesus Film equipment that we brought be of no use during the entire trip to Tanna?

The answer to this question and Part 2 of this incredible adventure will be posted to our blog in the next day or two!  In the meantime, here are a few more pictures that you can view on our Facebook Click here!