Saturday, January 4, 2014

'Land'-mark News for the Church in Vanuatu

Entering the Land

The two David's (landowner on left) complete the
final step of the purchase of the Erakor land

A source of great frustration and joy has been the purchase of a half acre of land for a District Center for the Church of the Nazarene in Vanuatu. This land is located beside a main road and is an ideal location for the church in many ways, including its price.  However, the process has been long, convoluted, and difficult.

We are thrilled to announce, that finally, this beautiful piece of land is in the possession of the Church of the Nazarene in Vanuatu!  Not too long after the deal was complete, Nazarenes from around Port Vila joined together in a common effort to clear the land of “bush” or excess vegetation in order to make the land available for construction.  It was wonderful to work alongside people who have remained faithful to the Lord and the Church from our earliest days in Vanuatu, more than ten years ago.
Anna and Edward from Malapoa have been part of the
Nazarene Church since we arrived 10 years ago

Making progress

The tremendous fellowship and work was suddenly interrupted, by a very large, tall man claiming that a different tribe really owned the land.  A group of young men stood nearby showing off their 'bush knives' (machetes) in order to intimidate and to stop any development of the land.  DS Peter Isaac was gentle, but undaunted, knowing the recent completion of legal searches regarding ownership that had just been accomplished. He made it clear to this man that our church had legal ownership.

David, Peter and Bennett (the Isaac's oldest son)
measuring the land and locating the borders

After the man left, DS Peter shared the story of Nehemiah’s trials and triumphs through his trust in God with the stunned Nazarenes who were now sitting quietly on the ground.  He helped them recognize WHY opposition comes when you are involved in the Lord’s work, and inspired them to return to their work of clearing the land.  Soon, everyone was on their feet again, with new vim and vigor, putting their hearts into their work.
Mostly all cleared except the larger trees and some fruit trees
that were left to continue to bear fruit.

This was a key day in the development of the Church of the Nazarene in Vanuatu; a day the Church chose to enter the land that the Lord provided.  Now the churches are beginning to dream together about the needed buildings, building plans, Work and Witness teams, and finances.  We praise God that one of our ministry partners has already given $8000 toward the project, and we are trusting the Lord for the rest of what is needed. Please continue to pray for this project, the ongoing relationships, needed Work and Witness teams, and for the people and leaders involved!

Enjoying some rest under the tropical canopy
The work crew listens as Ps. Peter shares some words of gratitude and inspiration.

The Church Moves Forward


Our vacation spot overlooking the Pacific
Two weeks before the scheduled District Assembly, we were on vacation in Australia.  It was unfortunate that David was sick during the first half of this time, but great to be able to rest and recover in such a beautiful place.  Our rest included a break from e-mail and the internet, so upon our return to Vanuatu a one-week-old e-mail gave David quite a surprise as he read that he would preside over the 2013 Vanuatu ‘District’ Assembly.
Refreshed and renewed!

Fortunately, preparations for the District Assembly had preceded our vacation, so with DS Peter Isaac’s assistance David officially opened the 2013 Vanuatu District Assembly in the Eluklom Church of the Nazarene on November 9th, 2013.  There was great joy and enthusiasm as we met together in this first permanent church building for the Church of the Nazarene in Vanuatu, the official church opening being held just days before the Assembly.

There were highlights and “low lights” as the pastors reported on their churches.  All of us were disappointed that in spite of increased attendance in the Vanuatu churches, church membership had not increased.  We were encouraged by Pastor Gideon Sam’s report of six new preaching points started by the Prima Church.  This young Vanuatu ‘District’ had only two district licensed pastors during this past year, but was able to increase to five district pastors during this assembly.  DS Peter Isaac challenged us all as he cast a vision for all the pastors, ‘District’ leaders, and missionaries for the new year.  We give God all the praise!
District licensed ministers with their spouses -
Front (L to R):  Ps. Meriam Naunga,  Rachely Kidhly, Aline Gideon, Simone Sandy, Letin Kalorus.
Back (L to R): David Potter, David Naunga, Ps. Kidhly, Ps. Gideon, Ps. Sandy, Ps. Seul Kalorus, and Peter Isaac

Eluklom Church OFFICIALLY Opens

Although the Eluklom Nazarene Church has been meeting in their new building for a year now, it was important to the congregation to have an official opening.  Many people from other churches in the community came to celebrate with them.
It began with a march to the church.

