Monday, January 31, 2011

Homeward Bound

Christmas with Wesley 2010
It has been 3 1/2 years since the last time Wesley lived in our home.  We had seen him during those years when we were in the States for home assignment or vacation, but had only been together for a week or so at a time.  These last six weeks together have been such a gift to us as we were able to experience the person that he has become during his years at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.  E-mail and Skype are great blessings for those of us who spend a lot of our time separated from those we love, but they don't take the place of actually "being" together.  Really knowing a person takes spending time with them in a variety of situations.  You know someone as you talk over various things that are important to each of you or as you pray about the things that deeply concern you.  The chance we had to share life together these few weeks, was a precious gift!

It has been exciting to hear about Wes' plans for the future!  He is almost finished with his degree in literature and philosophy from MVNU, but he is thinking about beginning a carpentry apprenticeship in the fall.  He has discovered during his years of academics that he loves to work with his hands.  He has a wonderful God given ability to express his thoughts in writing and he will continue to find avenues for using that gift.  He loves literature of many kinds and will continue to utilize what he has learned about analyzing and critiquing what he reads.  We are glad that he is looking for and recognizing God's leading.  In and through all of it we sense a deep passion to be and do what God desires!

We will meet up with Wesley again in a few months, Lord willing, to celebrate his graduation from college.  Yesterday, he began the long journey back to his other "home" in Mount Vernon, Ohio, to find an apartment and job while he completes his final class for his college degree.  Thanks for praying for him throughout these next few months of transition.

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."
3 John 4

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cyclone Vania Devastates the Island of Tanna

On Monday and Tuesday of this week we watched as a tropical depression quickly turned into a raging cyclone that moved at a snail's pace directly over the islands of Erromango and Tanna.  These 2 islands are located in the center of the satellite picture above.  While we were at Bible study Wednesday evening at Black Sand Nazarene Church in Port Vila, we began to feel the strong winds start to hit us as well.  The winds continued through Thursday, and finally began to subside on Friday.  We didn't receive the full force of the winds here in Port Vila, but still many of the fruit trees in our yard were broken off.  All around town large trees were snapped off and flung to the ground.

We rang Morrison on his mobile phone for a report of how things looked on Tanna.  He told us that all the gardens are ruined.  Houses were ravaged by the strong winds and heavy rains. Sylvia spoke with the Tafea Provincial Disaster Management officer who shared that trees were blocking the main road so that people are not able to travel. The Public Works department is working to open the roads, but it will take quite a few days. 

The people will repair their homes with bush materials like coconut leaves and wild cane.  They will replant their gardens, but the crops won't be ready for harvest for another 4-6 months.  Please pray with us that God will guide us as we partner with Nazarene Compassionate Ministries and the Nazarene Churches in Port Vila to offer support and aid to those who have been devastated by this cyclone.

God's Plan of Redemption for the People of Tanna

The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
Psalm 138:8

We are so thankful for all that God accomplished in our recent trip to Lawangi on the island of Tanna!  We flew from Port Vila on January 3rd, and were met by the lay pastor, Morrison, at White Grass Airport just outside of the provincial capital of Lenakel.  We were transported to Lenakel and together with Morrison's wife and little boy, Abraham, we journeyed on to Lawangi.
 Abraham had grown so much since we saw him last June!
We had a smooth ride to Lawangi in the back of the pick-up.  This was Wes' first trip to Tanna.
The road had obviously been quite muddy in the not too distant past.

We stopped briefly at the Enapuas market for some island cabbage and 
for some of Abraham's "aunties" to love on him before continuing on to Lawangi.

We were delivered a short distance off the main road and walked the last couple kilometers, 
to Lawangi village.

We were greeted by a slight rainbow over the ocean as soon as we got there.
We were honored to stay in Morrison and Rehab's home.  Their coconut leaf roof had sprung some leaks so we brought along a tarp to help keep us dry inside.  

It was only a short time before the rains began!  It rained so hard that small rivers formed and ran past our front door. We were so thankful for this dry place of refuge as the rain continued for the next 3 days.

It was so fun to meet up with our friends again!  Selah had a new baby sister since the last time we were here.

