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!

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