Front of the church.

Ribbon cutting in the midst of a downpour by Rev. Peter Isaac with Ps. Meriam assisting with the umbrella.
The name changed from Eluklom (the name of the village) to Faith Eratap Nazarene Church.
And then we were invited to look inside.  Notice the beautifully tiled floor with the inlaid cross.

Black Sand Nazarene Church Hosts Community Outreach Day

To begin the day, David installed a sign above the door of the church.

About 50 kids came to enjoy a variety of activities.

Ps. John (student pastor from the Black Sand Church) shared the Good News
with the kids using the colors of the Evange-Ball.

Ps. John and Noela getting the volley ball net ready for afternoon sports with the youth.

One of the activities that we shared with the kids was to make the colored bead bracelets
that reinforced what Ps. John taught.  Many of the kids prayed for Jesus to come into their hearts.
After we served a meal to as many in the community as would come, we showed the Jesus Film.
Many adults lifted their hands desiring to pray to receive Christ as Savior.
Picture above shows Ps. Gideon and David preparing the screen.

SPNTC: 'Signing' of the Constitution and other important stories

Taku’s story – Light for the Word

Taku didn’t get home from class until close to 10PM, but she wanted to do some studying before she went to sleep.  She lit a candle and placed it close enough on the woven mat so it would shine on the Bible and her class notes making it possible for her to read.  When she woke the next morning, she realized she had fallen asleep and as the candle burned, it had fallen over very near some clothes on the floor which should have burst into flames.  She shook as she realized God had protected her and her family from being burned to death in their home!
We praise the Lord for his protection of Taku, her husband Austin, and their little boy Samuel!  Many of our students do not have electricity in their homes, and use candles or kerosene lanterns instead.  Candles are the cause of many house fires and burn injuries.  You may remember the story of Anna, the baby that was burned when her mosquito net was blown into the flame of the candle that was burning on the floor of her house.
Taku reading her Bible using her new solar light
Solar lights are becoming a popular way for people to have light in their homes in Vanuatu.  The only problem is the good ones can be pretty expensive for people on meager incomes.  Just about the time that Taku shared her story with us, we found that one of the stores in town was getting a shipment of affordable solar lights in stock.  We had tried them out at Black Sand Church and discovered they worked well, had a pretty good battery life, and were easy to carry and hang in the house.  With a contribution given to our ministry we were able to purchase a solar light for each of our SPNTC students.  We no longer have to fear them studying at night since they now have a safe, reliable light source!
SPNTC students each holding their new solar light

Landmark Meetings for SPNTC

Rev. Peter Isaac and Antona, two members of the Vanuatu
SPNTC team
It took the entire day, but our South Pacific Nazarene Theological College (SPNTC) leadership team arrived in Nadi, Fiji, just 500 miles to the east of Vanuatu, to meet with the other SPNTC campus teams that were gathering from Solomon Islands, Samoa, and Fiji.  The chancellor and his family, Rev. Dave and Dr. Rosie Kerr and their two daughters, met us at the airport with eager anticipation of what the week would hold. 

Three representatives from the Church of the Nazarene International Board of Education, Rev. Dr. Dan Copp (IBOE Commissioner), Dr. Melvin Rigsby (AP Regional Education Coordinator), and Dr. Mike Vail (IBOE Team Chairperson), would be arriving in a few days to conduct an evaluation of our institution and give recommendations to help us as the school develops.   Much hard work and countless hours of self-evaluation by each campus had been accomplished in the months leading up to this week of meetings, as well as, all joining together in prayer for God's direction and help to establish SPNTC with a good foundation and proper vision and mission.

SPNTC Board of Trustees at work

Many aspects of our multi-nation training institution were discussed and hammered out during the week. One of the big accomplishments of these meetings was that the constitution for SPNTC was finally and unanimously approved.  This opened the door for many other decisions.  

Rev. Francis, principal of SPNTC-Samoa,
with Rev. Dan Copp

Something that impressed us was the sense of unity and enthusiasm that was felt among this diverse group of people as they worked together for not just their own individual campus, but for the establishment of the whole SPNTC.  Equally impressive was the humility and helpfulness expressed by the IBOE team.  Who would have thought that God could make a Board of Trustees meeting and IBOE review such a rich opportunity for relationship building and growth!