This is Tom.  His son George is taking SPNTC classes in Port Vila and being discipled by Pastor Gideon.  Tom was so proud of what his son is doing.  We were glad for the time we had getting to know Tom while we were at the village.  God is working in his life and family.
These are 2 sweet little friends that share the same name - Selah and Selah!

We started teaching the Bible Overview course on Tuesday morning.  We taught several hours each morning and evening for 3 days.  We were really glad to see the same people returning each time.  It surprised us that no one had ever been told about God's plan of redemption from Genesis to Revelation.

The house that we had used in June for our meals and meetings was our classroom.  We were able to post our biblical historical timeline along with the visual aids to teach how God had worked throughout history to accomplish his plan.

David is teaching here with the 12 sons of Israel acting out part of the story.

George's brother Andrew became Judah, and Wesley became the tribe of Reuben.  We didn't have enough men so John's mother, Wesese, played the part of Gad and Serah was the tribe of Benjamin.  The stories of God's love for his chosen people came to life through drama.

The rain continued most of the time.  This pot was strategically placed to catch the water as it ran down the tree.  It was full most of the time!

Wesley made a hike down to the waterfall one day for a swim, but discovered that the river had become very dirty with all the run-off.

The moments of sunshine were enjoyed by people and chickens alike.  We also scrambled to get our "sola laet" (solar lights) out in the sunshine to charge them for the evening class.  We were glad that we fully charged the lights before we left Vila.  It gave us about 6 - 8 hours of light. 

The Port Vila churches had given an offering that made it possible to purchase these solar lights to give to the 3 Tanna congregations so that they can meet in the evenings for worship and Bible study.
 On our third day at the village, Sam told us that his garden had literally fallen off into the river.  And, his was not the only one that had slid off into the river.  By the next day, he reported to us that he had re-planted the place where his garden had been.  This week Cyclone Vania passed over Tanna and devastated the gardens that survived last week.  Banana trees were blown down and taro leaves were whipped in the wind and ruined.

On our way to class one morning, we found this hen protecting her chicks from the rain.  If you look closely you can see one little chick peeking out from behind her wing.

Once the rain stopped, all 8 chicks emerged from the safe shelter.

 Louise and her husband, Aleck, are the shepherds of the Enapuas "flock."  We were glad that she was able to come on Wednesday for the second half of the classes.  Patrick the lay leader from Imarapu also came, so every congregation was represented. In the final meeting together on Thursday, many of the class members prayed to receive Christ into their lives and many also prayed for God's Spirit to fill and empower them.  Praise God!

All our meals were lovingly cooked over this fire and in these pots by Rehab and Morrison.  On Friday, Sylvia took time to teach them how to make bread in those cooking pots.  She had made a cake in a pot before but not bread.

Sylvia and Rehab made 3 batches of rolls and they all turned out quite nice!

The volcano on Tanna, Mt. Yasur, was quite active during our stay, making a large ash cloud that could be seen from Lawangi.  We started to notice that when we would feel an earthquake, the volcano would rumble and spit!
 Because of all the rain throughout the week, the bush road that the truck drove down on Monday was completely washed out, so on Saturday, we hiked out all the way to the main road.  This was complicated by the fact that Wesley and Sylvia had spent the night with very sick stomachs.  But, we took it very slowly and with the Lord's help we made it to the top.  Morrison and Tom helped to carry our gear.  When we reached the main road, Wes and David went up to Lonialu Lookout to view the volcano. It put on an impressive show for them.

Our truck driver decided to take the road through the "Middle Bush" to take us to the airport and ended up getting stuck in the mud for about an hour.  At one point the truck was tipped so far forward and to the right that the left rear tire was not even touching the ground.  David and Wesley joined the helpers that literally came out of the "bushes" to give us a hand.  There were so many ideas being thrown around that we wondered if we would ever get to the airport.  Finally, with some pushing in the front and the rest pulling on a rope from behind, the truck was able to get out of the deep hole and re-directed to the left. 

We finally made it home to Port Vila by the evening very thankful for indoor plumbing and comfortable beds!  We praise the Lord for the opportunity we had to build up the body of Christ in Tanna.  Please continue to pray with us for these new believers that God's plan of redemption will be shared over and over again with others in their villages.  Thank you to all who were praying!