SPNTC's international team

Teaching for Transformation - Looking Forward to Graduation

Our primary ministry responsibility is to equip and train leaders for the Church of the Nazarene in Vanuatu. We began teaching back in 2006 just a couple classes a year; today we schedule at least eight 45-hour courses each year with the goal of completing the 24-course certificate program every three years.  Some of the students have worked hard to continue in the program and are close enough to finishing that we are anticipating our first graduation! 
Pastor Jon Paschke, missionary in Vanuatu with Scripture Union,
guest lectured for one of our recent classes (with Gideon and Antona).
In the last few months, the two of us have taught 3 courses, Gospel and Culture, Biblical Hermeneutics, and Johannine Literature.  We are anticipating a full year of teaching in 2014 beginning at the end of January. After some conversations in Fiji, David is reconsidering our plan to begin extension courses on two other islands, thinking it may be best to wait for a year or so until we have graduates who can teach in the local languages.  

Please pray for our teaching staff (Peter, Jenny, David and Sylvia) for physical health and strength, knowledge of the course material, and wisdom to know how to teach it best.  Pray also for our students that they will be healthy and strong, for resources to pay for their school fees and transportation, and for spiritual transformation as they grow in knowledge and understanding.  Also, pray that God will continue to give us new students.

2014 Course Schedule

January - February - Pentateuch with Peter Isaac; Old Testament Survey with Sylvia
March - Theology 3 with David
April - Pastoral Care with Sylvia
May - June - Church History 2 with Rev. Dave Kerr
June - July - Spiritual Leadership with Jenny
August - Tribes to Kingdoms with Sylvia; New Testament Survey with David
Sept - Oct - History and Polity of the Church of the Nazarene with Peter
Nov - Homiletics with David

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year and then, Merry Christmas!

A very blessed New Year to you all!  Christmas has come and gone and now it's New Year's Day!  The year 2013 was packed as full as we could make it, so full that posting blogs had to be put on the back burner once again.  But, we want you to know a little of what has been happening in these last months, so we're going to post a few stories to let you in on this full life that God has blessed us with!

We'll start with Christmas and work our way backwards. Here in Vanuatu, you know "it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" when the beautiful Flamboyant trees begin to show their color.  In Bislama they are called "krismastri" (pronounced 'Christmas tree').  Their flowers are a vibrant red and the trees are located everywhere in Vanuatu.

A few days before Christmas, Black Sand Nazarene Church had its first baptism service with four women who were desiring to be baptized.  It was also Pastor Sylvia and Pastor John's first opportunity to baptize  anyone.  After the morning service at the church, we all walked the short distance to the beach where the baptism would take place.

Makfin had been baptized as a baby but asked to be baptized
as an adult to testify to her desire to follow Jesus.

The tide was out making the water a bit shallow, but not too shallow.  After Pastor Sylvia led the women in the confession of their salvation by faith in Christ Jesus, each of them overcame their shyness and fear and individually shared their testimonies.

Rini was baptized by pouring since her prosthetic leg cannot
be submerged.

That evening we went caroling in the area around the church.  Black Sand is a squatter's area with many "yards".  A yard is the central area around which family groups have built their homes.  We caroled in five different yards where our church members come from.  We had received some lighted balloons in a Christmas box from one of our LINKS churches and thought the balloons would be a fun way to include the children.  Each child was given a balloon to carry that became more beautiful as the evening became darker.  The kids knew that they would each have an opportunity to give their balloon away.  It was a sweet expression of God's precious gift to us when the children one by one eagerly gave their balloon to another child.

Wisemen following the star
Christmas Day found us again at Black Sand Nazarene Church.  It was a delight to watch student pastor John lead the children in performing a drama showing the birth of Jesus and then to preach the message of Christ the Light, our Hope.

Everyone enjoyed the fellowship and food following the service which included sharing gifts with a "secret friend" and games for the kids.

We had a special blessing this Christmas as missionary friends from Australia, Bible translators with SIL, invited us to their home for more food and fellowship in the evening.  They introduced us to their favorite Christmas food - curry puffs!

The celebration continued for us on the 26th (Family Day in Vanuatu and Boxing Day in some other south Pacific nations) when we joined Joel and Bekah, Dora and Sylvie in Anchorage, Alaska, via Skype to open gifts together.  We also got to visit with Jeffrey and Kristen for their first Christmas together and with Wesley who are all living in Michigan.  We are very grateful for God's greatest gift to us in Jesus and blessed to be able to share Him with so many of the people that we love!